Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Ball of Confusion

It's a truth almost universally acknowledged that since 9/11, the USA has been rapidly disintegrating into the Orwellian nation of Oceania. But it's also true that while vast swaths of data are being collected and stored on every man, woman and child on the planet, they're not serving any earthly purpose except as junk food for the insatiable maw of the Department of Homeland Security. (DHS)

Those DHS "fusion centers" are bastions of delusion sinking under the weight of their own bureacratic excess. Like the old Temptations' protest song, our spy state is just one great big Ball of Confusion. I have been saying for awhile now that as they're frantically scouring cyberspace for every last bit of information on us, they still don't know what in hell to do with it. I'd suggested copying all million pages of Remembrance of Things Past in a chain email to thousands of our closest friends just to punk them and keep them busy in their thousands upon thousands of DHS cubicles. The Fusionistas seem like an illiterate lot, with reports neglecting to include even the Basic Five: who, what, when, where and why. The average training period before they get to work culling our emails and Tweets? One whole week. I mean, we knew the government was in a race to the bottom vis a vis education, but this is de trop.

A Senate subcommittee finally did come out with a report today confirming what we already knew: while the spy state is shredding our civil liberties, the information they're coming up with is truly shredder-worthy itself. James Risen of the New York Times writes:

The report found that the centers “forwarded intelligence of uneven quality — oftentimes shoddy, rarely timely, sometimes endangering citizens’ civil liberties and Privacy Act protections, occasionally taken from already published public sources, and more often than not unrelated to terrorism.”

The investigators reviewed 610 reports produced by the centers over 13 months in 2009 and 2010. Of these, the report said, 188 were never published for use within the Homeland Security Department or other intelligence agencies. Hundreds of draft reports sat for months, awaiting review by homeland security officials, making much of their information obsolete. And some of the reports appeared to be based on previously published information or facts that had long since been reported through the Federal Bureau of Investigation

Even worse, DHS has "lost" more than $1 billion and even outright lied about the very existence of certain fusion centers. They're called fusion centers because they are supposed to link federal resources with local police agencies. The centers have been implicated in the coordinated national crackdown against Occupy camps last year. Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information law revealed

....that on November 9, two days after a demonstration by 1000 Occupy activists in Chicago protesting social service cuts in that city, the NOC Fusion Desk relayed a request from Chicago Police asking other local police agencies what kind of tactics they were using against Occupy activists. They specifically requested that information be sought from police departments in New York, Oakland, Atlanta, Washington, D.C. Denver, Boston, Portland OR, and Seattle — all the scene of major Occupation actions and of violent police repression.

DHS tried to cover its tracks over its anti-Occupy activities, which were patently illegal. The Fusion Center employees, funnily enough, had obtained most of their information on the Occupy camps from public records and blogs. They were copy-and-pasting plagiarizers as well as spies! Risen recounts several other incidents of DHS incompetence in his Times piece. They range from the comical to the bizarre to the downright frightening. One example:

Last November.... an Illinois center reported that Russian hackers had broken into the computer system of a local water district in Springfield and sent computer commands that triggered a water pump to burn out. But it turned out that a repair technician had remotely accessed the water district’s computer system while he was on vacation in Russia.

Homeland, Homeland Uber Alles is being run by a gang that can't straight-talk, let alone shoot straight.


Zee said...


Excellent reporting, and thank you for the link to news release, which in turn leads to the actual report.

It will take me days--if ever--to digest the actual report, but a casual glance at the ordinary, minor and constitutionally protected activities that the DHS gnomes at the fusion centers turn into derogatory reports about ordinary citizens is shocking.

Were the implications for civil liberties not HUGE, these DHS clowns would seem as hapless, harmless and humorous as the "Keystone Cops" or "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight."

Unfortunately, what they are doing is an enormous threat to the civil liberties of every person in this country, and my great fear is that sooner or later, one of those gnomes IS going to figure out some way to use the information, in really BAD ways that we can't yet fully imagine.

Stev-o said...

thanks. suggest you click on this link, scroll down about 2/3 of the way and laugh. there are some amazing photos, but there is one in particular that hists the nail on the head as to what we should all do to the the DHS. My question is always when I go through security at the Burlington International Airport is always the same: Where do they get these people. I cannot believe they are VTers. Check it out - made my day.

Pearl said...

And the cost of all this snooping? Don't ask because it is a secret and the
officials involved will admit that they have unquestioned access to an
endless checkbook when needed for these activities.

9/11 might have been avoided if there was not so much information floating
around and coming from different intelligence agencies who were not
communicating with each other, etc. It was difficult to get through all the
endless reports to figure out what was meaningful or not, especially when so
much garbage was also involved, probably about our own politically incorrect
citizens. However, there were enough warnings that should have alerted the
Bushies which leads to all the questions raised about the possibility of a
home grown involvement.

The bookkeeping of these snooping agencies is horrendous to say nothing of
the conclusions they come to from often unsubstantiated information coming
in. Attacks on citizens who are considered dangerous to the country because
of their political beliefs remain on their records forever. I know, because
all the accusations against my husband's family which were never
substantiated still appear on published public reports coming straight from
the lips of the FBI and presented as the gospel truth. The average citizen
is totally unaware of what is going on around him until he may have personal
experience along these lines.

A very important column Karen, with frightening implications. Another issue
I have with Obama is his retaining the Patriot Act beyond its expiration
date, and with more fangs in it. Certain "modifications" made in it by Congress since his
tenure have not been explained and its actual power to affect civil
liberties is unknown. The ACLU is quite concerned about this issue according to a recent report.

spreadoption said...

Hate to say it but it becomes more clear every day that we have a disgustingly and terrifyingly bad government here in America.

And by extension we are a bad country, a bad people, in the eyes of the rest of the world. Who can blame them for hating us? One president is as bad as the last one; one party as complicit as the other is evil.

Nothing new there. A once-proud American just had to say it.

An article by Linh Dinh in CounterPunch today recommends that we use our vote constructively: "So the world will again be aghast [at our election results], as will posterity, unless we can prove that we’re not behind the winning criminal [Romney/Obama]. Already, nearly half of Americans don’t cast ballots in any election, but we must make this abstention purposeful, as a clear sign of protest and not an act of apathy. The world must see that Americans aren’t all deranged and hypnotized as those who cheer and vote for one lying criminal after another. We’re better than this, so let’s prove it."

Agreed that not voting for President might signal apathy, not protest, but the author fails to suggest how we prove our revulsion with both candidates. It seems to me, voting for a third party candidate sends my personal reproach, and if enough of us do the same we will send a message that might even be heard.

spreadoption said...

Pearl, an aside to your comment about 9/11, from the category "It's Even Worse than You Think."

9/11 happened because our own government intended for it to happen. That's the inescapable conclusion derivable from all the evidence, the facts, following the immutable laws of physics, if you ignore everything we have been told about how it happened.

In the specific case of 9/11 it was probably not mere ineptitude or data overload; it can only have been the result of careful, long-term planning for a highly sophisticated operation, with full integration likely somewhere in the environs of Washington, DC.

We may never know the truth, but there is growing suspicion of central links to the assassinations of JFK, RFK, and MLK, as well as every other act of terror and deceit America has suffered.

Conspiracy theory is fascinating when it makes perfect sense, follows science, opens closed doors, answers unanswered questions, and overturns propaganda.

Denis Neville said...

The Uncomfortable Truth about Homeland, Homeland Uber Alles

Bruce Dixon, “It's an uncomfortable truth: the present US political system is largely people-proof and democracy-proof. The time and treasure we've sunk into supporting Democrats the last seventy years is gone. It's a horse we raised and watered and fed that somebody else has ridden off and it won't be back.”

Matt Stoller, “Attack of the Blob: How Professional Democrats and Professional Republicans Ran America Into the Ground”

Andy Kroll describes the "Mississippification" of California and how the USA is hell-bent on producing subprime educations:

Mattea Kramer asks, “If your child turns 18 and finds her government running a balanced budget in an America that's hollowed out, an America where she has no chance of paying for a college education, will she celebrate?

"The fight is over, and the bad guys won."

Mike Pirsch, “The Occupy movement was based on the proposition that the State serves the interests of the 1%, while the rest of us are left out in the cold. But, why do 99% of Americans vote for presidential candidates of “the financial industry dictatorship and its enforcer, the military empire” every four years? If 20% voted for progressive parties, it would “frighten the financial dictators more than a thousand Occupys.”

Perhaps, like Mike Pirsch, we should be more afraid of the 99%.

James F Traynor said...

I have canceled my subscription to the NYT.

Fred Drumlevitch said...

First of all, thanks, Denis, for your usual wealth of links.

I wish I could fully agree with Karen's post, which emphasizes these DHS activities as incompetent and a waste of money. If only that were all. My concerns, though, run more along the lines of Zee's, and I also think the danger far outweighs the comedic aspects.

Many of these so-called "intelligence" employees appear to be --- at best --- functionaries in the worst sense of the word, with neither much competence at doing the small fraction of intelligence work that actually is needed, nor much reluctance to carry out high-level directives that violate long-established Constitutional rights and set the stage for even greater violations in the future. It likely goes downhill from there, for many are probably similar to petty tyrants, with an inflated sense of ego, role, and power, and therefore ready at the drop of a hat to engage in additional abuses of their own design. I doubt that many have much knowledge of the historical establishment and perpetuation of tyrannies, including the role that low- and mid-level functionaries have played.

What's happening is a fusion all right --- a fusion of massive governmental resources with huge amounts of what should largely remain private information. Even with the best of motives and employees, it would threaten the very foundations of a democratic republic, for it's infrastructure that could be repurposed very quickly for a wide variety of anti-democratic ends. We are building a field not of dreams, but of nightmares; build it, and oppression will come.

James F Traynor said...

@Fred Drumlevitch

Like Arrendt said, the banality of evil. It's something we just can't bring ourselves to face.

Pearl said...

From the ACLU on Reform the Patriot Act:

Pearl said...

In regard to the statement I made in my last paragraph of my recent comment concerning the Patriot Act, a closer reading of the details are slightly different. When Congress and the President agreed to extend the Patriot Act for another few years, they did not advertise many of the provisions in the original document which allowed for invasion of privacy, secrecy in their investigations of people's activities without informing the victims of their information tactics, and many other almost illegal allowances that jeopardized citizens' civil rights. They have not made any modifications during Obama's presidency, but the provisions in the original document were kept on and the ACLU was and is strongly advocating changing these questionable provisions that are now in place for several more years. Regardless of how it came about, it is an extremely dangerous document which possibly hopefully, could end up in the court system and in my opinion should be reviewed by the Supreme Court who may or may not want to become involved.

I was in Florida at the time the Patriot Act was first conceived, and at a Democratic Party meeting we had a speaker representing the ACLU who informed us of its danger to our civil liberties. Unbelievably, he was a registered Republican who was horrified by this document and had found it as shocking as we did.