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Just 43 Israeli Reserve Soldiers Stand Against IDF and SIGINT

Jean Shaoul Forty-three reserve soldiers and officers in Israel’s prestigious military intelligence gathering unit, Unit 8200, have refused to take any further part in the...

Anglo-American “Intelligence Sharing”. Britain’s “Signal Intelligence” (SIGINT) supports CIA Drone Strikes

UK must come clean on whether GCHQ supports CIA drone strikes UK Government Communications Headquarters is the centre for Her Majesty’s Government’s Signal Intelligence (SIGINT)...

Traitors and Terror- Why private Intel providers betray their own people

This is part 2 of the Terrorists within. Sometimes you have to just sit back and ask WTF just happened? When I started researching the...

Did U.S. and Its Allies Commit War Crime by Bombing Syria on April 14th?

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at INTRODUCTION Bombardment (or other military invasion) of a country that has not invaded nor threatened to invade the attacking country(s)...

Canada’s Trudeau Promotes ‘Anglosphere’ Spying

While the media has been full of news about information-gathering by Facebook and other Internet giants, other secretive organizations that are a major threat...

Trump Should Withdraw Nomination of Gina Haspel

Two dozen former U.S. intelligence officers urge President Trump to rescind Gina Haspel’s nomination to lead the CIA, citing torture that she oversaw while...

NSA can find & track people with ‘voice-matching technology’ — RT US News

Declassified documents reveal the National Security Agency has been using secret “speaker recognition” technology to identify...

Judge Napolitano Vindicated

Britain’s spy agencies played a crucial role in alerting their counterparts in Washington to contacts between members of Donald Trump’s campaign team and Russian...

Int'l Spy Agencies First to Spot 'Suspicious Interactions' Between Russia, Trump Team

The ongoing probe into ties between Russia and affiliates of President Donald Trump was reportedly first spurred by international spy agencies that picked up...

Why Vault 7 Tools Used by Private Contractors Shows US Intel Needs a Ground-Up...

The Vault 7 exposé by WikiLeaks neglected to mention the most important part of the disclosure. Sure, the CIA has all these tools available....

Obama Expanded NSA Powers Just Before Leaving Office

This story, from the Jan. 12, 2017, edition of the New York Times, was little-remarked upon at the time, but suddenly has taken...

DNC docs were leaked, not hacked, intelligence veterans say

Anonymous allegations that Russian government hackers interfered with the US elections are “evidence-free,” several retired intelligence...

10 Orwellian Moments

The Intercept recently began releasing batches of top secret internal newsletters from the most important division of the NSA, the Signals Intelligence Directorate, or...

Hillary Clinton escapes censure from House Democrats over Benghazi scandal

Following a two-year investigation, House Democrats absolved former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the US military over allegations of security lapses for diplomats...

Spies over Baghdad: NSA newsletter reveals agency’s role in Iraq War

NSA intelligence played a key role in preparing the UN for the US invasion of Iraq and aiding the subsequent occupation, while senior agency...

NSA helped GCHQ spies hack Juniper firewalls — Snowden leak

British spies enlisted the help of the US National Security Agency (NSA) to learn how to hack firewalls made by top internet security provider...

Five Signs the Drone War Is Undermining the ‘War on Terror’

“Not a Bug Splat,” a giant art installation intended to show the faces of drone war victims to drone operators. ( The Intercept – a...

NSA documents reveal bulk email collection continues despite official claims

By Nick Barrickman A series of declassified National Security Agency (NSA) documents have revealed that the government’s program of bulk metadata collection of the population’s internet...

Leaked: ‘New Snowden’ releases Obama’s drone program papers

A cache of classified documents has revealed the inner workings of US drone operations in Somalia, Yemen and Afghanistan, including the mechanism of targeting...

Karma Police spying on the whole internet: Snowden

Documents recently leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden have revealed that Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) mapped “every visible user on the internet,” in...

White House reveals ‘weak’ NSA reform nearly 2 years after Snowden scoops

The Obama administration has announced changes to the surveillance operations conducted by the United States intelligence community, but critics are already using words like...

New document reveals FBI’s role in NSA surveillance program

Documents provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation suggest that the FBI has played a part in the National Security Agency’s surveillance operations to...

NSA Documents Suggest a Close Working Relationship Between NSA, U.S. Companies

Documents describe “contractual relationships” between NSA and U.S. companies, as well as undercover operatives at some U.S. companies. Jeff Larson and Julia Angwin Newly disclosed National...

Leaked Documents Show NSA ‘Google-Like’ Search Engine Of People’s Lives

The United States National Security Agency has built a massive information sharing system intended to allow intelligence community analysts from across the US government...

Demand grows for truth about MH17

David Swanson RINF Alternative News A long list of prominent individuals has signed, a number of organizations will be promoting next week, and you can be...

Snowden discusses US surveillance and cyber-warfare programs

Thomas Gaist Wired magazine published an extended interview this week with former US intelligence agent and famed whistleblower Edward Snowden. Conducted in a hotel room somewhere...

Greenwald: NSA Docs Show ‘Israeli Action in Gaza has US Fingerprints All Over It’

New documents leaked by Edward Snowden show how intelligence cooperation enables repeated Israeli aggression against Palestinians Jon Queally A new analysis of the intelligence and military...

Obama Should Release Ukraine Evidence

VIPS MEMORANDUM FOR: The President FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) SUBJECT: Intelligence on Shoot-Down of Malaysian Plane Executive Summary U.S.—Russian intensions are building in a precarious way over Ukraine, and...

NSA partnering with Saudi regime ‒ Snowden leak

The National Security Agency has increasingly been working hand-in-glove with the repressive Saudi Arabian government since 2013, sharing intelligence and assisting with surveillance, according...

New revelations shatter US government lies on illegal surveillance

Thomas Gaist The overwhelming majority of individuals who have had their emails and other private communications intercepted by the US National Security Agency (NSA) have...

The return of the state secret police in Germany

Ulrich Rippert Last week’s edition of Der Spiegel published over 50 NSA documents that had been handed to the media by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor...

German foreign intelligence service plans real-time surveillance of social networks

Sven Heymann The German foreign intelligence service (BND) is planning the surveillance of social network sites in real-time, according to documents obtained by theSüddeutsche Zeitung....

NSA Records and Stores Content of All Phone Calls in Two Countries

Eric London According to new documents made public yesterday by Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency records the content of every phone call made to,...

Irresponsible China Bashing

Irresponsible China Bashing

by Stephen Lendman

China bashing reflects official US policy. Washington does it numerous ways. 

It's reprehensible. It's confrontational. It's potentially belligerent. Rogue states operate this way.

No nation spies on more nations than America. None more intrusively. None more aggressively. None more lawlessly.

None for more reasons. None in more ways. None more duplicitous about it. None more involved in cybercrime. More on this below.

China is a major US economic, political and military rival. Washington wants it marginalized, weakened and isolated.

It wants its sovereign independence eliminated. It want pro-Western puppet governance replacing it.

It wants its resources plundered. It wants its people exploited. Bashing China risks open conflict. So does pursuing America's overall imperial objectives.

On May 19, Washington declared unprecedented cyberwar on China. 

The Justice Department headlined "US Charges Five Chinese Military Hackers for Cyber Espionage Against US Corporations and a Labor Organization for Commercial Advantage"

"First Time Criminal Charges Are Filed Against Known State Actors for Hacking"

A federal grand jury indicted five Chinese Peoples Liberation Army officials. Doing so was unprecedented. It was provocative. 

Individuals charged didn't matter. Washington confronted the People's Republic of China directly. It did so by targeting its military.

Charges include "computer hacking, economic espionage and other offenses directed at six American victims in US nuclear power, metals and solar products industries."

They allege conspiracy "to hack into American entities, to maintain unauthorized access to their computers and to steal information from those entities that would be useful to their competitors in China, including state-owned enterprises (SOEs)."

Attorney General Eric Holder claimed "economic espionage by members of the Chinese military and represents the first ever charges against a state actor for this type of hacking."

"The range of trade secrets and other sensitive business information stolen in this case is significant and demands an aggressive response," he said.

FBI Director James Comey claimed "(f)or too long, the Chinese government has blatantly sought to use cyber espionage to obtain economic advantage for its state-owned industries."

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Carlin said:

"State actors engaged in cyber espionage for economic advantage are not immune from the law just because they hack under the shadow of their country’s flag."

Third Department Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Unit 61398 officials named include Wang Dong, Sun Kailiang, Wen Xinyu, Huang Zhenyu, and Gu Chunhui.

Alleged companies targeted include Westinghouse, SolarWorld subsidiaries, US Steel, Allegheny Technologies, Alcoa, "the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, (and) Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union (USW)."

Charges include:

  • One count of "conspiring to commit computer fraud and abuse."

  • Eight counts of "accessing (or attempting to access) a protected computer without authorization to obtain information for the purpose of commercial advantage and private financial gain."

  • Fourteen counts of "transmitting a program, information, code, or command with the intent to cause damage to protected computers."

  • Six counts of "aggravated identify theft."

  • One count of "economic espionage."

  • One count of "trade secret theft."

Xinhua is China's official press agency. It's a ministry-level department. It provides electronic and print news and information.

On May 20, it headlined "China strongly opposes US indictment against Chinese military personnel," saying:

"China lodged protests with the US side following the announcement, urging the U.S. side to immediately correct its mistake and withdraw the indictment."

"(T)he position of the Chinese government on cyber security is consistent and clear-cut. China is steadfast in upholding cyber security." 

"The Chinese government, the Chinese military and their relevant personnel have never engaged or participated in cyber theft of trade secrets." 

"The US accusation against Chinese personnel is groundless with ulterior motives."

Evidence shows "terminals of Chinese military access to the internet have suffered from great number of foreign cyber attacks in recent years, and a considerable number of such attacks originated from the United States."

"China demands that the US side explain its cyber theft, eavesdropping and surveillance activities against China and immediately stop such activities."

America is "the biggest attacker of China's cyber space."

US attacks "infiltrate and tap Chinese networks belonging to governments, institutions, enterprises, universities and major communication backbone networks." 

"Those activities target Chinese leaders, ordinary citizens and anyone with a mobile phone."

Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said:

"This US move, which is based on fabricated facts, grossly violates the basic norms governing international relations and jeopardizes China-U.S. cooperation and mutual trust."

Nine or more major online companies cooperate with lawless NSA spying. Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, Apple, Skype, YouTube and others are involved.

They do so through NSA's Prism. It gains access to search histories, emails, file transfers and live chats. 

It's gotten directly from US provider servers. Doing so facilitates mass surveillance. NSA spies globally. Its activities reveal rogue agency lawlessness.

NSA targets China intensively. It lawlessly hacks its computer and telecommunications networks. 

It focuses on strategically important information. It does so through its ultra-secret China hacking group.

It conducts cyber-espionage. Huang Chengquing is Beijing's top Internet official. China has "mountains of data," he said.

It reveals widespread US hacking. It's designed to steal government secrets. NSA's Tailored Access Operations (TAO) in involved.

It's ultra-secret. Most NSA personnel and officials know little or nothing about it. Only those with a need to know have full access.

TAO operations are extraordinarily sensitive. They penetrate Chinese computer and telecommunications systems.

They've done so for nearly 16 years. They generate reliable intelligence. They learn what's ongoing in China.

They obtain what Washington most wants to know. It's done by surreptitious hacking.

It cracks passwords. It penetrates computer security systems. It decrypts successfully. It steals hard drive data.

In October 2012, Obama authorized cyber-attacks. He did so by secret presidential directive.

His Offensive Cyber Effects Operations (OCEO) "offer(s) unique and unconventional capabilities to advance US national objectives around the world with little or no warning to the adversary or target and with potential effects ranging from subtle to severely damaging."

Washington "identif(ies) potential targets of national importance where OCEO can offer a favorable balance of effectiveness and risk as compared with other instruments of national power."

Domestic spying works the same way. Anything goes defines policy. Constitutional protections don't matter. Or US statute laws. Or international ones. Or relations with other nations.

Washington rules alone apply. TAO's mandate is penetrating, destroying, damaging, or otherwise compromising targeted sites.

It's the largest, most important NSA Signal Intelligence (SIGINT) Directorate component.

Well over 1,000 military and civilian computer hackers, intelligence analysts, targeting specialists, computer hardware and software designers, and electrical engineers are involved.

Their job is identifying sensitive computer systems and supporting telecommunications networks. Their mandate is penetrating them successfully.

They exceed the capability of other US intelligence gathering agencies. Their activities expand exponentially.

China knows what's going on. So do Russia and other nations. They're acutely aware of NSA activities. They knows the threat. They take appropriate countermeasures.

Cyber-attacks constitute war by other means. Doing so compromises freedom. It risks confrontation. It threatens world peace.

It doesn't matter. America operates solely for its own self-interest. For control. For economic advantage.

For being one up on foreign competitors. For information used advantageously in trade, political, and military relations. NSA's get it all mandate explains.

June 5 is a landmark date. It marks the first anniversary of Edward Snowden revelations. He connected important dots for millions.

He revealed lawless NSA spying. He did so in great detail. He's the gift that keeps on giving. 

Western nations collaborate irresponsibly. They do so with major corporations. Privacy no longer exists. 

There's no place to hide. Big Brother watches everyone. Spying goes way beyond protecting national security.

All electronic communications can be monitored, collected and stored. Legal restraints are absent. 

Obama heads the most rogue administration in US history. He exceeds the worst of his predecessors. Congress and American courts permit the impermissible. 

Mass US surveillance is standard practice. It's global. It's all- embracing. It targets world leaders. It's after everything and everyone of possible interest.

No constraints exist. No standards. Rogue states operate this way. America is by far the worst.

Bashing China turns a blind eye to US high crimes. They're too egregious to ignore. 

America is a pariah state. It exceeds the worst in world history. It risks global confrontation. Stopping it matters most. 

It bears repeating what previous articles stressed. Today is the most perilous time in world history. World peace hangs in the balance.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."

Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

My Device Is Me. GCHQ — Stop Hacking Me

Eric King RINF Alternative News Spy agencies have long sought to turn the technologies that improve all our lives against us. From some of the very...

Snowden Reveals Industrial Espionage Against China’s Huawei

Tom Carter  RINF Alternative News Documents released by National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden and published in the New York Times over the weekend confirm that the...

How the NSA Targets Those with ‘Keys to Digital Kingdoms’

Jon Queally  RINF Alternative News Though accused of no wrongdoing whatsoever, spy agency targets personal computers of individuals whose job it is to protect online networks The...

Washington Seeks Regime Change in Venezuela

Garry Leech RINF Alternative News Both the ongoing protests in Venezuela and the economic problems that the demonstrators are protesting against appear to have been orchestrated...

Surveillance and Scandal: Time-Tested Weapons for US Global Power

Alfred W. McCoy RINF Alternative News For more than six months, Edward Snowden’s revelations about the National Security Agency (NSA) have been pouring out from the Washington...

Obama NSA Speech: Intelligence Whistleblowers Available for Interviews

Binney and Wiebe – as well as Thomas Drake – are among the authors of a USA Today op-ed published today titled “We Need Real Protection...

NSA Spying on Congress to Manipulate, Intimidate, Blackmail Top Government and Military Officials

Washington's Blog The NSA pretty much admitted to spying on Congress this week. It's not the first time. David Sirota notes: When I asked U.S. Rep. Alan...

We’ve Known for Some Time that the NSA Is Spying On Congress

Washington's BlogJanuary 8, 2014 The NSA pretty much admitted to spying on Congress this week. It's not...

Snowden reveals Massive National Security Agency Hacking Uunit

The US National Security Agency (NSA) runs an Office of Tailored Access Operations (TAO), described by Germany's Der Spiegel as the “NSA's top operative...

NSA’s Top Hacking Unit

NSA's Top Hacking Unit

by Stephen Lendman

On December 29, Der Spiegel headlined "Inside TAO: Documents Reveal Top NSA Hacking Unit."

It's "considered to be (its) top secret weapon." Its covert network "infiltrates computers around the world and even intercepts shipping deliveries to plant back doors in electronics ordered by" whomever it targets.

More on this below. Snowden documents remain the gift that keeps on giving. Doing so made him a world hero. Washington calls exposing wrongdoing illegal. Lawlessness is official US policy.

Since 1993, Britain's Channel 4 broadcast an alternative Christmas message. It's an antidote to Queen Elizabeth's Royal Christmas Message.

In 1932, King George began them on radio. In 1957, Queen Elizabeth delivered the first televised broadcast. It's typical royal mumbo jumbo. Why Brits tune in they'll have to explain.

Snowden's comments are important. Orwell's warnings "are nothing compared to what we have available today," he said.

"We have sensors in our pockets that track us everywhere we go. Think about what this means for the privacy of the average person."

Children "born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all." 

"They'll never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves, an unrecorded, unanalyzed thought."

"And that's a problem because privacy matters. (It's) what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be."

Snowden wants ordinary people to decide how governments monitor them. "All I wanted was for the public to be able to have a say in how they're governed," he explained.

He's doing it by revealing the extent of NSA spying.

"The conversation occurring today will determine the amount of trust we can place both in the technology that surrounds us and the government that regulates it," he said.

"Together we can find a better balance, end mass surveillance, and remind the government that if it really wants to know how we feel, asking is always cheaper than spying."

"I already won," he said. "As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated."

"Because, remember, I didn't want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself."

"All I wanted was for the public to be able to have a say in how they are governed."

Not as long as NSA has its way. Not while Congress and US administrations let it. Previous articles discussed its Office of Tailored Operations (TAO).

It's top secret. It has over 1,000 military and civilian hackers, intelligence analysts, targeting specialists, computer hardware and software designers, and electrical engineers.

It identifies computer systems and supporting telecommunications networks to attack.

It successfully penetrated Chinese computer and telecom systems. It's been doing it for over 15 years. It does the same thing globally.

Most NSA employees and officials know little or nothing about TAO. Its operations are extraordinarily sensitive. Only those needing to know are kept informed.

Special security clearances are required to gain access to its top secret work spaces. Armed guards keep others out.

Entering requires a correct six digit code. Retinal scanner checks are used. TAO targets foreign computer systems.

It collects hard to get intelligence. It does it by hacking, cracking passwords, compromising computer security systems, stealing hard drive data, and copying all subsequent emails and text messages.

TAO personnel penetrate, steal, damage, destroy or otherwise compromise targeted sites. It's perhaps the most important component of NSA's Signal Intelligence (SIGINT) Directorate.

It lets NSA get information not otherwise available. It can do it without being detected.

Der Spiegel called TAO NSA's 'top operative unit." It's "something like a squad of plumbers," it said. They're "called in when normal access to a target is blocked."

They're "involved in many sensitive operations conducted by American intelligence agencies." They range from counterintelligence to cyberwar to espionage.

Snowden's documents revealed TAO sophistication. It exploits technical weaknesses. It does so secretly, discreetly and efficiently.

It gets the "ungettable." According to a former unnamed TAO chief:

"It is not about the quantity produced but the quality of intelligence that is important," she said. (It's gotten) some of the most significant intelligence our country has ever seen." 

It "access(es) our very hardest targets. (It) needs to continue to grow, and must lay the foundation for integrated Computer Network Operations."

It must "support Computer Network Attacks as an integrated part of military operations. (It has to acquire) pervasive, persistent access on the global network."

Its mandate is conducting aggressive attacks. Through the middle of the last decade, it accessed 258 targets. It did so in 89 countries globally. In 2010, it conducted 279 operations.

It penetrated protected networks of targeted world leaders. It did so against European telecommunications companies.

It cracked Blackberry's encrypted BES email servers. One document said doing so required "sustained TAO operation(al)" effort.

In 1997, TAO was created. At the time, only 2% of the world's population had Internet access. It was a year before Google was founded. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube weren't around. Yahoo was a fledgling operation.

TAO personnel work at NSA's Fort Meade, MD headquarters. They're in San Antonio, TX. They're in other locations. They're housed in their own wings. They're separate from other NSA operations.

Their match Star Trek. They do it for real. They go where no one went before. They do it round-the-clock. They do it globally.

They find ways to hack into global communications systems. They penetrate the most heavily protected ones. 

They do what never before was possible. They do it secretly. They do it without being detected.

TAO employs new kinds of people. They're much younger than other NSA personnel. They're expert hackers. "Their job is breaking into, manipulating, and exploiting computer networks," said Der Spiegel.

They resemble geeks. They act like them. NSA director Keith Alexander is involved in recruiting. He attends major hacker conferences.

Sometimes it's in formal military attire. Other times, he wears jeans and t-shirts. It's to look and act like the geeks he's recruiting. It works.

TAO has operations in Wahiawa, Hawaii, Fort Gordon, GA, Buckley Air Force Base near Denver, Fort Meade, MD, San Antonio, TX and a liaison office near Frankfurt, Germany.

It's the European Security Operations Center (ESOC) "Dagger Complex. It's at a US military compound in Griesheim. It's a suburb of Darmstadt near Frankfort.

It's secured by a tall wire fence. It's topped with barbed wire. It's in relatively modest buildings. They're surrounded by green space. It's for added security.

It's one of Hesse state's best protected sites. NSA's European Cryptologic Center (ECC) is headquartered there. A 2011 NSA report calls it the "largest analysis and productivity (site) in Europe."

Information obtained ends up in Obama's daily briefings. He gets them on average twice weekly. 

NSA considers Germany a prime target. Espionage is prioritized. So is German foreign policy.

Weeks after NSA spying on Angela Merkel was revealed, Berlin still awaits answers on what it's up to in Germany.

Documents Der Spiegel saw revealed intense NSA spying. Its personnel consider German intelligence gotten a "success story."

Tons of information were collected. Former NSA director Michael Hayden told Der Spiegel: "(T)he damage for the German-American relationship is huge."

Post-9/11, he tried working cooperatively with Germany's BND intelligence, he said. "I tried to avoid acting as an occupier," he claimed.

"We extended our cooperation." It's now jeopardized. He admits NSA espionage. "We steal secrets," he said. "We're number one in (doing) it."

NSA isn't malicious, he claims. "We steal stuff to make you safe, not to make you rich." NSA steals everything it gets its hands on. It compromises public safety. It does so globally.

Former NSA employee/whistleblower Thomas Drake said "September 11 was the trigger that (made) Germany a target of high priority." 

Powerful tools are used to do whatever NSA wishes. To infiltrate wherever it wants to go. To steal as much as it can about virtually everything. NSA director Alexander says "get it all."

Der Spiegel called its Texas operations "uniquely impressive." The Texas Cryptologic Center employs less than 60 TAO specialists.

By 2015, plans are to increase staff to about 270. Another 85 specialists work in the Requirements & Targeting division. In 2008, they numbered 13.

Software developers are expected to increase from three in 2008 to 38 in 2015. San Antonio-based operations target Middle East Countries, Cuba, Venezuela, Columbia and Mexico.

According to Washington's planned intelligence operations, around 85,000 computers worldwide were expected to be infiltrated by year end 2013. Most involve TAO operations.

Cyber criminals run them. They hack into computer systems. They send emails disguised as spam. They contain links directing users to virus-infected web sites.

They implant NSA malware this way. They do it without targeted subjects knowing.

A major TAO goal is "subvert(ing) endpoint devices." They include "servers, workstations, firewalls, routers, handsets, phone switches, (and) SCADA systems, etc."

According to Der Spiegel: 

"SCADAs are industrial control systems used in factories, as well as in power plants…(The) most well-known and notorious use of this type of attack was the development of Stuxnet..." 

In spring 2010, Iranian intelligence discovered its malware contamination. It infected its Bushehr nuclear facility. At the time, operations were halted indefinitely.

Israel was responsible. So was Washington. Had the facility gone online infected, Iran's entire electrical power grid could have been shut down.

One of NSA's "most productive operations" is its direct "interdiction." Goods are rerouted from suppliers to secret TAO locations.

According to Der Spiegel:

TAO personnel "carefully open...package(s) in order to load malware onto the electronics, or even install hardware components that can provide backdoor access for the intelligence agencies." 

"All subsequent steps can then be conducted from the comfort of a remote computer." Operations are conducted globally.

NSA targets virtually everyone. Its ultimate goal is leaving no one behind. Most important are "entire networks and network providers," said Der Spiegel.

Fiber optic cables handling global Internet traffic "along the world's ocean floors" are prime targets.

NSA responded to Der Spiegel's query. It lied saying TAO "is a unique national asset that is on the front lines of enabling NSA to defend the nation and its allies."

Domestic spying has nothing to do with national security. It's for control. It's global espionage for economic advantage. It's to be one up on foreign competitors. 

It's for information used advantageously in trade, political, and military relations. It's lawlessly obtained. It's unconstitutional. It doesn't matter.

NSA is one of many US rogue operations. America's 15 other intelligence agencies operate the same way.

Congress, administrations and federal courts are worst of all. They function lawlessly. They legitimize the illegitimate. 

They threaten humanity in the process. Imagine what they plan this year. Expect worse conditions perhaps than earlier. Rogue states operate that way. America is by far the worst.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

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Snowden reveals massive National Security Agency hacking unit

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NSA Mass Monitoring Cell Phone Calls Globally

NSA Mass Monitoring Cell Phone Calls Globally

by Stephen Lendman

On December 5, the Washington Post broke the story. It headlined "NSA tracking cellphone locations worldwide, Snowden documents show."

Doing so enables tracking individual movements. It maps their relationships. It does it in "previously unimaginable" ways.

NSA maintains a vast database. It's called FASCIA. It "stores information (on) locations of at least hundreds of millions of devices…"

New efforts analyze data collected. Doing so reflects mass global surveillance. NSA claims it doesn't target Americans willfully. It lied saying so.

"Incidental" whereabouts alone are tracked, it claims. WaPo said the term "connotes a foreseeable but not deliberate result."

Previous articles explained how NSA operates lawlessly. It does so globally. It targets Americans. It does it willfully. It collects phone records of millions of AT&T, Verizon and other telecommunications company customers.

It taps into central servers of nine or more US Internet companies. Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple and others willingly cooperate.

Audio, video, photos, emails, text messages, and other personal information is collected. Doing so lets NSA track individual movements and contacts over time.

According to retired NSA/US Air Force/Naval Intelligence/Defense Intelligence Agency analyst-turned whistleblower Russell Tice:

What's ongoing "is much larger and more systemic than anything anyone has ever suspected or imagined."

It's been widely known for years. Little was revealed publicly. Pervasive spying is much worse than suspected.

Snowden released documents and others reflect the tip of the iceberg. Expect lots more revelations ahead. Newly revealed WaPo information is the latest.

An unnamed senior NSA collection manager said "we are getting vast volumes" of location data worldwide.

It's gotten by tapping into cables connecting global cell networks. They serve US cell phones and foreign ones.

Additional data is collected from "tens of millions of Americans" traveling abroad annually. According to WaPo:

"In scale, scope and potential impact on privacy, the efforts to collect and analyze location data may be unsurpassed among the NSA surveillance programs that have been disclosed since June." 

"Analysts can find cellphones anywhere in the world, retrace their movements and expose hidden relationships among the people using them."

NSA wants global privacy eliminated. It wants total electronic information access. It wants it in America and abroad. 

It wants it everywhere. It wants it no matter who or where you are. It's well on the way to getting it.

NSA lies claiming mass surveillance is lawful. Robert Litt is Office of the Director of National Intelligence general counsel. 

He lied claiming "no element of the intelligence community that under any authority is intentionally collecting bulk cellphone location information about cellphones in the United States."

Its most powerful analytic tools are collectively called "CO-TRAVELER." It enables bulk collections. It involves more than location information.

A portrait of travel times and people whose paths crossed is gotten. Doing so reveals physical interactions and relationships. It lets NSA know who we're with, where and when.

CO-TRAVELER permits looking for "unknown associates of known intelligence targets," said WaPo. It does so by "tracking people whose movements intersect."

Privacy advocates call aggregated location data over time uniquely sensitive. Sophisticated mathematical techniques are used.

They let NSA analysts map cell phone user relationships. They do so by correlating their movement patterns over time. They do it with up to millions of other cell users crossing their path.

Cell phones "broadcast their locations" even when not in use. Carrying one on your person tracks where you're going.

CO-TRAVELER and related tools involve methodically collecting and storing location data on "a planetary scale," said WaPo.

People are monitored in "confidential business meetings." Their medical, financial, and other private spaces are tracked.

Privacy practically no longer exists for anyone communicating electronically.

Chris Soghoian is principal ACLU technologist. "One of the key components of location data, and why it's so sensitive, is that the laws of physics don't let you keep it private," he said.

Emails can be encrypted, he added. Online identities can be disguised. "(T)he only way to hide your location is to disconnect from our modern communication system and live in a cave."

Vast NSA data more than doubles Library of Congress print material. It's growing exponentially. It's so vast, it's "outpacing (its) ability to ingest, process and store" what's gotten. NSA is upgrading to greater capacity. 

Three US Democrat senators expressed concern. Ron Wyden (OR), Mark Udall (CO) and Barbara Milulski (MD) introduced a 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) amendment.

It requires US intelligence agencies to say whether they ever collected or plan obtaining location data on "a large number of United States persons with no known connection to suspicious activity."

Americans tracked globally can't be determined from Snowden documents alone. Senior intelligence officials declined to estimate.

They claim no way to do it. Why not wasn't explained. An intelligence agency lawyer was cited. He doesn't respect constitutional law.

He claimed cell phone data monitoring doesn't violate Fourth Amendment rights. They protect against unlawful searches and seizures. 

Warrantless privacy invasions constitute gross Fourth Amendment violations. According to WaPo:

"(T)op secret briefing slides (show) NSA pulls in location data around the world from 10 major 'sigads,' or signals intelligence activity designators."

"A signad known as STORMBREW relies on two unnamed corporate partners." They're codenamed ARTIFICE and WOLFPOINT.

Both companies administer NSA "physical systems (interception equipment). 'NSA asks nicely for tasking/updates.' "

"STORMBREW collects data from 27 telephone links." They're called OPC/DPC pairs. They refer to originating and destination points.

They transfer traffic from one internal network to another. Cell tower identifiers are included. They're used to identify phone locations.

"The agency's access to carrier networks appears to be vast," WaPo explained. Computer and Information Science Professor Matt Blaze said:

"Many shared databases, such as those used for roaming, are available in their complete form to any carrier who requires access to any part of it."

"This 'flat' trust model means that a surprisingly large number of entities have access to data about customers that they never actually do business with, and an intelligence agency - hostile or friendly - can get 'one-stop shopping' to an expansive range of subscriber data just by compromising a few carriers."

NSA's location tracking capability is "staggering," added WaPo. It renders most communication security efforts "effectively futile."

Analytical tools map date, time, and location of cellphones. Patterns or significant overlap movements are monitored.

Other tools compute cell devices' speed and trajectory. Information gotten overlays electronic data on transportation maps. Likely travel time is determined to show which devices may have intersected. 

This report and previous ones reflect out-of-control NSA spying. It persists at home and abroad.

Thousands more Snowden documents remain to be released. Expect added proof of NSA lawlessness.

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) lawsuits pressed courts to prohibit warrantless searches. Rulings were split.

In 2008, the Third Circuit US Appeals Court held that federal magistrates may require warrants based on probable cause. They may do so before permitting monitoring of phone location records.

Fifth and Sixth Circuit Court rulings approved warrantless seizures. The Supreme Court hasn't yet addressed the issue. It's important enough to do so. It's right wing judges may provide no relief.

At the same time, an earlier High Court ruling prohibited planting GPS devices on cars without warrants. It stopped short deciding whether warrantless tracking violates Fourth Amendment rights.

A Final Comment

On December 6, Russia Today (RT) headlined Sweden 'spied on Russian leaders for US.' "

Sweden's National Defense Radio Establishment (FRA) is involved. It monitors electronic communications.

FRA declined to comment. Its communications head, Anni Bolenius, said:

"We do in general have international cooperation with a number of countries, which is supported in Swedish legislation, but we do not comment on which ones we cooperate with."

Sweden's Sveriges Television (SVT) broke the story. Nils Hanson was involved. He's chief editor of SVT's "Mission: Investigate."

He told RT that FRA/NSA collaboration isn't new. "(N)ow we can show documents proving this relationship," he said.

Snowden provided them. "Sweden's 'cable access' made its position 'unique' in the eyes of the NSA," said RT. 

Sweden's FRA signal intelligence agency is a key NSA partner. According to one Snowden document:

"The FRA provided NSA unique collection on high-priority Russian targets, such as leadership, internal politics." NSA bosses were told to:

"Thank Sweden for its continued work on the Russian target, and underscore the primary role that FRA plays as a leading partner to work the Russian Target, including Russian leadership and counterintelligence."

"FRA's cable access has resulted in unique SIGINT reporting on all of these areas."

FRA authorization involves tracking "external threats" potentially affecting Sweden. It secret Defense Intelligence Court issues permits.

Targeting Russian leaders reflects doing so at NSA's behest. It suggests exceeding FRA's remit. 

Vladimir Putin and other top Russian officials aren't threats. FRA has lots of explaining to do. Perhaps Moscow will demand answers.

Last April, Voice of Russia cited Julian Assange saying FRA intercepts 80% of Russian Internet traffic. It sells it to the NSA. 

It's further proof of Swedish/US collaboration against Russia. It shows hostile intent. It targets a friendly neighbor.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

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ACLU v. Clapper

ACLU v. Clapper

by Stephen Lendman 

On June 5, London's Guardian headlined "NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily."

Numerous reports followed based on information Edward Snowden revealed. He connected important dots for millions.

Institutionalized spying on Americans isn't new. It's longstanding. Little was revealed publicly. Too few people knew. It's far more invasive than most suspect. Core constitutional rights are violated.

On June 11, the ACLU filed suit. It challenged "the constitutionality of the National Security Agency's mass collection of Americans' phone records."

It argued that doing so violates Fourth and First Amendment rights, saying: 

"Because the NSA's aggregation of metadata constitutes an invasion of privacy and an unreasonable search, it is unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment." 

"The call-tracking program also violates the First Amendment, because it vacuums up sensitive information about associational and expressive activity."

NSA claims authorization under the Patriot Act's Section 215. It's known as the "business records" provision. 

It permits collecting "any tangible thing...relevant" to alleged foreign intelligence or terrorism related investigations. It way oversteps. It's unconstitutional. 

It permits warrantless searches without probable cause. It violates fundamental First Amendment rights. It does so by mandating secrecy. 

It prohibits targeted subjects from telling others what's happening to them. It compromises free expression, assembly and association. 

It does so by authorizing the FBI to investigate anyone based on what they say, write, or do with regard to groups they belong to or associate with.

It violates Fourth and Fifth Amendment protections by not telling targeted subjects their privacy was compromised. It subverts fundamental freedoms for contrived, exaggerated, or nonexistent security reasons.

"Whatever Section 215's 'relevance' requirement might allow, it does not permit the government to cast a seven-year dragnet sweeping up every phone call made or received by Americans," said ACLU.

The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) authorized surveillance relating to "foreign intelligence information" between "foreign powers" and "agents of foreign powers." 

It restricts spying on US citizens and residents to those engaged in espionage in America and territory under US control. 

No longer. Today anything goes. America is a total surveillance society. Obama officials claim no authority can challenge them.  Governing this way is called tyranny.

The 2008 FISA Amendments Act authorized warrantless spying. The 2012 FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act renewed doing so for another five years.

Phone calls, emails, and other communications are monitored secretly without court authorization. 

Probable cause isn't needed. So-called "foreign intelligence information" sought means virtually anything. Vague language is all-embracing.

Hundreds of millions of Americans are targeted. Major telecom and Internet companies cooperate. They do so willingly. They were granted retroactive immunity.

All three branches of government are involved. They're complicit in sweeping lawlessness. Congressional leaders are regularly briefly. Bipartisan ones are fully on board. So are US courts. 

In 2008, the ACLU challenged the FISA Amendment's Act constitutionality. It did so on behalf of a broad coalition of human rights groups, attorneys, labor, legal and media organizations.

Their work requires them to communicate with people worldwide. In 2009, a federal judge dismissed the suit. It did so claiming ACLU's clients couldn't prove their communications were being monitored.

In 2011, an appeals court reversed the ruling. The Obama administration appealed to the Supreme Court. In October 2012, it heard oral arguments.

On February 26, 2013, it ruled 5 - 4 against ACLU. It held its plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge warrantless spying.

On November 22, London's Guardian headlined "NSA bulk data collection violates constitutional rights, ACLU argues."

It did so in US District Court for the Southern District of New York. Judge William Pauley heard arguments. ACLU called for the program to be ended. Ahead of the hearing, its legal director, Jameel Jaffer, said:

"This vast dragnet is said to be authorized by Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, but nothing in the text or legislative history of that provision remotely suggests that Congress intended to empower the government to collect information on a daily basis, indefinitely, about every American’s phone calls."

"This kind of dragnet surveillance is precisely what the fourth amendment was meant to prohibit."

"The constitution does not permit the NSA to place hundreds of millions of innocent people under permanent surveillance because of the possibility that information about some tiny subset of them will become useful to an investigation in the future."

ACLU argued that blanket seizure of its phone records violates its constitutional rights. Doing so compromises its ability to work with journalists, advocacy groups, whistleblowers and others.

It argued it has standing because Washington has access to its phone records. Assistant Attorney General Stuart Delery claimed otherwise.

ACLU has no standing, he said, because it can't prove NSA surveillance harmed its activities, members or clients.

"The program is carefully calibrated for the purpose of" counterterrorism, he claimed. He lied saying it's "not the kind of indiscriminate use of the data that the plaintiffs suggest."

He said congressional intelligence committees were fully briefed. Pauley was skeptical. He cited "veteran congressman" Representative James Sensenbrenner (R. WI).

He submitted an amicus brief. It said "he had no idea of what was happening" when he voted to reauthorize the Patriot Act's Section 215.

Delery argued that sweeping NSA surveillance is constitutional. Not according to ACLU lawyer Alex Abdo. Sustained/sweeping invasion of its privacy violates its Fourth Amendment rights, he said.

Jaffer argued that if current NSA practices continue, authorization other than from Section 215 may permit bulk collection of virtually everything, everywhere, for any claimed reason.

"The Supreme Court has admonished many times that the Congress doesn't hide elephants in mouse-holes," he said. "I think that's what the government is proposing here."

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) is a Washington-based public interest research center. It focuses on civil liberties issues. It's dedicated to protecting privacy rights.

On November 18, it headlined "Supreme Court Declines EPIC's Challenge to NSA Domestic Surveillance Program, Leaves in Place Order of Surveillance Court."

EPIC argued against a secret FISA court order requiring Verizon to give NSA access to all its customer records. Doing so exceeded its legal authority, it said.

"It is simply not possible that every phone record in the possession of Verizon is relevant to a national security investigation," it stressed. The High Court rejected its argument without explanation.

Expect more challenges ahead. Shareholder pressure groups want telecom companies to provide more information on what they provide NSA.

Trillion Asset Management and New York State Common Retirement Fund filed motions. They call for AT&T and Verizon to disclose more about their "metrics and discussion regarding requests for customer information by US and foreign governments."

In February 2012, NSA's five page document explained its "SIGINT (signals intelligence) Strategy." It said US laws don't meet its needs.

It explained a four year strategy to "aggressively pursue legal authorities and a policy framework mapped more fully to the information age."

"The interpretation and guidelines for applying our authorities, and in some cases the authorities themselves, have not kept pace with the complexity of the technology and target environments, or the operational expectations levied on NSA's mission," it stressed.

It wants unrestricted mass surveillance authority. It wants to be able  to collect data from "anyone, anytime, anywhere." It'll decrypt codes intended to keep personal information private.

It intends to "revolutionize" analysis of data it collects. It wants to "radically increase (its) operational impact."

It doesn't clarify what legal or policy changes it may seek. Its powers are nominally granted by Congress, executive authority and the FISA court.

It already operates extrajudicially. It has broad latitude to do so. It's report argues for more flexibility. It wants greater than ever sweeping authority. It wants to "dramatically increase its mastery of the global network."

An NSA statement said:

"NSA's Sigint strategy is designed to guide investments in future capabilities and close gaps in current" ones. 

"In an ever-changing technology and telecommunications environment, NSA tries to get in front of issues to better fulfill the foreign-intelligence requirements of the US government."

Critics like ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, EPIC and others cite core constitutional rights violations. Modern technology facilitates police state lawlessness.

Everyone is vulnerable. There's no place to hide. Freedom is fast disappearing. Alleged security concerns ring hollow. They're cover for what's too precious to lose.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

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Despite 24-hour news and talk about transparency, there's a lot we don't know about our past, much less current events. What’s worse, some of what we think we know isn't true.
The point is that it’s no accident. 
    Consider, for example, the circumstances that led to open war in Vietnam. According to official history, two US destroyers patrolling in the Gulf of Tonkin off North Vietnam were victims of unprovoked attacks in August 1964, leading to a congressional resolution giving President Johnson the power "to take all necessary measures."
     In fact, the destroyers were spy ships, part of a National Security Agency (NSA) eavesdropping program operating near the coast as a way to provoke the North Vietnamese into turning on their radar and other communications channels. The more provocative the maneuvers, the more signals that could be captured. Meanwhile, US raiding parties were shelling mainland targets. Documents revealed later indicated that the August 4 attack on the USS Maddox – the pretext for passing the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution – may not even have taken place.
     But even if it did, the incident was still stage managed to build up congressional and public support for the war. Evidence suggests that the plan was based on Operation Northwoods, a scheme developed in 1962 to justify an invasion of Cuba. Among the tactics the Joint Chiefs of Staff considered then were blowing up a ship in Guantanamo Bay, a phony "communist Cuba terror campaign" in Florida and Washington, DC, and an elaborate plan to convince people that Cuba had shot down a civilian airliner filled with students. That operation wasn't implemented, but two years later, desperate for a war, the administration's military brass found a way to create the necessary conditions in Vietnam.
For more than half a century, the eyes and ears of US power to monitor and manipulate information (and with it, mass perceptions) has been the NSA, initially designed to assist the CIA. Its original task was to collect raw information about threats to US security, cracking codes and using the latest technology to provide accurate intelligence on the intentions and activities of enemies. Emerging after World War II, its early focus was the Soviet Union. But it never did crack a high-level Soviet cipher system. On the other hand, it used every available means to eavesdrop on not only enemies but also allies and, sometimes, US citizens.
     In Body of Secrets, James Bamford described a bureaucratic and secretive behemoth, based in an Orwellian Maryland complex known as Crypto City. From there, supercomputers linked it to spy satellites, subs, aircraft, and equally covert, strategically placed listening posts worldwide. As of 2000, it had a $7 billion annual budget and directly employed at least 38,000 people, more than the CIA and FBI. It was also the leader of an international intelligence club, UKUSA, which includes Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Together, they monitored and recorded billions of encrypted communications, telephone calls, radio messages, faxes, and e-mails around the world.
     Over the years, however, the line between enemies and friends blurred, and the intelligence gatherers often converted their control of information into unilateral power, influencing the course of history in ways that may never be known. No doubt the agency has had a hand in countless covert operations; yet, attempts to pull away the veil of secrecy have been largely unsuccessful.
     In the mid-1970s, for example, just as Congress was attempting to reign in the CIA, the NSA was quietly creating a virtual state, a massive international computer network named Platform. Doing away with formal borders, it developed a software package that turned worldwide Sigint (short for "signal intelligence": communication intelligence, eavesdropping, and electronic intelligence) into a unified whole. The software package was code named Echelon, a name that has since become a synonym for eavesdropping on commercial communication.
     Of course, the NSA and its British sister, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), refused to admit Echelon existed, even though declassified documents appeared on the Internet and Congress conducted an initial investigation. But a European Parliament report also confirmed Echelon's activities, and encouraged Internet users and governments to adopt stronger privacy measures in response.
     In March 2001, several ranking British politicians discussed Echelon's potential impacts on civil liberties, and a European Parliament committee considered its legal, human rights, and privacy implications. The Dutch held similar hearings, and a French National Assembly inquiry urged the European Union to embrace new privacy enhancing technologies to protect against Echelon's eavesdropping. France launched a formal investigation into possible abuses for industrial espionage.
A prime reason for Europe's discontent was the growing suspicion that the NSA had used intercepted conversations to help US companies win contracts heading for European firms. The alleged losers included Airbus, a consortium including interests in France, Germany, Spain, and Britain, and Thomson CSF, a French electronics company. The French claimed they had lost a $1.4 billion deal to supply Brazil with a radar system because the NSA shared details of the negotiations with Raytheon. Airbus may have lost a contract worth $2 billion to Boeing and McDonnell Douglas because of information intercepted and passed on by the agency.
     According to former NSA agent Wayne Madsen, the US used information gathered from its bases in Australia to win a half share in a significant Indonesian trade contract for AT&T. Communication intercepts showed the contract was initially going to a Japanese firm. A bit later a lawsuit against the US and Britain was launched in France, judicial and parliamentary investigations began in Italy, and German parliamentarians demanded an inquiry.
     The rationale for turning the NSA loose on commercial activities, even those involving allies, was provided in the mid-90s by Sen. Frank DeConcini, then chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "I don't think we should have a policy where we're going to invade the Airbus inner sanctum and find out their secrets for the purpose of turning it over to Boeing or McDonnell Douglas," he opined. "But if we find something, not to share it with our people seems to me to be not smart."
      President Bill Clinton and other US officials buttressed this view by charging that European countries were unfairly subsidizing Airbus. In other words, competition with significant US interests can be a matter of national security, and private capitalism must be protected from state-run enterprises.
      The US-Europe row about Airbus subsidies was also used as a "test case" for scientists developing new intelligence tools. At US Defense Department conferences on "text retrieval," competitions were staged to find the best methods. A standard test featured extracting protected data about "Airbus subsidies."
In the end, influencing the outcome of commercial transactions is but the tip of this iceberg. The NSA's ability to intercept to virtually any transmitted communication has enhanced the power of unelected officials and private interests to set covert foreign policy in motion. In some cases, the objective is clear and arguably defensible: taking effective action against terrorism, for example. But in others, the grand plans of the intelligence community have led it to undermine democracies.
     The 1975 removal of Australian Prime Minister Edward Whitlam is an instructive case. At the time of Whitlam's election in 1972, Australian intelligence was working with the CIA against the Allende government in Chile. The new PM didn’t simply order a halt to Australia's involvement, explained William Blum in Killing Hope, a masterful study of US interventions since World War II. Whitlam seized intelligence information withheld from him by the Australian Security and Intelligence Organization (ASIO), and disclosed the existence of a joint CIA-ASIO directorate that monitored radio traffic in Asia. He also openly disapproved of US plans to build up the Indian Ocean Island of Diego Garcia as a military-intelligence-nuclear outpost.
     Both the CIA and NSA became concerned about the security and future of crucial intelligence facilities in and near Australia. The country was already key member of UKUSA. After launching its first space-based listening post-a microwave receiver with an antenna pointed at earth-NSA had picked an isolated desert area in central Australia as a ground station. Once completed, the base at Alice Springs was named Pine Gap, the first of many listening posts to be installed around the world. For the NSA and CIA, Whitlam posed a threat to the secrecy and security of such operations.
     An early step was covert funding for the political opposition, in hopes of defeating Whitlam's Labor Party in 1974. When that failed, meetings were held with the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, a figurehead representing the Queen of England who had worked for CIA front organizations since the 50s. Defense officials warned that intelligence links would be cut off unless someone stopped Whitlam. On November 11, 1975, Kerr responded, dismissing the prime minister, dissolving both houses of Parliament, and appointing an interim government until new elections were held.
     According to Christopher Boyce (subject of The Falcon and the Snowman, a fictionalized account), who watched the process while working for TRW in a CIA-linked cryptographic communications center, the spooks also infiltrated Australian labor unions and contrived to suppress transportation strikes that were holding up deliveries to US intelligence installations. Not coincidentally, some unions were leading the opposition to development of those same facilities.
     How often, and to what effect, such covert ops have succeeded is another of the mysteries that comprise an unwritten history of the last half century. Beyond that, systems like Echelon violate the human right to individual privacy, and give those who control the information the ability to act with impunity, sometimes destroying lives and negating the popular will in the process.
Hiding the Agenda in Peru
In May 1960, when a U-2 spy plane was shot down over Soviet territory, President Dwight Eisenhower took great pains to deny direct knowledge or authorization of the provocative mission. In reality, he personally oversaw every U-2 mission, and had even riskier and more provocative bomber overflights in mind.
     It's a basic rule of thumb for covert ops: When exposed, keep denying and deflect the blame. More important, never, never let on that the mission itself may be a pretext, or a diversion from some other, larger agenda.
     Considering that, the April 20, 2001, shoot down of a plane carrying missionaries across the Brazilian border into Peru becomes highly suspicious. At first, the official story fed to the press was that Peruvian authorities ordered the attack on their own, over the pleas of the CIA "contract pilots" who initially spotted the plane. But Peruvian pilots involved in that program, supposedly designed to intercept drug flights, insist that nothing was shot down without US approval.
     Innocent planes were sometimes attacked, but most were small, low flying aircraft that didn't file flight plans and had no radios. This plane maintained regular contact and did file a plan. Still, even after it crash-landed, the Peruvians continued to strafe it, perhaps in an attempt to ignite the plane's fuel and eliminate the evidence.
     "I think it has to do with Plan Colombia and the coming war," said Celerino Castillo, who had previously worked in Peru for Drug Enforcement Agency. "The CIA was sending a clear message to all non-combatants to clear out of the area, and to get favorable press." The flight was heading to Iquitos, which "is at the heart of everything the CIA is doing right now," he added. "They don't want any witnesses."
     Timing also may have played a part. The shoot down occurred on the opening day of the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City. Uruguay's President Jorge Ibanez, who had proposed the worldwide legalization of drugs just weeks before, was expected to make a high-profile speech on his proposal at the gathering. The downing of a drug smuggling plane at this moment, near territory held by Colombia's FARC rebels, would help to defuse Uruguay's message and reinforce the image of the insurgents as drug smugglers.
     If you doubt that the US would condone such an operation or cover it up, consider this: In 1967, Israel torpedoed the USS Liberty, a large floating listening post, as it was eavesdropping on the Arab-Israeli war off the Sinai Peninsula. Hundreds of US sailors were wounded and killed, probably because Israel feared that its massacre of Egyptian prisoners at El Arish might be overheard. How did the Pentagon respond? By imposing a total news ban, and covering up the facts for decades.
     Will we ever find out what really happened in Peru, specifically why a missionary and her daughter were killed? Not likely, since it involves a private military contractor that is basically beyond the reach of congressional accountability.
     In 2009, when the Peru shoot down became one of five cases of intelligence operation cover up being investigated by the US House Intelligence Committee, the CIA inspector general concluded that the CIA had improperly concealed information about the incident. Intelligence Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairwoman Jan Schakowsky, who led the investigation, didn’t rule out referrals to the Justice Department for criminal prosecutions if evidence surfaced that intelligence officials broke the law. But she couldn’t guarantee that the facts would ever come to light, since the Committee’s report of its investigation would be classified.
     The most crucial wrinkle in the Peruvian incident is the involvement of DynCorp, which was active in Colombia and Bolivia under large contracts with various US agencies. The day after the incident, ABC news reported that, according to “senior administration officials,” the crew of the surveillance plane that first identified the doomed aircraft "was hired by the CIA from DynCorp." Within two days, however, all references to DynCorp were scrubbed from ABC's Website. A week later, the New York Post claimed the crew actually worked for Aviation Development Corp., allegedly a CIA proprietary company.
     Whatever the truth, State Department officials refused to talk on the record about DynCorp's activities in South America. Yet, according to DynCorp's State Department contract, the firm had received at least $600 million over the previous few years for training, drug interdiction, search and rescue (which included combat), air transport of equipment and people, and reconnaissance in the region. And that was only what they put on paper. It also operated government aircraft and provided all manner of personnel, particularly for Plan Colombia.
DynCorp began in 1946 as the employee-owned air cargo business California Eastern Airways, flying in supplies for the Korean War. This and later government work led to charges that it was a CIA front company. Whatever the truth, it ultimately became a leading PMC, hiring former soldiers and police officers to implement US foreign policy without having to report to Congress.
     The push to privatize war gained traction during the first Bush administration. After the first Gulf War, the Pentagon, then headed by Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, paid a Halliburton subsidiary nearly $9 million to study how PMCs could support US soldiers in combat zones, according to a Mother Jones investigation. Cheney subsequently became CEO of Halliburton, and Brown & Root, later known as Halliburton KBR, won billions to construct and run military bases, some in secret locations.
     One of DynCorp’s earliest “police” contracts involved the protection of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and, after he was ousted, providing the “technical advice” that brought military officers involved in that coup into Haiti’s National Police. Despite this dodgy record, in 2002 it won the contract to protect another new president, Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai. By then, it was a top IT federal contractor specializing in computer systems development, and also providing the government with aviation services, general military management, and security expertise.
     Like other private military outfits, the main danger it has faced is the risk of public exposure. Under one contract, for example, DynCorp sprayed vast quantities of herbicides over Colombia to kill the cocaine crop. In September 2001, Ecuadorian Indians filed a class action lawsuit, charging that DynCorp recklessly sprayed their homes and farms, causing illnesses and deaths and destroying crops. In Bosnia, private police provided by DynCorp for the UN were accused of buying and selling prostitutes, including a 12-year-old girl. Others were charged with videotaping a rape.
     In the first years of the 21st century, DynCorp's day-to-day operations in South America were overseen by State Department officials, including the Narcotic Affairs Section and the Air Wing, the latter a clique of unreformed cold warriors and leftovers from 80s operations in Central America. It was essentially the State Department's private air force in the Andes, with access to satellite-based recording and mapping systems.
     In the 1960s, a similar role was played by the Vinnell Corp., which the CIA called "our own private mercenary army in Vietnam." Vinnell later became a subsidiary of TRW, a major NSA contractor, and employed US Special Forces vets to train Saudi Arabia's National Guard. In the late 1990s, TRW hired former NSA director William Studeman to help with its intelligence program.
     DynCorp avoided the kind of public scandal that surrounded the activities of Blackwater. In Ecuador, where it developed military logistics centers and coordinated “anti-terror” police training, the exposure of a secret covenant signed with the Aeronautics Industries Directorate of the Ecuadorian Air Force briefly threatened to make waves. According to a November 2003 exposé in Quito’s El Comercio, the arrangement, hidden from the National Defense Council, made DynCorp’s people part of the US diplomatic mission.
     In Colombia, DynCorp’s coca eradication and search-and-rescue missions led to controversial pitched battles with rebels. US contract pilots flew Black Hawk helicopters carrying Colombian police officers who raked the countryside with machine gun fire to protect the missions against attacks. According to investigative reporter Jason Vest, DynCorp employees were also implicated in narcotics trafficking. But such stories didn’t get far, and, in any case, DynCorp’s “trainers” simply ignored congressional rules, including those that restrict the US from aiding military units linked to human rights abuses.
     In 2003, DynCorp won a multimillion-dollar contract to build a private police force in post-Saddam Iraq, with some of the funding diverted from an anti-drug program for Afghanistan. In 2004, the State Department further expanded DynCorp’s role as a global US surrogate with a $1.75 billion, five year contract to provide law enforcement personnel for civilian policing operations in “post-conflict areas” around the world. That March, the company also got an Army contract to support helicopters sold to foreign countries. The work, described as “turnkey” services, includes program management, logistics support, maintenance and aircrew training, aircraft maintenance and refurbishment, repair and overhaul of aircraft components and engines, airframe and engine upgrades, and the production of technical publications.
     In short, DynCorp was a trusted partner in the military-intelligence-industrial complex. "Are we outsourcing order to avoid public scrutiny, controversy or embarrassment?" asked Rep. Schakowsky upon submitting legislation to prohibit US funding for private military firms in the Andean region. "If there is a potential for a privatized Gulf of Tonkin incident, then the American people deserve to have a full and open debate before this policy goes any further."
     If and when that ever happens, the discussion will have to cover a lot of ground. Private firms, working in concert with various intelligence agencies, constitute a vast foreign policy apparatus that is largely invisible, rarely covered by the corporate press, and not currently subject to congressional oversight. The Freedom of Information Act simply doesn't apply. Any information on whom they arm or how they operate is private, proprietary information.
     The US government downplays its use of mercenaries, a state of affairs that could undermine any efforts to find out about CIA activities that are concealed from Congress. Yet private contractors perform almost every function essential to military operations, a situation that has been called the “creeping privatization of the business of war.” By 2004, the Pentagon was employing more than 700,000 private contractors.
     The companies are staffed by former generals, admirals, and highly trained officers. Name a hot spot and some PMC has people there. DynCorp has worked on the Defense Message System Transition Hub and done long-range planning for the Air Force. MPRI had a similar contract with the Army, and for a time coordinated the Pentagon's military and leadership training in at least seven African nations.
     How did this outsourcing of defense evolve? In 1969, the US Army had about 1.5 million active duty soldiers. By 1992, the figure had been cut by half. Since the mid-1990s, however, the US has mobilized militarily to intervene in several significant conflicts, and a corporate “foreign legion” has filled the gap between foreign policy imperatives and what a downsized, increasingly over-stretched military can provide.
     Use of high technology equipment feeds the process. Private companies have technical capabilities that the military needs, but doesn’t always possess. Contractors have maintained stealth bombers and Predator unmanned drones used in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some military equipment is specifically designed to be operated and maintained by private companies.
     In Britain, the debate over military privatization has been public, since the activities of the UK company Sandline in Sierra Leone and Papua New Guinea embarrassed the government in the late 1990s. But no country has clear policies to regulate PMCs, and the limited oversight that does exist rarely works. In the US, they have largely escaped notice, except when US contract workers in conflict zones are killed or go way over the line, as in the case of Blackwater.
     According to Guy Copeland, who began developing public-private IT policy in the Reagan years, “The private sector must play an integral role in improving our national cybersecurity.” After all, he has noted, private interests own and operate 85 percent of the nation’s critical IT infrastructure. He should know. After all, Copeland drafted much of the language in the Bush Administration’s 2002 National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace as co-chair of the Information Security Committee of the Information Technology Association of America.
     Nevertheless, when the federal government becomes dependent on unaccountable, private companies like DynCorp and Blackwater (later renamed Xe Services) for so many key security services, as well as for military logistics, management, strategy, expertise and “training,” fundamental elements of US defense have been outsourced. And the details of that relationship are matters that the intelligence community will fight long and hard to keep out of public view.
Corporate Connections and "Soft Landings"
Although the various departments and private contractors within the military-intelligence-industrial complex occasionally have turf battles and don't always share information or coordinate strategy as effectively as they might, close and ongoing contact has long been considered essential. And it has expanded as a result of the information revolution. The entire intelligence community has its own secret Intranet, which pulls together FBI reports, NSA intercepts, analysis from the DIA and CIA, and other deeply covert sources.
     Private firms are connected to this information web through staff, location, shared technology, and assorted contracts. Working primarily for the Pentagon, for example, L-3 Communications, a spinoff from major defense contractor Lockheed Martin, has manufactured hardware like control systems for satellites and flight recorders. MPRI, which was bought by L-3, provided services like its operations in Macedonia. L-3 also built the NSA's Secure Terminal Equipment, which instantly encrypts phone conversations.
     Another private contractor active in the Balkans was Science Applications, staffed by former NSA and CIA personnel, and specializing in police training. When Janice Stromsem, a Justice Department employee, complained that its program gave the CIA unfettered access to recruiting agents in foreign police forces, she was relieved of her duties. Her concern was that the sovereignty of nations receiving aid from the US was being compromised.
     In 1999, faced with personnel cuts, the NSA offered over 4000 employees "soft landing" buy outs to help them secure jobs with defense firms that have major NSA contracts. NSA offered to pay the first year's salary, in hopes the contractor would then pick up the tab. Sometimes the employee didn't even have to move away from Crypto City. Companies taking part in the program included TRW and MPRI's parent company, Lockheed Martin.
     Lockheed was also a winner in the long-term effort to privatize government services. In 2000, it won a $43.8 million contract to run the Defense Civilian Personnel Data System, one of the largest human resources systems in the world. As a result, a major defense contractor took charge of consolidating all Department of Defense personnel systems, covering hiring and firing for about 750,000 civilian employees. This put the contractor at the cutting edge of Defense Department planning, and made it a key gatekeeper at the revolving door between the US military and private interests.
Shortly after his appointment as NSA director in 1999, Michael Hayden went to see the film Enemy of the State, in which Will Smith is pursued by an all-seeing, all hearing NSA and former operative Gene Hackman decries the agency's dangerous power. In Body of Secrets, author Bamford says Hayden found the film entertaining, yet offensive and highly inaccurate. Still, the NSA chief was comforted by "a society that makes its bogeymen secrecy and power. That's really what the movie's about.''
     Unlike Hayden, most people don't know where the fiction ends and NSA reality begins. Supposedly, the agency rarely "spies" on US citizens at home. On the other hand, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act allows a secret federal court to waive that limitation. The rest of the world doesn't have that protection. Designating thousands of keywords, names, phrases, and phone numbers, NSA computers can pick them out of millions of messages, passing anything of interest on to analysts. One can only speculate about what happens next.
     After 9/11 the plan was to go further with a project code named Tempest. The goal was to capture computer signals such as keystrokes or monitor images through walls or from other buildings, even if the computers weren't linked to a network. One NSA document, "Compromising Emanations Laboratory Test Requirements, Electromagnetics," described procedures for capturing the radiation emitted from a computer-through radio waves and the telephone, serial, network, or power cables attached to it.
     Other NSA programs have included Oasis, designed to reduce audiovisual images into machine-readable text for easier filtering, and Fluent, which expanded Echelon's multilingual capabilities. And let's not forget the government's Carnivore Internet surveillance program, which can collect all communications over any segment of the network being watched.
     Put such elements together, combine them with business imperatives and covert foreign policy objectives, then throw PMCS into the mix, and you get a glimpse of the extent to which information can be translated into raw power and secretly used to shape events. Although most pieces of the puzzle remain obscure, enough is visible to justify suspicion, outrage, and a campaign to pull away the curtain on this Wizard of Oz. But fighting a force that is largely invisible and unaccountable – and able to eavesdrop on the most private exchanges, that is a daunting task, perhaps even more difficult than confronting the mechanisms of corporate globalization that it protects and promotes.

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