Friday, August 23, 2013

footnote 14 - clapper, alexander, an'em - are some lying sacks....,


WaPo | Footnote 14 should scare every American. Even the parts that aren’t blacked out.

The footnote is contained in the just-declassified 2011 opinion by U.S. District Judge John Bates, then the chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. 

In the ruling, Bates found that the government had been sweeping up e-mails before receiving court approval in 2008 and, even after that, was illegally collecting “tens of thousands of wholly domestic communications.” 

That’s not the really scary part. This is: “The court is troubled that the government’s revelations . . . mark the third instance in less than three years in which the government has disclosed a substantial misrepresentation regarding the scope of a major collection program,” Bates wrote in Footnote 14.
He cited a 2009 finding that the court’s approval of the National Security Agency’s telephone records program was premised on “a flawed depiction” of how the NSA uses metadata, a “misperception . . . buttressed by repeated inaccurate statements made in the government’s submissions, and despite a government-devised and Court-mandated oversight regime.

“Contrary to the government’s repeated assurances, NSA had been routinely running queries of the metadata using querying terms that did not meet the required standard for querying. The Court concluded that this requirement had been ‘so frequently and systemically violated that it can fairly be said that this critical element of the overall . . . regime has never functioned effectively.’ ”

Followed by two full paragraphs of redactions. We can only imagine what that episode entailed.
To judge the significance of Bates’s footnote, it helps to know something about the judge. This is no wild-eyed liberal. Bates spent almost two decades in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington. He served as deputy to independent counsel Kenneth Starr during the investigation of President Bill Clinton. He was named to the bench by President George W. Bush. 

If Bates is worked up about being misled by the government — and the sober language of that footnote is the judicial version of a severe dressing-down — people should listen.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

wizards summoned to battle the all-seeing eye!!!



slate | It was more than 20 years ago that I received my first security briefing, and a lot of what I learned is now outdated. Back then, few had heard of what was nicknamed "No Such Agency," and the government wanted to keep it that way. We were taught not to breathe a word about the NSA; if anyone asked, we worked for the Department of Defense. That's even what it said on my resume and one of my NSA-issued ID cards. Now there's little point to such pretense. The agency has been outed and is a regular fixture of Page 1 headlines. In 1992, I was taught that the code words we stamped on all our classified documents were a closely guarded secret, that it was a crime to reveal them to outsiders. But a quick Google search shows that government websites are chock-full of papers clearly marked with words and phrases that were at one time for the eyes of only those few with the need to know.

Another thing they used to say at those briefings was that the might of the NSA would never be used against U.S. citizens. Back when I signed up, the agency made it crystal clear to us that we were empowered to protect our nation against only foreign enemies, not domestic ones. To do otherwise was against the NSA charter. More importantly, I got the strong sense that it was against the culture of the place. After working there for two summers, I genuinely believed that my colleagues would be horrified if they thought our work was being used to snoop on fellow Americans. Has that changed, too?

The mathematicians and cryptanalysts I met were from all over the country and had very different backgrounds, but we all seemed to be drawn to the agency for the same two reasons. First, we all knew that the math was sexy. This might sound bizarre to a non-mathematician, but certain mathematical problems just exude a certain something—a feeling of importance, of gravity, along with a sense that the solution is not far outside of your grasp. It's big, and it can be yours if you just think a little bit harder. When I signed up, I knew that the NSA was doing interesting math, but I had no idea what I was in for. Within a week of arriving at the NSA, I was presented with an amazing smorgasbord of the most alluring mathematics problems I had ever seen, any of which could possibly yield to a smart undergraduate. I hadn't seen anything like it—and I never will again.

The other thing that drew us—or so I thought—was an idealistic vision that we were doing something to help our country. I knew enough about history to have shed the notion that it was ungentlemanly to read your enemy's mail. And once I was on the inside, I saw plenty of ways that the agency was having an effect on national security. Even as a rookie, I felt I had a chance to make a difference in some small way. Some of the veteran mathematicians whom we met had clearly had a palpable effect on the security of the United States, legends almost completely unknown outside of our own club.

where are they now?


cnn | So how did it happen that this woman, once unknown beyond the social set in Tampa, Florida, saw her reputation allegedly destroyed by anonymous government officials?

Attorney Alan Charles Raul, who is representing the Kelleys', explains the mess started in May 2012, when four-star General John Allen began receiving e-mails from "kelleypatrol@gmail.com."

"The position Mr. and Mrs. Kelley are in today is not something they asked for. They came forward to do the right thing, and everything that was unleashed from that point forward was a result of the government's lack of of restraint in protecting the privacy and dignity of the victims here," said Raul.

According to the Kelleys' lawsuit, the e-mail disparaged Jill and referred specifically to her and the General's individual private schedules.

The suit also claims e-mails sent by Petraeus' mistress Paula Broadwell were then sent to the Kelleys under the alias "Tampa Angel."

The messages made reference to private information, leading the couple to believe they were being followed.

The Kelleys claim the messages also threatened them with "embarrassment for all, including spouses, such as info in national headlines."

Jill Kelley reached out to a friend in the FBI, and an investigation was launched.

The Kelleys assert that Jill gave FBI investigators permission to view just one bothersome e-mail in the couple's account, but they kept pressing for access to others, and "searched, obtained, and reviewed personal, irrelevant private e-mails belonging to the Kelleys."

"If there's a case study, if next year, the Department of Justice does training on victim witness assistance and protection, really the poster child case of how not to do it is how Mrs. Kelley and Dr. Kelley were treated in this instance," said Raul.

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them


wsj | The NSA is focused on collecting foreign intelligence, but the streams of data it monitors include both foreign and domestic communications. Inevitably, officials say, some U.S. Internet communications are scanned and intercepted, including both "metadata" about communications, such as the "to" and "from" lines in an email, and the contents of the communications themselves.
Much, but not all, of the data is discarded, meaning some communications between Americans are stored in the NSA's databases, officials say. Some lawmakers and civil libertarians say that, given the volumes of data NSA is examining, privacy protections are insufficient.

Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, in 2012 sought but failed to prohibit the agency from searching its databases for information on Americans without a warrant. He has also pushed intelligence agencies to detail how many Americans' communications have been collected and to explain whether purely domestic communications are retained in NSA's databanks. They have declined.

"Technology is moving us swiftly into a world where the only barriers to this kind of dragnet surveillance are the protections enshrined into law," Mr. Wyden says.

This month President Barack Obama proposed changes to NSA surveillance to improve oversight. Those proposed changes wouldn't alter the systems in the U.S. that NSA relies upon for some of its most sensitive surveillance.

The systems operate like this: The NSA asks telecom companies to send it various streams of Internet traffic it believes most likely to contain foreign intelligence. This is the first cut of the data.
These requests don't ask for all Internet traffic. Rather, they focus on certain areas of interest, according to a person familiar with the legal process. "It's still a large amount of data, but not everything in the world," this person says.

The second cut is done by NSA. It briefly copies the traffic and decides which communications to keep based on what it calls "strong selectors"—say, an email address, or a large block of computer addresses that correspond to an organization it is interested in. In making these decisions, the NSA can look at content of communications as well as information about who is sending the data.
One U.S. official says the agency doesn't itself "access" all the traffic within the surveillance system. The agency defines access as "things we actually touch," this person says, pointing out that the telecom companies do the first stage of filtering. 

The surveillance system is built on relationships with telecommunications carriers that together cover about 75% of U.S. Internet communications. They must hand over what the NSA asks for under orders from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The firms search Internet traffic based on the NSA's criteria, current and former officials say.  Fist tap Arnach.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

after the bully-boys start kicking in your door and breaking your stuff, where does it end?


if you're not with the all-seeing eye, then you're against the all-seeing eye...,


NYTimes | Mr. Rusbridger said that two months ago he was contacted by “a very senior government official claiming to present the views of the prime minister,” David Cameron. There were two meetings in which officials “demanded the return or the destruction of the material we were working on,” and in other meetings, he said, officials said: “You’ve had your fun, now we want the stuff back,” and, “You’ve had your debate, there’s no need to write any more.” 

The officials then threatened legal action to obtain the documents. Then two security experts from Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters, known as G.C.H.Q., the counterpart to the American National Security Agency, came to oversee the destruction of hard drives in The Guardian basement by Guardian executives, Mr. Rusbridger said. 

He called it “one of the most bizarre moments in The Guardian’s long history.” 

Efforts to prevent publication of Snowden-related material began on June 7, when defense officials issued a confidential notice to newspapers and broadcasters in an attempt to limit the coverage of Mr. Snowden’s revelations about surveillance tactics employed by intelligence agencies in Britain and the United States. 

Editors were reminded not to publish information that could “jeopardize both national security and possibly U.K. personnel.” The notice followed The Guardian’s first publication of details of the American intelligence-gathering program called Prism. 

Now, it is not just the opposition Labour Party that is questioning the use of the terrorism laws in this case to seize material intended for journalism, which in countries like the United States would be under more legal protection. David Davis, a Conservative member of Parliament, said that the responses of the Home Office fail “Logic 101.” 

“’If you’re not on our side, you’re on the side of the terrorists,’ is what they’re trying to say,” Mr. Davis said. 

Robert Wintemute, a professor of human rights law at King’s College, London, said that “I hope this is an aberration rather than a signal of a wider clampdown” on press freedom and human rights. “I do think Greenwald and Miranda should bring this to court, because winning in court will rein in the government’s powers,” he said.

that didn't take long - keep moving, nothing over here to see...,



sfgate | San Francisco's fire chief has explicitly banned firefighters from using helmet-mounted video cameras, after images from a battalion chief's Asiana Airlines crash recording became public and led to questions about first responders' actions leading up to a fire rig running over a survivor. 

Chief Joanne Hayes-White said she issued the order after discovering that Battalion Chief Mark Johnson's helmet camera filmed the aftermath of the July 6 crash at San Francisco International Airport. Still images from the footage were published in The Chronicle.

Filming the scene may have violated both firefighters' and victims' privacy, Hayes-White said, trumping whatever benefit came from knowing what the footage shows.

"There comes a time that privacy of the individual is paramount, of greater importance than having a video," Hayes-White said.

Critics, including some within the department, questioned the chief's order and its timing - coming as Johnson's footage raised the possibility of Fire Department liability in the death of 16-year-old Ye Meng Yuan. Fist tap Dale.

is the establishment's fourth estate getting out of pocket?



Guardian | The detention of Miranda has rightly caused international dismay because it feeds into a perception that the US and UK governments – while claiming to welcome the debate around state surveillance started by Snowden – are also intent on stemming the tide of leaks and on pursuing the whistleblower with a vengeance. That perception is right. Here follows a little background on the considerable obstacles being placed in the way of informing the public about what the intelligence agencies, governments and corporations are up to.

A little over two months ago I was contacted by a very senior government official claiming to represent the views of the prime minister. There followed two meetings in which he demanded the return or destruction of all the material we were working on. The tone was steely, if cordial, but there was an implicit threat that others within government and Whitehall favoured a far more draconian approach.

The mood toughened just over a month ago, when I received a phone call from the centre of government telling me: "You've had your fun. Now we want the stuff back." There followed further meetings with shadowy Whitehall figures. The demand was the same: hand the Snowden material back or destroy it. I explained that we could not research and report on this subject if we complied with this request. The man from Whitehall looked mystified. "You've had your debate. There's no need to write any more."

During one of these meetings I asked directly whether the government would move to close down the Guardian's reporting through a legal route – by going to court to force the surrender of the material on which we were working. The official confirmed that, in the absence of handover or destruction, this was indeed the government's intention. Prior restraint, near impossible in the US, was now explicitly and imminently on the table in the UK. But my experience over WikiLeaks – the thumb drive and the first amendment – had already prepared me for this moment. I explained to the man from Whitehall about the nature of international collaborations and the way in which, these days, media organisations could take advantage of the most permissive legal environments. Bluntly, we did not have to do our reporting from London. Already most of the NSA stories were being reported and edited out of New York. And had it occurred to him that Greenwald lived in Brazil?

The man was unmoved. And so one of the more bizarre moments in the Guardian's long history occurred – with two GCHQ security experts overseeing the destruction of hard drives in the Guardian's basement just to make sure there was nothing in the mangled bits of metal which could possibly be of any interest to passing Chinese agents. "We can call off the black helicopters," joked one as we swept up the remains of a MacBook Pro.

Whitehall was satisfied, but it felt like a peculiarly pointless piece of symbolism that understood nothing about the digital age. We will continue to do patient, painstaking reporting on the Snowden documents, we just won't do it in London. The seizure of Miranda's laptop, phones, hard drives and camera will similarly have no effect on Greenwald's work.

The state that is building such a formidable apparatus of surveillance will do its best to prevent journalists from reporting on it. Most journalists can see that. But I wonder how many have truly understood the absolute threat to journalism implicit in the idea of total surveillance, when or if it comes – and, increasingly, it looks like "when".

We are not there yet, but it may not be long before it will be impossible for journalists to have confidential sources. Most reporting – indeed, most human life in 2013 – leaves too much of a digital fingerprint. Those colleagues who denigrate Snowden or say reporters should trust the state to know best (many of them in the UK, oddly, on the right) may one day have a cruel awakening. One day it will be their reporting, their cause, under attack. But at least reporters now know to stay away from Heathrow transit lounges.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

chasing status in public and neglecting your own....,


journeyman | "By the age of 20, the average westerner has seen one million commercial messages." With this kind of exposure, it is impossible to live in the modern world without being a product of consumer society. Now psychologists, like Geoffrey Miller, are saying that it is distorting the way we interact with the world and each other: "We've all kind of gone collectively psychotic".

Evolutionary theory says we are indistinct from animals and so have two primary subconscious motives: survival and attracting a mate. As modern society has taken care of our survival, "we spend more time thinking about social and sexual issues than any animal has had the luxury of doing in the history of life on Earth". According to scientists this has led to an obsession with 'prestige' or our rank in society, something that in consumer society has become synonymous with consumption. "The principal way you're supposed to display your mental traits now is through your purchases." 

Manipulating our innermost impulses, capitalism has begun to not only reflect our evolutionary tendencies but also to amplify and distort them. Creating an environment in which consumption takes the place of traditional human interaction, "consumers are neglecting to develop the crucial naturally romantic traits, saying instead, 'I've got a Porsche out front'".  Yet this capitalist system, which fits so neatly with our animalistic traits, is not making us happy.

One of the great conundrums is that in an age of plenty, addictions, depression and mental health issues are becoming part of everyday conversation. The obsession with our place in society has led us to, "squander this golden age on silly anxieties." In the long term the individual and psychological cost of modern culture is relatively small. The environmental cost on the other hand could ultimately destroy life, as we know it. "It's becoming increasingly clear that the kind of growth rates that we are getting around the world are not sustainable", says Tim Cooper, a professor of Sustainable Design and Consumption. Measures taken to try and mitigate the impact of modern life, such as transition towns, recycling, alternative power and enduring design are not dealing with the root cause, only attacking symptoms. So for the moment we must endure this strange society that is making us all so unhappy. Our only hope is that it may only be a temporary illness: "I actually think runaway consumerism is a temporary historical glitch. I think we'll grow out of it." Exploring how human psychology has moulded the society that is slowly destroying the world and us, 'Consumed' takes us inside both the apocalyptic and redemptive sides of the human condition.  Fist tap Dale.

is wikileaks bluffing or did it just post all the goods on facebook?


rsn | omeone remind WikiLeaks that the U.S does not respond well to blackmail.

We'd think this was some kind of interactive Internet mystery if we didn't know better, but in fact WikiLeaks has released about 400 gigabytes' worth of mysterious data in a series of encrypted torrent files called "insurance." And no one can open it.

With nothing better to go on, the Internet has decided that "insurance" may be code for "back off" to the U.S. government - coming just before the sentencing of WikiLeaks cause célèbre Bradley Manning.

File encryption means that the data is hidden and no one can see what's in the shared files without a key to unlock them - which, of course, hasn't been publicly released.

The size of one of the files is 349 gigabytes, which means that there's either A) enough textual data inside to power a nationwide security crisis for the next 300 years or so, or B) a few very incriminating pieces of video footage.

"I'm getting the feeling these people are spreading some serious material," commented Facebook onlooker Angel Gabriell.

WikiLeaks abruptly released the files and asked the public to mirror them - on Facebook and Twitter, no less, hardly the place you go to drop off highly classified intelligence.

But the most popular theories between the comments of Facebook, Reddit, and Hacker News, are that the data contains information about the identities of U.S. secret agents currently serving around the world. 

WikiLeaks has always anonymized the names of any agents associated with the data in its leaks in order to protect their identities. But with a filename like "Insurance," a few people are betting that the website is preparing for a fight with any governments who want to keep its info out of the hands of the public.

a little eichmann keeps it real...,


theatlantic | On Saturday, Michael Grunwald, a senior correspondent at Time, stoked controversy by tweeting, "I can't wait to write a defense of the drone strike that takes out Julian Assange." The tweet triggered an immediate backlash among people who believe that murder is wrong, and that expressing preemptive delight at the prospect of defending murder is wrongheaded and repugnant.

Shortly thereafter, Grunwald apologized to his followers, called his tweet "dumb," and deleted it. Folks on Twitter called for his job. Even though, as Amy Davidson noted at the New Yorker, "Grunwald seems a bit oblivious as to what was wrong with what he said," I'm allergic to anyone being fired over any one tweet, especially if they express regret for sending it.

We're all better than we are at our worst moments.

It is nevertheless worth dwelling on his tweet a moment longer, because it illuminates a type that is common but seldom pegged in America. You see, Grunwald is a radical ideologue. It's just that almost no one recognizes it. The label "radical ideologue" is usually used to describe Noam Chomsky or members of the John Birch Society. We think of radical ideologues as occupying the far right or left. Lately a lot of people seem to think that The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald is a radical (often they wrongly conflate the style with which he expresses his views with their substance).

But Grunwald graduated from Harvard, spent a decade at the Washington Post, and now works as a senior correspondent at Time. How radical could someone with that resume possibly be?

Extremely so.

century 21 miranda rights...,


guardian | The detention at Heathrow on Sunday of the Brazilian David Miranda is the sort of treatment western politicians love to deplore in Putin's Russia or Ahmadinejad's Iran. His "offence" under the 2000 Terrorism Act was apparently to be the partner of a journalist, Glenn Greenwald, who had reported for the Guardian on material released by the American whistleblower, Edward Snowden. We must assume the Americans asked the British government to nab him, shake him down and take his personal effects.

Miranda's phone and laptop were confiscated and he was held incommunicado, without access to friends or lawyer, for the maximum nine hours allowed under law. It is the airport equivalent of smashing into someone's flat, rifling through their drawers and stealing papers and documents. It is simple harassment and intimidation.

Greenwald himself is not known to have committed any offence, unless journalism is now a "terrorist" occupation in the eyes of British and American politicians. As for Miranda, his only offence seems to have been to be part of his family. Harassing the family of those who have upset authority is the most obscene form of state terrorism.

look here boy.., you have NO rights that the man is legally bound to respect!


cnn | Glenn Greenwald, the reporter who broke the news about secret U.S. surveillance programs, said the authorities who took his partner into custody at London's Heathrow Airport "are going to regret what they did."

"I am going to write my stories a lot more aggressively now," the Guardian reporter told Brazil's Globo TV on Monday in Rio de Janeiro.

"I am going to publish many more documents now. I am going to publish a lot about England, too, I have a lot of documents about the espionage system in England. Now my focus is going to be that as well."

Greenwald's partner, 28-year-old David Miranda, was held for nearly nine hours. He was reportedly passing through the airport on his way home to Brazil after leaving Berlin. Authorities seized his laptop, phone, and other materials.

The White House knew the move was coming.

"There was a heads up that was provided by the British government," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday.

So the United States knew it "was likely to occur, but it's not something that we've requested and it's something that was done specifically by the British law enforcement officials there," he said.
He would not comment on whether the United States has obtained material from Miranda's laptop -- and would not say whether President Barack Obama condemns the detention.

Agents asked 'about my entire life'
Miranda, also speaking to Globo TV in Rio, said agents were asking him questions "about my entire life."

"I was in a room, there were six different agents coming in and out and talking to me," he said. "They took my computer, video games, cell phone, everything."

The detention was reported by The Guardian. Before releasing him, authorities seized Miranda's laptop, cell phone, video game consoles and USB sticks, Greenwald wrote for The Guardian.
"This is obviously a rather profound escalation of their attacks on the news-gathering process and journalism," he said.

"It's bad enough to prosecute and imprison sources. It's worse still to imprison journalists who report the truth. But to start detaining the family members and loved ones of journalists is simply despotic. Even the Mafia had ethical rules against targeting the family members of people they felt threatened by."

legal stop, frisk, and confiscate - international - worldwide...,


guardian | Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act has been widely criticised for giving police broad powers under the guise of anti-terror legislation to stop and search individuals without prior authorisation or reasonable suspicion – setting it apart from other police powers.

Those stopped have no automatic right to legal advice and it is a criminal offence to refuse to co-operate with questioning under schedule 7, which critics say is a curtailment of the right to silence.

Last month the UK government said it would reduce the maximum period of detention to six hours and promised a review of the operation on schedule 7 amid concerns it unfairly targets minority groups and gives individuals fewer legal protections than they would have if detained at a police station.

The government of Brazil issued a statement in which it expressed its "grave concern" over the detention of one of its citizens and the use of anti-terror legislation. It said: "This measure is without justification since it involves an individual against whom there are no charges that can legitimate the use of that legislation. The Brazilian government expects that incidents such as the one that happened to the Brazilian citizen today are not repeated."

Widney Brown, Amnesty International's senior director of international law and policy, said: "It is utterly improbable that David Michael Miranda, a Brazilian national transiting through London, was detained at random, given the role his partner has played in revealing the truth about the unlawful nature of NSA surveillance.

"David's detention was unlawful and inexcusable. He was detained under a law that violates any principle of fairness and his detention shows how the law can be abused for petty, vindictive reasons.
"There is simply no basis for believing that David Michael Miranda presents any threat whatsoever to the UK government. The only possible intent behind this detention was to harass him and his partner, Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, for his role in analysing the data released by Edward Snowden."

Monday, August 19, 2013

you realize "stop and frisk" is a tactic used by the military in occupied-territories?


HuffPo | When the FBI finally located Whitey Bulger in 2010 after searching for 16 years, the reputed mobster was suspected of involvement in 19 murders in the 1970s and '80s, and was thought to be armed with a massive arsenal of weapons. He was also 81 at the time, in poor physical health, and looking at spending the rest of his life in prison. Of all the people who might meet the criteria for arrest by a SWAT team, one might think that Bulger would top the list.

Yet instead of sending in a tactical team to tear down Bulger’s door in the middle of the night, the FBI took a different appraoch. After some investigating, FBI officials cut the lock on a storage locker Bulger used in the apartment complex where he was staying. They then had the property manager call Bulger to tell him someone may have broken into his locker. When Bulger went to investigate, he was arrested without incident. There was no battering ram, there were no flash grenades, there was no midnight assault on his home.

That peaceful apprehension of a known violent fugitive, found guilty this week of participating in 11 murders and a raft of other crimes, stands in stark contrast to the way tens of thousands of Americans are confronted each year by SWAT teams battering down their doors to serve warrants for nonviolent crimes, mostly involving drugs. 

On the night of Jan. 5, 2011, for example, police in Framingham, Mass., raided a Fountain Street apartment that was home to Eurie Stamps and his wife, Norma Bushfan-Stamps. An undercover officer had allegedly purchased drugs from Norma's 20-year-old son, Joseph Bushfan, and another man, Dwayne Barrett, earlier that evening, and now the police wanted to arrest them. They took a battering ram to the door, set off a flash grenade, and forced their way inside.

As the SWAT team moved through the apartment, screaming at everyone to get on the floor, Officer Paul Duncan approached Eurie Stamps. The 68-year-old, not suspected of any crime, was watching a basketball game in his pajamas when the police came in.

By the time Duncan got to him in a hallway, Stamps was face-down on the floor with his arms over his head, as police had instructed him. As Duncan moved to pull Stamps' arms behind him, he says he fell backwards, somehow causing his gun to discharge, shooting Stamps. The grandfather of 12 was killed in his own home, while complying with police orders during a raid for crimes in which he had no involvement.

The Obama administration has begun talking about reforming the criminal justice system, notably this week, when Attorney General Eric Holder announced changes to how federal prosecutors will consider mandatory minimum sentences. If government leaders are looking for another issue to tackle, they might consider the astonishing evolution of America’s police forces over the last 30 years.

Today in America, SWAT teams are deployed about 100 to 150 times per day, or about 50,000 times per year -- a dramatic increase from the 3,000 or so annual deployments in the early 1980s, or the few hundred in the 1970s. The vast majority of today's deployments are to serve search warrants for drug crimes. But the use of SWAT tactics to enforce regulatory law also appears to be rising. This month, for example, a SWAT team raided the Garden of Eden, a sustainable growth farm in Arlington, Texas, supposedly to look for marijuana. The police found no pot, however, and the real intent of the raid appears to have been for code enforcement, as the officers came armed with an inspection notice for nuisance abatement.

Where these teams were once used only in emergency situations, they're used today mostly as an investigative tool against people merely suspected of crimes. In many police agencies, paramilitary tactics have become the first option, where they once were the last. 

“It’s really about a lack of imagination and a lack of creativity,” says Norm Stamper, a retired cop who served as police chief of Seattle from 1994 to 2000. “When your answer to every problem is more force, it shows that you haven’t been taught and trained to consider other options."

remember: hunger is now "extremism/terrorism"


motherboard | Conflict continues to sweep Egypt, and the death toll is rising fast. Demonstrators protesting ex-president Mohammed Morsi's ouster are the latest victims, and they number at least in the hundreds. The region has been wracked with conflict for months now, and, while the West is fond of blaming Morsi's incompetence as a governor, the problem may be much more fundamental than that—Egypt is starving. 

When people are hungry, societies tend to unravel, regardless of whether it's led by an authoritarian tyrant or a democratic body. When food is too expensive, people can't eat. And all over the world, food is way too expensive right now.

Two years ago, the New England Complex Systems Institute published a famous paper that sussed out the mathematical correlation between food prices and unrest: Every time food prices breached a certain threshold, riots broke out worldwide.

That all-important threshold is about 210 on the FAO Food Price Index. That's the "measure of the monthly change in international prices of a basket of food commodities," according to the United Nations.

In 2008, the wake of the global economic crash, food prices skyrocketed to 220. Violent protests and riots swept the globe. In 2011, food prices spiked, and breached the threshold again—and the Arab Spring was born. Today, most of us remember of the millions-strong demonstrations and the toppled dictators, but recall that the uprising began when one man was so desperate and humiliated that he couldn't feed his family that he set himself on fire. 

In May 2013, right before millions of angry Egyptians took to Tahrir Square, the index was at 213. For most of the spring, it had hovered well above 210, meaning that food was prohibitively expensive for Egypt's poor for a full three months before people took to the streets in dissent. 

And sure enough, food acces is a crippling problem in Egypt even today. UPI reports that "Bassem Ouda, the minister of supplies in the government of President Mohamed Morsi—who was ousted by the army July 3—admitted last week the state has less than two months' supply of imported wheat in stock, or about 500,000 metric tons."

Food supplies were and are dwindling, a problem that's exacerbated Egypt's political woes. It's even more expensive to import foreign wheat, and aid contracts are being widely disputed. The government apparently only has three million tons of homegrown wheat left from the spring harvest. As UPI explains, "That means bread shortages, and with about 40 percent of the population living below the poverty line—subsisting on heavily subsidized bread that sells at the equivalent of 1 U.S. cent a loaf—that could trigger widespread social unrest."

Egypt isn't alone. I recently spoke to Yaneer Bar-Yam, the chief author of the NECSI paper, and he told me that much of the unrest of the past year—in Turkey, Brazil, and Syria as the highest-profile examples—can be tied to rising food prices.

ripping off young america...,

rollingstone | But the dirty secret of American higher education is that student-loan interest rates are almost irrelevant. It's not the cost of the loan that's the problem, it's the principal – the appallingly high tuition costs that have been soaring at two to three times the rate of inflation, an irrational upward trajectory eerily reminiscent of skyrocketing housing prices in the years before 2008.

How is this happening? It's complicated. But throw off the mystery and what you'll uncover is a shameful and oppressive outrage that for years now has been systematically perpetrated against a generation of young adults. For this story, I interviewed people who developed crippling mental and physical conditions, who considered suicide, who had to give up hope of having children, who were forced to leave the country, or who even entered a life of crime because of their student debts.

They all take responsibility for their own mistakes. They know they didn't arrive at gorgeous campuses for four golden years of boozing, balling and bong hits by way of anybody's cattle car. But they're angry, too, and they should be. Because the underlying cause of all that later-life distress and heartache – the reason they carry such crushing, life-alteringly huge college debt – is that our university-tuition system really is exploitative and unfair, designed primarily to benefit two major actors.

First in line are the colleges and universities, and the contractors who build their extravagant athletic complexes, hotel-like dormitories and God knows what other campus embellishments. For these little regional economic empires, the federal student-loan system is essentially a massive and ongoing government subsidy, once funded mostly by emotionally vulnerable parents, but now increasingly paid for in the form of federally backed loans to a political constituency – low- and middle-income students – that has virtually no lobby in Washington.

Next up is the government itself. While it's not commonly discussed on the Hill, the government actually stands to make an enormous profit on the president's new federal student-loan system, an estimated $184 billion over 10 years, a boondoggle paid for by hyperinflated tuition costs and fueled by a government-sponsored predatory-lending program that makes even the most ruthless private credit-card company seem like a "Save the Panda" charity. Why is this happening? The answer lies in a sociopathic marriage of private-sector greed and government force that will make you shake your head in wonder at the way modern America sucks blood out of its young. Fist tap Arnach.

stop playing, where's my gold at?


endoftheamericandream | The demand for physical gold is exploding all over the world, and bullion banks are now experiencing a supply crunch that is absolutely unprecedented.  As physical demand continues to rise, the massive Ponzi scheme that the bullion banks have been engaged in is going to become increasingly obvious, and at some point the lack of physical gold is going to break the back of the paper gold market and we are going to see the price of gold go to levels that we have never seen before.  You see, the truth is that the central banks of the world and the bullion banks have made “paper promises” that vastly exceed the amount of actual physical gold in existence.  This kind of scheme works fine if everyone does not come asking for their gold at the same time.  Unfortunately for the ones running this scheme, people are now starting to ask for their gold back and it is causing huge problems.

It started earlier this year when Germany asked for 300 metric tons of their gold which was supposedly being held at the New York Fed.  If the New York Fed really did have as much physical gold as they claim that they do, that request should have been no problem.  Instead, the Germans were told that it would take seven years to fulfill the request.

At that point, alarm bells started to go off in financial circles all over the planet.  People all over the globe began asking for their gold back, and now this is causing serious stress for the bullion banks.  The following is what Hong Kong hedge fund manager William Kaye told King World News the other day…
There are serious strains in the (gold) system. I’ve never witnessed such a serious strain in my lifetime in terms of the backwardation of gold, and in terms of the lease rates being negative for such an extended period of time. This suggests that there are two forces at work: One is that there are serious strains in the system — that the bullion banks are struggling to come up with the physical gold for spot delivery that the market demands.
Right now the bullion banks are experiencing unprecedented difficulties coming up with the physical gold and physical silver that they are supposed to have.  Evidence of this supply squeeze is starting to pop up all over the place.  Some of this evidence was summarized in a recent article by Jim Willie

Sunday, August 18, 2013

egypt a tissue of lies...,


tariqramadan | It’s dangerous to be a friend of the United States in the Middle East. A fact the US government knows better than any political player in the Arab world, starting with America’s best friends! The strategy is simple: cover your tracks, forget history, don’t let cold hard facts get in the way. For the last sixty years, the United States has supported the Egyptian army and the successive dictatorial regimes (Nasser, despite tense relations, then Sadat and Mubarak) that protected their geostrategic interests, promoted “regional security” and, of course, defended Israel. Nothing has changed: the American administration was squarely behind the June 30 military coup, which was planned well in advance by the army high command and its civilian allies, including Mohammed el-Baradei. As early as 2008-2009 el-Baradei, one of the US’s key Egyptian strategic assets, had been advancing by stealth. In my Islam and the Arab Awakening I published comments by American officials about him and his involvement in the April 6 Movement (1). On the day of the coup, the US refused to describe it as such in order not to interrupt support for its military allies and the new political power structure. Secretary of State John Kerry could only confirm what serious analysts already knew when he stated a few days later that on June 30 the army had “restored the democratic process.” There can be no doubt that the US government fully supports the Egyptian armed forces. Its regional allies quickly swung into action: billions of dollars poured in from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait.

Covering tracks is the strategy of choice. Domestically, the propaganda machine is in high gear: the United States had been meddling in Egyptian affairs by supporting the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). The new political authorities (the interim president, prime minister and, of course, el-Baradei) are playing their parts to perfection: they claim to be “disappointed” by the lack of American backing. In the Washington Post and not in an Egyptian newspaper, General al-Sisi even—astonishingly—accused the US government of abandoning him: “You turned your back on the Egyptians, and they won’t forget that.” (2)Washington Post, August 3, 2013 It was a clever gambit, one that managed to fool a section of the Egyptian population. That would make the armed forces and the civilian transitional government out to be courageous and independent patriots, while American agents and foreign powers had all along propped up the MB. The Americans know well the power of such propaganda, and the symbolic gestures needed to make it convincing. But it was a lie from start to finish.

The facts and figures produced are a bigger lie: 30 million Egyptians took to the streets, they tell us, and 16 million signed an anti-government petition. Where do these figure, intoned like a mantra in the media, come from? By comparing images from the pilgrimage to Mecca with those produced on June 30 (by the Egyptian military, which transmitted them to press agencies around the world: Google claims not to have broadcast them), experts estimate the total turnout at no more than four or five million. In fact, the figure of 30 million is preposterous, as are the 16 million signatures, especially for anyone familiar with social conditions on the ground in Egypt. New propaganda; new lies.

feds threaten to arrest lavabit founder for shutting service down...,


techdirt | The saga of Lavabit founder Ladar Levison is getting even more ridiculous, as he explains that the government has threatened him with criminal charges for his decision to shut down the business, rather than agree to some mysterious court order. The feds are apparently arguing that the act of shutting down the business, itself, was a violation of the order:
... a source familiar with the matter told NBC News that James Trump, a senior litigation counsel in the U.S. attorney’s office in Alexandria, Va., sent an email to Levison's lawyer last Thursday – the day Lavabit was shuttered -- stating that Levison may have "violated the court order," a statement that was interpreted as a possible threat to charge Levison with contempt of court.
That same article suggests that the decision to shut down Lavabit was over something much bigger than just looking at one individual's information -- since it appears that Lavabit has cooperated in the past on such cases. Instead, the suggestion now is that the government was seeking a tap on all accounts:
Levison stressed that he has complied with "upwards of two dozen court orders" for information in the past that were targeted at "specific users" and that "I never had a problem with that." But without disclosing details, he suggested that the order he received more recently was markedly different, requiring him to cooperate in broadly based surveillance that would scoop up information about all the users of his service. He likened the demands to a requirement to install a tap on his telephone.
It sounds like the feds were asking for a full on backdoor on the system, not unlike some previous reports of ISPs who have received surprise visits from the NSA.