13 years have come to pass since the 9/11/01 attacks on the World Trade Center towers. Americans have been left with an ‘official report’ and unanswered questions. Post 9/11legislation has had enormous consequences for this country.
One of the biggest post 9/11 deceptions awaiting Americans following the tragedy of the attacks on the World Trade Centers was the PATRIOT ACT (an act of Congress) signed into law in 2001 by President George W. Bush. The act expands and gave to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other federal agencies the power to search business and homes and to obtain any records without any knowledge or consent. Recently, the act has come under fire when Edward Snowden, former CIA employee and NSA contractor, exposed secret documents of how the NSA collects telephone records of virtually all Americans under the power of the Patriot Act.
( Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux) – The Obama administration has quietly approved a substantial expansion of the terrorist watchlist system, authorizing a secret process that requires neither “concrete facts” nor “irrefutable evidence” to designate an American or foreigner as a terrorist, according to a key government document obtained by The Intercept.
The “March 2013 Watchlisting Guidance,” a 166-page document issued last year by the National Counterterrorism Center, spells out the government’s secret rules for putting individuals on its main terrorist database, as well as the no fly list and the selectee list, which triggers enhanced screening at airports and border crossings. The new guidelines allow individuals to be designated as representatives of terror organizations without any evidence they are actually connected to such organizations, and it gives a single White House official the unilateral authority to place “entire categories” of people the government is tracking onto the no fly and selectee lists. It broadens the authority of government officials to “nominate” people to the watchlists based on what is vaguely described as “fragmentary information.” It also allows for dead people to be watchlisted.
Over the years, the Obama and Bush Administrations have fiercely resisted disclosing the criteria for placing names on the databases—though the guidelines are officially labeled as unclassified. In May, Attorney General Eric Holder even invoked the state secrets privilege to prevent watchlisting guidelines from being disclosed in litigation launched by an American who was on the no fly list. In an affidavit, Holder called them a “clear roadmap” to the government’s terrorist-tracking apparatus, adding: “The Watchlisting Guidance, although unclassified, contains national security information that, if disclosed … could cause significant harm to national security.”
In 2012 Tim Healy, the former director of the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, described to CBS News how watchlists are used by police officers. “So if you are speeding, you get pulled over, they’ll query that name,” he said. “And if they are encountering a known or suspected terrorist, it will pop up and say call the Terrorist Screening Center…. So now the officer on the street knows he may be dealing with a known or suspected terrorist.” Of course, the problem is that the “known or suspected terrorist” might just be an ordinary citizen who should not be treated as a menace to public safety.
Until 2001, the government did not prioritize building a watchlist system. On 9/11, the government’s list of people barred from flying included just 16 names. Today, the no fly list has swelled to tens of thousands of “known or suspected terrorists” (the guidelines refer to them as KSTs). The selectee list subjects people to extra scrutiny and questioning at airports and border crossings. The government has created several other databases, too. The largest is the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE), which gathers terrorism information from sensitive military and intelligence sources around the world. Because it contains classified information that cannot be widely distributed, there is yet another list, the Terrorist Screening Database, or TSDB, which has been stripped of TIDE’s classified data so that it can be shared. When government officials refer to “the watchlist,” they are typically referring to the TSDB. (TIDE is the responsibility of the National Counterterrorism Center; the TSDB is managed by the Terrorist Screening Center at the FBI.)
In a statement, a spokesman for the National Counterterrorism Center told The Intercept that “the watchlisting system is an important part of our layered defense to protect the United States against future terrorist attacks” and that “watchlisting continues to mature to meet an evolving, diffuse threat.” He added that U.S. citizens are afforded extra protections to guard against improper listing, and that no one can be placed on a list solely for activities protected by the First Amendment. A representative of the Terrorist Screening Center did not respond to a request for comment.
The system has been criticized for years. In 2004, Sen. Ted Kennedy complained that he was barred from boarding flights on five separate occasions because his name resembled the alias of a suspected terrorist. Two years later, CBS News obtained a copy of the no fly list and reported that it included Bolivian president Evo Morales and Lebanese parliament head Nabih Berri. One of the watchlists snared Mikey Hicks, a Cub Scout who got his first of many airport pat-downs at age two. In 2007, the Justice Department’s inspector general issued a scathing report identifying “significant weaknesses” in the system. And in 2009, after a Nigerian terrorist was able to board a passenger flight to Detroit and nearly detonated a bomb sewn into his underwear despite his name having been placed on the TIDE list, President Obama admitted that there had been a “systemic failure.”
Obama hoped that his response to the “underwear bomber” would be a turning point. In 2010, he gave increased powers and responsibilities to the agencies that nominate individuals to the lists, placing pressure on them to add names. His administration also issued a set of new guidelines for the watchlists. Problems persisted, however. In 2012, the U.S. Government Accountability Office published a report that bluntly noted there was no agency responsible for figuring out “whether watchlist-related screening or vetting is achieving intended results.” The guidelines were revised and expanded in 2013—and a source within the intelligence community subsequently provided a copy to The Intercept.
“Concrete facts are not necessary”
The five chapters and 11 appendices of the “Watchlisting Guidance” are filled with acronyms, legal citations, and numbered paragraphs; it reads like an arcane textbook with a vocabulary all its own. Different types of data on suspected terrorists are referred to as “derogatory information,” “substantive derogatory information,” “extreme derogatory information” and “particularized derogatory information.” The names of suspected terrorists are passed along a bureaucratic ecosystem of “originators,” “nominators,” “aggregators,” “screeners,” and “encountering agencies.” And “upgrade,” usually a happy word for travellers, is repurposed to mean that an individual has been placed on a more restrictive list.
The heart of the document revolves around the rules for placing individuals on a watchlist. “All executive departments and agencies,” the document says, are responsible for collecting and sharing information on terrorist suspects with the National Counterterrorism Center. It sets a low standard—”reasonable suspicion“—for placing names on the watchlists, and offers a multitude of vague, confusing, or contradictory instructions for gauging it. In the chapter on “Minimum Substantive Derogatory Criteria”—even the title is hard to digest—the key sentence on reasonable suspicion offers little clarity:
“To meet the REASONABLE SUSPICION standard, the NOMINATOR, based on the totality of the circumstances, must rely upon articulable intelligence or information which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrants a determination that an individual is known or suspected to be or has been knowingly engaged in conduct constituting, in preparation for, in aid of, or related to TERRORISM and/or TERRORIST ACTIVITIES.”
The rulebook makes no effort to define an essential phrase in the passage—”articulable intelligence or information.” After stressing that hunches are not reasonable suspicion and that “there must be an objective factual basis” for labeling someone a terrorist, it goes on to state that no actual facts are required:
“In determining whether a REASONABLE SUSPICION exists, due weight should be given to the specific reasonable inferences that a NOMINATOR is entitled to draw from the facts in light of his/her experience and not on unfounded suspicions or hunches. Although irrefutable evidence or concrete facts are not necessary, to be reasonable, suspicion should be as clear and as fully developed as circumstances permit.”
While the guidelines nominally prohibit nominations based on unreliable information, they explicitly regard “uncorroborated” Facebook or Twitter posts as sufficient grounds for putting an individual on one of the watchlists. “Single source information,” the guidelines state, “including but not limited to ‘walk-in,’ ‘write-in,’ or postings on social media sites, however, should not automatically be discounted … the NOMINATING AGENCY should evaluate the credibility of the source, as well as the nature and specificity of the information, and nominate even if that source is uncorroborated.”
There are a number of loopholes for putting people onto the watchlists even if reasonable suspicion cannot be met.
One is clearly defined: The immediate family of suspected terrorists—their spouses, children, parents, or siblings—may be watchlisted without any suspicion that they themselves are engaged in terrorist activity. But another loophole is quite broad—”associates” who have a defined relationship with a suspected terrorist, but whose involvement in terrorist activity is not known. A third loophole is broader still—individuals with “a possible nexus” to terrorism, but for whom there is not enough “derogatory information” to meet the reasonable suspicion standard.
Americans and foreigners can be nominated for the watchlists if they are associated with a terrorist group, even if that group has not been designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. government. They can also be treated as “representatives” of a terrorist group even if they have “neither membership in nor association with the organization.” The guidelines do helpfully note that certain associations, such as providing janitorial services or delivering packages, are not grounds for being watchlisted.
The nomination system appears to lack meaningful checks and balances. Although government officials have repeatedly said there is a rigorous process for making sure no one is unfairly placed in the databases, the guidelines acknowledge that all nominations of “known terrorists” are considered justified unless the National Counterterrorism Center has evidence to the contrary. In a recent court filing, the government disclosed that there were 468,749 KST nominations in 2013, of which only 4,915 were rejected–a rate of about one percent. The rulebook appears to invert the legal principle of due process, defining nominations as “presumptively valid.”
(WND) – The Justice Department is resurrecting a program designed to thwart domestic threats to the United States, and Attorney General Eric Holder says those threats include individuals the government deems anti-government or racially prejudiced.
The Domestic Terrorism Executive Committee was created in the wake of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing but was scrapped soon after the 2001 terrorist attacks as intelligence and law enforcement officials shifted their focus to threats from outside the country. The committee will be comprised of figures from the FBI, the National Security Division of the Justice Department and the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee.
In his statement announcing the return of the committee, Holder said he remains concerned about the specter of attacks prompted by Islamic extremists, but he said this committee will be tasked with identifying other threats.
“We must also concern ourselves with the continued danger we face from individuals within our own borders who may be motivated by a variety of other causes from anti-government animus to racial prejudice,” Holder said.
According to reporting from Reuters, the American Civil Liberties Union is pushing back against the DOJ plan, fearing “it could be a sweeping mandate to monitor and collect controversial speech.”
Conservative groups are alarmed on multiple levels. First, they see themselves once again the target of an administration that disagrees with them philosophically.
“It appears there’s an attempt to marginalize people who hold views that are sharply different from those of the administration and much of the establishment, said Horace Cooper, co-chairman of the Project 21 National Advisory Board. Project 21 is a network of black conservatives.
Cooper said plenty of presidents dealt with critical speech, particularly in opposition to the Vietnam War and even the Iraq War. He said no president ever responded like this.
“We didn’t arrest them (due to their speech). We didn’t try to prevent them from being able to express themselves on campuses, and we didn’t try to prevent them from trying to enter into the public square,” he said. “This administration appears not to appreciate that lesson and says that the groups of people that are not within their particular perspective ought to be considered the very threat … that the real terrorist threat that comes internationally [presents].”
(Jack Mullen) – Americans face a new crisis; police violence against citizens is escalating, blurring the line between criminal and public servant.
Escalating violence against American citizens by police has reached a bifurcation point, Americans are feeling the heat and are beginning to realize something must be done to deescalate police or soon America will join the ranks of hell holes of police crime and violence like Mexico, Haiti, Russia, Uzbekistan and elsewhere where police are independent gangs; violent and undisciplined and devolving into something closer to pirates – stealing property directly from their victims.
Horror stories of police murdering, beating, raping and plundering citizens are daily news in a cities large and small. One city, Albuquerque, NM is now murdering more people per capita than NYPD during arrests, yet NYC is 14 times more populated.
(CNET) – CNET learns the FBI is quietly pushing its plan to force surveillance backdoors on social networks, VoIP, and Web e-mail providers, and that the bureau is asking Internet companies not to oppose a law making those backdoors mandatory.
The FBI is asking Internet companies not to oppose a controversial proposal that would require firms, including Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, and Google, to build in backdoors for government surveillance.
In meetings with industry representatives, the White House, and U.S. senators, senior FBI officials argue the dramatic shift in communication from the telephone system to the Internet has made it far more difficult for agents to wiretap Americans suspected of illegal activities, CNET has learned.
The FBI general counsel’s office has drafted a proposed law that the bureau claims is the best solution: requiring that social-networking Web sites and providers of VoIP, instant messaging, and Web e-mail alter their code to ensure their products are wiretap-friendly.
“If you create a service, product, or app that allows a user to communicate, you get the privilege of adding that extra coding,” an industry representative who has reviewed the FBI’s draft legislation told CNET. The requirements apply only if a threshold of a certain number of users is exceeded, according to a second industry representative briefed on it.
June 2008: FBI Director Robert Mueller and his aides brief Sens. Barbara Mikulski, Richard Shelby, and Ted Stevens on “Going Dark.”
June 2008: FBI Assistant Director Kerry Haynes holds “Going Dark” briefing for Senate appropriations subcommittee and offers a “classified version of this briefing” at Quantico.
August 2008: Mueller briefed on Going Dark at strategy meeting.
September 2008: FBI completes a “high-level explanation” of CALEA amendment package.
May 2009: FBI Assistant Director Rich Haley briefs Senate Intelligence committee and Mikulsi staffers on how bureau is “dealing with the ‘Going Dark’ issue.'” Mikulski plans to bring up “Going Dark” at a closed-door hearing the following week.
May 2009: Haley briefs Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, currently the top Democrat on House Intelligence, who would later co-author CISPA.
September 2008: FBI staff briefed by RAND, which was commissioned to “look at” Going Dark.
November 2008: FBI Assistant Director Marcus Thomas, who oversees the Quantico-based Operational Technology Division, prepares briefing for President-Elect Obama’s transition team.
December 2008: FBI intelligence analyst in Communications Analysis Unit begins analysis of VoIP surveillance.
February 2009: FBI memo to all field offices asks for anecdotal information about cases where “investigations have been negatively impacted” by lack of data retention or Internet interception.
March 2009: Mueller’s advisory board meets for a full-day briefing on Going Dark.
April 2009: FBI distributes presentation for White House meeting on Going Dark.
April 2009: FBI warns that the Going Dark project is “yellow,” meaning limited progress, because of “new administration personnel not being in place for briefings.”
April 2009: FBI general counsel’s office reports that the bureau’s Data Interception Technology Unit has “compiled a list of FISA dockets… that the FBI has been unable to fully implement.” That’s a reference to telecom companies that are already covered by the FCC’s expansion of CALEA.
May 2009: FBI’s internal Wikipedia-knockoff Bureaupedia entry for “National Lawful Intercept Strategy” includes section on “modernize lawful intercept laws.”
May 2009: FBI e-mail boasts that the bureau’s plan has “gotten attention” from industry, but “we need to strengthen the business case on this.”
June 2009: FBI’s Office of Congressional Affairs prepares Going Dark briefing for closed-door session of Senate Appropriations subcommittee.
July 2010: FBI e-mail says the “Going Dark Working Group (GDWG) continues to ask for examples from Cvber investigations where investigators have had problems” because of new technologies.
September 2010: FBI staff operations specialist in its Counterterrorism Division sends e-mail on difficulties in “obtaining information from Internet Service Providers and social-networking sites.”
FBI Director Robert Mueller is not asking companies to support the bureau’s CALEA expansion, but instead is “asking what can go in it to minimize impacts,” one participant in the discussions says. That included a scheduled trip this month to the West Coast — which was subsequently postponed — to meet with Internet companies’ CEOs and top lawyers.
A further expansion of CALEA is unlikely to be applauded by tech companies, their customers, or privacy groups. Apple (which distributes iChat and FaceTime) is currently lobbying on the topic, according to disclosure documents filed with Congress two weeks ago. Microsoft (which owns Skype and Hotmail) says its lobbyists are following the topic because it’s “an area of ongoing interest to us.” Google, Yahoo, and Facebook declined to comment.
In February 2011, CNET was the first to reportthat then-FBI general counsel Valerie Caproni was planning to warn Congress of what the bureau calls its “Going Dark” problem, meaning that its surveillance capabilities may diminish as technology advances. Caproni singled out “Web-based e-mail, social-networking sites, and peer-to-peer communications” as problems that have left the FBI “increasingly unable” to conduct the same kind of wiretapping it could in the past.
In addition to the FBI’s legislative proposal, there are indications that the Federal Communications Commission is considering reinterpreting CALEA to demand that products that allow video or voice chat over the Internet — from Skype to Google Hangouts to Xbox Live — include surveillance backdoors to help the FBI with its “Going Dark” program. CALEA applies to technologies that are a “substantial replacement” for the telephone system.
“We have noticed a massive uptick in the amount of FCC CALEA inquiries and enforcement proceedings within the last year, most of which are intended to address ‘Going Dark’ issues,” says Christopher Canter, lead compliance counsel at the Marashlian and Donahue law firm, which specializes in CALEA. “This generally means that the FCC is laying the groundwork for regulatory action.”
(Mikael Thalen) – The Seattle Police Department is preparing to purchase a new facial recognition software program with a federal grant from the Department of Homeland Security.
Set to be purchased next month, the software will reportedly be used to scan and compare surveillance video to the city’s mugshot database.
With the city facing mounting opposition for several other privacy issues, police were quick to claim that the software would only be used when surveillance video of a suspected crime was obtained.
“An officer has to reasonably believe that a person has been involved in a crime or committed a crime,” Seattle Police Asst. Chief Carmen Best said.
Despite reassurances from the city and police, surveillance-weary residents pointed to the city’s continued abuses with surveillance technology.
“I think the Seattle Police Department have a well earned reputation for distrust by the public,” privacy advocate Phil Mocek said during a city council meeting Wednesday.
One group in particular, the Seattle Privacy Coalition, compared the city’s actions to the federal government’s never-ending domestic surveillance rollout.
“You got kind of a small-scale Seattle version of the dragnet surveillance that’s happening nationally that’s been in the news the last year,” said David Robinson of the Seattle Privacy Coalition.
When asked if the federal government would be given access to information collected, Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell argued that the city would need to share its data to protect the country from potential terrorists.
“There may be times where the federal government may want to look at that database,” Harrell said. “That may be very appropriate if we have international terrorists here that might have committed a misdemeanor.”
While promising to focus the new software on suspected criminals only, papers released by WikiLeaks in 2012 revealed Seattle’s secret participation in TrapWire, a sophisticated facial recognition program run through the city’s CCTV cameras. Given that the Seattle government willingly scanned the faces of countless innocent residents without their knowledge, few trust the new pledge to suddenly use the technology in a lawful manner.
Although the city claims it will release regular reports regarding data requests made by outside agencies, several recent reports already show that the city is sharing innocent individuals’ data with Homeland Security.
The mesh network is directly linked into 30 Port of Seattle surveillance cameras as well, reportedly installed to protect the area from acts of terrorism. Unsurprisingly, residents quickly noted that multiple cameras were facing inward toward Seattle homes, an “accident” later fixed by city officials.
Although the mesh network was deactivated following public outcry, the system is set to be turned back on as the city continues to push all possible surveillance technologies on the public.
Last year, Seattle police announced that several precincts would begin implementingpredictive policing software, a program that combines advanced mathematical algorithms with crime data to predict where crimes will occur down to a 500-square-foot area. While the program has thus far remained under the radar, police deny claims by civil liberties advocatesthat the program will be used directly on individuals.
Although the city has successfully implemented several surveillance programs, residents have stopped several as well. Seattle police were forced to return two drones, purchased with an $82,000 federal grant, after civil liberties activists voiced harsh opposition to the program last year.
Despite the government’s continued claim of needing vast surveillance capabilities to protect the public from terrorism, which kills less people annually than bee stings, fewer and fewer Americans are supporting the notion, especially in light of the government’s public support of Al Qaeda jihadists in Syria.
( Noel Brinkerhoff – ALLGOV) – Before the United States launches a drone strike on a terrorist threat, it turns to the National Security Agency (NSA) to locate the person, which often entails tracking the terrorist’s cell phone and its memory (SIM) card. But this approach to identifying targets has proven fallible because it can be deadly for innocent bystanders and others not on the U.S. kill list.
When it comes to finding foreign threats, the government has two primary means of intelligence: human and electronic. The latter is demonstrated by the use of SIM cards to find targets for drone strikes.
Human-based intelligence gathering has often been employed to more accurately find and confirm a target’s location before carrying out a deadly attack.
But the U.S. drone program often foregoes waiting for on-the-ground confirmation from human sources before giving the order to take out a threat.
Instead, it relies solely on the NSA to tell drone operators where someone is located based on data intercepted from their cell phone. This strategy fails to take into account that pinpointing the exact longitude and latitude of a SIM card doesn’t mean the person holding it is the al Qaeda or Taliban member wanted dead by the U.S.
“Some top Taliban leaders, knowing of the NSA’s targeting method, have purposely and randomly distributed SIM cards among their units in order to elude their trackers,” Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald wrote at The Intercept, a new investigative journalism website.
“They would do things like go to meetings, take all their SIM cards out, put them in a bag, mix them up, and everybody gets a different SIM card when they leave,” a former drone operator who wished to remain anonymous told The Intercept. “That’s how they confuse us.”
The drone operator added: “Once the bomb lands or a night raid happens, you know that phone is there. But we don’t know who’s behind it, who’s holding it. It’s of course assumed that the phone belongs to a human being who is nefarious and considered an ‘unlawful enemy combatant.’ This is where it gets very shady.”