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Life in the Emerging American Police State: What's in Store for Our Freedoms in 2014?


Life in the Emerging American Police State: What's in Store for Our Freedoms in 2014?
OpEdNews Op Eds 12/31/2013 at 11:43:43
By John Whitehead


Government spying. It's hard to understand how anyone could be surprised by the news that the National Security Agency has been systematically collecting information on all telephone calls placed in the United States, and yet the news media have treated it as a complete revelation. Nevertheless, such outlandish government spying been going on domestically since the 1970s, when Senator Frank Church (D-Ida.), who served as the chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence that investigated the NSA's breaches, warned the public against allowing the government to overstep its authority in the name of national security. Church recognized that such surveillance powers "at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide." Recent reports indicate that the NSA, in conjunction with the CIA and FBI, has actually gone so far as to intercept laptop computers ordered online in order to install spyware on them.

Militarized police. With almost 13,000 agencies in all 50 states and four U.S. territories participating in a military "recycling" program, community police forces across the country continue to be transformed into outposts of the military, with police agencies acquiring military-grade hardware--tanks, weaponry, and other equipment designed for the battlefield--in droves. Keep in mind that once acquired, this military equipment, which is beyond the budget and scope of most communities, finds itself put to all manner of uses by local law enforcement agencies under the rationale that "if we have it, we might as well use it"--the same rationale, by the way, used with deadly results to justify assigning SWAT teams to carry out routine law enforcement work such as delivering a warrant.

Police shootings of unarmed citizens. Owing in large part to the militarization of local law enforcement agencies, not a week goes by without more reports of hair-raising incidents by police imbued with a take-no-prisoners attitude and a battlefield approach to the communities in which they serve. Sadly, it is no longer unusual to hear about incidents in which police shoot unarmed individuals first and ask questions later, such as the 16-year-old teenager who skipped school only to be shot by police after they mistook him for a fleeing burglar. Then there was the unarmed black man in Texas "who was pursued and shot in the back of the neck by Austin Police" after failing to properly identify himself and leaving the scene of an unrelated incident." And who could forget the 19-year-old Seattle woman who was accidentally shot in the leg by police after she refused to show her hands? The lesson to be learned: this is what happens when you take a young man (or woman), raise him on a diet of violence, hype him up on the power of the gun in his holster and the superiority of his uniform, render him woefully ignorant of how to handle a situation without resorting to violence, train him well in military tactics but allow him to be illiterate about the Constitution, and never stress to him that he is to be a peacemaker and a peacekeeper, respectful of and subservient to the taxpayers, who are in fact his masters and employers.

The erosion of private property. If the government can tell you what you can and cannot do within the privacy of your home, whether it relates to what you eat or what you smoke, you no longer have any rights whatsoever within your home. If government officials can fine and arrest you for growing vegetables in your front yard, praying with friends in your living room, installing solar panels on your roof, and raising chickens in your backyard, you're no longer the owner of your property. If school officials can punish your children for what they do or say while at home or in your care, your children are not your own--they are the property of the state. If government agents can invade your home, break down your doors, kill your dog, damage your furnishings and terrorize your family, your property is no longer private and secure--it belongs to the government. Likewise, if police can forcefully draw your blood, strip search you, and probe you intimately, your body is no longer your own, either. This is what a world without the Fourth Amendment looks like, where the lines between private and public property have been so blurred that private property is reduced to little more than something the government can use to control, manipulate and harass you to suit its own purposes, and you the homeowner and citizen have been reduced to little more than a tenant or serf in bondage to an inflexible landlord.

Posted by unhappycamper | Wed Jan 1, 2014, 07:07 AM (1 replies)

Glenn Greenwald: The NSA Can "Literally Watch Every Keystroke You Make"


Glenn Greenwald: The NSA Can "Literally Watch Every Keystroke You Make"
OpEdNews Op Eds 12/31/2013 at 15:51:14
By Democracy Now


AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman, as we continue our conversation about the National Security Agency. On Sunday, the German publication Der Spiegel revealed new details about secretive hacking -- a secretive hacking unit inside the NSA called the Office of Tailored Access Operations, or TAO. The unit was created in 1997 to hack into global communications traffic. Still with us, Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the ACLU, director of the ACLU's Center for Democracy, and Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who first broke the story about Edward Snowden. Glenn, can you just talk about the revelations in Der Spiegel?

GLENN GREENWALD: Sure. I think everybody knows by now, or at least I hope they do after the last seven months reporting, that the goal of the NSA really is the elimination of privacy worldwide -- not hyperbole, not metaphor, that's literally their goal, is to make sure that all human communications that take place electronically are collected and then stored by the NSA and susceptible to being monitored and analyzed. But the specifics are still really important to illustrate just the scope and invasiveness and the dangers presented by this secret surveillance system.

And what the Der Spiegel article details is that one of the things that the NSA is really adept at doing is implanting in various machines -- computers, laptops, even cellphones and the like -- malware. And malware is essentially a program that allows the NSA, in the terminology that hackers use, to own the machine. So, no matter how much encryption you use, no matter how much you safeguard your communication with passwords and other things, this malware allows the NSA to literally watch every keystroke that you make, to get screen captures of what it is that you're doing, to circumvent all forms of encryption and other barriers to your communications.

And one of the ways that they're doing it is that they intercept products in transit, such as if you order a laptop or other forms of Internet routers or servers and the like, they intercept it in transit, open the box, implant the malware, factory -- seal it and then send it back to the user. They also exploit weaknesses in Google and YouTube and Yahoo and other services, as well, in order to implant these devices. It's unclear to what extent, if at all, the companies even know about it, let alone cooperate in it. But what is clear is that they've been able to compromise the physical machines themselves, so that it makes no difference what precautions you take in terms of safeguarding the sanctity of your online activity.
Posted by unhappycamper | Wed Jan 1, 2014, 07:01 AM (1 replies)

US does not follow its own advice


US does not follow its own advice
Last updated: Monday, December 30, 2013 9:04 PM

The American government has pushed retailers like Walmart and Gap to demand better working conditions at factories in the developing world that make their merchandise. But it turns out that the government, which buys more than $1.5 billion of clothes from overseas factories, does not follow its own advice.

This was an observation made by The New York Times in its editorial on Sunday. This echoes similar other previous complaints that the United States is good only at advising other nations to observe democracy but does otherwise when its own interests are affected.

The New York Times editorial noted that Factories in Bangladesh, Haiti, Cambodia and elsewhere that make uniforms for federal workers often violate basic labor standards, quoting a report by Ian Urbina which it had earlier published.

A side note in the editorial said that most American military uniforms are made in the United States but a Cambodian factory that makes clothes sold on Army and Air Force bases has employed children as young as 15. A factory in Bangladesh that makes uniforms for the General Services Administration beats workers to keep them in line.
Posted by unhappycamper | Wed Jan 1, 2014, 06:50 AM (0 replies)

Iraq remains a mess


Iraq remains a mess
Jamal Doumani
Published — Monday 30 December 2013

Is the Obama administration, like its predecessor in the White House, still “fighting evil” and “hunting evildoers” in Iraq, almost exactly two years after US troops left the country? Looks like it.

The problem with fighting this kind of putative evil and hunting those who practice it is that the war you fight against them may boomerang against you. In its long career as a superpower since the middle half of the 20th century, the US has discovered the sorry truth in countries that it had militarily intervened or meddled in, all the way from Vietnam in in the 1960s to Chile in the 1970s, and myriad other places in between.

But no overseas adventure by Washington is a better testament to this law of unintended consequences than the one it pursued in Iraq, which resulted in that country’s emergence as a state ruled by a sectarian Shiite regime allied with Iran, that has adamantly opposed genuine Sunni participation in the political process, which any sociologist will tell you is a true prescription for social turmoil and armed conflict.

Iraq today is experiencing a kind of national vertigo, as if every subsystem of its social system is out of tune with the other. Iraqi Kurds are angling for the progressive transformation of their semi-autonomous region in the north into an independent state. A relentless Sunni insurgency has already led, this year alone, to the deaths of 8,000 Iraqis, an insurgency whose cadre have become so potent a force that last week they killed the commander of the Iraqi Army’s Seventh Division and more than a dozen of his officers as they raided a rebels’ training camp camp — but also an insurgency that has itself become increasingly sectarian in nature.
Posted by unhappycamper | Wed Jan 1, 2014, 06:47 AM (0 replies)

US's secrecy means Asia must oppose trade deal


The TPP is an economic Trojan horse.

US's secrecy means Asia must oppose trade deal
December 30, 2013
William Pesek

Self-awareness often eludes US officials who push American interests on Asia. John Kerry's visit to Vietnam was a case in point as the Secretary of State implored the government to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

In his pitch earlier this month, Kerry said the US-led trade deal would bring ''transparency'' and ''accountability'' to the communist nation, helping it become a more open society that supports free expression. An odd thought, considering the Big Brother-like secrecy enshrouding the treaty on the US side.

The pro-TPP argument goes as follows: this is the moment Asia's reformers have been waiting for; it is a chance for Japan to take on vested interests, Malaysia to kill growth-stifling affirmative action policies, Vietnam to rein in bloated state-owned enterprises and Singapore to spur innovation. Think of the TPP as an economic Trojan horse - a means of shaking up stagnant political systems by stealth.

Yet the dearth of details about the treaty is exactly why Asia should opt out of the most ambitious free-trade deal in US history.
Posted by unhappycamper | Wed Jan 1, 2014, 06:30 AM (0 replies)

1914 in 2014: The flashpoints of a dangerous new year


A South Korean protester burns an anti-Japan banner after police officers spray fire extinguisher during a rally against Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Dec. 27, 2013. Abe paid his respects at Yasukuni shrine honoring Japan’s war dead in an unexpected visit Thursday that drew sharp rebukes from China and South Korea, who warned that the move celebrates his country’s militaristic past and could further sour relations.

1914 in 2014: The flashpoints of a dangerous new year
By Derek Burney and Fen Hampson | Dec 29, 2013 8:58 pm

The new year marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I. Several new books on the origins of the Great War have been published recently which portray unsettling parallels between the world then and as it appears now.

The rise of new great powers that threaten the status quo (Germany then, China today). The globalization of trade and investment with new entrants into the global economy (Germany and the U.S. at the beginning of the 20th century, China and the emerging markets of the Indo-Pacific today). A rising tide of ethno-nationalism and militant extremism that shattered the Hapsburg Empire in the Balkans and Eastern Europe — versus the rise of Islamic extremism today and the Shiite-Sunni split that is tearing apart the weak fabric of many Middle Eastern states.

Our favorite book in this new pantheon of titles is Christopher Clark’s The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914. Clark argues that there was no single guilty party in the outbreak of war. Rather, world leaders were, as his title suggests, “sleepwalkers” who paid insufficient attention to the risks of global conflagration that lay in the dry tinder of the Balkans and other early warning signs of potential trouble, like the Russo-Japanese war of 1904, which grew out the rival imperial ambitions of Japan and Russia over Korea and Manchuria.

Here are five global topics should capture attention of the world’s leaders and the public in the New Year, lest we sleepwalk into the abyss again.
Posted by unhappycamper | Wed Jan 1, 2014, 06:25 AM (2 replies)

Apple: We didn’t help NSA put the Dropoutjeep Backdoor in our iPhones


The program targeting the iPhone, called DROPOUTJEEP and disclosed by noted digital security expert and independent journalist Jacob Applebaum, is designed to remotely retrieve virtually all the information on an iPhone, including text messages, photographs, contacts lists, geolocation data, voice mail and live calls.

Apple: We didn’t help NSA put the Dropoutjeep Backdoor in our iPhones
By Juan Cole | Jan. 1, 2014
(By Jon Queally)

Apple, the company giant behind the iconic iPhone, declared on Monday that is has never assisted the NSA in its efforts to create "back doors" to its signature mobile phone or any of its other products.

The declaration by the computer giant comes in response to revelations made public by the German newspaper Der Spiegel in recent days, based on internal documents provided by Edward Snowden, which revealed secret units within the NSA that have created and reportedly installed sophisticated malware and other software programs designed to bypass security features and give the spy agency full access to information contained on individuals' devices, including portable computers, memory devices, and smart phones.

The program targeting the iPhone, called DROPOUTJEEP and disclosed by noted digital security expert and independent journalist Jacob Applebaum, is designed to remotely retrieve virtually all the information on an iPhone.

The program targeting the iPhone, called DROPOUTJEEP and disclosed by noted digital security expert and independent journalist Jacob Applebaum, is designed to remotely retrieve virtually all the information on an iPhone, including text messages, photographs, contacts lists, geolocation data, voice mail and live calls.

The internal NSA slide detailing the program:

Posted by unhappycamper | Wed Jan 1, 2014, 06:11 AM (1 replies)
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