Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Here are 5 surprising facts about spying in America.
We understand if some of this sounds far-fetched. But take a look for yourself, and see if you can disprove these claims.
1: Cheney and Rumsfeld Pushed for Warrantless Wiretaps in the '70s
Dick Cheney, Donald Rumseld and other government officials who held high positions in the George W. Bush administration pushed for wiretaps without approval by a judge ... in the 1970s.
2: Massive Spying on Americans Began Before 9/11
You know about the government's massive program of spying on Americans which has been justified as a necessary response to 9/11?
3: U.S. and Allied Intelligence Heard the 9/11 Hijackers Plans from Their Own Mouths
The 9/11 hijackers were largely unknown prior to that horrible event, right?
Actually, U.S. and allied intelligence services heard a lot from the hijackers' own mouths prior to 9/11:
- An FBI informant hosted and rented a room to two hijackers in 2000. Specifically, investigators for the Congressional Joint Inquiry discovered that an FBI informant had hosted and even rented a room to two hijackers in 2000 and that, when the Inquiry sought to interview the informant, the FBI refused outright, and then hid him in an unknown location, and that a high-level FBI official stated these blocking maneuvers were undertaken under orders from the White House. As the New York Times notes:
Senator Bob Graham, the Florida Democrat who is a former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, accused the White House on Tuesday of covering up evidence ....
The accusation stems from the Federal Bureau of Investigation's refusal to allow investigators for a Congressional inquiry and the independent Sept. 11 commission to interview an informant, Abdussattar Shaikh, who had been the landlord in San Diego of two Sept. 11 hijackers.
- According to Le Monde, the intelligence services of America's close ally France and of other governments had infiltrated the highest levels of Al-Qaeda's camps, and actually listened to the hijackers' debates about which airlines' planes should be hijacked, and allied intelligence services also intercepted phone conversations between Al-Qaeda members regarding the attacks
- According to journalist Christopher Ketcham, America's close ally Israel tracked the hijackers' every move prior to the attacks, and sent agents to film the attack on the World Trade Centers
- The National Security Agency and the FBI were each independently listening in on the phone calls between the supposed mastermind of the attacks and the lead hijacker. Indeed, the FBI built its own antenna in Madagascar specifically to listen in on the mastermind's phone calls
- According to various sources, on the day before 9/11, the mastermind told the lead hijacker "tomorrow is zero hour" and gave final approval for the attacks. The NSA intercepted the message that day and the FBI was likely also monitoring the mastermind's phone calls
- Shortly before 9/11, the NSA also intercepted multiple phone calls to the United States from Bin Laden's chief of operations
- According to the Sunday Herald, two days before 9/11, Bin Laden called his stepmother and told her "In two days, you're going to hear big news and you're not going to hear from me for a while.” U.S. officials later told CNN that “in recent years they've been able to monitor some of bin Laden's telephone communications with his [step]mother. Bin Laden at the time was using a satellite telephone, and the signals were intercepted and sometimes recorded." Indeed, before 9/11, to impress important visitors, NSA analysts would occasionally play audio tapes of bin Laden talking to his stepmother.
- And according to CBS News, at 9:53 a.m on 9/11, just 15 minutes after the hijacked plane had hit the Pentagon, "the National Security Agency, which monitors communications worldwide, intercepted a phone call from one of Osama bin Laden's operatives in Afghanistan to a phone number in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia", and secretary of Defense Rumsfeld learned about the intercepted phone call in real-time (if the NSA monitored and transcribed phone calls in real-time on 9/11, that implies that it did so in the months leading up to 9/11 as well)
4: The Spying Program Has Not Been Narrowly Tailored to Keeping Americans Safe
We would all hope that the spying program has been tightly focused on protecting Americans from terrorists.
However, as I noted in 2008:
- The NSA spied on U.N. diplomats in their deliberations on the Iraq war (so that the U.S. could figure out which countries were against the war and their reasons, to gain an advantage in twisting arms and selling the war)
- The government has been spying on journalists from the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other publications for years
As one writer puts it:
- Some 8 million average Americans are now listed in government threat assessment databases as potentially suspect"If we know of illegal administration spying on journalists and other non-suspects, and we know of pre-9/11 surveillance, then we for all intents and purposes know that these are not programs designed to fight some foreign terrorists threat."
(Of course, the fact that the spying program began before 9/11, and that 9/11 wasn't stopped even though intelligence heard from the hijackers themselves, is also instructive. And see below).
5: The Spying Program Isn't Just Used for Listening ... It Also Is Used to Track Americans and Predict Behavior
As I noted in 2008, it's not just spying, but also tracking and predicting what American citizens will do:
As a new article by investigative reporter Christopher Ketcham reveals, a governmental unit operating in secret and with no oversight whatsoever is gathering massive amounts of data on every American and running artificial intelligence software to predict each American's behavior, including "what the target will do, where the target will go, who it will turn to for help".
The same governmental unit is responsible for suspending the Constitution and implementing martial law in the event that anything is deemed by the White House in its sole discretion to constitute a threat to the United States. (this is formally known as implementing "Continuity of Government" plans).
As Ketcham's article makes clear, these same folks and their predecessors have been been busy dreaming up plans to imprison countless "trouble-making" Americans without trial in case of any real or imagined emergency. What kind of Americans? Ketcham describes it this way:"dissidents and activists of various stripes, political and tax protestors, lawyers and professors, publishers and journalists, gun owners, illegal aliens, foreign nationals, and a great many other harmless, average people."Do we want the same small group of folks who have the power to suspend the Constitution, implement martial law, and imprison normal citizens to also be gathering information on all Americans and running AI programs to be able to predict where American citizens will go for help and what they will do in case of an emergency? Don't we want the government to -- um, I don't know -- help us in case of an emergency?
Bear in mind that the Pentagon is also running an AI program to see how people will react to propaganda and to government-inflicted terror. The program is called Sentient World Simulation:"U.S defense, intel and homeland security officials are constructing a parallel world, on a computer, which the agencies will use to test propaganda messages and military strategies.The continuity of government folks' AI program and the Pentagon's AI program may or may not be linked, but they both indicate massive spying and artificial intelligence in order to manipulate the American public, to concentrate power, to take away the liberties and freedoms of average Americans, and -- worst of all -- to induce chaos in order to achieve these ends.
Called the Sentient World Simulation, the program uses AI routines based upon the psychological theories of Marty Seligman, among others. (Seligman introduced the theory of 'learned helplessness' in the 1960s, after shocking beagles until they cowered, urinating, on the bottom of their cages.)
Yank a country's water supply. Stage a military coup. SWS will tell you what happens next.
The sim will feature an AR avatar for each person in the real world, based upon data collected about us from government records and the internet."
Indeed, as noted by Boston University's Journal of Science and Technology Law, Fox News, the Daily Telegraph and other sources, the Department of Homeland Security is developing an airport scanner to be able to read people's minds and predict terrorist behavior.
Neuroscientists at UCLA say they can predict - using brain scanning - people's behavior better than the people themselves can. And Northwestern University announced in July that scientists can read people's brain waves to detect terrorism. See also this and this.
In other words, spying may gradually be morphing into the Orwellian concept of "pre-crime".