Thursday, May 9, 2013

i-Spy With My Little FBI

When I compared President Obama to James Bond and their two beloved Moneypennies in a recent post, I was half-kidding. But isn't it a coincidence that the title of his latest West Wing Week propaganda video is called "Nobody Does It Better" -- the theme song of The Spy Who Loved Me? Check it out. It's just as overblown and satiric as the typical 007 movie. Every time the camera pans to the White House press corps, for example, they're frantically transcribing every golden Obamian word on their steno pads. There are multiple shots of Obama in such an exalted state of being that the videographer had to have been groveling at the president's feet in order to capture all those precious moments:

Official White House Propaganda Photo

And speaking of the dark side, now comes word that Obama wants to force  social media and internet service providers to make it easier for his domestic goons to eavesdrop on the internet communications of every man, woman and child in the USA, the world, the universe, and points beyond. After all, the American Empire needs literally tons more data to fill the vast empty spaces of the newly-constructed super-secret Orwellian storage facility in Utah. (check out this site if you prefer your dystopia with a side of parody.)

According to yesterday's New York Times, the president is finally "on the verge" of submitting to the seductive FBI, which is apparently growing tired of the same old, same old-fashioned wiretapping. Those land lines are going the way of the dinosaur (or the faithful but aging first wife) . The much sexier Facebook, Twitter, Skype and the like are ripe for predatory Bondian picking.

It's not that the FBI doesn't already record our conversations, spying at will and without a warrant. It just figures it could use some of that good old retroactive cover from the executive branch. But the creepy part is that Obama is considering actually punishing large service providers if they, unlike him, do not swoon at the chance to act out Peeping-Tom fantasies and become full partners in government crime:
While the F.B.I.’s original proposal would have required Internet communications services to each build in a wiretapping capacity, the revised one, which must now be reviewed by the White House, focuses on fining companies that do not comply with wiretap orders. The difference, officials say, means that start-ups with a small number of users would have fewer worries about wiretapping issues unless the companies became popular enough to come to the Justice Department’s attention.
Still, the plan is likely to set off a debate over the future of the Internet if the White House submits it to Congress, according to lawyers for technology companies and advocates of Internet privacy and freedom.
Under the new proposal, providers could be ordered to comply, and judges could impose fines if they did not. The shift in thinking toward the judicial fines was first reported by The Washington Post, and additional details were described to The New York Times by several officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Under the proposal, officials said, for a company to be eligible for the strictest deadlines and fines — starting at $25,000 a day — it must first have been put on notice that it needed surveillance capabilities, triggering a 30-day period to consult with the government on any technical problems.
Such notice could be the receipt of its first wiretap order or a warning from the attorney general that it might receive a surveillance request in the future, officials said, arguing that most small start-ups would never receive either.
As Philip Bump of The Atlantic points out, the White House proposal does not take into account that those small, temporary or start-up service providers with few users could easily bypass the new rules for allowing back-door i-Spying:

Which brings us to the most obvious way for terrorists or drug dealers or law-breakers or, yes, privacy puritans to avoid the FBI's proposed wiretapping ability: if you want to reduce the likelihood that your communications will be observed, check out what will hereafter be known as "burner" companies — new shops that enable the sort of communications you want to do but are unlikely to have enough users that one draws the attention of the FBI. Become a TechCrunch afficianado! When a company announces it's "a new way to connect people," that's your best bet, as long as it doesn't become too popular. (The "burner" analogy to cheap cell phones — you've seen The Wire, right? — is flawed, of course; that would be more like creating new Facebook accounts to send messages for a day or so.)

And, in keeping with the theme of government of, by and for the plutocracy, the new rules will also make it easier for corporations to use the backdoor technology to hack into our private communications. One more reason not to use Facebook. And forget about Twitter. Whoever doesn't already realize that your every Tweet is out there for public consumption is a twit. Even deleted Tweets linger in cyberspace forever.

The FBI doesn't even need a back door when most of our lives are already an open book. Nobody Does It Better. The Homeland Security state is De Best!

We weren't looking, but somehow they found us. We tried to hide from their love light. But like Heaven above us, the spies who loved us are keeping all our secrets safe tonight. 



Zee said...


You had me going there for a minute with the website for the “National Surveillance Directorate!” It seemed so authentic (right down to the “nsa.gov1” name), until I took a close look at the logo for the Directorate—an eagle with headphones on—and their motto, “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.”

While I'm sure that the motto accurately reflects the government's attitude, even "they" wouldn't be dumb enough to put that in writing! Or would they?


Unfortunately, however, I think that the website accurately captures the real mission of the Utah Data Center, and the data that they will be collecting and mining: “Defending Our Nation. Securing The Citizens.”

If my long list of gun, ammunition, and reloading supply purchases ever makes it to the Center, I'll soon be “secured” in a camp somewhere in the Nevada desert.

Adios, amigos! Unless, of course, I see some of you there, too.

On another note, related to the “Moneypenny” thread, I see that Obama has lengthened his list of appointments of former lobbyists and campaign-fund raisers to important administration positions by nominating one Tom Wheeler to chair the Federal Communications Commission:

The guy has absolutely NO sense of shame.

Jay - Ottawa said...

In recent years Uncle Sam has quietly conscripted legions of civilian workers into the National Security State, whether or not they realize it – while simultaneously booting thousands of useful federal workers off the payroll. There are more and more (mostly friendly) takeovers of private institutions by the NSS, Inc.

Routine spying on other Americans by legions of civilian workers is red, white and blue patriotic. It gets interesting, once you start down that road. Before the Iron Curtain fell, one out of three East Germans was regularly reporting to the Stassi. Are we moving to that point?

New laws against old laws are falling into place for the FBI. We’re tracking you vs freedom of association. Telephone companies must, without warrants, listen in and turn over private conversations on demand. Privacy vs Security. Librarians are forced to track who checked out what books. Furthermore, because most librarians tend to be strong supporters of the Bill of Rights, they are threatened with jail or fines if they slip word to you that the FBI is pouring over your reading list. Freedom of thought vs the new Index of Forbidden Books.

Imagine how many agents Denis could tie up, or Zee with his groaning To-Read bookshelf☺.

So now maybe you prefer to buy or download the books you want to read. Besides, the public libraries of old are being neglected to the point of decay, like public schools. Wait, book dealers have also been forced to keep track of who buys what. Bad books may lead to bad thoughts, which may lead to bad acts.

The new rule, backed by Obama, our constitutional lawyer in chief: Privacy bad; Totalism good.

Insatiable government curiosity has reached a tipping point. Democracies can turn upside down in the twinkling of an eye. The government can use a new breed of hummingbirds to peek in your windows. Meanwhile, any civilian communications company (beyond garage size) that does not build a special division to spy on clients will be subject to bankrupting censure. Used to be completely the other way around; but since 9/11, quite understandably, the FBI must stick its nose everywhere to protect our way of life.

Unchecked, Leviathan eventually swallows the social contract. Your internet provider is now an eavesdroper for the FBI; the library is yet another source for the FBI, which is only minding thought; the book dealer is an honorary FBI agent. Your mobile phone is a snitch telling marketing and secret agent man where you are and where you’ve been. Street cams are up, left and right: we’re all on Candid Camera whenever we approach the public square. So smile – or buy into NRA plans to counter the gumint.

Jay - Ottawa said...

Very much on subject is this item and link from Glenn Greenwald:

4) The ACLU submitted a FOIA request to obtain the Obama administration's policy on intercepting text messages sent to and from cell phones. This is the document they received ... from the Most Transparent Administration Ever™. It's hard to believe that the DOJ isn't mischievously cackling at their own brazenly displayed contempt as they do these things.

Zee said...


Regarding Jessamyn West: I'd be curious to know how she feels about guns and motorcycles, but mostly my kind of people:

', which [Jessamyn West] founded in 1999 after finding the domain name unused, has become a "widely read and cited" resource.

West characterizes as generally "anti-censorship, pro-freedom of speech, pro-porn (for lack of a better way to explain that we don't find the naked body shameful), anti-globalization, anti-outsourcing, anti-Dr. Laura, pro-freak, pro-social responsibility, and just generally pro-information and in favor of the profession getting a better image."

Wired [Magazine] described her as "on the front lines in battling the USA PATRIOT Act," particularly the provisions that allow warrantless searches of library records. The act not only prohibits libraries from notifying the subjects of such searches, it prohibits them from disclosing to the public whether any such searches have been made. In protest, West created a number of notices that libraries can post which she suggests are "technically legal." One of them, for example, reads: "The FBI has not been here. Watch very closely for the removal of this sign." The Vermont Library Association provided copies of this sign to every public library in Vermont.'
(My bold emphasis added.)

Jay, I think your own thoughtful analysis has shown that we are already at “that point.” Your foregoing remark triggered in my brain Karen's recent reference to “The League of Minnesota Granny Obamabitches, who make it their business to spy on their neighbors, troll comment boards,monitor dinner table conversations, and send all their findings to state and national Democratic Party databases.” --Karen Garcia, Sardonicky, 01/12/13

The Stassi's handservants are already here.

There has always been a subset of society who wants to intrude upon the privacy of individuals, just for the power with which it endows them. Now, we have legitimized and institutionalized them in “service to the country.” (That's sarcasm there.)

Years ago, at a departmental party, I had the opportunity to meet the husband of one of our administrative assistants. He was an investigator for the Internal Revenue Service. While I am an honest citizen who always pays his taxes and doesn't resent it, when he started telling me about his “work,” my skin began to crawl.

It was clear that he delighted in looking into the secrets of every individual who came into his sights, interrogating, twisting, and tweaking these people until every secret was laid bare. He didn't merely do his job, he enjoyed playing with his “subjects” as a cat plays with a mouse—or lizard, here in New Mexico—before finishing it off and dropping it at my (our) feet. I couldn't get away from the guy quickly enough.

Now, those same people will be in charge of the Utah Data Center, and examining everything that we do. As you say, Jay, every book that we order or download, every purchase that we make by credit card, every book that we check out from the library, every tank of gas we buy and every hotel that we stay at, all stored away on some hard drive in Utah until it pops up in some search that might have some relationship to national security—or not.

Zee said...


I'm sure that the DOJ is having a hearty laugh over its TOTALLY REDACTED response to the ACLU's FOIA request.

It's all well and good to talk about "transparency" before one's election. But oh how quickly it vanishes once the office is attained.

Denis Neville said...

‘Information at Rest’

“The principle that the end justifies the means is and remains the only rule of political ethics; anything else is just a vague chatter and melts away between one’s fingers.” - Arthur Koestler, Darkness at Noon

The common people cannot grasp that ‘deviation’ is a crime in itself; therefore crimes of the sort they can understand – terrorists, bombings, and so forth – are used.

Dishonest means irredeemably corrupt all ends.

"It's a vacuum cleaner approach to virtually millions of communications an hour. Nobody knows what they're doing with it. Today one of the key aspects of National Security Agency is what they call 'information at rest,' this is information in databases." – James Bamford

What is frightening about this is not the fact that this is happening – for obviously such things occur in a totalitarian society – but the eagerness of everyone justifying and accepting it.

“Our press and our schools cultivate chauvinism, militarism, dogmatism, conformism and ignorance. The arbitrary power of the Government is unlimited, and unexampled in history; freedom of the press, of opinion and of movement are as thoroughly exterminated as though the proclamation of the Rights of Man had never been. We have built up the most gigantic police apparatus, with informers made a national institution, and the most refined scientific system of political and mental torture. We whip the groaning masses of the country towards a theoretical future happiness, which only we can see.” - Arthur Koestler, Darkness at Noon

Zee said...


I guess that I will have to add "Darkness at Noon" to my "groaning, To-Read shelf." (Thanks, Jay!)

Along, of course, with other books that will doubtless have already gotten me in trouble with the surveillance society, like "Deer Hunting With Jesus" and "American Empire," by Joe Bageant and Andrew Bacevich, respectively.

I'm doomed, along with the rest of you.

See you all in the Nevada desert.

Denis Neville said...

A rich man’s terrorism is war.

The Lesser Evil just doubled his support for the Syrian armed opposition. They might be terrorists but they are our terrorists!

We’ve seen this groundhog movie before.

How could it be that our Libyan rebel “friends” whom we armed for our own “regime change” purposes turned against us and killed our Ambassador?

Further down the rabbit hole…

“The lies and disinformation that go into the confusing and ever-morphing notion of “terrorism” result from the U.S. Military Industrial Complex (and its little brother, the “National Security Surveillance Complex”) and their need to control the mainstream media’s framing of the story.

“So, a simplistic narrative/myth is put forth to sustain U.S. wars. From time to time, those details need to be reworked and some of the facts “forgotten” to maintain the storyline about bad terrorists “who hate the U.S.” when, in reality, the U.S. Government may have nurtured the same forces as “freedom fighters” against various “enemies.”

“The bottom line is to never forget that “a poor man’s war is terrorism while a rich man’s terrorism is war” – and sometimes those lines cross for the purposes of big-power politics. War and terrorism seem to work in sync that way.” - Coleen Rowley, retired FBI agent and whistleblower, Time Person of the Year

As Rowley says, “US foreign policy—and its constant, reckless efforts to achieve “full spectrum dominance”— is based on constantly flip flopping between two modes: “whack a mole” military force on the “bad terrorists” and “enemy of my enemy is my friend” arming and opportunistic exploiting of “our good terrorists.” You’d think the public would get tired of the same plot and walk out, wouldn’t ya?!”

As Voltaire once wrote, “It’s dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.”

Jay - Ottawa said...

Early in the month I'm still good with the NYT paywall.

In case you missed it, let me presume to copy in Karen’s plain-spoken and down-to-earth comment (top rated by a mile) following Krugman’s May 10th op-ed, which was an airy professorial dissection of bubbles, real and imagined, and going oh-so-easy on Ben (as in Bubbles) Bernanke.


I think what scares the plutocrats the most is some long-overdue regulatory bursting of their own bubble, blown to unsustainable proportions by the force of excessive and toxic hot air.

Fear and greed are what keeps their fear-mongering alive. It fueled the annual noxious windstorm known as Pete Peterson's Fiscal Responsibility Summit, about an F-5 on the psychopath scale. Schmoozed along by NBC's Chuck Todd, our leaders shrilled about Debt & Deficit & "Entitlement Reform" - instead of jobs, jobs, jobs. Nobody suggested repealing sequestration. Patty Murray (D-WA) compared the government budget to a family budget, saying she comes from a large clan who didn't always get what they wanted for dinner. Paul Ryan was given star treatment, never once called out on his own bubble-headed budget bunkum. But everybody used the word "serious" a lot.

Elizabeth Warren, who was not invited, is having the wonderful chutzpah to introduce legislation that will cut student loan interest rates down to the same near-zero rates with which the Fed now gifts the big banks. Otherwise, the student rates will double this summer, to almost 7%. With graduates facing no jobs at worst and McJobs at best, it's the kind of debt that actually does spell catastrophe. Where are Ben Bernanke and the PTB on student debt? MIA.

Our rulers and their media courtiers are too ensconced in their own luxurious Inside-the-Beltway bubble to care much about the burst dreams of a whole generation of young Americans.

James F Traynor said...

As Pritzker said, they only need enough education to make them profitable to the 1%. Anything else might make them restive, aspire to things beyond their station. Increasing the interest on student loans will help to curb reckless aspirations.

Denis Neville said...

Karen said, “Our rulers and their media courtiers are too ensconced in their own luxurious Inside-the-Beltway bubble to care much about the burst dreams of a whole generation of young Americans.”

“What do you call it when capital has purchased not only government, but all plausible means to criticize governance?

"A prelude to fascism.” – David Simon, creator of The Wire

Anonymous said...

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