Wednesday, November 27, 2013

It's time for Congressional hearings

The NSA has been illegally spying on Americans for some time.  The revelations of whistle-blower Ed Snowden long ago established that and the revelations continue to emerge.

Now we learn that free speech doesn't exist in the United States via Snowden's latest revelations.  Glenn Greenwald, Ryan Gallagher and Ryan Grim (Huffington Post) report:

The National Security Agency has been gathering records of online sexual activity and evidence of visits to pornographic websites as part of a proposed plan to harm the reputations of those whom the agency believes are radicalizing others through incendiary speeches, according to a top-secret NSA document. The document, provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, identifies six targets, all Muslims, as “exemplars” of how “personal vulnerabilities” can be learned through electronic surveillance, and then exploited to undermine a target's credibility, reputation and authority.

The NSA document, dated Oct. 3, 2012, repeatedly refers to the power of charges of hypocrisy to undermine such a messenger. “A previous SIGINT" -- or signals intelligence, the interception of communications -- "assessment report on radicalization indicated that radicalizers appear to be particularly vulnerable in the area of authority when their private and public behaviors are not consistent,” the document argues. 

The government's illegally spying on people.

It's not looking for terrorists.

It's not trying to protect the 'homeland.'

It's targeting people using free speech and attempting to gather information to smear or target them.

This is what government spying has usually been about.

When it's exposed -- as with Tricky Dick Nixon -- there is justified outrage.

The government has no business looking into anyone's internet habits in an attempt to blackmail or humiliate them.

This is not about security.

It's about the existence of an enemy's list.

You have to have that list.

It exists.

You have to have the list of enemies to know who to target.

This is outrageous.

And if the NSA did need to exist to protect America, explain to us all please how they had the time to waste trolling through the internet histories of people who did nothing but spoke out?

If free speech really exists, you can't have a government agency spying on people in an attempt to destroy them for using their First Amendment rights.

Stephen Rex Brown (New York Daily News) notes:

  The six targets live outside the U.S., though one is classified as a “U.S. person,” meaning he is either a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and entitled to greater legal protections, according to the report.
None of the targets were accused of terrorism — rather, they allegedly inspired others by expressing “controversial ideas” through social media, the Huffington Post reported.

You either start objecting to this or you start accepting it as the new norm.

Far too many on the left have been silent.  They need to start deciding whether their allegiance is to the Bill of Rights or to a huckster politician who'll be out of office in three years?

It was real easy for us, on the left, when the abuses of the Nixon administration were exposed.  He was a right winger.  Calling out his abuses was no great test of character for those of us on the left.

But as we see the illegal spying and rush to look the other way, that says a great deal about our character -- or rather, our lack of character.

If you missed Saturday's NSA revelations, Tom Carter (WSWS) recaps:
 A top secret National Security Administration (NSA) strategy document leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden envisions spying on “anyone, anytime, anywhere,” free from all legal restraints, and radical expansions in the NSA’s activities in the period of 2012-2016.
The five-page document dated February 23, 2012, which was published by the New York Times on Saturday, is entitled “SIGINT Strategy 2012-2016.” The name of the author does not appear on the document, nor is it clear who was responsible for it.

The ACLU's Brett Max Kaufman has a piece on the latest spying revelations which opens:

In the five months since the world first learned of Edward Snowden, story after story based on documents disclosed by the young whistleblower have filled out a picture of the National Security Agency (NSA) as an organization with a limitless — and almost indiscriminate — hunger for information. Today, Glenn Greenwald, Ryan Gallagher, and Ryan Grim add a startling new dimension to that portrait by revealing that the agency has contemplated ways to use its troves of data to discredit and undermine individuals who the agency believes are "radicalizing others through incendiary speeches" but who lack any ties to actual criminality. The government is apparently seeking out "personal vulnerabilities" of these individuals, including their online sexual activity, hoping to expose them as hypocrites to their followers. While all of the targets are outside the United States, at least one of them is a U.S. person — meaning, either a citizen or a permanent resident.
As Greenwald notes, it's a story that's eerily reminiscent of past abuses of government surveillance authority. Greenwald's new report does not provide evidence of the NSA marshaling its vast databases to influence individuals or events within the United States. But you need not be a conspiracy theorist or a novelist with a knack for bending history to imagine how granting the NSA the power to "collect it all" might have seriously chilling and destructive repercussions here at home.

In fact, the NSA appears to be taking this effort right out of the shameful playbook of our not-so-distant history. Most infamously, as part of the COINTELPRO program, J. Edgar Hoover's Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) obsessively monitored the activities of Martin Luther King, Jr., picking and choosing from the results to produce a report chock full of insinuations about King's role in an evolving Communist conspiracy against the United States. Never mind that King unwaveringly espoused non-violence. It was King's rising public stature and broadly influential political ideas that led the government to see him as a threat.

We will be returning to this topic in the snapshot tonight.  If you're one of those who e-mail a day later to insist you should have been noted for writing whatever?  You need to e-mail by this evening with whatever link you're asking us to note.  Doesn't mean we will (we're not interested in the cowards who refuse to hold those in power accountable -- like Medea Benjamin and her 'opposition' to The Drone War that never includes calling Barack out)  but that's the time frame.  At 5:00 pm EST, I will be the only working the e-mail accounts -- private and public -- until next Monday.   The  public e-mail address for this site is