Archive for November 28th, 2009

Obama Quietly Backs Patriot Act Provisions

 
  
 
POLITICS-US:
Obama Quietly Backs Patriot Act Provisions
William Fisher

NEW YORK, 23 Nov (IPS) – With the health care debate preoccupying the mainstream media, it has gone virtually unreported that the Barack Obama administration is quietly supporting renewal of provisions of the George W. Bush-era USA Patriot Act that civil libertarians say infringe on basic freedoms.

And it is reportedly doing so over the objections of some prominent Democrats.

When a panicky Congress passed the act 45 days after the terrorist attacks of Sep. 11, 2001, three contentious parts of the law were scheduled to expire at the end of next month, and opponents of these sections have been pushing Congress to substitute new provisions with substantially strengthened civil liberties protections.

But with the apparent approval of the Obama White House and a number of Republicans – and over the objections of liberal Senate Democrats including Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Dick Durbin of Illinois – the Senate Judiciary Committee has voted to extend the three provisions with only minor changes.

Those provisions would leave unaltered the power of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to seize records and to eavesdrop on phone calls and e-mail in the course of counterterrorism investigations.

The parts of the act due to expire on Dec. 31 deal with:

National Security Letters (NSLs)

The FBI uses NSLs to compel Internet service providers, libraries, banks, and credit reporting companies to turn over sensitive information about their customers and patrons. Using this data, the government can compile vast dossiers about innocent people.

The ‘Material Support’ Statute

This provision criminalises providing “material support” to terrorists, defined as providing any tangible or intangible good, service or advice to a terrorist or designated group. As amended by the Patriot Act and other laws since Sep. 11, this section criminalises a wide array of activities, regardless of whether they actually or intentionally further terrorist goals or organisations.

FISA Amendments Act of 2008

This past summer, Congress passed a law that permits the government to conduct warrantless and suspicion-less dragnet collection of U.S. residents’ international telephone calls and e-mails.

Asked by IPS why committee chairman Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont and other Democrats chose to make only minor changes, Chip Pitts, president of the Bill of Rights Defence Committee, referred to “the secret and hypocritical lobbying by the Obama administration against reforms – while publicly stating receptiveness to them.” White House pressure, he speculated, “was undoubtedly a huge if lamentable factor”.

He added that some committee members were cautious because of the recent arrests of Najibullah Zazi and others.

Zazi , a citizen of Afghanistan and a legal U.S. resident, was arrested in September as part of a group accused of planning to carry out acts of terrorism against the U.S. Zazi is said by the FBI to have attended courses and received instruction on weapons and explosives at an al Qaeda training camp in Pakistan.

Leahy acknowledged that, in light of these incidents, “This is no time to weaken or undermine the tools that law enforcement relies on to protect America.”

Pitts told IPS, “Short-term and political considerations driven by dramatic events once again dramatically affected the need for a more sensible long-term, reasoned, rule-of-law approach.”

“In the eight years since passage of the original Patriot Act, it’s become clear that the escalating political competition to appear tough on terror – and avoid being accused of being “soft on terror” – brings perceived electoral benefits with few costs, with vital but fragile civil liberties being easily sacrificed,” he added.

In contrast to the Senate, the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee approved a version of the legislation containing several significant reforms. In a 16-10 party-line vote, the committee’s version curbs some of the government’s controversial surveillance powers.

The Patriot Act, passed by a landslide after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to provide law enforcement and intelligence agencies additional powers to thwart terrorist activities, was reauthorised in 2005.

The legislation has been criticised by many from across the ideological spectrum as a threat to civil liberties, privacy and democratic traditions. Sections of the original act have been ruled unconstitutional, with certain provisions violating protected rights.

Judiciary Chair John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, said the goal of the new legislation was to “craft a law that preserves both our national security and our national values”.

The proposed new legislation would permit the so-called “lone wolf” provision to sunset. This authority removed the requirement that an individual needed to be an agent of a foreign power to be placed under surveillance by intelligence officials and permitted surveillance of individuals with a much lower evidentiary threshold than allowed under criminal surveillance procedures.

It was intended to allow the surveillance of individuals believed to be doing the bidding of foreign governments or terrorist organisations, even when the evidence of that connection was lacking.

The Justice Department maintains that the “lone wolf” authority is necessary, even though there is no evidence that it has been used. Its opponents believe that existing authorities are sufficient to achieve the goals of the lone wolf provision while more effectively protecting the rights of innocent citizens.

The proposed new House legislation would also restrict the use of national security letters. According to a Congressional Research Service report, “National security letters (NSL) are roughly comparable to administrative subpoenas. Intelligence agencies issue them for intelligence gathering purposes to telephone companies, Internet service providers, consumer credit reporting agencies, banks, and other financial institutions, directing the recipients to turn over certain customer records and similar information.”

Under current law, intelligence agencies have few restrictions on the use of NSLs, and in numerous cases, have abused the authority. An FBI inspector general report in 2007 “found that the FBI used NSLs in violation of applicable NSL statutes, Attorney General Guidelines, and internal FBI policies”. The reform provisions seek to create greater judicial scrutiny of NSL use.

The bill approved in the Senate contains much more modest reforms. It would retain the lone wolf provision, and is, in general, much more in line with the wishes of the administration. Should both bills pass and go into conference to be reconciled, it is unclear which approach would prevail.

House and Senate versions still need to be voted on by each body separately and then reconciled into a single bill to send to the president for signature.

Pitts told IPS, “President Obama’s flip-flop on Patriot Act issues does as much damage as did his flip-flop on the FISA Amendments Act and telecom immunity last year. But it’s imperative that we fight, while we still can, to comprehensively reinsert requirements for fact-based, individualised suspicion, checks and balances, and meaningful judicial review prior to government intrusions.”

In a report on the Patriot Act, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said, “More than seven years after its implementation there is little evidence that the Patriot Act has been effective in making America more secure from terrorists. However, there are many unfortunate examples that the government abused these authorities in ways that both violate the rights of innocent people and squander precious security resources.”

(END/2009) 

ARE HATE CRIME LAWS LEGALIZING TREASON?

ARE HATE CRIME LAWS LEGALIZING TREASON?

by Jeff Gates

Winning wars in the Information Age largely depends on winning the battle for public opinion. Thus the opinion-shaping role of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) when it attacked a high profile California professor for his criticism of Israeli policy in Palestine.  

That ADL intimidation campaign successfully chilled debate on campuses nationwide during several time-critical months while a new president, promising the hope of change, reassessed U.S.-Israeli relations. His only change—endorsing more Israeli settlements on Palestinian land—quashed any hope of peace.

This ADL silencing strategy offers a microcosm of how the U.S. was induced to war in Iraq based on false intelligence. From the provocation of September 11, 2001 until the invasion of March 2003, war-planners ignored, dismissed or sought to silence anyone critical of the spurious premises offered for war.

Only later did we discover that the intelligence was fixed around a preset agenda. Even now, Americans are unaware that the U.S.-led invasion had long been an Israeli goal.

Or listen to a machine-read version here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1HRUw5FUS6g&feature=youtube_gdata (not sure who did this)
Or see it on the Criminal State website: Lawful Treason? where you can also order Guilt By Association, the first release in the Criminal State series.
As predicted — right on cue, the ADL’s Abe Foxman is working to portray confirmed facts as hate speech:  http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1130129.html
Here’s Israel’s latest operation: “What is Israel’s Role in Destabilizing Israel?” — first published on Opinion-Maker, an influential Pakistani website where it got 25,000 reads in the first 24 hours.
If you’re still uncertain how this duplicity proceeds in plain sight, review: “Today’s Ancient Warfare: Facts vs. Faith” — first published on Veterans Today where it got 30,000 reads in 72 hours.
Confused about the tragic shooting at Fort Hood? Major Nidal Hasan was a classic “asset” as explained in the Introduction to Guilt By Association. Here’s an analysis on Intifada-Palestine.
To restore U.S. national security requires that this trans-generational criminal syndicate be made transparent and its perpetrators apparent, including its many “assets” in the Congress and in “our” latest presidency. What we face as a nation is an education challenge. People simply do not know
Thus case lots prices of Guilt By Association are available for donations to libraries, universities, think tanks and so forth. People have been buying copies for “reading circles” and as “wake up” gifts. Mailings can be done to opinion-makers in the U.S. and abroad. Just contact me at jeff.gates@criminalstate.com
As anticipated, these facts and analyses have received no coverage in mainstream media in the U.S. None. Nor, of course, on compromised websites such as Huffington Post.
Word docs of these four op-eds are attached.
Thanks.


Jeff Gates

Internet Under Siege

Internet Under Siege

Posted By Philip Giraldi On November 18, 2009 @ 11:00 pm In Uncategorized | 54 Comments

It is ironic that President Barack Obama would travel to China and speak against government control over the internet.  If the American Department of Homeland Security has its way new cybersecurity laws will enable Obama’s administration to take control of the internet in the event of a national crisis.  How that national crisis might be defined would be up to the White House but there have been some precedents that suggest that the response would hardly be respectful of the Bill of Rights.

Many countries already monitor and censor the internet on a regular basis, forbidding access to numerous sites that they consider to be subversive.  During recent unrest, the governments of both Iran and China effectively shut down the internet by taking control of or blocking servers.  Combined with switching off of cell phone transmitters, the steps proved effective in isolating dissidents.  Could it happen here?  Undoubtedly.  Once the laws are in place a terrorist incident or something that could be plausibly described in those terms would be all that is needed to have government officials issue the order to bring the internet to a halt. 

Government intrusion in the private lives of citizens is already a reality, particularly in the so-called Western Democracies that have the necessary technology and tech-savvy manpower to tap phones and invade computers.  In Europe, draconian anti-terrorism laws enable security agencies to monitor phone calls and e-mails, in many cases without any judicial oversight.  In Britain the monitoring includes access to detailed internet records that are available for inspection by no less than 653 government agencies, most of which have nothing whatsoever to do with security or intelligence, all without any judicial review.

In the United States the Pentagon recently sought an internet and news “instant response capability” which it dubbed the Office of Strategic Influence and evidence is growing that it has seeded a number of retired military analysts into the major news networks to provide a pro-government slant on the war news.   The State Department is also in the game, tasking young officers to engage presumed radicals in debate on their websites.  There also is the warrantless wiretapping program, which continues under the Obama administration in spite of pre-electoral promises that it would be stopped, while the growing use of national security letters means that private communications carried out using the internet can be accessed by Federal law enforcement agencies.  The national security letter, established by the PATRIOT Act, is an investigative tool that is particularly insidious as it does not require judicial oversight.  More than 35,000 were issued by the FBI last year and the recipient of a letter commits a felony if he or she reveals the receipt of the document.  In a recent case involving an internet provider in Philadelphia, a national security letter demanded all details of internet messages sent on a certain date, to include account information on clients with social security numbers and credit card references. 

The free flow of information on the internet has also produced a reaction among those who are more concerned with getting out a specific message.  If you have noticed the frequent appearance of bloggers and “talkbackers” on the various internet sites who write in less than perfect English and who always support attacking Iran and are defensive about Israel, sometimes overwhelming sites with garbage messages, you are not alone as it is clear that a sustained effort is underway to intimidate, influence opinion, and suppress opposing views.  The United States and Israeli governments have taken the lead in putting out propaganda over the internet and there are also indications that several European countries, including Britain and Germany, are engaged in creating regulatory hurdles and countering information that they do not approve of.  When the debate is open and the interlocutors are identifying themselves as government representatives one might well argue that the process is healthy as it permits a genuine exchange of views, but where the government hand is hidden the exchange should be regarded as little more than propaganda, what the old Soviet Union might well have referred to as “agitprop.”

The focus on war by other means over the internet is important, if only because it means that governments are using their vast resources to spread propaganda in a deliberate effort to confuse the debate over important foreign and domestic policy issues.  Israel is at the forefront, exploiting its cutting edge telecommunications industry and enabled by its large and powerful diaspora to get out its message.  Not surprisingly, its lobbies including AIPAC are also leaders in the effort, sometimes acting openly and sometimes covertly. 

Israel became heavily engaged on the internet during its devastating assault on Gaza last January, when world opinion came down strongly against it, recruiting teams of young soldiers and students to blog in support of Operation Cast Lead.  It has recently focused on the UN’s Goldstone Report that claimed that Tel Aviv had committed numerous war crimes in Gaza, supporting a worldwide organized campaign to discredit anyone promoting the report.  The latest victim of the smear has been the respected and nonpartisan group Human Rights Watch (HRW).  In June Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister pledged that his government would “dedicate time and manpower to combating” human rights organizations.  Shortly afterwards Ron Dermer of the Israeli Prime Minister’s office named Human Rights Watch as one of the offending organizations.  Many attacks on HRW were subsequently carried out openly using various front organizations, including NGO Monitor which is based in Jerusalem and funded by wealthy Americans.  Elie Wiesel, who cashes in on his humanitarian credentials while remaining notably silent over Israeli war crimes, is on the Monitor board and has written a letter attacking HRW. Critical pieces in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times soon followed the initial attacks, commentary that was distributed widely by AIPAC on Capitol Hill and also all over the internet.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry, headed by right-wing extremist Avigdor Lieberman, runs a semi-covert program which is openly funded by the government as the “internet fighting team” but which deliberately conceals the affiliation of the “talkbackers.”  Ilan Shturman coordinates the Ministry effort, which is run out of the Hasbara Department, “hasbara” being a Hebrew word that is normally translated as propaganda.  Shturman’s young and enthusiastic employees work from a prepared script of official Israeli government positions.  They are instructed not to identify themselves either as Israelis or as government employees.  There have been numerous applicants to work for Shturman.  An Israeli source reports that one applicant emphasized his own qualifications, writing “I’m fluent in several languages and I’m able to spew forth bullsh*t for hours on end.” 

But there is also concern that the program will further distort the news cycle which is already suffering from deliberately misleading government leaks, making it impossible to discern what information that is surfacing is being fabricated.  One Israeli critic of the Foreign Ministry program has described it as part of a “thought police state.”  And the effort is increasingly international in nature.  During the attack on Gaza, Shturman headed an effort to obtain the assistance of Jews abroad, recruiting a “few thousand” to work with his Israeli volunteers to bombard hostile websites with Israel-friendly commentary.  Much of the chatter is in English, though the teams also work in the other principal European languages.  Recent immigrants from the Israeli government’s Ministry of Absorption have been recruited and used to attack sites in their own more exotic native languages. 

The Israeli government program is expected to increase.  A private advocacy group called Give Israel Your United Support has a reported 50,000 activists who use a specially developed software called megaphone that sends an alert when anti-Israeli commentary appears, permitting supporters to bombard the hostile site with their own comments. In July, 5,000 members of the World Union of Jewish Students were given the megaphone software.  There are also reports that several American Christian evangelical groups have indicated that they are interested in helping the cause.  The goal is to have hundreds of thousands of activists worldwide who are prepared to place messages supportive of Israel.

The danger is real.  Most Americans who are critical of the actions of their own government rely on the internet for information that is uncensored and often provocative, including sites like Antiwar.com.  As the United States generally follows Israeli initiatives for security it is likely only a matter of time before Obama’s internet warfare teams surface either at the Defense Department or at State.  Deliberately overloading and attacking the internet to damage its credibility is all too possible; witness the numerous sites that have been “hacked” and have had to shut down or restrict their activities.  American citizens who are concerned about maintaining their few remaining liberties should sound the alarm and tell the politicians that we don’t need more government advice on what we should think and do.  Hands off the internet.

Read more by Philip Giraldi


Article printed from Antiwar.com Original: http://original.antiwar.com

URL to article: http://original.antiwar.com/giraldi/2009/11/18/internet-under-siege/