Wednesday, July 31, 2013

This happened in the Knesset?

A PLO flag seen in the Knesset at what was bound to be a propaganda forum. Sickening.

House Committee Leaders Accuse IRS of Illegally Colluding with FEC Against Conservative Groups

From Gateway Pundit:

Lois Lerner, the controversial director of the tax-exempt organizations division at the Internal Revenue Service, has a long sordid history of targeting conservatives.
Under the direction of Lois Lerner, the Federal Election Commission sued the Christian Coalition in the 1990s. She harassed the Christian Coalition for three election cycles. Eventually, she lost her case. At one point Lerner even asked a targeted conservative if Pat Robertson prayed over him. (Sound familiar?)

Al Salvi – Lois Lerner
In 1996, while at the FEC, Lois Lerner harassed Republican Senate candidate Al Salvi and made him this outrageous offer“Promise me you will never run for office again, and we’ll drop this case.” One of Lerner’s minions even asked Salvi to fork over $200,000with his promise not to run again.
In May Lois Lerner refused to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. She pleaded the Fifth.
Now this…
E-mails Suggest Collusion Between FEC, IRS to Target Conservative GroupsDocumentation suggests that Lois Lerner and the IRS unlawfully shared confidential tax information with the FEC.
Today Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) and Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Charles Boustany Jr., M.D. (R-LA) sent a letter to IRS chief Danny Werfel demanding communications between the IRS and FEC from 2008 to 2012. The GOP leaders accuse the IRS of colluding with the FEC against conservatives.
From the Ways and Means Committee webpage:
Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) and Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Charles Boustany Jr., M.D. (R-LA) sent a letter to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Principal Deputy Commissioner Daniel Werfel seeking the agency’s immediate attention and assistance in uncovering the details behind e-mail exchanges between IRS employee Lois Lerner and an attorney employed in the General Counsel’s office at the Federal Elections Commission (FEC).  The email exchange calls into question whether the IRS unlawfully shared confidential tax information with the FEC.
Inquiring into the issue, Camp and Boustany requested that the IRS provide all communications between the IRS and the FEC between 2008 and 2012, as well as all communication from or to Lois Lerner regarding the American Future Fund, American Issues Project, Citizens for the Republic or Avenger, Inc.
Camp and Boustany stated: “We have serious concerns that this e-mail exchange demonstrates a continued pattern of the IRS unlawfully sharing confidential taxpayer information with others outside the agency.  Whether it is the targeting of donors for additional taxes or the purposeful leak of confidential taxpayer information, the steady stream of abuses only seems to continue.  The IRS must be held accountable to the American people, and that begins by coming forward with all of the facts.”
The letter and the e-mail exchange can be read here - the exchange starts at the last page and ends on the first page.

The Chilling History of How Hollywood Helped Hitler

From the Hollywood Reporter:
In devastating detail, an excerpt from a controversial new book reveals how the big studios, desperate to protect German business, let Nazis censor scripts, remove credits from Jews, get movies stopped and even force one MGM executive to divorce his Jewish wife.

In The Past Month, We Have Been Under A Prolonged And Massive Attack By Jihadists

From Vlad Tepes:
There have been at least 5 major train wrecks in the past month or so, and this is not counting the ones that were prevented by arrest of Al-qaeda operatives planning major train disasters in Canada and the USA. Interestingly, as Don Laird notes, the same magazine, ‘Inspire’, by AQ in the Islamic Maghreb which advised its readers to attack trains also advised them to attack various other infrastructure facilities wherever possible. 
The attack on a transformer farm in California with AK47s by an “Armed gang” for example (earlier reports where more clear that many AK47s were used to fire MANY rounds into these transformers) which the press has written off as mere vandalism or this attack on an emergency radio broadcast center strike me as oddly under-reported, or perhaps mis-reported would be a better way to describe it.

There's more, including a story about massive poisoning of American citizens.

Among the outraged at Netanyahu's dhimmitude: Stephen Flatow

The father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered by jihadists in the mid-90s, has written his fears in the NY Post that his daughter's murderers may go free:
My daughter Alisa was murdered by Palestinian terrorists in 1995. Some of those terrorists or their co-conspirators were killed by Israeli security forces; some were arrested by the Palestinian Authority, then released soon afterward. Two have been in an Israeli prison since 1995, serving life sentences.

Unlike the United States, Israel doesn’t have the death penalty for terrorists, but I thought these guys would be behind bars for, well, life — because Israel, our family was told, wouldn’t use terrorists as political bargaining chips. That was a “red line” that Israel would supposedly never cross.

I’ve always accepted the fact that Israel would have to make hard decisions when it came time to negotiate a solution to 65 years of Arab hostility and warfare against the Jewish state. I understood this when an Israeli prime minister shook hands with arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn in 1993.

And I didn’t complain to the Israeli government when, after Alisa was murdered by Islamic Jihad, some Israeli officials called her a “casualty of the peace” — when she was, in fact, murdered by Palestinian Arabs freely operating with the knowledge of the Palestinian Authority and some of her killers were roaming free under the noses of Arafat and his deputy — now Palestinian president— Mahmoud Abbas.

But then Israel began to breach the red line on releasing terrorists. Small numbers of Palestinian terrorists — although not those directly involved in murders — were set free as “good-will gestures” to either revive a stagnant peace process or because Israel’s hand was forced because of some political or military blunder.

Perhaps one could understand the logic of releasing prisoners to establish good will with the Palestinian public or to strengthen the Palestinian leadership. But it became clear to me, and (according to poll after poll) the Israeli public, that these efforts were not met with any reciprocity from the other side.

Terrorists are idolized by the Palestinian people; their leaders name parks, stadiums and athletic events after mass murderers.

As a result, I thought that by now Israel would have learned the first lesson of negotiating: Never negotiate with yourself.

I appear to be wrong, because, apparently at the behest of Secretary of State John Kerry, over 100 terrorists are going free, including many directly involved in multiple murders — as a good-will measure to “bolster” Abbas and to give Kerry something to say he accomplished after racking up so many frequent-flyer miles traveling to the Middle East.

What will Israel get in return? From all news accounts, it appears the answer is nothing more than the Palestinians returning to the negotiating table.
As of now, it may not have happened yet. But if it does, and Netanyahu's career is destroyed as a result, then what can I say? He'll deserve it, because of his own failures to prove which side he's really on.

Here's more on the issue from USA Today.


Kevin Spacey: Actor says Americans don’t appreciate Obama’s greatness

HollywoodactorKevin Spacey— whose most recent work includes the psychological thriller, “House of Cards,” about an unethical congressman — said in a recent interview that most Americans just aren’t grasping President Obama’s greatness.
“President Obama will go down as having passed some of the most historic bills in the history of this country,” he said, in a recent talk with Hot Press magazine. “That despite constant knee-jerk opposition from the Republicans. A lot of people don’t realize how much he’s done in the most difficult circumstances.”
Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. on Wednesday declassified three documents that showed there have been “a number of technical compliance problems” with the government’s phone-snooping program, as the Obama administration fights to preserve what it says is a critical tool in the war on terror.
The documents lay out the administration’s legal backing of the National Security Agency snooping program, and give some broad details of the operation. One of the documents is a secret court order authorizing the NSA program.
In addition to the court order, the other documents are heavily redacted 2009 and 2011 reports to members of the congressional intelligence committees about the use of the programs, where the intelligence community acknowledges “a number of technical compliance problems” occurred in 2009.
But no need to be concerned
“However, neither DOJ, NSA nor the FISA court has found any intentional or bad-faith violations,” the 2011 document asserts. The following three lines in the document were blacked out.

Homeland Security loses track of 1 million foreigners

oh, and…..from the DEAD CENTER National Journal

What If Obama Can’t Lead?

Two New York Timesreporters recently posited for President Obama this grim scenario: Low growth, high unemployment, and growing income inequality become “the new normal" in the nation he leads. “Do you worry," the journalistsasked him,"that that could end up being your legacy simply because of the obstruction … and the gridlock that doesn’t seem to end?"
Obama’s reply was telling. “I think if I’m arguing for entirely different policies and Congress ends up pursuing policies that I think don’t make sense and we get a bad result," he said, “it’s hard to argue that’d be my legacy."
Actually, it’s hard to argue that itwouldn’tbe his legacy. History judges U.S. presidents based upon what they did and did not accomplish. The obstinacy of their rivals and the severity of their circumstances is little mitigation. Great presidents overcome great hurdles.
The good news is that Obama and his WHOLE WH staff, his wife the kids and their staffs will all be  .. ON ROYAL PROCESSIONAL VACATION on the Vineyard.
Barack Obama ,..worse than Carter and on the way to James Buchanan.

Fred Van Lente condemns Islam's "prophet" Muhammed (update: or does he?)

If I'm reading this correctly, comics writer Van Lente has said something pretty gutsy:

As far as I've known, Van Lente is a leftist (and he did make the enemies capitalists in the new take on Archer and Armstrong), so this is pretty bold coming from him. The Koranic verses he's alluded to include suras 40:71-72 and 22:19-21, and that's just for starters.

We'll certainly have to give him some credit for showing the courage to speak out against a belief system built upon evil.

Update: now that I realize, it's uncertain he's actually being critical of Islam at all, since his statement doesn't contain any negativity per se. If he's not, then it's a real shame.

Why It May Be Easy for Huma Abedin to Stand by Her Man

Yes, this is Huma. Yes, Huma Weiner. Why do you think that's so funny? 

From Robert Spencer:

One thing the mainstream media knows about Huma Abedin is that she is elegant.Time reported on how Weiner’s “elegant and accomplished wife… declared her love and support for him, visibly pained at having to speak in public as the sad, sordid details of his repeat behavior were exposed yet again.” The Wall Street Journallamented:
Watching the elegant Huma Abedin stand next to her man Tuesday as he explained his latest sexually charged online exchanges was painful for a normal human being to watch.
What they’re less sure of is why this elegant woman would stand by the increasingly ridiculous Weiner. Time thinks, rather fancifully, that it’s because “divorce can still be stigmatizing in some social circles where parents are particularly ambitious about providing the absolute best environment for their children” – and because, well, Huma just “loves this guy despite it all.”
Most others, however, agree that it is because she is seeking power and influence, and thinks – however improbably – that Anthony Weiner is still the pathway to them. Even Weiner’s sexting partner Sydney Leathers said of the Weiner-Abedin union: “It almost feels to me like it’s more of an arrangement, or a business relationship, than a marriage.” She said she thought Abedin stuck with Weiner “for the power, for the fame, for the stature.”
Maybe so. And she also may be staying in it because Weiner’s indiscretions just don’t matter to her that much – not necessarily because they have a sham marriage, but because Abedin is approaching the marriage from an Islamic perspective.
Huma Abedin comes from a family of devout Muslims with extensive ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. She herself, according to the Washington Post, is “a practicing Muslim.” If this is accurate, and Huma Abedin has never denied it, then it raises a number of questions that have never been answered. Islamic law prohibits a Muslim woman from marrying a non-Muslim man. A Muslim man may marry a non-Muslim woman, but not the other way around.
Consequently, when a non-Muslim man begins a relationship with an observant Muslim woman, he is usually pressured to convert to Islam, and such conversion is made a condition of the marriage. This only happens, of course, if the Muslim family is devout and observant enough to make sure it happens. We know that Abedin’s family is devout, and that apparently she herself is also. But in today’s political climate, even to ask the question of whether Weiner converted to Islam to marry her is to invite a cascade of ridicule. Apparently it is inconceivable to the leftist media that a practicing Muslim might want to observe the strictures of Islamic law regarding marriage.
But ridicule, however correct Saul Alinsky may have been in saying that it is a potent weapon to discredit and silence one’s opposition, doesn’t make the questions go away. And the questions regarding how Huma Abedin’s status as a “practicing Muslim” may affect her marriage to Weiner don’t end there. Islamic law also allows a Muslim man to have as many as four wives, and to enjoy also the sexual favors of his “captives of the right hand [milk al-yamin]” (Qur’an 4:24) – that is, sex slaves.

Calling Straight talk .. AND OTHERS… Huawei tells U.S. to ‘just shut up’

What phone are you using?
Reacting to Hayden interview, Huawei tells U.S. to ‘just shut up’
The Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei issued a statement hours after a former U.S. senior intelligence official confirmed that Huawei had indeed spied for the Chinese government.
Gen. Michael Hayden [Ret], former director of the CIA and NSA, a highly respected professional intelligence official in the West, told the Australian Financial Review in a July 19 interview that "

as an intelligence professional, I stand back in awe at the breadth, depth, sophistication and persistence of the Chinese espionage campaign against the West."

Former CIA director (Ret.) Gen. Michael Hayden.  Getty Images 
In response to the question, “do you think hard evidence exists within democratic, English-speaking intelligence networks that Huawei has engaged in espionage on behalf of the Chinese state in the past?" Gen. Hayden replied that “Yes. I have no reason to question the belief that’s the case."
"That’s my professional judgment," he added, “but as the former director of the NSA, I cannot comment on specific instances of espionage or any operational matters."
Within hours of the publication of the interview, Huawei headquarters in Shenzhen, China, issued a statement which was promptly broadcasted by China’s state-run media, in which Huawei asked Gen. Hayden in particular, the U.S. government in general, to show hard evidence, or else “just shut up!"
"This [allegation of Huawei spying for the Chinese government] is entirely politically motivated. It’s racial discrimination and libel against our company. Nothing else." the statement says.
In the same interview, Gen. Hayden was asked the question “Have you ever had any direct exposure to the Chinese telecommunications company, Huawei?"
Gen. Hayden replied as follows:
"Two or three years ago Huawei was trying to establish a pretty significant footprint here in the United States. And they were trying to get people like me – as the former head of NSA and the CIA – to endorse their presence in the US. To serve on their local board, or to have some other kind of commercial relationship with them.
I reviewed Huawei’s briefing paper, which said all the right things. One could almost honestly judge that were actually trying to genuinely put my mind at ease.
But God did not make enough briefing slides on Huawei to convince me that having them involved in our critical communications infrastructure was going to be okay. This is not blind prejudice on my part. This was my considered view based on a four-decade career as an intelligence officer.
My conclusion was that, “No, it is simply not acceptable for Huawei to be creating the backbone of the domestic telecommunications network in the United States, period.’ And frankly this is where I think the state has a role to play – to ensure we don’t make decisions that compromise the foundations of our national security."
Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. (Chinese华为 (Huáwéi); English pronunciation: “WAH-way") is a Chinese multinational networking and telecommunications equipment and services company headquartered in ShenzhenGuangdong. It is the largest telecommunications equipment maker in the world, having overtaken Ericsson in 2012.
Huawei was founded in 1988 by ex-military officer Ren Zhengfei and formed as a private company owned by its employees. Its core missions are building telecommunications networks; providing operational and consulting services and equipment to enterprises inside and outside of China; and manufacturing communications devices for the consumer market. Huawei has over 140,000 employees, around 46% of whom are engaged in research and development (R&D). It has 20 R&D institutes in countries including China, the United StatesGermanySwedenIrelandIndiaRussia, and Turkey,and in 2011 invested around US$3.74 billion in R&D.
In 2010, Huawei recorded profit of 23.8 billion CNY (3.7 billion USD). Its products and services have been deployed in more than 140 countries and it currently serves 45 of the world’s 50 largest telecoms operators.[
In an apparent attempt to break into the United State market Huawei became the main sponsor of the Jonas Brothers 2013 summer tour. The sponsorship has placed the company’s logo on promotional merchandise but it’s unclear as to whether or not the move has had any affect on their presence in America.

Huawei’s revenues in 2010 accounted for 15.7% of the $78.56 billion global carrier-network-infrastructure market

Huawei is organized around three core business segments:
  1. Telecom Carrier Networks, building telecommunications networks & Services;
  2. Enterprise Business, providing equipment, software and services to enterprise customers, and
  3. Devices, manufacturing electronic communications devices
Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, is the world’s largest telecom equipment maker and China’s largest telephone-network equipment maker. As of 2008, Huawei ranked first in terms of global market share in the mobile softswitches market,tied with Sony Ericsson for lead market share in mobile broadband cards by revenue, ranked second in the optical hardware market, stayed first in the IP DSLAM market, and ranked third in mobile network equipment
There are PLENTY of competitors, and cheap phones which are decent.

Al Qaida’s network in Yemen is planning to conduct bombing attacks on American civilian aircraft

Was this the NSA? The details on this and a few others made public would inform the american people as to a decision on these things.
Officials said the intelligence community has traced a plot by Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula to blow up a commercial airliner or cargo plane. They identified the AQAP planner as Ibrahim Hassan Al Asiri, believed to have taken over the Al Qaida network in Saudi Arabia and Yemen in wake of the U.S. assassination of Said Al Shihri, deemed the deputy commander of the insurgency movement.
Ibrahim Hassan Al Asiri.  Saudi Interior Ministry/Landov 
"There is intelligence that he has unfortunately trained others and there’s a lot of effort to identify those folks," U.S. Transportation Security Administration head John Pistole said.
In a July 19 address to the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, Pistole marked the first senior U.S. official to disclose a specific AQAP plot against American aviation. Over the last year, U.S. intelligence agency chiefs have warned that AQAP sought to renew attacks on U.S. airliners but did not report specific planning.
Al Asiri was identified as the leading bomb-maker of AQAP. A Saudi national and former chemistry major, Al Asiri has been linked to the foiled attacks on U.S. passenger and cargo aircraft in 2009, 2010 and 2012. One of his bombs targeted and injured Saudi counter-insurgency chief Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef, today the kingdom’s interior minister.
Pistole said Al Asiri, believed to be 35, has been learning from previous failures and enhanced bomb methods and technology. He said the 2012 plot, foiled by Saudi intelligence, included a type of explosive not recognized by U.S. intelligence or law enforcement.

The AQAP bomb was said to have been wrapped in caulk to prevent vapor leakage that could be detected by airport systems or trained dogs. Al Asiri, who survived at least one U.S. combat unmanned aerial vehicle attack, was also said to have used a so-called double-initiation system to detonate the bomb.

"He gave [the presumed attacker] instructions to get on the plane and fly to the U.S. and blow himself up over the U.S.," Pistole said. “Fortunately, that terrorist was a double agent."

Pistole did not provide details of Al Asiri’s bomb squad. But he said Al Asiri marked the key to any new bombing campaign by Al Qaida.
"That is our greatest threat," Pistole said. 

Speaking of tangible results of poor economic policy affecting our policies

50% cut in strike capacity, in self defense of the fleet, in defense of other gulf assets (like Abqaiq …any damage there will drive prices up worldwide). And what about the readiness, and maintenance of what we have? Do you imagine that corners are not being cut as budget limitations hit the street level on the hangar decks?
U.S. to reduce presence in Gulf from two carrier groups to one
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Navy, amid major budget cuts, has decided to limit its presence to one aircraft carrier strike group in the Gulf.
Officials said the Navy would maintain an aircraft carrier group in the Gulf in 2014, down from two a year earlier. They said the group would be trained for a range of missions, including counter-mining and ballistic missile defense amid the threat from Iran.
The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.  U.S. Department of Defense photo 
"It will be one in the Western Pacific carrier strike group, one in the Arabian Gulf for — as we call, it one-one in each theater," U.S. Navy operations director Adm. Jonathan Greenert said.
In a briefing on July 19, Greenert said the carrier strike group would seek to fulfill the requirements of the military’s Central Command, responsible for the Gulf and much of the Middle East. But the admiral said sequestration, the term for major budget cuts, could reduce capabilities.
"The broad range of missions that we take there, ballistic missile defense, maritime intercept, sea control, as you mentioned, counter-piracy, all the way up to surface-to-surface missiles, you know, launching, counter-mining, that broad view we have to look at and perhaps tailor by unit, because of the money that we receive being so hard to predict out ahead," Greenert said. “It would be a little different for each unit, so we have to watch this very closely on who we would send, if called upon in a contingency."
Greenert acknowledged that the planned deployment fell short of naval requirements. The Navy had planned to send an average of 1.7 strike groups in 2014.
"In a given year, we could send 1.7 over, but that money spent on operations this year would be invested there, not in training," Greenert said. “It just wouldn’t be enough. And therefore, you’re mortgaging or you’re foreclosing, I should say, next year’s deployment, because those folks will not be trained, unless somehow you scramble and get money through the year, and that would be high risk."
Greenert said Iran has reduced hostile naval activities in the Gulf in 2013. But he dismissed any link between the Iranian reduction and the removal of the second U.S. Navy carrier group from the Gulf in January.
"And you would say, ‘Well, what does that compared to, say, last January?’ And I’d say, “Much lower," Greenert said. “From what I have seen and kind of looked at that, I didn’t see that the carrier presence impacted the activity level of either the Iranian navy or the IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps]." 

Religious Practice Versus Imposition

Earlier tonight an acquaintance said he had heard that during Ramadan in Dearborn, Michigan, there's a high school football team that does their football practice from 11:00 p.m. until 4:00 a.m. because some of the devout Muslim players can't eat or drink anything during the daylight. He said this without any judgment at all. It looked like he felt absolutely neutral about it.

I said, "in other words, the Muslims are imposing their practices on non-Muslims." I said it with a face that clearly displayed disapproval.

He was casually dismissive. "Well, other religions do crazy stuff too," he said.

I said, "they don't impose their stuff on me. Are there religious people who impose something on you? Or try to get you to grant a concession? Or try to make your values yield to theirs? To practice a religion is personal and private. If someone wants to go without food, what do I care? They can go right ahead. But when it impinges on people who are not members of the religion, that's no longer religious. It's political. So all the high school students who want to play football at that school have to practice in the middle of the night because Muslims are thrusting their Islamic practice into the non-Islamic public sphere. Those non-Muslim kids have to disrupt their normal sleep cycle because the Muslims won't bend and the non-Muslims will. And step by step, inch by inch, orthodox Muslims gain one concession after another as our tolerant culture yields to their intolerant culture. Is that okay with you? It's not okay with me."

I had to leave, but this brief conversation inserted an idea I got from Bill Warner. And my acquaintance looked like he heard something he had never even thought about. I wish I'd had time to explain to him that religious supremacism is the belief that a particular religion is superior to others and entitles members of the religion to control or dominate non-members. That's what these Muslim football players were doing.

But maybe it was better that I didn't go into any more detail. Sometimes less is better. Sometimes it's actually more effective to let things sink in a little at a time.

Given how many people are becoming aware of the disturbing nature of Islamic texts, these kinds of brief conversations must be taking place all over the free world. Let's keep it up. We should think in terms of small bits and long campaigns.
Good Shit:

They Know Much More Than You Think
James Bamford

The headquarters of the National Security Agency, Fort Meade, Maryland

In mid-May, Edward Snowden, an American in his late twenties, walked through the onyx entrance of the Mira Hotel on Nathan Road in Hong Kong and checked in. He was pulling a small black travel bag and had a number of laptop cases draped over his shoulders. Inside those cases were four computers packed with some of his country’s most closely held secrets.

Within days of Snowden’s documents appearing in The Guardian and The Washington Post, revealing several of the National Security Agency’s extensive domestic surveillance programs, bookstores reported a sudden spike in the sales of George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel 1984. On, the book made the “Movers & Shakers” list and skyrocketed 6,021 percent in a single day. Written sixty-five years ago, it described a fictitious totalitarian society where a shadowy leader known as “Big Brother” controls his population through invasive surveillance. “The telescreens,” Orwell wrote, “have hidden microphones and cameras. These devices, alongside informers, permit the Thought Police to spy upon everyone….”

Today, as the Snowden documents make clear, it is the NSA that keeps track of phone calls, monitors communications, and analyzes people’s thoughts through data mining of Google searches and other online activity. “Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it,” Orwell wrote about his protagonist, Winston Smith.

There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.

Of course the US is not a totalitarian society, and no equivalent of Big Brother runs it, as the widespread reporting of Snowden’s information shows. We know little about what uses the NSA makes of most information available to it—it claims to have exposed a number of terrorist plots—and it has yet to be shown what effects its activities may have on the lives of most American citizens. Congressional committees and a special federal court are charged with overseeing its work, although they are committed to secrecy, and the court can hear appeals only from the government.

Still, the US intelligence agencies also seem to have adopted Orwell’s idea of doublethink—“to be conscious of complete truthfulness,” he wrote, “while telling carefully constructed lies.” For example, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, was asked at a Senate hearing in March whether “the NSA collect[s] any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.” Clapper’s answer: “No, sir…. Not wittingly.”

Three months later, following the revelations of the phone-log program in which the NSA collects telephone data—the numbers of both callers and the length of the calls—on hundreds of millions of Americans, Clapper switched to doublethink. He said that his previous answer was not a lie; he just chose to respond in the “least untruthful manner.” With such an Orwellian concept of the truth now being used, it is useful to take a look at what the government has been telling the public about its surveillance activities over the years, and compare it with what we know now as a result of the top secret documents and other information released by, among others, the former NSA contract employee Edward Snowden.

Looking back, the NSA and its predecessors have been gaining secret, illegal access to the communications of Americans for nearly a century. On July 1, 1920, a slim balding man in his early thirties moved into a four-story townhouse at 141 East 37th Street in Manhattan. This was the birth of the Black Chamber, the NSA’s earliest predecessor, and it would be hidden in the nondescript brownstone. But its chief, Herbert O. Yardley, had a problem. To gather intelligence for Woodrow Wilson’s government, he needed access to the telegrams entering, leaving, and passing through the country, but because of an early version of the Radio Communications Act, such access was illegal. With the shake of a hand, however, Yardley convinced Newcomb Carlton, the president of Western Union, to grant the Black Chamber secret access on a daily basis to the private messages passing over his wires—the Internet of the day.

For much of the next century, the solution would be the same: the NSA and its predecessors would enter into secret illegal agreements with the telecom companies to gain access to communications. Eventually codenamed Project Shamrock, the program finally came to a crashing halt in 1975 when a Senate committee that was investigating intelligence agency abuses discovered it. Senator Frank Church, the committee chairman, labeled the NSA program “probably the largest governmental interception program affecting Americans ever undertaken.”

As a result of the decades of illegal surveillance by the NSA, in 1978 the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was signed into law and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) came into existence. Its purpose was, for the first time, to require the NSA to get judicial approval for eavesdropping on Americans. Although the court seldom turned down a request for a warrant, or an order as it’s called, it nevertheless served as a reasonable safeguard, protecting the American public from an agency with a troubling past and a tendency to push the bounds of spying unless checked.

For a quarter of a century, the rules were followed and the NSA stayed out of trouble, but following the September 11 attacks, the Bush administration decided to illegally bypass the court and began its program of warrantless wiretapping. “Basically all rules were thrown out the window and they would use any excuse to justify a waiver to spy on Americans,” I was told by Adrienne J. Kinne, who in 2001 was a twenty-four-year-old voice intercept operator who conducted some of the eavesdropping. She or her superiors did not have to get a warrant for each interception. “It was incredibly uncomfortable to be listening to private personal conversations of Americans,” she said. “And it’s almost like going through and stumbling and finding somebody’s diary and reading it.”

All during this time, however, the Bush administration was telling the American public the opposite: that a warrant was obtained whenever an American was targeted. “Anytime you hear the United States government talking about a wiretap, it requires—a wiretap requires a court order,” President George W. Bush told a crowd in 2004. “Nothing has changed, by the way. When we’re talking about chasing down terrorists, we’re talking about getting a court order before we do so.” After exposure of the operation by The New York Times in 2005, however, rather than strengthen the controls governing the NSA’s spying, Congress instead voted to weaken them, largely by codifying into the amendment to FISA what had previously been illegal.

At the same time, rather than calling for prosecution of the telecom officials for their role in illegally cooperating in the eavesdropping program, or at least a clear public accounting, Congress simply granted them immunity not only from prosecution but also from civil suits. Thus, for nearly a century, telecom companies have been allowed to violate the privacy of millions of Americans with impunity.

With the arrival of the Obama administration, the NSA’s powers continued to expand at the same time that administration officials and the NSA continued to deceive the American public on the extent of the spying. In addition to the denial I have mentioned by James Clapper, General Keith Alexander, the NSA director, also blatantly denied that his agency was keeping records on millions of Americans. In March 2012, Wired magazine published a cover story I wrote on the new one-million-square-foot NSA data center being built in Bluffdale, Utah. In the article, I interviewed William Binney, a former high-ranking NSA official who was largely responsible for automating the agency’s worldwide eavesdropping network. He quit the agency in 2001 in protest after he saw the system designed mainly for intelligence about foreign threats turned inward on the American public. In the interview, he told how the agency was tapping into the country’s communications and Internet networks. He revealed that it also was secretly obtaining warrantless access to billions of phone records of Americans, including those of both AT&T and Verizon. “They’re storing everything they gather,” he said.

In the months afterward, General Alexander repeatedly denied Binney’s charges. “No…we don’t hold data on US citizens,” he told Fox News, and at an Aspen Institute conference he said, “To think we’re collecting on every US person…that would be against the law.” He added, “The fact is we’re a foreign intelligence agency.”

But the documents released by Edward Snowden show that the NSA does have a large-scale program to gather the telephone records of every Verizon customer, including local calls, and presumably a similar agreement with AT&T and other companies. These are records of who called whom and when, not of the content of the conversations, although the NSA has, by other methods, access to the content of conversations as well. But the NSA has, on a daily basis, access to virtually everyone’s phone records, whether cell or landline, and can store, data-mine, and keep them indefinitely. Snowden’s documents describing the PRISM program show that the agency is also accessing the Internet data of the nine major Internet companies in the US, including Google and Yahoo.

Snowden’s documents and statements add greatly to an understanding of just how the NSA goes about conducting its eavesdropping and data-mining programs, and just how deceptive the NSA and the Obama administration have been in describing the agency’s activities to the American public. In a video interview conducted in his room in the Mira Hotel, Snowden elaborated on the extent of the NSA’s capabilities. “Any analyst at any time can target anyone, any selector, anywhere,” he said.

Where those communications will be picked up depends on the range of the sensor networks and the authorities that that analyst is empowered with. Not all analysts have the ability to target everything. But I sitting at my desk certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president, if I had a personal e-mail [address].

What Snowden was discussing was the way in which analysts at the NSA can place such things as names, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses on target lists, thus causing communications containing those “selectors” to be intercepted. He seemed to be indicating—although this remains to be officially confirmed—that while under FISA, a court order would be required to enter an American on a target list, analysts have the capability to unilaterally bypass the procedure by simply listing a name or e-mail address on the target list. To understand what Snowden is saying, it is necessary to elaborate a bit on the way the NSA conducts its eavesdropping.

During the past decade, the NSA has secretly worked to gain access to virtually all communications entering, leaving, or going through the country. A key reason, according to the draft of a top secret NSA inspector general’s report leaked by Snowden, is that approximately one third of all international telephone calls in the world enter, leave, or transit the United States. “Most international telephone calls are routed through a small number of switches or ‘chokepoints’ in the international telephone switching system en route to their final destination,” says the report. “The United States is a major crossroads for international switched telephone traffic.” At the same time, according to the 2009 report, virtually all Internet communications in the world pass through the US. For example, the report notes that during 2002, less than one percent of worldwide Internet bandwidth—i.e., the international link between the Internet and computers—“was between two regions that did not include the United States.”

Accessing this data is possible through a combination of techniques. Through the most effective of them, the NSA can gain direct access to the fiber-optic cables that now carry most kinds of communications data. According to a slide released by Snowden, the cable-tapping operation is codenamed “UPSTREAM” and it is described as the “collection of communications on fiber cables and infrastructure as data flows past.” It also appears to be both far more secret and far more invasive than the PRISM program revealed by Snowden. Although PRISM gives the NSA access to data from the individual Internet companies, such as Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft, the companies claim that they don’t give the agency direct access to their servers. Through UPSTREAM, however, the agency does get direct access to fiber-optic cables and the supporting infrastructure that carries nearly all the Internet and telephone traffic in the country.

As part of its cable-tapping program, the NSA has secretly installed what amount to computerized filters on the telecommunications infrastructure throughout the country. According to the leaked inspector general’s report, the agency has secret cooperative agreements with the top three telephone companies in the country. Although the report disguises their names, they are likely AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint:

NSA determined that under the Authorization it could gain access to approximately 81% of the international calls into and out of the United States through three corporate partners: Company A had access to 39%, Company B 28%, and Company C 14%.

The filters are placed at key junction points known as switches. For example, much of the communications—telephone and Internet—to and from the northwestern United States pass through a nearly windowless nine-story building at 611 Folsom Street in San Francisco. This is AT&T’s regional switching center. In 2003, the NSA built a secret room in the facility and filled it with computers and software from a company called Narus. Established in Israel by Israelis, and now owned by Boeing, Narus specializes in spyware, equipment that examines both the metadata—the names and addresses of people communicating on the Internet—and the content of digital traffic such as e-mail as it zooms past at the speed of light.

The agency also has access to the telephone metadata—the numbers called and calling and other details—of all Americans. Phone calls from telephone numbers that have been selected as targets can be routed directly to the agency and recorded. According to William Binney, the former NSA senior official, the NSA has established between ten and twenty of these secret rooms at telecom company switches around the country.

It is this daily access to the telephone metadata of all Americans without FISA warrants that the NSA and the Office of National Intelligence tried to hide when they falsely denied that the agency had surveillance records on millions of Americans. For years, the agency also had a nationwide bulk e-mail and Internet metadata collection and storage program, although that was ended in 2011 for “operational and resource reasons,” according to the director of national intelligence.

But according to a joint statement issued on July 2 by senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, the real reason the program was shut down was that the NSA was “unable” to prove the usefulness of the operation. “We were very concerned about this program’s impact on Americans’ civil liberties and privacy rights,” they said, “and we spent a significant portion of 2011 pressing intelligence officials to provide evidence of its effectiveness. They were unable to do so, and the program was shut down that year.” The senators added, “It is also important to note that intelligence agencies made statements to both Congress and the [FISA court] that significantly exaggerated this program’s effectiveness. This experience demonstrates to us that intelligence agencies’ assessment of the usefulness of particular collection program—even significant ones—are not always accurate.”

Speaking on Meet the Press, Glenn Greenwald, a lawyer and journalist who wrote the story about the NSA’s collection of phone data for The Guardian, also mentioned a still-secret eighty-page FISA court opinion that, he said, criticized the NSA for violation of both the Fourth Amendment and the FISA statute. According to Greenwald, “it specifically said that they are collecting bulk transmissions, multiple conversations from millions of Americans…and that this is illegal.” The NSA, he said, “planned to try to accommodate that ruling.” On the same program, Representative Mike Rogers, Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, confirmed that the FISA court had issued a critical opinion and said that the NSA had “figured out how to correct that.”

According to The Economist of June 29, “the NSA provided congressional intelligence committees with what it said were over 50 cases in which the programmes disclosed by Mr. Snowden had contributed to the ‘understanding and, in many cases, disruption’ of terrorist plots in America, and over 20 other countries.” In a recent New York Review blog, Kenneth Roth, director of Human Rights Watch and a former federal prosecutor, commented that “upon scrutiny” many of the plots referred to by the NSA appear in fact to have been uncovered not because of the mass collection of our metadata but through more traditional surveillance of particular phone numbers or e-mail addresses—the kinds of targeted inquiries that easily would have justified a judicial order allowing review of records kept by communications companies or even monitoring the content of those communications.

At the AT&T facility on Folsom Street and the other locations, fiber-optic cables containing millions of communications enter the building and go into what’s known as a beam-splitter. This is a prism-type device that produces a duplicate, mirror image of the original communications. The original beams, containing Internet data, continue on to wherever they were originally destined. The duplicate beam goes into Room 641A, the NSA’s secret room one floor below, a discovery made by another whistleblower, AT&T technician Mark Klein. There the Narus equipment scans all the Internet traffic for “selectors”—names, e-mail address, words, phrases, or other indicators that the NSA wants to know about. Any message containing a selector is then retransmitted in full to the NSA for further analysis, as are the contents of phone calls selected. With regard to targeted phone numbers, the agency supplies them to the company, which then gives the NSA access to monitor them.

The selectors are inserted by remote control into the Narus equipment by NSA analysts sitting at their desks at the agency’s headquarters at Fort Meade in Maryland or at dozens of locations around the world. What Snowden seemed to be saying in his interview is that as long as certain analysts have an e-mail address, for example, they can simply enter that information into the system and retrieve the content of the e-mails sent from and to that address. There are, by his account, no judicial checks and balances to assure that the targeting of an American has been approved by a FISA court order and not just by NSA employees. These claims by Snowden, and other revelations from the documents he released, should be investigated by either a select committee of Congress, such as the Church Committee, or an independent body, like the 9/11 Commission.

While UPSTREAM captures most of the telecommunications—about 80 percent according to Binney—there are still gaps in the coverage. That is where the PRISM program comes in. With PRISM, the NSA is able to go directly to the communications industry, including the major Internet companies, to get whatever they miss from UPSTREAM. According to the top secret inspector general’s report, the “NSA maintains relationships with over 100 US companies,” adding that the US has the “home field advantage as the primary hub for worldwide telecommunications.”

According to a recent slide released by Snowden, the NSA on April 5, 2013, had 117,675 active surveillance targets in the program and was able to access real-time data on live voice, text, e-mail, or Internet chat services, in addition to analyzing stored data.

In the end, both UPSTREAM and PRISM may be only the tips of a much larger system. Another new document released by Snowden says that on New Year’s Eve, 2012, SHELLTRUMPET, a metadata program targeting international communications, had just “processed its One Trillionth metadata record.” Started five years ago, it noted that half of that trillion was added in 2012. It also noted that two more new programs, MOONLIGHTPATH and SPINNERET, “are planned to be added by September 2013.”

One man who was prescient enough to see what was coming was Senator Frank Church, the first outsider to peer into the dark recesses of the NSA. In 1975, when the NSA posed merely a fraction of the threat to privacy it poses today with UPSTREAM, PRISM, and thousands of other collection and data-mining programs, Church issued a stark warning:

That capability 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. If this government ever became a tyranny, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back, because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology…. I don’t want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.
Church sounds as if he had absorbed the lessons of 1984. From the recent evidence, they are still to be learned.

—July 12, 2013

They Know Much More Than You Think by James Bamford | The New York Review of Books.


If I may suggest, yet again. . .