Friday, October 30, 2009

Comrade, Welcome to the Police State! (Part 1)


Venezuela's Chavez calls for internet controls
Sat, Mar 13, 2010
CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, who is criticized by media freedom groups, called on Saturday for regulation of the Internet and singled out a website that he said falsely reported the murder of one of his ministers.
"The Internet cannot be something open where anything is said and done. Every country has to apply its own rules and norms," Chavez said. He cited German Chancellor Angel Merkel as having expressed a similar sentiment recently.
Chavez is angry with Venezuelan political opinion and gossip website Noticierodigital, which he said had falsely written that Diosdado Cabello, a senior minister and close aide, had been assassinated. The president said the story remained on the site for two days.
"We have to act. We are going to ask the attorney general for help, because this is a crime. I have information that this page periodically publishes stories calling for a coup d'etat. That cannot be permitted."
Social networking web sites like Twitter and Facebook are very popular among Venezuela's opposition movements to organize protests against the government. Chavez has complained that people use such sites to spread unfounded rumors.
Many opponents fear Chavez plans to emulate the government oversight of the Web used by allies Cuba, China and Iran, but the socialist leader has not given any sign that he is planning such a move.
In 2007 Chavez refused to renew the license for television station RCTV, which is now battling to survive as a cable-only operator.
The government has also put pressure on opposition TV network Globovision to soften its editorial line and last year closed dozens of radio stations for administrative breaches.
(Reporting by Eyanir Chinea; writing by Frank Jack Daniel)
Parents: school used webcam to spy on our kid at home
By Jacqui Cheng
February 18, 2010
School-issued laptops are becoming more and more common these days, but thanks to the action of one high school, students and parents might have second thoughts about bringing them home. The parents of a Pennsylvania high school student, Blake J. Robbins, have filed a lawsuit against his school district after discovering that school officials had allegedly been remotely accessing the laptop in order to take webcam photos of the students at home (via BoingBoing). There are a number of unanswered questions about this story, but if true, it could mean serious penalties for the Lower Merion School District.
According to the complaint, the school in question (Harriton High School) had issued laptops equipped with built-in webcams to every student so that they could have "24/7 access to school based resources" and the ability to work seamlessly between school and home when it comes to research and projects. In November of 2009, however, Robbins was disciplined by the Assistant Principal of his school, Lindy Matsko, for engaging in "improper behavior" in his home. At that time, Matsko cited a photograph from the built-in webcam on the laptop.
Robbins' father Michael supposedly confirmed with Matsko that the school has the ability to remotely activate the webcam "at any time it chose to view and capture whatever images were in front of the webcam." Needless to say, Robbins' parents were outraged at this development, as neither the school nor the district had told parents about this capability. As a result, the Robbins have filed a class-action lawsuit against the district, charging it with interception of electronic communications under the ECPA, theft of intellectual property under the CFAA, violations of the Stored Communications Act, violations of the Civil Rights Act, invasions of privacy, and violations of the Pennsylvania wiretapping and electronic surveillance act.
Ars tried to get clarification from Harriton High School about its laptop policy, but were told that no one at the school would be willing to discuss it with us. (Merion School District has not responded to our request for comment either.) As such, we're left speculating as to what else could have happened to led up to this seemingly surreal series of events.
It's possible that things may have played out differently than the complaint alleges, though. If it was a MacBook, for example, Blake may have used the built-in Photo Booth software to take a picture of himself doing something questionable while at home, which may or may not be against the school's policy. If that photo got posted online or even synced back with the school's admins the next day, it's possible that Matsko was given access to the photo for disciplinary purposes. This, of course, doesn't account for the claim that Matsko confirmed with Michael Robbins that the school could (and had) spied on Blake remotely, but we haven't heard the school's side of the story yet.
If the Robbins' allegations are true, then it certainly looks as if there were serious privacy violations at hand. The school may have the right to retain admin control over its own laptops, but spying on kids at home without their knowledge is likely not one of them. This is similar to a case from 2008 when a Florida woman took her laptop in for repairs and eventually discovered it was rigged up to take webcam photos of her at home without her knowledge. The Peeping Tom in that case ended up confessing to the deed and getting arrested, but things could get far more complicated if a government entity (in this case, a public school) was the one guilty of the peeping.
New Extension Likely for Key Patriot Act Provisions
CQ Politics
Feb. 11, 2010
The Senate may vote on a second temporary extension of several controversial counterterrorism authorities as part of the jobs bill unveiled Thursday.
The draft bill carries language that would extend until Dec. 31 three expiring provisions of the antiterrorism law known as the Patriot Act.
The three provisions were set to expire at the end of 2009. But neither House nor Senate Democratic leaders evinced any appetite for tackling a substantive rewrite of the law last year. In December, Congress cleared a short-term reauthorization until Feb. 28, as part of the fiscal 2010 Defense appropriations bill.
One of the expiring provisions allows the government to seek orders from a special federal court for “any tangible thing” that it says is related to a terrorism investigation. Another allows the government to seek court orders for roving wiretaps on terrorism suspects who shift their modes of communication.
The third provision allows the government to apply to the special court for surveillance orders involving suspected “lone wolf” terrorists who do not necessarily have ties to a larger organization. That authority was first enacted as part of a 2004 intelligence overhaul law. In September, the Justice Department told lawmakers that the provision had never been used.
The administration wants lawmakers to pass a long-term reauthorization of all the expiring provisions, with as few changes as possible. House and Senate Republicans also favor that approach.
What little legislative battling there has been so far has been both a partisan fight and an intramural one among House and Senate Democrats.
The lack of congressional focus on the issue last year frustrated civil libertarians who wanted lawmakers to undertake a broader review of counterterrorism laws enacted during George W. Bush ’s presidency.
If lawmakers reauthorize the expiring provisions until Dec. 31, they would avoid having to address the issue until after the November midterm elections.
Feds push for tracking cell phones
by Declan McCullagh
February 11, 2010
Two years ago, when the FBI was stymied by a band of armed robbers known as the "Scarecrow Bandits" that had robbed more than 20 Texas banks, it came up with a novel method of locating the thieves.
FBI agents obtained logs from mobile phone companies corresponding to what their cellular towers had recorded at the time of a dozen different bank robberies in the Dallas area. The voluminous records showed that two phones had made calls around the time of all 12 heists, and that those phones belonged to men named Tony Hewitt and Corey Duffey. A jury eventually convicted the duo of multiple bank robbery and weapons charges.
Even though police are tapping into the locations of mobile phones thousands of times a year, the legal ground rules remain unclear, and federal privacy laws written a generation ago are ambiguous at best. On Friday, the first federal appeals court to consider the topic will hear oral arguments (PDF) in a case that could establish new standards for locating wireless devices.
In that case, the Obama administration has argued that warrantless tracking is permitted because Americans enjoy no "reasonable expectation of privacy" in their--or at least their cell phones'--whereabouts. U.S. Department of Justice lawyers say that "a customer's Fourth Amendment rights are not violated when the phone company reveals to the government its own records" that show where a mobile device placed and received calls.
Those claims have alarmed the ACLU and other civil liberties groups, which have opposed the Justice Department's request and plan to tell the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia that Americans' privacy deserves more protection and judicial oversight than what the administration has proposed.
"This is a critical question for privacy in the 21st century," says Kevin Bankston, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation who will be arguing on Friday. "If the courts do side with the government, that means that everywhere we go, in the real world and online, will be an open book to the government unprotected by the Fourth Amendment."
Not long ago, the concept of tracking cell phones would have been the stuff of spy movies. In 1998's "Enemy of the State," Gene Hackman warned that the National Security Agency has "been in bed with the entire telecommunications industry since the '40s--they've infected everything." After a decade of appearances in "24" and "Live Free or Die Hard," location-tracking has become such a trope that it was satirized in a scene with Seth Rogen from "Pineapple Express" (2008).
Once a Hollywood plot, now 'commonplace'
Whether state and federal police have been paying attention to Hollywood, or whether it was the other way around, cell phone tracking has become a regular feature in criminal investigations. It comes in two forms: police obtaining retrospective data kept by mobile providers for their own billing purposes that may not be very detailed, or prospective data that reveals the minute-by-minute location of a handset or mobile device.
Obtaining location details is now "commonplace," says Al Gidari, a partner in the Seattle offices of Perkins Coie who represents wireless carriers. "It's in every pen register order these days."
Gidari says that the Third Circuit case could have a significant impact on police investigations within the court's jurisdiction, namely Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania; it could be persuasive beyond those states. But, he cautions, "if the privacy groups win, the case won't be over. It will certainly be appealed."
CNET was the first to report on prospective tracking in a 2005 news article. In a subsequent Arizona case, agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration tracked a tractor trailer with a drug shipment through a GPS-equipped Nextel phone owned by the suspect. Texas DEA agents have used cell site information in real time to locate a Chrysler 300M driving from Rio Grande City to a ranch about 50 miles away. Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile logs showing the location of mobile phones at the time calls became evidence in a Los Angeles murder trial.
And a mobile phone's fleeting connection with a remote cell tower operated by Edge Wireless is what led searchers to the family of the late James Kim, a CNET employee who died in the Oregon wilderness in 2006 after leaving a snowbound car to seek help.
The way tracking works is simple: mobile phones are miniature radio transmitters and receivers. A cellular tower knows the general direction of a mobile phone (many cell sites have three antennas pointing in different directions), and if the phone is talking to multiple towers, triangulation yields a rough location fix. With this method, accuracy depends in part on the density of cell sites.
The Federal Communications Commission's "Enhanced 911" (E911) requirements allowed rough estimates to be transformed into precise coordinates. Wireless carriers using CDMA networks, such as Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel, tend to use embedded GPS technology to fulfill E911 requirements. AT&T and T-Mobile comply with E911 regulations using network-based technology that computes a phone's location using signal analysis and triangulation between towers.
T-Mobile, for instance, uses a GSM technology called Uplink Time Difference of Arrival, or U-TDOA, which calculates a position based on precisely how long it takes signals to reach towers. A company called TruePosition, which provides U-TDOA services to T-Mobile, boasts of "accuracy to under 50 meters" that's available "for start-of-call, midcall, or when idle."
A 2008 court order to T-Mobile in a criminal investigation of a marriage fraud scheme, which was originally sealed and later made public, says: "T-Mobile shall disclose at such intervals and times as directed by (the Department of Homeland Security), latitude and longitude data that establishes the approximate positions of the Subject Wireless Telephone, by unobtrusively initiating a signal on its network that will enable it to determine the locations of the Subject Wireless Telephone."
'No reasonable expectation of privacy'
In the case that's before the Third Circuit on Friday, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF, said it needed historical (meaning stored, not future) phone location information because a set of suspects "use their wireless telephones to arrange meetings and transactions in furtherance of their drug trafficking activities."
U.S. Magistrate Judge Lisa Lenihan in Pennsylvania denied the Justice Department's attempt to obtain stored location data without a search warrant; prosecutors had invoked a different legal procedure. Lenihan's ruling, in effect, would require police to obtain a search warrant based on probable cause--a more privacy-protective standard.
Lenihan's opinion (PDF)--which, in an unusual show of solidarity, was signed by four other magistrate judges--noted that location information can reveal sensitive information such as health treatments, financial difficulties, marital counseling, and extra-marital affairs.
In its appeal to the Third Circuit, the Justice Department claims that Lenihan's opinion "contains, and relies upon, numerous errors" and should be overruled. In addition to a search warrant not being necessary, prosecutors said, because location "records provide only a very general indication of a user's whereabouts at certain times in the past, the requested cell-site records do not implicate a Fourth Amendment privacy interest."
The Obama administration is not alone in making this argument. U.S. District Judge William Pauley, a Clinton appointee in New York, wrote in a 2009 opinion that a defendant in a drug trafficking case, Jose Navas, "did not have a legitimate expectation of privacy in the cell phone" location. That's because Navas only used the cell phone "on public thoroughfares en route from California to New York" and "if Navas intended to keep the cell phone's location private, he simply could have turned it off."
(Most cases have involved the ground rules for tracking cell phone users prospectively, and judges have disagreed over what legal rules apply. Only a minority has sided with the Justice Department, however.)
Cellular providers tend not to retain moment-by-moment logs of when each mobile device contacts the tower, in part because there's no business reason to store the data, and in part because the storage costs would be prohibitive. They do, however, keep records of what tower is in use when a call is initiated or answered--and those records are generally stored for six months to a year, depending on the company.
Verizon Wireless keeps "phone records including cell site location for 12 months," Drew Arena, Verizon's vice president and associate general counsel for law enforcement compliance, said at a federal task force meeting in Washington, D.C. last week. Arena said the company keeps "phone bills without cell site location for seven years," and stores SMS text messages for only a very brief time.
Gidari, the Seattle attorney, said that wireless carriers have recently extended how long they store this information. "Prior to a year or two ago when location-based services became more common, if it were 30 days it would be surprising," he said.
The ACLU, EFF, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and University of San Francisco law professor Susan Freiwald argue that the wording of the federal privacy law in question allows judges to require the level of proof required for a search warrant "before authorizing the disclosure of particularly novel or invasive types of information." In addition, they say, Americans do not "knowingly expose their location information and thereby surrender Fourth Amendment protection whenever they turn on or use their cell phones."
"The biggest issue at stake is whether or not courts are going to accept the government's minimal view of what is protected by the Fourth Amendment," says EFF's Bankston. "The government is arguing that based on precedents from the 1970s, any record held by a third party about us, no matter how invasively collected, is not protected by the Fourth Amendment."
Update 10:37 a.m. PT: A source inside the U.S. Attorney's Office for the northern district of Texas, which prosecuted the Scarecrow Bandits mentioned in the above article, tells me that this was the first and the only time that the FBI has used the location-data-mining technique to nab bank robbers. It's also worth noting that the leader of this gang, Corey Duffey, was sentenced last month to 354 years (not months, but years) in prison. Another member is facing 140 years in prison.
FBI wants records kept of Web sites visited
by Declan McCullagh
February 5, 2010
WASHINGTON--The FBI is pressing Internet service providers to record which Web sites customers visit and retain those logs for two years, a requirement that law enforcement believes could help it in investigations of child pornography and other serious crimes.
FBI Director Robert Mueller supports storing Internet users' "origin and destination information," a bureau attorney said at a federal task force meeting on Thursday.
As far back as a 2006 speech, Mueller had called for data retention on the part of Internet providers, and emphasized the point two years later when explicitly asking Congress to enact a law making it mandatory. But it had not been clear before that the FBI was asking companies to begin to keep logs of what Web sites are visited, which few if any currently do.
The FBI is not alone in renewing its push for data retention. As CNET reported earlier this week, a survey of state computer crime investigators found them to be nearly unanimous in supporting the idea. Matt Dunn, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent in the Department of Homeland Security, also expressed support for the idea during the task force meeting.
Greg Motta, the chief of the FBI's digital evidence section, said that the bureau was trying to preserve its existing ability to conduct criminal investigations. Federal regulations in place since at least 1986 require phone companies that offer toll service to "retain for a period of 18 months" records including "the name, address, and telephone number of the caller, telephone number called, date, time and length of the call."
At Thursday's meeting (PDF) of the Online Safety and Technology Working Group, which was created by Congress and organized by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Motta stressed that the bureau was not asking that content data, such as the text of e-mail messages, be retained.
"The question at least for the bureau has been about non-content transactional data to be preserved: transmission records, non-content records...addressing, routing, signaling of the communication," Motta said. Director Mueller recognizes, he added "there's going to be a balance of what industry can bear...He recommends origin and destination information for non-content data."
Motta pointed to a 2006 resolution from the International Association of Chiefs of Police, which called for the "retention of customer subscriber information, and source and destination information for a minimum specified reasonable period of time so that it will be available to the law enforcement community."
Recording what Web sites are visited, though, is likely to draw both practical and privacy objections.
"We're not set up to keep URL information anywhere in the network," said Drew Arena, Verizon's vice president and associate general counsel for law enforcement compliance.
And, Arena added, "if you were do to deep packet inspection to see all the URLs, you would arguably violate the Wiretap Act."
Another industry representative with knowledge of how Internet service providers work was unaware of any company keeping logs of what Web sites its customers visit.
If logs of Web sites visited began to be kept, they would be available only to local, state, and federal police with legal authorization such as a subpoena or search warrant.
What remains unclear are the details of what the FBI is proposing. The possibilities include requiring an Internet provider to log the Internet protocol (IP) address of a Web site visited, or the domain name such as, a host name such as, or the actual URL such as
While the first three categories could be logged without doing deep packet inspection, the fourth category would require it. That could run up against opposition in Congress, which lambasted the concept in a series of hearings in 2008, causing the demise of a company, NebuAd, which pioneered it inside the United States.
The technical challenges also may be formidable. John Seiver, an attorney at Davis Wright Tremaine who represents cable providers, said one of his clients had experience with a law enforcement request that required the logging of outbound URLs.
"Eighteen million hits an hour would have to have been logged," a staggering amount of data to sort through, Seiver said. The purpose of the FBI's request was to identify visitors to two URLs, "to try to find out...who's going to them."
A Justice Department representative said the department does not have an official position on data retention.
Disclosure: The author of this story participated in the meeting of the Online Safety and Technology Working Group, though after the law enforcement representatives spoke.
Mother 'not clever enough to raise child' has baby snatched by social workers after running away to Ireland to give birth
By Alison Smith Squire
22nd January 2010
A couple who fled to Ireland after social workers threatened to remove their baby at birth have had the newborn snatched after all.
Kerry Robertson, 17, who has mild learning difficulties, and Mark McDougall, 25, went on the run after British social services said she was not clever enough to raise a child.
But just four days after Ben was born, Irish social workers marched into the maternity ward and forced them to hand him over.
Proud mother: Kerry Robertson and Ben, who she isn't allowed to bring up
They were told they were acting at the behest of their British counterparts.
The couple, from Fife, Scotland, have been on the run for three months.
In September, their wedding was halted just 48 hours before the service when social workers claimed Miss Robertson was not bright enough to understand the marriage declaration.
Then in November they were told that her ‘disability’ meant their baby would be taken away at birth.
With Miss Robertson 29 weeks pregnant, they fled their house in the middle of the night and travelled to Ireland.
Ben was born healthy and weighing 7lb 3oz last Friday.
Last night Miss Robertson said: ‘When the Irish social workers said I had to give the baby to them, I felt sick.
‘I didn’t want to hand him over and I started crying because I couldn’t believe what they were saying. I thought I had misunderstood.
‘I had just been breastfeeding him.
Just before they took him away, I told Ben I loved him and gave him a kiss.’
Mr McDougall added: ‘Kerry let out a dreadful cry when she realised what was happening – it was terrible. She is just in pieces.
‘We believed that the Irish had more traditional values than social workers in the UK. We found a two-bedroom cottage in a beautiful village in Waterford overlooking the sea.
A family divided: Father Mark with Kerry and the baby, who is now in foster care
‘Kerry booked herself in with the local GP and at last we began to feel as if we were safe.’
An anonymous benefactor has been funding the couple after they left home with just £200, and has even paid for the house.
Artist Mr McDougall has also been selling pictures while friends and family have donated clothes, baby gear and further money.
Miss Robertson has been cared for by her grandmother since the age of nine months after her own parents were unable to look after her, with her care overseen by Fife Council.
She began getting contractions last Friday and the couple went to the local hospital, where she gave birth after a natural labour.
‘Both of us were overjoyed,’ said Mr McDougall. ‘Ben was absolutely perfect.’
But on Tuesday morning two Irish social workers – a man and a woman – came to the hospital and delivered the bombshell.
Mr McDougall added: ‘It seems that through Kerry’s medical records – although we have been on the run she has always ensured she had all the checks and scans on the baby – Fife Council had been alerted.
‘The social workers said that now Ben was born, Fife had put him on the at-risk register and he was subject to a care order.
As the social workers told us the news, the two midwives who have been caring for Kerry were so distressed that they fled the room.’
Ben is being cared for by foster parents.
Family law experts said that if Fife had genuine concerns about the baby it had a duty to pursue the couple even once they had fled its jurisdiction.
Under a 1980 European convention on child welfare, they would have contacted the Irish authorities to alert them and the Irish would then have sought an order from a judge allowing them to intervene.
Irish social workers now have to investigate for themselves and have until Monday to make a decision on the case or apply for an extension.
The couple have been allowed to see their son for two hours every other day.
Miss Robertson said: ‘Holding him made me upset all over again. I’ve told the social workers I don’t want him to have bottled milk or a dummy. I feel breastfeeding is so important and at least then he is still having some of me.’
Mr McDougall claimed the care order had the wrong baby’s name on it and the wrong date of birth. He added: ‘Kerry and I are now absolutely furious because we believe our baby has been kidnapped by social services.’
LibDem MP John Hemming, who has been supporting the couple, said: ‘There is no evidence that Mark and Kerry cannot be good parents and I just hope that the Irish authorities can resolve this as quickly as possible.’
The Irish authorities refused to comment last night.
Stephen Moore, executive director of social work at Fife Council, said: ‘I can confirm that although the Robertson family are not presently within Fife, we are committed to working closely with professional colleagues elsewhere to ensure safety and welfare of the child and indeed the whole family as this is of paramount concern to us.
‘I would urge Kerry to use all the support that is being made available to her and her baby and to get appropriate help should she need it.’
FBI broke law for years in phone record searches
By John Solomon and Carrie Johnson
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
The FBI illegally collected more than 2,000 U.S. telephone call records between 2002 and 2006 by invoking terrorism emergencies that did not exist or simply persuading phone companies to provide records, according to internal bureau memos and interviews. FBI officials issued approvals after the fact to justify their actions
E-mails obtained by The Washington Post detail how counterterrorism officials inside FBI headquarters did not follow their own procedures that were put in place to protect civil liberties. The stream of urgent requests for phone records also overwhelmed the FBI communications analysis unit with work that ultimately was not connected to imminent threats.
A Justice Department inspector general's report due out this month is expected to conclude that the FBI frequently violated the law with its emergency requests, bureau officials confirmed.
The records seen by The Post do not reveal the identities of the people whose phone call records were gathered, but FBI officials said they thought that nearly all of the requests involved terrorism investigations.
FBI general counsel Valerie Caproni said in an interview Monday that the FBI technically violated the Electronic Communications Privacy Act when agents invoked nonexistent emergencies to collect records.
"We should have stopped those requests from being made that way," she said. The after-the-fact approvals were a "good-hearted but not well-thought-out" solution to put phone carriers at ease, she said. In true emergencies, Caproni said, agents always had the legal right to get phone records, and lawyers have now concluded there was no need for the after-the-fact approval process. "What this turned out to be was a self-inflicted wound," she said.
Caproni said FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III did not know about the problems until late 2006 or early 2007, after the inspector general's probe began.
Documents show that senior FBI managers up to the assistant director level approved the procedures for emergency requests of phone records and that headquarters officials often made the requests, which persisted for two years after bureau lawyers raised concerns and an FBI official began pressing for changes.
"We have to make sure we are not taking advantage of this system, and that we are following the letter of the law without jeopardizing national security," FBI lawyer Patrice Kopistansky wrote in one of a series of early 2005 e-mails asking superiors to address the problem.
The FBI acknowledged in 2007 that one unit in the agency had improperly gathered some phone records, and a Justice Department audit at the time cited 22 inappropriate requests to phone companies for searches and hundreds of questionable requests. But the latest revelations show that the improper requests were much more numerous under the procedures approved by the top level of the FBI.
FBI officials told The Post that their own review has found that about half of the 4,400 toll records collected in emergency situations or with after-the-fact approvals were done in technical violation of the law. The searches involved only records of calls and not the content of the calls. In some cases, agents broadened their searches to gather numbers two and three degrees of separation from the original request, documents show.
Bureau officials said agents were working quickly under the stress of trying to thwart the next terrorist attack and were not violating the law deliberately.
FBI officials said they are confident that the safeguards enacted in 2007 have ended the problems. Caproni said the bureau will use the inspector general's findings to determine whether discipline is warranted.
The internal memos were obtained from a government employee outside the FBI, who gained access to them during the investigations of the searches. The employee spoke on the condition of anonymity because the release was unauthorized.
After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the need to get information quickly and connect the dots was considered paramount throughout the federal government. The failure to obtain timely and actionable information has been a recurrent theme in the U.S. counterterrorism effort, up to and including the recent shootings at Fort Hood, Tex.
Before 9/11, FBI agents ordinarily gathered records of phone calls through the use of grand jury subpoenas or through an instrument know as a national security letter, issued for terrorism and espionage cases. Such letters, signed by senior headquarters officials, carry the weight of subpoenas with the firms that receive them.
The USA Patriot Act expanded the use of national security letters by letting lower-level officials outside Washington approve them and allowing them in wider circumstances. But the letters still required the FBI to link a request to an open terrorism case before records could be sought.
Shortly after the Patriot Act was passed in October 2001, FBI senior managers devised their own system for gathering records in terrorism emergencies.
A new device called an "exigent circumstances letter" was authorized. It allowed a supervisor to declare an emergency and get the records, then issue a national security letter after the fact.
The procedure was based on a system used in the FBI's New York office in the days immediately after the Sept. 11 suicide hijackings, officials said.
On Jan. 6, 2003, then-FBI Assistant Director for Counterterrorism Larry Mefford issued a bureau-wide communique authorizing the new tactic, saying the bureau's telephone analysis unit was permitted in "exigent circumstances . . . to obtain specialized toll records information for international and domestic numbers which are linked to subjects of pending terrorism investigations."
The e-mail called this new method of gathering phone records "imperative to the continuing efforts by the FBI to protect our nation against future attacks," even as it acknowledged the phone records of many people not connected to a terrorism investigation were likely to be scooped up.
The 2003 memo stated that the new method "has the potential of generating an enormous amount of data in short order, much of which may not actually be related to the terrorism activity under investigation."
Within a few years, hundreds of emergency requests were completed and a few thousand phone records gathered. But many lacked the follow-up: the required national security letters.
Two individuals began raising concerns.
Special Agent Bassem Youssef, the new supervisor of the communications analysis unit that gathered the records, began to receive complaints from phone companies that they had not received documentation to show the searches were legal.
Youssef, a longtime counterterrorism investigator, had earlier fallen out of favor with FBI management as he pursued a whistleblower claim that he had been wrongly retaliated against and denied promotion because of his ethnicity.
He raised questions in spring 2005 with his superiors and the FBI general counsel's office about the failure to get national security letters. E-mails show he pressed FBI managers, trying to "force their hand" to implement a solution.
Youssef's attorney, Stephen Kohn, said Monday that he could not discuss the specifics of the investigation except to confirm that his client cooperated with the inspector general. FBI officials said they could not discuss the conduct of individual employees.
Separately, Kopistansky in the FBI general counsel's office learned in mid-December 2004 that toll records were being requested without national security letters. She handled a request that originated from then-Executive Assistant Director Gary Bald, who had "passed information regarding numbers related to a terrorist organization with ties to the US" and obtained toll records, the memos show.
The communications analysis unit asked Kopistansky to "draw up an NSL" to cover the search, but she was unable to get superiors to tell her which open terrorism case it involved. The request "has to specify why the numbers are relevant to an authorized investigation," she said.
An employee in the communications analysis unit wrote back that most of the emergency requests he received "come from upper mgmt. I don't always receive documentation or know all the facts related to the number, which is a problem for me when I try to get the NSL."
Kopistansky persisted, demanding an open terrorism case file for the legal rationale. "I am sure you know it is true and Gary Bald knows it's true, but it needs to be reflected on a piece of paper," she wrote.
Two months later, Kopistansky was still unable to issue a national security letter to comply with the FBI rules.
She took note of the overall problem. The issuance of a national security letter after exigent searches "rarely happens," Kopistansky warned in a March 11, 2005, e-mail seeking the help of the FBI's top national security lawyer and the deputy counsel.
By March 2005, Kopistansky and Youssef were discussing a worsening "backlog" of other cases where no national security letters had been issued and growing concerned that exigent letters were being abused, e-mails show.
"I also understand that some of these are being done as emergencies when they aren't necessarily emergencies," Kopistansky wrote in an April 26, 2005, e-mail to Youssef.
Kopistansky and the other FBI lawyers discussed a strategy to handle the past emergency searches and to allow the practice to continue.
The e-mails show that they conceived the idea to open half a dozen "generic" or "broad" preliminary investigative (PI) case files to which all unauthorized emergency requests could be charged so a national security letter could be issued after the fact.
The generic files were to cover such broad topics as "threats against transportation facilities," "threats against individuals" and "threats against special events," the e-mails show.
Eventually, FBI officials shifted to a second strategy of crafting a "blanket" national security letter to authorize all past searches that had not been covered by open cases.
A November 2006 e-mail chain indicates that then-FBI Assistant Director for Counterterrorism Joseph Billy signed the blanket national security letter. But when FBI lawyers raised concerns about it, he wrote back that he did not remember signing.
"I have no recollection of signing anything blanket. NSLs are individual as far as I always knew," Billy wrote Caproni on Nov. 7, 2006.
Billy did not immediately respond to a message left at his office on Monday. Kopistansky and Bald, reached by phone Friday, said they could not comment without FBI approval. Mefford did not return calls.
In all, FBI managers signed 11 "blanket" national security letters addressing past searches, officials told The Post.
Although concerns about their legality first arose in December 2004, exigent searches continued for two more years. Youssef's unit began limiting the number of exigent letters it signed between summer 2005 and spring 2006, seeking more assurances the requests could be covered by a national security letter, the memos show.
Phone record searches covered by exigent letters ended in November 2006 as the Justice Department inspector general began investigating.
Among those whose phone records were searched improperly were journalists for The Washington Post and the New York Times, according to interviews with government officials.
The searches became public when Mueller, the FBI director, contacted top editors at the two newspapers in August 2008 and apologized for the breach of reporters' phone records. The reporters were Ellen Nakashima of The Post, who had been based in Jakarta, Indonesia, and Raymond Bonner and Jane Perlez of the Times, who had also been working in Jakarta.
When Law becomes the Problem, Not the Solution
By Attorney Jonathan Emord
January 18, 2010
As a general rule, where law advances, freedom retreats. A nation possessed of a never ending complex of laws proscribing conduct cannot be a free state or, if new to the journey, a free state for long. We are becoming a nation noteworthy for its abundance of regulation, a massive labyrinth of law so constricting that it suffocates nascent businesses before they can compete in the market and forces out of the market all but those who can afford the lawyers, accountants, and risk managers necessary to stay ahead of the inventive agency heads or members of Congress.
If grave stones dotted the landscape for every business that has succumbed due to over-regulation, we would see the following content engraved on hundreds of thousands of them: Here lies Business X that died from regulatory strangulation at a very young age.
When federal regulations prohibit or channel nearly every commercial activity, it requires an extensive legal education just to understand what can and cannot be done. Such regulation depends on prior restraint and vastly exceeds common knowledge. When seemingly innocuous behavior is criminalized, the innocent become criminals. Federal and state regulations now achieve that end.
An honest doctor in private practice who does not comprehend all of the nuances of Medicare law may well find himself accused by Medicare of criminal fraud, of overbilling, underbilling, or abusing a Medicare beneficiary. Watching in helpless horror as these regulations have come to pass and been enforced, many doctors in small practices have taken an early retirement, endeavoring to avoid becoming a victim of a government illness they cannot cure.
A local health food store owner who has been telling customers for the last two decades that cod liver oil has anti-thrombotic, anti-coagulant, and anti-arrhythmic properties that reduce heart attack risk can be prosecuted for selling “an unapproved new drug,” thrown in jail, and his business shut down. The truth is cod liver oil can reduce heart attack risk, but the truth is no defense.
A business man who wishes to sell a book about Indian remedies for disease must be ever mindful that explaining those remedies in advertising for the book can lead to a charge of deceptive advertising, requiring him or her to pay the government all of the proceeds received from sale of the book (so much for the FTC’s respect for freedom of speech and press).
A retired military hero who posted a recipe for a home brewed herbal tea on the web in gratitude for its beneficial effects on his illness became the victim of an FTC investigation that cost him his life’s savings (so much for a nation’s gratitude for a gentleman twice wounded in combat who was willing to lay down his life for his country) because he lacked scientific proof to a near certain degree that what he said was true.
A farmer whose farm accumulates water on part of his property during the year can be the victim of a fly over by federal agents only to discover that his land has been defined as a “wetlands” area and cannot be cultivated (so much for property rights protection).
A road traversed by settlers since the 1800s that a town considers its own can be forcibly closed against the town’s wishes and rendered unusable by the Bureau of Land Management as it works to define wilderness areas (so much for federalism).
A rancher land locked by federal park lands, as many are in the West and far West, may discover that fees charged for use of rights of way across federal lands have become prohibitive and that cattle, crossing onto federal property as they have for hundreds of years to go to watering holes, may be confiscated by the Bureau of Land Management (so much for the Constitution’s Takings Clause).
In his first Inaugural Address in 1801, Thomas Jefferson explained the basic principles which define “good government.” He said: “Still one thing more, fellow citizens -- a wise and frugal Government . . . shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. . . . [We are] [a]bout to enter, fellow-citizens, on the exercise of duties which comprehend everything dear and valuable to you, [so] it is proper [that] you should understand what I deem the essential principles of our Government, and consequently those which ought to shape its Administration.”
We have long ago abandoned the fundamental principles that define good government.  We are now ruled by bureaucracies that no longer respect or follow constitutional restrictions against government control over freedom of choice that once were essential rules of law in this country (the constitutional doctrines of Enumerated Powers; Unconstitutional Conditions; Substantive Due Process; and the Necessary and Proper; Contracts; Takings; and Commerce Clauses).
Our constitutional republic has been transformed into a bureaucratic oligarchy.
Because our greatness as a nation has always been linked to our legal commitment to ensure the survival and success of individual freedom, we cannot expect to remain great if we allow those who rule us to sacrifice that freedom at every turn. We must remember what made us great and vote the rascals out. Our nation has no more extraordinary contribution to the evolution of man, no more precious national resource, than our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution.
The principles in those documents define who we are, a people who love liberty so much that they would stake their all on ensuring its survival and success. When we depart from those principles we become unremarkable, indistinguishable from all other peoples who labor under the yoke of government, victims of systems of governance that chose to make government sovereign rather than the people and to deny the rights of man rather than protect them.
Obama staffer wants ‘cognitive infiltration’ of 9/11 conspiracy groups
By Daniel Tencer
Wednesday, January 13th, 2010
In a 2008 academic paper, President Barack Obama's appointee to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs advocated "cognitive infiltration" of groups that advocate "conspiracy theories" like the ones surrounding 9/11.
Cass Sunstein, a Harvard law professor, co-wrote an academic article entitled "Conspiracy Theories: Causes and Cures," in which he argued that the government should stealthily infiltrate groups that pose alternative theories on historical events via "chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups and attempt to undermine" those groups.
As head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Sunstein is in charge of "overseeing policies relating to privacy, information quality, and statistical programs," according to the White House Web site.
Sunstein's article, published in the Journal of Political Philosphy in 2008 and recently uncovered by blogger Marc Estrin, states that "our primary claim is that conspiracy theories typically stem not from irrationality or mental illness of any kind but from a 'crippled epistemology,' in the form of a sharply limited number of (relevant) informational sources."
By "crippled epistemology" Sunstein means that people who believe in conspiracy theories have a limited number of sources of information that they trust. Therefore, Sunstein argued in the article, it would not work to simply refute the conspiracy theories in public -- the very sources that conspiracy theorists believe would have to be infiltrated.
Sunstein, whose article focuses largely on the 9/11 conspiracy theories, suggests that the government "enlist nongovernmental officials in the effort to rebut the theories. It might ensure that credible independent experts offer the rebuttal, rather than government officials themselves. There is a tradeoff between credibility and control, however. The price of credibility is that government cannot be seen to control the independent experts."
Download a PDF of the article here.
Sunstein argued that "government might undertake (legal) tactics for breaking up the tight cognitive clusters of extremist theories." He suggested that "government agents (and their allies) might enter chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups and attempt to undermine percolating conspiracy theories by raising doubts about their factual premises, causal logic or implications for political action."
"We expect such tactics from undercover cops, or FBI," Estrin writes at the Rag Blog, expressing surprise that "a high-level presidential advisor" would support such a strategy.
Estrin notes that Sunstein advocates in his article for the infiltration of "extremist" groups so that it undermines the groups' confidence to the extent that "new recruits will be suspect and participants in the group’s virtual networks will doubt each other’s bona fides."
Sunstein has been the target of numerous "conspiracy theories" himself, mostly from the right wing political echo chamber, with conservative talking heads claiming he favors enacting "a second Bill of Rights" that would do away with the Second Amendment. Sunstein's recent book, On Rumors: How Falsehoods Spread, Why We Believe Them, What Can Be Done, was criticized by some on the right as "a blueprint for online censorship."
Sunstein "wants to hold blogs and web hosting services accountable for the remarks of commenters on websites while altering libel laws to make it easier to sue for spreading 'rumors,'" wrote Ed Lasky at American Thinker.
Police cuff citizens for videotaping arrests
Film a cop, go to jail
By Dan Goodin in San Francisco
Posted in Crime, 12th January 2010
Since the police beating of motorist Rodney King in 1991, men in blue have looked warily at the civilian videotaping of arrests and other police activities. Some cops are so opposed to the practice, they've begun arresting the amateur videographers and charging them criminally.
According to this article published by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting, police in Boston and Pennsylvania have regularly arrested otherwise law-abiding citizens who videotape cops as they go about performing arrests on public streets. The charge: illegal electronic surveillance.
"The police apparently do not want witnesses to what they do in public," Sarah Wunsch, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, was quoted as saying.
Like 11 other states, Massachusetts is a two-party consent state, meaning that all parties to a conversation must agree to be recorded on telephones or other audio devices. Police in Boston and elsewhere have used the law to arrest videographers who use cameras with audio recording capabilities.
With the ubiquity of video cameras, just about every facet of public life - from fights on public transit to executions of megalomaniac world leaders - is regularly captured on tape. But if certain police get their way, the sole exception to that rule will be reserved for actions they carry out that they'd prefer remain secret.
The irony isn't lost on Jon Surmacz, who was arrested in December 2008 for videotaping police as they broke up a party he was attending.
"Had I recorded an officer saving someone’s life," he said. "I almost guarantee you that they wouldn’t have come up to me and say, 'Hey, you just recorded me saving that person’s life. You’re under arrest.'"
Is Counterinsurgency's Future in America?
November 23, 2009
by Rollin Stearns
For months we've heard about General McChrystal's "counter-insurgency" strategy in Afghanistan, involving tens of thousands more troops. We've heard much less about the US government's "counter-insurgency" strategy for America. But it's America -- not Afghanistan -- where the strategy is already in place, and where the real action may take place.
According to one report, which documents the "unraveling" of US society, "the demand for guns and ammunition has hit a record high and the gun industry cannot produce enough bullets to keep up with orders. American's are arming themselves to the teeth! In the past year, 100 new armed militia groups have been formed, as militia members have doubled in numbers. Federal authorities are gravely concerned about the "uptick in militia activities." One federal authority recently said, "All it's lacking is a spark. I think it's only a matter of time before you see threats and violence."
The Official Documents
Contingency plans for martial law were signed by President Bush just before the election in November 2008. These plans, written in bureaucratic detail, have appeared on the Internet in what seems to be a leak of classified government documents. (US Domestic Control Measures.pdf by Bradley Moscrip)
Giving various reasons that would justify martial law (for example, "the refusal of the population to pay or unusual difficulty to collect rent, taxes, or loan payments"), the plans call for the suspension of the Constitution; the permanent confiscation of all firearms (while telling the gun owners that the confiscation is temporary); and the rounding up of large numbers of the "indigenous population" in detention camps.
Noting that there are presently 600 detention camps (soon to be expanded to 1500, generally in rural uninhabited areas), one of the documents provides the location of 94 of these detention sites in 28 states.
True or False?
How reliable is this information? Are these documents real? Popular conservative gate-keepers like Glenn Beck have pooh-poohed stories about the construction of detention sites across the country.
There's no way to be certain, but to me they ring true. And skeptics who have personally researched the matter say there is no doubt that these detention camps exist. The real question is why.
Some say it's simply that the government needs to be prepared to maintain civil order in case of enemy attack or civil emergency. But this doesn't account for the scope and secrecy of the present plans. The documents posted on the Internet state that the real reason is the prospect of domestic insurrection.
In principle there's nothing new here. The state's first priority has always been to control its own population, especially when it is carrying out unpopular policies. In the 1860s the Lincoln administration not only crushed the southern states that tried to secede, it also crushed all dissent (and there was a lot of it) in the northern states.
Secretary of War Stanton ordered federal law officers to imprison anyone engaged by act, speech, or writing, in discouraging volunteer enlistments in the army. Habeas corpus was suspended; newspaper publishers, judges, and legislators who dissented from the war policy were jailed; and when a draft was instituted, hundreds of protesters were shot and killed.
The potential for these kinds of draconian actions is more real today than any time since the 1860s. Hardly a week goes by that the government is not announcing some new peril. At one time it's a pandemic (currently swine flu); at another time it's a terrorist attack; at yet another time it's a financial collapse (recall that a Congressman revealed a year ago that Congress was threatened with the imposition of martial law if they should fail to approve the emergency bank bailout).
Current federal policies seem almost guaranteed to create some such crisis. The federal government is treating our current economic problems by creating monumental new levels of debt. This is like an alcoholic trying to cure himself by drinking even more whiskey. Once the temporary artificial stimulus has passed, the result will be an even greater collapse.
There is no shortage of scenarios that would lead to martial law, and many would be created by the policies of the government itself. Whatever the details, we may be confident that it has drawn up plans to suspend the Constitution "temporarily" and to impose direct military control of the civilian population. In both Waco and Katrina, US military forces were employed, though not publicized. More recently, the Pentagon has established the Northern Command, designed to carry out military operations within the US.
Yes, we may launch a "counter-insurgency strategy" in Afghanistan, at least for a while. But America's power is waning overseas. We're overextended militarily and financially. We're looking for a way to scale back if not withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan. (The new buzzword is "endgame.") Most significantly, Obama seems to be seeking to reduce American power and autonomy.
So the future for counter-insurgency may be here at home. The US government may be planning for a reduced role in the world, but it is not planning for a reduced role at home. On the contrary, it plans to take control of all aspects of American society, as well as integrate America into a global system. And it recognizes that these plans may lead to resistance. So it is ready with a counter-insurgency strategy, and willing and able to implement it. We would be well advised not to play into its hands.
Councils get ‘Al Capone’ power to seize assets over minor offences
Sean O’Neill, Crime Editor
From The Times
October 28, 2009
Draconian police powers designed to deprive crime barons of luxury lifestyles are being extended to councils, quangos and agencies to use against the public, The Times has learnt.
The right to search homes, seize cash, freeze bank accounts and confiscate property will be given to town hall officials and civilian investigators employed by organisations as diverse as Royal Mail, the Rural Payments Agency and Transport for London.
The measure, being pushed through by Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, comes into force next week and will deploy some of the most powerful tools available to detectives against fare dodgers, families in arrears with council tax and other minor offenders.
The radical extension of the Proceeds of Crime Act, through a Statutory Instrument which is not debated by parliament, has been condemned by the chairman of the Police Federation. Paul McKeever said that he was shocked to learn that the decision to hand over “intrusive powers” to people who were not police was made without consultation or debate.
“The Proceeds of Crime Act is a very powerful tool in the hands of police and police-related agencies and it shouldn’t be treated lightly,” Mr McKeever said. “There is a behind the scenes creep of powers occurring here and I think the public will be very surprised. They would want such very intrusive powers to be kept in the hands of warranted officers and other law enforcement bodies which are vetted to a very high standard rather than given to local councils.”
His concerns are shared by leading legal figures, who believe that there is a risk of local authorities abusing the powers to search people’s homes, seize their money, freeze their accounts and confiscate their property. They also see parallels with the spread of counter-terrorist surveillance powers to monitor refuse collections and school catchment areas.
Wideranging confiscation powers were given to police and law enforcement bodies in 2003 to seize the cash and property from drug dealers, people-traffickers and money launderers. They were viewed as “Al Capone powers” — a means of getting at the Mr Bigs of organised crime by seizing wealth accrued from criminality. David Blunkett, then Home Secretary, said law enforcement was targeting “the homes, yachts, mansions and luxury cars of the crime barons”.
The expansion of seizure powers is part of a Home Office plan to “embed” financial seizure across the criminal justice system. Ministers set a target to recover £250 million in criminal assets by 2010, rising to £1 billion per year soon after.
An “explanatory memorandum” says that a swath of financial investigators attached to the newly empowered bodies will be accredited, trained and monitored by another quango, the National Policing Improvement Agency. The memo adds that asset seizure will result in financial rewards: “Investigation bodies will receive a share of money recovered as additional funding to incentivise further work in recovering the proceeds of crime.”
Councils and other bodies had access to asset recovery powers before but only with with the authorisation and involvement of the police. Now they will be able to act independently of any police force or law enforcement agency.
The memo says councils and quangos will employ “trained internal financial investigators” and be “less reliant on more traditional law enforcement agencies, notably the police”.
The extension of such draconian powers to civilian investigators coincides with mounting legal concern about the operation of the law of confiscation. But the Home Office maintained last night that the measures would “boost the fight against crime” and “free up valuable police time”.
Lawyers who specialise in confiscation law have been expressing concern about the extension of the powers for some time. One judge said: “It looks like this has been sneaked through.”
Andrew Bodnar, co-editor of a book on asset recovery law, said that the Proceeds of Crime Act had been carefully crafted and designed but its implementation often left much to be desired. “The theory behind the law is right. But if these powers are to be used to seize the assets of — to take an extreme example — fare dodgers or council tax defaulters, it is very difficult to see how those theoretical aims are being met.
“The extension of these powers should be monitored very closely. The spectre of counter-terrorism powers being used to monitor people’s bin- filling habits, or what school they’re trying to send their children to, should be cautionary.”
Mr Bodnar, of Matrix Chambers, said that the agencies given the powers must be resourced properly and be able to apply them “with a full understanding of the law”.
“Having these Al Capone powers in the back pocket is very valuable for a senior prosecutor but in the hands of someone less experienced and less skilled, particularly when combined with the incentive of their department collecting a share of the confiscated money, there is the potential for charges to be brought which are intended to maximise confiscation recovery rather than reflect the level of criminality concerned.”
Sir Ivan Lawrence, QC, a former senior Conservative MP, said that extending such police powers to bodies like Transport for London and local authorities was highly questionable.
“Far worse is the encouragement being given to non-police bodies to search for what they think are proceeds of crime but may not be and subject the victim to the draconian and manifestly unjust processes of the Proceeds of Crime Act. Does anyone in Government understand that if you give prosecutors, who are supposed to be unbiased ministers of justice, the bribe of a proportion of the money they can find, you are actually poisoning the roots of justice in our society?”
A Home Office spokesman defended the extension of the powers. “Seizing ill-gotten gains is a key part of the fight against criminals — whether it is from small-time offences or organised crime,” he said.
The POCA powers . . .
? Freezing a suspect’s assets at the beginning of a criminal investigation
? Presumption that all an individual’s assets are acquired through a criminal lifestyle
? Search for and confiscate cash of £1,000 or more
? Demand that banks and other institutions disclose financial information
? Seek confiscation order for assets after a conviction
? Collect a share of confiscated assets
. . . and the agencies that will get them
Councils in England and Wales Could seize assets from people in council tax arrears or parking fine defaulters
Gangmasters Licensing Authority Might seize property from someone profiting from underpaying wages
Counter Fraud and Security Management Service Investigating prescription fraud and theft by NHS staff
Gambling Commission Could seize assets from rigged betting rings
Rural Payments Agency Could confiscate money from farmers fraudulantly claiming agricultural grants
Financial Services Authority City regulator could seize assets of those convicted of insider dealing
Vehicle and Operator Services Agency Could pursue profit made by haulier defrauding MoT or licensing laws
Transport for London Could go after assets of fare dodgers or ticket forgers
Royal Mail Might confiscate assets from a fraudulent postmaster or employee
Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency Could recoup profits from sale of counterfeit medicines
We’re All in China Now: New Initiative Launches Police State Under Guise of Mental Health
by Beverly Eakman,
Author, Educator
Former Editor-In-Chief, NASAs Newspaper
It’s zero hour in America. Do you know where your country went?
Now that America’s education system and parenting “experts” have brainwashed a generation of now-grown schoolchildren-cum-parents into believing that what we once called personality quirks, character flaws and moral issues are, in essence, mental disorders, politicians have taken the ball and run with it. Law enforcement agencies and the judicial system are in the process of adopting Stalinist and Mao-inspired methods of controlling dissidents at home.
Only a few, short years ago, what was held up as independent thinking; speaking one’s mind; and robust dialogue is now decried as a prelude to terrorism. In America’s increasingly left-leaning climate, our nation’s leaders are pulling off communist-style thought-control by implying that any words uttered in print or out loud that runs contrary to “accepted wisdom” (and that can change in a “New York Minute”) is the result of mental illness.
Don’t believe it? Well, “google” this:
A recent report out of Missouri labeled “not-for-public-distribution” circulated anonymously by a shocked and patriotic police officer) specifically describes supporters of the three presidential candidates as “militia”-influenced terrorists and instructs police to be on the lookout for bumper stickers and other paraphernalia associated with, of all things, the Constitution—such as “Campaign for Liberty.” Even a few Members of Congress were implied to be security risks and potential domestic terrorists. The document, entitled “The Modern Militia Movement” (February 20, 2009), emanated from the Missouri Information Analysis Center (MIAC), one of several so-called “Fusion Centers” established by the federal government around the country.
Most people are probably not familiar with the term “Fusion Center.” These were originally intended to allow local and state law-enforcement agents to work alongside federal officers after 9/11 so that terrorist-related activities could be identified, then pounced upon by all three entities at once. “Fusion Center” offices, therefore, incorporate local, state and federal law-enforcement personnel, a strategy which, prior to the launching of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), was deliberately avoided to maintain independence and preserve impartiality. Predictably, these Centers got out of hand and fell into what is referred to as “mission creep.”
Mission creep is defined by Wikipedia as:
“the expansion of a project or mission beyond its original goals, often after initial successes…. [I]t is usually considered undesirable due to the dangerous path of each success breeding more ambitious attempts, only stopping when a final, often catastrophic, failure occurs. The term was originally applied exclusively to military operations, but has recently been applied to [other] fields, mainly the growth of bureaucracies.”
Recent improvements in tracking and monitoring of opinions via magazine subscriptions, charitable gifts, school and household surveys, and other computerized data collection has made political prediction on hot-button topics that much easier to secure. “Predictive computer technology” (already a staple of school assessment testing) entails the use of behavioral psychiatrists with concurrent degrees in statistics. This same capability has greatly accelerated mission creep among the nation’s Fusion Centers.
The PBS News Hour (not known for its conservatism or, for that matter, for being “alarmist”) recently reported on how political dissidents in China are forced into psychiatric hospitals Video: Chinese Dissidents Committed to Mental Hospitals. In the segment, aired September 13, 2009, the manner in which complainants (called petitioners), whistleblowers and outright protesters are “managed” bears an eerie resemblance to a policy shift right here in America. States’ rights (or the 10th Amendment) are among the first casualties of a top-down, federal effort to minimize, and eventually suppress, dissent.
Psychopolitics is the art and science of asserting and maintaining dominion over the thoughts and loyalties of individuals, officers, bureaus, and “the masses,” via various techniques ranging from “group dynamics,” “cognitive dissonance,” “de-sensitization,” “super-imposing alternate value structures,” artificial disruption of thought,” the Delphi Method, the Tavistock Technique, through negative or positive “reinforcement.” If you don’t recognize any of these, don’t feel too badly, because they are not part of any school curriculum. The people who created them are, for the most part, unknown in our own country, except among those groomed by extremist political organizations to become “change agents,” professional agitators or “provocateurs.” The pioneers of psychopolitics, including attitude prediction, include individuals such as Wilhelm Reich, Kurt Lewin, Theodor Adorno and Erich Fromm (Germany); A. S. Neill, A. J. Oraje and John Rawlings Rees (Great Britain); Antonio Gramsci (Italy); Anatoly Lunacharsky and Georg Lukacs (Russia); G. Brock Chishom and Ewen Cameron (Canada); and the U.S.’s own Ralph Tyler and Ronald Havelock.
Although psychopolitics originated under Vladimir Lenin as “political literacy” and “polytechnical education” in the old Soviet Union, and was carried to the free world via Peter Sedgwick (1934–1983) a translator for Victor Serge, author of PsychoPolitics and a revolutionary socialist activist as well as a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, the term psychopolitics found its way into the American lexicon via Isaac Asimov, a master of the sci-fi genre. But psychopolitics is no science fiction adventure, and never was.
By the 1970s, a slew of enablers were establishing a system of numerical codes for so-called mental disorders that would accommodate computerization. This lent legitimacy to what would otherwise have been considered “questionable illnesses.” The goal was to ensure that medical professionals, the media and government accepted these terms as they might “diabetes,” thereby ensuring that the mental illnesses so codified would remain indelible, beginning with the youngest and most vulnerable.
The long-term game plan of psychopolitics is the conquest, usually by proxy, of enemy nations through “mental healing,” better known as “re-education.” This entails what we know as “encounter groups,” extensive self-disclosure surveys and peer pressure to conform. If all that doesn’t work, if certain individuals are still not amenable, then the first step is marginalization as “mentally unbalanced.”
Example: A study by the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Science Foundation, funded by U.S. taxpayers to the tune of $1.2 million, announced on 1 August of this year that adherents to conventional moral principles and limited government are mentally disturbed. NIMH-NSF scholars from the Universities of Maryland, California at Berkeley, and Stanford attribute notions about morality and individualism to “dogmatism” and “uncertainty avoidance.” Social conservatives, in particular, were said to suffer from “mental rigidity,” a condition which, researchers assert, is probably hard-wired, condemning traditionalists to a lifelong, cognitive hell, with all the associated indicators for mental illness: “decreased cognitive function, lowered self-esteem, fear, anger, pessimism, disgust, and contempt” (Jost, J. T., J. Glaser, et al. (2003). “Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition.” Psychological Bulletin 129(3): 339-375 online at
This is the sort of unprovable, but nevertheless libelous condescension that is heaped upon anyone from talk show hosts, to authors to patriots who dare to contradict “common wisdom” (a.k.a. “political correctness”). If that doesn’t work, contempt may be followed up with “mandatory [psychiatric] counseling” (already a feature of the American judicial system), or even forcible psychiatric drugging (well on its way to legitimacy in this nation’s schools). Finally there is incarceration in a psychiatric hospital, which gratefully is not yet a fixture in American democracy, but the handwriting is on the wall, as the expression goes.
Totalitarian states like Communist China and Russia may be more blatant in their affronts to human rights and personal property — inasmuch as they don’t need a “reason” — but the differences are narrowing precipitously.
As emphasized during interviews on the PBS segment, the Chinese system is set up in such a way as to pre-empt complaints. The Chinese government doesn’t wait around to wait for somebody to sound off; it pre-emptively seeks out individuals likely to become troublesome, by assigning a mental-health diagnosis to anyone at the first sign of a provocative or inflammatory remark.
This lies at the heart of what is going on here in America, and we absolutely must put a stop to it, if it isn’t already too late. Data-mining (which actually pre-dates 9/11), along with longitudinal tracking (that’s tracking over long time periods) and, therefore, ongoing monitoring of individual perceptions, worldviews and beliefs is gaining momentum with every moment that computer technology evolves — which means constantly. When you combine this with the practice of assigning mental-illness labels to private opinions, based on snippets of various information — with anything that might be favorable to the individual conveniently left out!
This “diagnosis,” like the American school child’s, follows the person for life, often compromising his or her college and career prospects. And why not, after all? Computerization makes it impossible for anyone to prove that an erroneous or falsified accusation has been purged from the system with no backup copy.
Today’s Chinese authorities, like Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler, and Mao Zedong (Tse-tung) before them, in order to avoid drawing attention to policies that may be morally or ethically distasteful abroad (e.g., the one-child policy and forced abortion) or invite protests that coincide with an event at which international media attention is expected (such as the Olympics), they employ spies, block careers and intimidate family members.
It may be shocking to hear from your college-age children that we are going down the same road. Several universities, like the University of Delaware, in which a lawsuit was filed, have planted paid opinion-monitors in university dormitories (called “resident assistants,” or RAs).
Adam Kissel, Director of the Individual Rights Defense Program, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, explains in a 2008 speech:
The freshman arrived for her mandatory one-on-one session in her dormitory at 8 pm. Classes had been in session for about a week. Her resident assistant handed her a questionnaire. He told her it was “a little questionnaire to help [you] and all the other residents relate to the curriculum.” She “looked a little uncomfortable.”
“When did you discover your sexual identity?” the questionnaire asked.
She wrote in response: “That is none of your damn business.”
Another question: “When was a time you felt oppressed?”
Her response: “I am oppressed every day [because of my] feelings for the opera. Regularly [people]… jeer me with cruel names.… But I will overcome! Hear me, you rock-loving majority?”
The resident assistant felt appalled…. He wrote up an incident report and reported her to his superiors.
This one-on-one session was not a punishment… for a recalcitrant student who had committed an infraction. It was mandatory sensitivity training, indeed, but it was part of a program that was mandatory for all 7,000 students in the University of Delaware dorms. It was a thorough thought-reform curriculum that was designed by the school’s Residence Life staff in order to treat and correct the allegedly incorrect thoughts, attitudes, values, and beliefs of the students….
Many other features — the mandatory one-on-one and group sessions throughout the year; the “confrontation” training to help RAs challenge students who were not complying [with political correctness]; the posters with [politicized] messages spread throughout the dorms; the zero-tolerance policy against anything deemed “oppressive”; the individual files on students and their beliefs, in some cases called “portfolios,” which were to be archived after graduation; the RA reports on their “best” and “worst” one-on-one sessions; the scientific analysis of the questionnaires in order to measure improvement toward the “educational objective”; the “strong male RAs” who were hired to break the “resistance to educational efforts” among [especially] the young male students — all of this, according to the university’s own materials, was part of a cutting-edge educational model that had won awards from a professional association for university administrators, the American College Personnel Association.
As if this weren’t enough to prove that psychopolitics is alive and well in America, with the pervasive undercurrent of “mental illness” as justification, schools below the college level have thoroughly succeeded in exchanging academic testing for mental-health “assessment”; left out, rewritten, and altered history texts until virtually nothing is left of the Framers ideals of a constitutional republic; redefined and watered down morality into something called “situation ethics”; removed the physiology from health classes and replaced it with graphic sex education, beginning in kindergarten.
Already, we see the results:
Do you vocally promote the right to self-defense? Do you voice support for the intact family; national sovereignty and strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitution? Do you criticize easy immigration (i.e., without a citizen-sponsor); unrestricted free trade; free condoms hanging on some college freshmen’s dormitory doors; formalization of same-sex unions; abortion on-demand; mandatory mental-health screening of all pregnant women and schoolchildren? Do you have a problem with the policies of the Federal Reserve; with “traffic” cameras and other surreptitious surveillance devices; industry-wide bailouts; no-fault divorce and illegitimacy? Then, my friend, you are not merely holding to a “divergent viewpoint,” to use the 1950’s term; you are mentally ill and a prospective terrorists. You are a person who is ripe for radicalization and therefore suspect. Did you volunteer for certain political candidates in the 2008 election? Do you, by your choices of magazine literature and religious preference, show that you have “bought in to” theological tenets such as the Creation?
If any of these apply to you, good luck in ever securing a government grant or contract, or getting your child into a top university, when there are others who carry none of this psychological “baggage.”
Americans are supposed to view any opposition to all this as “paranoia.” Of course, the term paranoia carries a chilling effect, because it screams “mentally unbalanced” to the world.
Once it becomes possible, via technology, to track and legislate private opinions — and even to classify those that don’t conform as “mentally ill” — then we have left the realm of politics and moved into coercion. We have facilitated the stigmatization of political dissent and vocal objection using labels like such as “acute stress disorder” or “paranoid schizophrenia,” just as they do a right now, today, in China, according the aforementioned PBS segment.
As a former employee of the U.S. Justice Department, I personally saw several precursors to this document — “watch-out” reports (for lack of a better term) on a smaller scale under Janet Reno’s tenure there. These were distributed to employees following the first anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. Obviously, it has been greatly expanded, what with a network of government “Fusion Centers” in state after state.
With pharmaceutical company moguls and politicians sitting on each other’s boards (Sidney Taurel sat on the Homeland Security Council under George W. Bush’s administration); with nationwide mental health assessments like the New Freedom Commission sizing up the political “health” of schoolchildren, and the curriculum altered accordingly; and with “behavioral detection officers” (“BDOs”) looking for a sign of irritation among model citizens in airport security lines, while U.S. borders are left open for drug-runners who then get to sue Border Patrol agents for shooting them, America is in big trouble.
“Political dissent” is now in the eye of the bureaucratic beholder — or the surveillance camera, erected under the guise of traffic safety to pursue revenue and meaningless “gotchas.”
We’re all in China now.