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unhappycamper's Journal
unhappycamper's Journal
June 24, 2013

Global Surveillance: The Public Must Fight for its Right to Privacy


The British-American surveillance program Tempora marks a historic turning point. Unnoticed by the public, intelligence agencies have pursued total surveillance. Governments have deliberately concealed from the public the extent to which we are being watched.

Global Surveillance: The Public Must Fight for its Right to Privacy
A Commentary by Christian Stöcker

The term, "information superhighway" has always been insufficient to describe the Internet. In reality, the Web is a global communication space containing the private information of a large part of the population of every developed country. If someone were able to train an all-seeing eye onto the Internet, the blackmail potential would be almost limitless.

It is precisely this all-seeing eye that the British intelligence agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and the American National Security Agency (NSA) have developed under the name Tempora. An appropriate real-world metaphor for the program might be something like this: In every room of every house and every apartment, cameras and microphones are installed, every letter is opened and copied, every telephone tapped. Everything that happens is recorded and can be accessed as needed.

It sounds preposterous, but it is frighteningly close to the reality that was unveiled by the Guardian on Friday. Together, the GCHQ and NSA monitor Internet traffic by tapping directly into the data stream sent through fiber-optic cables. They are able to copy and cache this data, to be sifted through later as needed.

Those behind this disgraceful program have not even bothered to deny what they are up to. The British spy agency has said it will not be commenting on the program -- but said that whavever they do is in the service of the fight against terrorism and subject to strict legal controls. The NSA has been making this same argument since the Prism program was unveiled earlier this month. What we're doing, they say, is for a good cause. It's all regulated, and we're only looking at the information collected when we deem it necessary.
June 23, 2013

Anti-Drone Activists Stopped at U.S. Canadian Border due to "Orders of Protection" given to Commande


Anti-Drone Activists Stopped at U.S. Canadian Border due to "Orders of Protection" given to Commander of Drone Base
OpEdNews Op Eds 6/22/2013 at 20:28:53
By Ann Wright

In mid-June, 2013, Western New York Peace Center board member Valerie Niederhoffer was stopped and interrogated for several hours at the U.S.-Canadian border when returning to the US from an afternoon doing Tai Chi in Canada with friends.

The U.S. immigration and customs officer entered Val's name into his computer system and discovered Val had an Order of Protection. He then asked her to pull over for an extended interview.

Orders of Protection (restraining orders) are generally given for spousal abuse, but this unique Order of Protection has been given to activists who have been arrested for challenging the U.S. assassin drone policies.

In a Gandhian action at the Drone Convergence on April 29, 2013 at Hancock Field near Syracuse NY, Valerie Niederhoffer and 30 others were arrested at the main gate. The 31 arrestees were protesting our government's drone policy by lying down in front of the main entrance to the Hancock Field drone base and covering themselves with "bloodied" sheets.

June 23, 2013

Obama’s New Syria Strategy is Nixon’s Vietnam Negotiation Tactics Redux (Meyer)


Obama’s New Syria Strategy is Nixon’s Vietnam Negotiation Tactics Redux (Meyer)
Posted on 06/23/2013 by Juan Cole

For better or worse, Obama came of age well after the Vietnam war. Had he lived through the daily body counts, he may have stood strong against arming the Syrian opposition.

The President’s new ‘strategy’ is to get enough arms to the ‘right people’ in Syria and to centralize arms delivery through General Idris. The goal is to rebuild the opposition’s strength after recent loss of ground to Assad forces. The theory is that once the ‘balance’ between Assad and opposition fighters has been restored, the opposition would be in a more advantageous situation for Geneva !! negotiations. The opposition is loathe to negotiate after its recent set-backs.

We’ve seen this before. Just as Nixon doubled down on a losing war in Vietnam, Obama seeks his own version of ‘peace through strength’.

Although Nixon and his war cabinet knew the Vietnam war would never be won and that political negotiations were the only end-game the US and South Vietnamese had, the President who promised to ‘bring the boys home’ continued and expanded the war several more years at the cost of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of American and Vietnamese lives.
June 23, 2013

Barack Obama's Africa Trip Misses Military Mission Creep on Continent


Barack Obama's Africa Trip Misses Military Mission Creep on Continent
Michael Shank
Posted: 06/22/2013 4:39 pm


Take a look at how bad it's gotten as part of the mission creep on the African continent's northern half. Human Rights Watch released a report last month documenting the abuse, rape and torture of at least 1,000 Somali refugees by U.S.-backed Kenyan police forces as retaliation for supposed terrorist attacks. This follows a report by the Open Society Justice Initiative released last November that connected U.S. counterterror assistance and influence to systemic human rights abuses in Kenya and Uganda, and another account of U.S.-backed torture in Mauritania. And then there's always the Ethiopian government, another major recipient of U.S. assistance, which has used anti-terrorism laws to actively repress civil society, crack down on peaceful dissent and limit the civil rights of Muslims and others.

While no security force is perfect, the emerging pattern of U.S. military assistance to Africa is one of partnership with governments and forces known for widespread violations -- and few efforts toward accountability or long-term, systemic reform.

The U.S. has taken some small steps to acknowledge the problematic nature of human rights violations, with Kerry admitting that they can "escalate the violence and fuel extremism." But as the U.S. continues to profess support for reform in each of the countries in question, it also continues to provide aid like surveillance drones to governments that imprison activists and further marginalize oppressed communities.

The counter by U.S. officials is to claim that military aid is actually improving human rights, good governance and rule of law, arguing that, while complicated, this cooperation is necessary and effective in countering militant extremism.
June 22, 2013

Tennessee Official Says Complaining About Water Quality Could Be Considered 'Act of Terrorism'


The claim was made during a meeting with residents who say the "cloudy, odd-tasting water" is making their children sick.

Tennessee Official Says Complaining About Water Quality Could Be Considered 'Act of Terrorism'
By Steven Hsieh
June 21, 2013

A representative for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation told a group of concerned citizens that complaining about water quality could be considered an “act of terrorism,” The Tennessean reports.

Sherwin Smith, deputy director of TDEC’s Division of Water Resources, made the claim during a meeting with residents of Maury County, Tennessee. Organized by State Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia, the gathering sought to address complaints by residents that area water was making their children sick. In audio obtained by The Tennessean, Smith can be heard equating water quality complaints, an act of citizenry, with DHS-defined acts of terrorism:

We take water quality very seriously. Very, very seriously … But you need to make sure that when you make water quality complaints you have a basis, because federally, if there’s no water quality issues, that can be considered under Homeland Security an act of terrorism.

According to The Tennessean, several residents saw the statement as “an attempt to silence complaints.” One 68-year-old woman who says she “prays” before sipping the “cloudy, odd-tasting water,” felt that Smith’s message was, “Leave us alone. Don’t come back anymore. We’re not going to continue on dealing with whatever problem you may have.” An official TDEC spokesperson says the department is investigating the matter:
June 22, 2013

Taliban spokesman: Removal of sign threatens talks


Taliban spokesman: Removal of sign threatens talks
4:22 a.m. EDT June 22, 2013

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Angry voices within the Taliban movement could scuttle peace talks before they even begin, infuriated that a sign identifying their new office in the Gulf state of Qatar as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan was removed, their spokesman said Saturday.

The opening of the Taliban office was heralded as the best chance of bringing to a peaceful end 12 years of bloody war despite its rocky beginnings. But the peace process ran aground almost immediately when Kabul objected to the wording of its name, saying it was tantamount to the establishment of a rival government office, not a political office.

Under pressure from host nation Qatar, the Taliban removed the sign and lowered their flag __ a white flag emblazoned with a Quranic verse in black __ out of public view on Wednesday.

"There is an internal discussion right now and much anger about it but we have not yet decided what action to take," Shaheen Suhail, the Taliban's spokesman in Qatar told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "But I think it weakens the process from the very beginning."
June 22, 2013

Corporate Spooks Are Watching You: The Dangerous Rise of the Industrial-Surveillance Complex


Corporate Spooks Are Watching You: The Dangerous Rise of the Industrial-Surveillance Complex
by Joshua Holland | June 21, 2013 - 9:27am

Whether one views Edward Snowden as a hero or a villain, perhaps we could all agree that if the government is to keep secrets, a 29-year-old private contractor with a soft spot for Ron Paul shouldn't have access to a treasure trove of its most sensitive information.

Of course, that assumes that there still exists a bright line between government and the private sector. But that's become an antiquated notion after two decades of ideologically driven outsourcing of what were once considered core government functions. As a result of that effort, there are now a million potential Edward Snowdons – or, more precisely, 483,263 contractors with top-secret clearances, according to James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence– any of whom could slip out with sensitive data on a thumb drive if they have a personal or ideological axe to grind.

More troubling is the fact that we're being constantly monitored by private spy companies with virtually no oversight or accountability. According to journalist Tim Shorrock, around 70 percent of our national security spending now goes to private firms. Michael Hayden, “who oversaw the privatization effort as NSA director from 1999 to 2005,” told Shorrock that “the largest concentration of cyber power on the planet is the intersection of the Baltimore Parkway and Maryland Route 32,” where the NSA's top contractors are located. Hayden coined the term, “Digital Blackwater” to describe the privatization of American cyber security agencies.

“I think it's extraordinarily frightening because the oversight by Congress is so minimal to begin with,” says Robert McChesney, a professor of communications at the University of Illinois and author of Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism Is Turning the Internet Against Democracy. “From what we know, the oversight of spying, intelligence and surveillance is really rock-bottom, with members of Congress often knowing little or nothing” about the details of these programs. “So, they're going off the books (with private firms) to avoid even the minimal oversight they do have.”
June 22, 2013

F-35 costs kick up more controversy outside U.S.


F-35 costs kick up more controversy outside U.S.
Published: June 21, 2013 at 5:46 PM

WASHINGTON, June 21 (UPI) -- U.S. audit comments that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter may eventually be unaffordable are feeding into controversies in Canada, South Korea, Australia and Europe over the jet's future feasibility.

The F-35 purchase plan is by far the most controversial in Canada where Prime Minister Stephen Harper's conservative government is fighting battles with auditors and the opposition in and outside Parliament.

Those battles were not helped when federal auditor Michael J. Sullivan, acquisitions director of the Government Accountability Office, told a Senate subcommittee in Washington current projections call for a $316 billion outlay from development to purchase of the Lockheed Martin fighter jet through 2037.

Operation and maintenance costs for the U.S. inventory of the F-35 alone could top $1 trillion over a 35-year lifespan, Sullivan told the Senate defense appropriations subcommittee.




Officials: F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program is on Track but Key Milestones Remain
Shane McGlaun (Blog) - June 20, 2013 9:07 AM

After years of delays and running over budget, officials are finally reporting some good news on the F-35 Lightning II program. Back in May, the program had reportedly reduced its costs by $4.5 billion. Key Pentagon officials have stated the F-35 project is now on target despite key milestones that must still be met.

The announcement came when Pentagon officials addressed the Senate panel this week.

“On the whole, the F-35 design today is much more stable [than in previous years],” Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, told the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee.

Kendall also stated that the F-35 program would be ready for an increase in production during the fiscal 2015 budget. However, he did add that deadlines for software blocks and the special (unhappycamper comment: $250 grand) high-tech helmet required to support the F-35 technology suite still pose challenges.




Lockheed, Mitsubishi Sign F-35 FACO Deal
Jun. 21, 2013 - 05:08PM |

WASHINGTON — Lockheed Martin has signed an agreement with Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. to begin work on a final assembly and check out (FACO) facility for Japanese F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.

unhappycamper comment: You will need to go to the link to see this article, as Gannett complained about me posting more than one paragraph. (Thank goodness we are a nation of laws.)


In spite of all this:


F-35 is backbone of Air Force's future fighter fleet, Welsh says
Posted 6/20/2013
by Master Sgt. Angelita Colón-Francia
Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

6/20/2013 - WASHINGTON, D.C. (AFNS) -- The Air Force's most advanced strike aircraft, the F-35 Lightning II, is a vital capability that the nation needs to stay ahead of adversary technological gains, the Air Force chief of staff told a Senate panel here, June 19.

Testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Defense, Gen. Mark A. Welsh III said air superiority is critical to the nation's security and how the U.S. military plans to fight.

"The air superiority this nation has enjoyed for 60 years is not an accident and gaining and maintaining it is not easy," Welsh said. "It requires trained proficient and ready Airmen and it requires credible, capable and technologically superior aircraft. I believe the F-35 is essential to ensuring we can provide that air superiority in the future."

The F-35 is an unprecedented fifth generation fighter combining stealth technology with fighter speed and agility, fully integrated sensors and network enabled operations, and state-of-the-art avionics. However, design issues and production costs have put the F-35 program in real jeopardy.

Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall told the committee he believe those concerns have been addressed.

"The department's and my focus has been on the efforts to control costs on the program, and to achieve a more stable design so that we could increase the production rate to more economical quantities," Kendall testified. "Indications at this time are that these efforts are succeeding."

The Air Force intends to use a portion of the proposed fiscal 2014 budget to support current defense strategic guidance and modernization programs like the F-35.

"Potential adversaries are acquiring fighters on par with or better than our legacy fourth generation fleet," Welsh told the committee. "They're developing sophisticated early warning radar systems and employing better surface to air missile systems, and this at a time when our fighter fleet numbers about 2,000 aircraft and averages a little over 23 years of age -- the smallest and the oldest in the Air Force's history."

Welsh said America needs the F-35 to stay a step ahead and to "make sure the future fight is an away game and to minimize our risk to our ground forces when conflict inevitably does occur."

"The F-35 is the only real, viable option to form the backbone of our future fighter fleet," he said. "The F-35 remains the best platform to address the proliferation of highly capable integrated air defenses and new air-to-air threats."


Here's a Canadian article from a few days ago:


F-35 design problems make night flying impossible, increase risk of being shot down, U.S. pilots warn
Lee Berthiaume, Postmedia News | 13/03/06 | Last Updated: 13/03/06 6:17 PM ET

OTTAWA — It seems U.S. fighter pilots have lost that loving feeling for their new F-35 stealth jets.

At least that’s the impression given in a scathing Pentagon report leaked this week that identifies a huge number of problems facing the U.S. military’s F-35 fleet — including fears that it can easily be shot down.

From radars that don’t work, to blurry vision from the aircraft’s sophisticated helmet, to an inability to fly through clouds, the report, which includes pilot comments, paints a picture of a jet nowhere near ready for real-life operations.

F-35 manufacturer Lockheed Martin is refusing to comment, but the report’s revelations will likely give Canadian military planners pause as they continue assessing options for replacing Canada’s aging CF-18s.
June 22, 2013

UK Spying Scandal Even Bigger Than In U.S., According To GCHQ Documents Obtained By The Guardian


UK Spying Scandal Even Bigger Than In U.S., According To GCHQ Documents Obtained By The Guardian
By RAPHAEL SATTER 06/21/13 04:42 PM ET EDT

LONDON — British spies are running an online eavesdropping operation so vast that internal documents say it even outstrips the United States' international Internet surveillance effort, the Guardian newspaper reported Friday.

The paper cited British intelligence memos leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden to claim that U.K. spies were tapping into the world's network of fiber optic cables to deliver the "biggest internet access" of any member of the Five Eyes – the name given to the espionage alliance composed of the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

That access could in theory expose a huge chunk of the world's everyday communications – including the content of people's emails, calls, and more – to scrutiny from British spies and their American allies. How much data the Brits are copying off the fiber optic network isn't clear, but it's likely to be enormous. The Guardian said the information flowing across more than 200 cables was being monitored by more than 500 analysts from the NSA and its U.K. counterpart, GCHQ.

"This is a massive amount of data!" the Guardian quoted a leaked slide as boasting. The paper said other leaked slides, including one labeled "Collect-it-all," gave hints as to the program's ambition.
June 22, 2013

Snowden was Right, they’re Reading your Mail: How British Intelligence and the NSA are Tag-Teaming U


Snowden was Right, they’re Reading your Mail: How British Intelligence and the NSA are Tag-Teaming US
Posted on 06/22/2013 by Juan Cole

When President Barack Obama said ‘no one is listening to your phone calls,’ he was either misinformed or was being disingenuous. The British are at least gathering up the voice signals of your phone calls, and sharing 200 million of them a day with the US National Security Agency via a joint database.

According to The Guardian newspaper, the British electronic surveillance agency GCHQ has attached sniffers or packet analyzers to the fiber optic cables that stretch across the Atlantic and emerge from the sea in Britain before going on to Europe and West Asia.The GCHQ charge is “Mastering the Internet and Global Telecoms Exploitation, aimed at scooping up as much online and telephone traffic as possible.”

The material includes the actual telephone calls, email exchanges, Facebook updates, etc.

It is not only British intelligence that has access to this material. It can be accessed by 850,000 US intelligence workers and private contractors. About 250 NSA analysts have been specifically assigned to sift through it. They theoretically are forbidden to look at material generated inside the United States that is not sent abroad, but the GCHQ trusts their ‘discretion’ in this regard. The British analysts reportedly have much less stringent conditions attached to what information they can access at will.

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