"I will provide our intelligence and law-enforcement agencies with the tools they need to track and take out the terrorists without undermining our constitution and our freedom. That means no more illegal wiretapping of American citizens; no more national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime; no more tracking citizens who do nothing more than protest a misguided war; no more ignoring the law when it is inconvenient. That is not who we are. It is not what is necessary to defeat the terrorists" - Candidate Barack Obama (1st August 2007)
Noam Chomsky once famously said: "The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum." This lively debate within the corporate-owned mainstream media (MSM) on the NSA scandal is still ongoing, rekindled yesterday with a surprise Q&A session with Edward Snowden hosted by The Guardian online news site. With further NSA disclosures promised by Glenn Greenwald, the debate is likely to dominate front pages for the foreseeable future.
Public figures and the MSM as a whole have already branded Snowden a traitor, smeared him as a spy, shed distracting light on his youth, and - predictably - run pictures of his attractive girlfriend.
Straight from the propaganda playbook: distract from the key issue with personal smears and sensationalism.
Glenn Greenwald has not escaped the backlash. Marvel here at torture apologist Marc Thiessen - a former speechwriter for George W Bush and Donald Rumsfeld and columnist (since March 2010) for The Washington Post - writing that Greenwald broke the law by publishing these leaks and therefore offering support for Rep. Peter King's assertion that Greenwald should be arrested.
First, given Mr. Thiessen's support for torture, an illegal and - more importantly - immoral action that is condemned by neurobiologists as wholly unreliable, we should not take his opinions seriously. Second, one wonders what else Mr. Thiessen believes governments should be permitted to do in the name of 'national security', no matter how illegal and secretive, if he thinks journalists - members of the adversarial press - should be locked up for doing their job, even after going to extraordinary lengths - with many other journalists - to ensure only information in the public interest is released. Third, as any reasonably aware schoolkid will tell you, just because something is legal does not make it right. Slavery used to be legal, as did any number of morally repugnant things; would an eighteenth century Marc Thiessen similarly criticize a journalist leaking secret documents in order to highlight the evils of slavery? Fourth, given that torture is illegal, would Mr. Thiessen argue that any American authorizing or actually using torture be arrested on the same ground that publishing information on secret 'national security' surveillance data methods is also illegal? Thought not.
This two-minute video of Candidate Obama in 2007 versus President Obama in 2013 on surveillance and civil liberties is very illuminating, not only because of the contrast between an (ostensibly) young confident idealist and pragmatic (and very shifty - see video) realist. In the video, the present incarnation of Obama makes it clear that that the justification for blanket NSA surveillance is the need to protect the nation from terrorism.
This blog has discussed the actual threat of terrorism on several occasions, and various commentators have pointed out that more Americans drown in bathtubs than die in terrorist attacks. Edward Snowden himself commented yesterday that US police officers kill more Americans than terrorists do. It is irrefutably clear that in terms of lives lost, terrorism is a miniscule threat. Nevertheless, the intelligence agencies like to claim that the sacrifice of privacy and other civil liberties has prevented multiple terrorist attacks on the homeland and is therefore worth it. This crucial claim must be examined.
Since 9/11, dozens of Islamic terrorist 'plots' have been foiled. Backed up with numerous convictions, this has provided excellent cover for the Bush and Obama administrations as they have attempted to justify the enormous scope and costs of the war on terror, simultaneously allowing officials to boast that they are keeping America safe while providing justification for ever more intrusion of privacy. Terrorism, like its predecessor Communism, is the perfect, intangible, indefinable, fear-inducing enemy.
The word 'plot', however, is inaccurate. 'Sting operation' is the term you are looking for. From a 2010 article on the CBS News site:
Mohamed O. Mohamud appeared to have discovered an unusually compassionate pair of terrorists.
They told him he did not have to kill to be a good Muslim. He could just pray. A bomb was a very serious matter, they said. Kids might be killed. Time and again, they offered a way out.
At a hotel in downtown Portland, Oregon, in July, the two undercover FBI agents listened as Mohamud explained his dream of detonating a car bomb during the city's Christmas celebration. They offered to help, if Mohamud was sure he wanted to go through with it.
"You always have a choice," one of the agents said, according to court documents. "You understand? With us, you always have a choice."
It was not an offhand remark. It was part of a carefully scripted routine the FBI has been perfecting since the September 2001 terror attacks. Sting operations, choreographed by FBI and Justice Department officials in Washington, have included plots against skyscrapers in Dallas, Texas, Washington subways, a Chicago nightclub and New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.
All the plots have been fictional. The intent, the FBI says, has been real. And the government has a string of convictions to back that up, a track record that has made undercover stings one of the government's go-to strategies in terrorism cases.
But the tactic is not without its critics. Each arrest has been followed by allegations of entrapment and claims that the government is enticing Muslims to become terrorists, selling them phony explosives, then arresting them.
Entrapment: 'The act of government agents or officials that induces a person to commit a crime he or she is not previously disposed to commit'.
Entrapment is illegal. Are you reading, Mr. Thiessen?
More from the article:
No terrorism case since Sept. 11, 2001, has been thrown out because of entrapment. Just last month, the tactic passed its latest test when a New York jury convicted four men of trying to blow up synagogues. Jurors rejected the argument that the FBI enticed the men into a plot they never would have come up with otherwise.
"When the government supplies a fake bomb and then thwarts the plot, this is insanity. This is grandstanding," Susanne Brody, one of the defense attorneys in that case, said Monday when asked about the FBI's use of undercover stings.
Brody said the tactic requires extraordinary amounts of time and money and can ensnare hapless people, not hardened terrorists.
"The people they repeatedly come up with continue to be people who have no ability to do something on their own," said Samuel Braverman, another defense attorney in the New York case who said he is skeptical of a strategy that amounts to "picking off the dumbest we have to offer."
So the FBI, presumably in a program called 'Operation Dumbass', goes out looking for young Muslim men who are angry with the West (I wonder why), but who have no serious intention or capability whatsoever to carry out a terrorist attack, and then encourage, advise and supply them right up to the last moment when - just like the movies - the cavalry moves in just in the nick of time to stop them setting off their fake bombs with their fake detonators.
The pretext, therefore, for this blanket surveillance apparatus is a bunch of fake plots in which bumbling, incompetent idiots are led by the nose to commit actions they would never have done if left alone.
The US government knows damned well that no serious terrorist would ever communicate plot details with electronic communications, knowing full well that they are monitored, and indeed have been for decades - long before Edward Snowden and William Binney arrived on the scene. It knows therefore that blanket surveillance is extremely unlikely to turn up any useful data of this variety.
Think about that for a second. All this spying on everyone...justified by manufactured plots and lies. Most genuine plots are exposed with traditional detective work, informants (often within the Muslim community itself), and sometimes just blind luck. Are we to sacrifice our most sacred rights for such meager rewards?
The true purpose of PRISM and whatever other programs the NSA has is NOT anti-terrorism. It is in fact a very useful tool to crush meaningful dissent against the system of government, the status quo so essential for the continued existence of the commercial entities which dominate the globe. With the ability to read private communications, detailed profiles of dissident leaders can be compiled, allowing various tactics to be easily deployed against them: for example, blackmail, bribery and smear campaigns. For more serious offenders - the biggest threats - persecution and imprisonment can be threatened and even implemented: one needs only to look at the cases of Bradley Manning, Jeremy Hammond, John Kiriakou, and Julian Assange to see that.
Indeed, this tactic of entrapment is is not only for Islamic terrorism. The Occupy movement, at first a serious threat to the establishment, was effectively smeared as a danger to the public in an operation, organized by an FBI informant, to blow up a bridge.
From the article:
This past October, at an Occupy encampment in Cleveland, Ohio, "suspicious males with walkie-talkies around their necks" and "scarves or towels around their heads" were heard grumbling at the protesters' unwillingness to act violently. At meetings a few months later, one of them, a 26-year-old with a black Mohawk known as "Cyco," explained to his anarchist colleagues how "you can make plastic explosives with bleach," and the group of five men fantasized about what they might blow up. Cyco suggested a small bridge. One of the others thought they’d have a better chance of not hurting people if they blew up a cargo ship. A third, however, argued for a big bridge – "Gotta slow the traffic that's going to make them money" – and won. He then led them to a connection who sold them C-4 explosives for $450. Then, the night before the May Day Occupy protests, they allegedly put the plan into motion – and just as the would-be terrorists fiddled with the detonator they hoped would blow to smithereens a scenic bridge in Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park traversed by 13,610 vehicles every day, the FBI swooped in to arrest them.
The guy who convinced the plotters to blow up a big bridge, led them to the arms merchant, and drove the team to the bomb site was an FBI informant. The merchant was an FBI agent. The bomb, of course, was a dud. And the arrest was part of a pattern of entrapment by federal law enforcement since September 11, 2001, not of terrorist suspects, but of young men federal agents have had to talk into embracing violence in the first place. One of the Cleveland arrestees, Connor Stevens, complained to his sister of feeling "very pressured" by the guy who turned out to be an informant and was recorded in 2011 rejecting property destruction: "We're in it for the long haul and those kind of tactics just don't cut it," he said. "And it's actually harder to be non-violent than it is to do stuff like that." Though when Cleveland's NEWS Channel 5 broadcast that footage, they headlined it "Accused Bomb Plot Suspect Caught on Camera Talking Violence."
Unsurprisingly, Barack Obama has come out strongly in defense of the NSA and its secret programs, repeating the usual mantra of keeping America safe and so on. This is because he is a good employee, an invaluable lieutenant, of the financial elites who put up the cash for his electoral campaigns of hope and change. The lieutenant is doing a great job; indeed, he has achieved - among many other things - the feat of making the same Democrats who screamed blue murder at GW Bush for his illegal wiretapping program now support it, proving once and for all that a huge percentage of the population identify with 'teams', not policies...however dangerous and undemocratic those policies may be.
And what will the next disclosures be? Given that PRISM is extremely intrusive, what further horrors await? One thing is clear: the NSA wants a global system that will allow it to access all data, real-time if necessary, and perhaps even build profiles of people likely to commit crimes in the future...pre-crime. If so, the public reaction is likely to dwarf that seen so far, as anyone could potentially be arrested simply for expressing an idea outside the acceptable mainstream.
Lieutenant Obama is the benign public face of a global coup d'etat for the financial elites, one fascist in nature, which tolerates dissent only in the strictly limited 'spectrum of acceptable opinion', enough dissent to create the illusion of democracy, but not enough to actually allow real change. This coup is already complete, with traditional protest now extremely hazardous due to violent police suppression tactics. Indeed, reports of G8 protesters recently being arrested in London before actually doing any protesting suggest likely escalation of anti-democratic police tactics in the future. The only routes to real change would be a counter-coup by benign police or military officers, or a massive grassroots uprising by the people. The military option is extremely unlikely, thanks to the (intentional) worship of all things military throughout the US media and political establishment (and to a lesser degree in the UK and other Western nations). This leaves the grassroots option. We are already seeing signs of this growing in the last few years with huge, often violent demonstrations and social unrest in many nations, most recently Turkey and Brazil.
These grassroots movements are growing but remain splintered. All progressive movements...ALL OF THEM...must unite, must pool their resources in tackling a cancer that is vastly superior in power and influence except in two areas: strength of numbers and depth of humanity. It is vital at this stage to spread awareness, to encourage activism, and to ensure everyone understands that this now affects all of us, as the NSA leak so clearly demonstrates.
Written by Simon Wood