The folks at Funny or Die have come up with an ingenuous solution to render the NSA’s spy program useless. Operation: Everyone Talk Like a Terrorist All the Time. It makes a lot of sense, especially since the government already clearly considers everyone with the ability to think critically a potential “domestic terrorist.” Short video and really funny. Enjoy!
When we as a species use language to communicate and engage with one another, we have a certain understanding that certain words mean certain things. That is the entire purpose of language, effective communication between human beings that can be easily understood. As a result, we should be able to assume that when government bureaucrats utilize words that are commonplace within society, that these words represent specific commonly understood meanings. That would be a huge mistake.
Jameel Jaffer and Brett Max Kaufman of the ACLU have compiled an excellent list of some commonplace words used by the NSA to mislead us into thinking they aren’t doing the bad things that they are actually doing. Words such as “surveillance,” “collect,” and “relevant.” From Slate:
James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, has been harshly criticized for having misled Congress earlier this year about the scope of the National Security Agency’s surveillance activities. The criticism is entirely justified. An equally insidious threat to the integrity of our national debate, however, comes not from officials’ outright lies but from the language they use to tell the truth. When it comes to discussing government surveillance, U.S. intelligence officials have been using a vocabulary of misdirection—a language that allows them to say one thing while meaning quite another.
Surveillance. Every time we pick up the phone, the NSA makes a note of whom we spoke to, when we spoke to him, and for how long—and it’s been doing this for seven years. After the call-tracking program was exposed, few people thought twice about attaching the label “surveillance” to it. Government officials, though, have rejected the term, pointing out that this particular program doesn’t involve the NSA actually listening to phone calls—just keeping track of them. Their crabbed definition of “surveillance” allows them to claim that the NSA isn’t engaged in surveillance even when it quite plainly is.
Collect. If an intelligence official says that the NSA isn’t “collecting” a certain kind of information, what has he actually said? Not very much, it turns out. One of the NSA’s foundational documents states that “collection” occurs not when the government acquires information but when the government “selects” or “tasks” that information for “subsequent processing.” Thus it becomes possible for the government to acquire great reams of information while denying that it is “collecting” anything at all.
That definition of “collect” is completely and totally insane.
What is so interesting about Montana’s House Bill 603, which passed overwhelmingly the state Senate by a 96-4 margin, is that it was passed in April, or several months before Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations. Talk about some foresight. Hopefully, we will see many more such bills sweep across the nation, as “change” will have to be done at the local level. The central government in D.C. is hopelessly corrupt and I don’t see that changing. We must just decentralize away from the District of Criminals on our own. From the Atlantic Wire:
Privacy advocates, behold the Montana legislature and House Bill 603, a measure that requires the government to obtain a probable cause warrant before spying on you through your cell phone or laptop. HB 603 was signed into law this past spring, effectively making Montana the first state to have an anti-spy law long before anyone heard of Edward Snowden. To be clear, HB 603 passed the state Senate overwhelmingly by a vote of 96-4 in April and was signed into law on May 6.
At the time, the law might have seemed extraneous, or even paranoid. But knowing what we know now, the law seems prophetic. The law is pretty straightforward—the government can’t spy on Montanans through their electronic devices unless they obtain a warrant:
The following is a very powerful video taped yesterday when a simple citizen had the nerve to assert his constitutional rights in front of a power hungry storm trooper in the state of Tennessee. Minute five is particularly telling when the officer seems to lament the fact that “he’s perfectly innocent, he knows his rights, he knows what the Constitution says.” Also notice that when the citizen claims his 4th Amendment rights to not have his vehicle searched, the officer creates a scene where his canine supposedly “smells drugs in the car” as an excuse to search it. Of course, no drugs were found and the deputy was demonstrating that he can do whatever he wants to a mere slave in a vehicle traversing the “free” highways of America. This is a must watch. USA! USA!
Ai Weiwei is a Chinese artist and political dissident. Although he collaborated on the construction of Beijing National Stadium for the 2008 Olympics, his criticism of the government later led to his arrest without charges and imprisonment for several months. I believe there are two main takeaways from the following article he wrote for The Guardian. First, he knows what it is like to live in an authoritarian regime with very little freedom or civil liberties. Thus it would be wise to take his warning to heart. Second, he illustrates a key point I have been trying to make for years. All citizens of the world must refuse to allow their respective governments to drag us into a war started by various oligarchs located in distinct geographic locations. 99.9% of the population must come together and understand that oligarchs within the U.S. and oligarchs within China are united against us all. We must never forget this. These guys don’t fight wars. Rather, they rape, steal and pillage and then send you to do their dirty work. Don’t fall for it. From The Guardian:
I lived in the United States for 12 years. This abuse of state power goes totally against my understanding of what it means to be a civilised society, and it will be shocking for me if American citizens allow this to continue. The US has a great tradition of individualism and privacy and has long been a centre for free thinking and creativity as a result.
In our experience in China, basically there is no privacy at all – that is why China is far behind the world in important respects: even though it has become so rich, it trails behind in terms of passion, imagination and creativity.
When human beings are scared and feel everything is exposed to the government, we will censor ourselves from free thinking. That’s dangerous for human development.
In the Soviet Union before, in China today, and even in the US, officials always think what they do is necessary, and firmly believe they do what is best for the state and the people. But the lesson that people should learn from history is the need to limit state power.
I like Oregon Senator Ron Wyden. He is one of the few Congressmen who has exhibited strong support in the defense of privacy issues, from his questions around drones, to his concerns with regard to the surveillance state being implemented all around us. Recall, he was the only Democrat who strongly spoke in support of Rand Paul during his historic filibuster on the U.S. government’s drone program.
In light of recent information we have received from Edward Snowden regarding NSA spying on the entire populace, it is now entirely clear that former Booz Allen executive and Obama’s current Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, told a complete and total lie in front of Congress. As such, Senator Wyden is calling for hearings. Here is his statement:
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) issued the following statement regarding statements made by the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper about collection on Americans. Wyden is a senior member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“One of the most important responsibilities a Senator has is oversight of the intelligence community. This job cannot be done responsibly if Senators aren’t getting straight answers to direct questions. When NSA Director Alexander failed to clarify previous public statements about domestic surveillance, it was necessary to put the question to the Director of National Intelligence. So that he would be prepared to answer, I sent the question to Director Clapper’s office a day in advance. After the hearing was over my staff and I gave his office a chance to amend his answer. Now public hearings are needed to address the recent disclosures and the American people have the right to expect straight answers from the intelligence leadership to the questions asked by their representatives.”
Now here is the best part of this post. Watch the video of James Clapper’s very clear and public lie. No wonder he called Snowden’s information “gut wrenching.” Talk about traitors…
Yesterday, someone created a “Pardon Edward Snowden” petition on Whitehouse.gov and I’ve never seen a petition get this many signatures this fast. Recall, the Administration raised the threshold on these petitions from 25,000 to 100,000 back in January. This threshold represents the amount needed to garner a White House response. This petition already has 21,500 signatures in less than a day. I’d like to see it get to one million. If it gets a massive amount of signatures it will be a major statement, media story and embarrassment to Obama. Please consider signing it here, I have done so.
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There are three words that come to mind when I think of Ron Paul; principles, credibility and consistency. Not only is the video below great because we get to see Dr. Paul speak on the Congressional floor thirty years younger, but also because he was adamantly criticizing civil liberties threats in the context of a Republican President, Ronald Reagan. He warned us about what the NSA and other intelligence agencies are currently doing well before the internet became widespread. The man is a statesman of the highest order. Definitely take the time to watch this short video.
In a courageous and brilliant strategic move, the whistleblower everyone is talking about has come forward and revealed his identity as well as current location. His name is Edward Snowden, he is 29 years old and has fled to Hong Kong. He was most recently working with the NSA as a contractor for Booz Allen Hamilton. If you recall, Booz Allen Hamilton is one of the defense contractors that activist and unofficial Anonymous spokesperson Barrett Brown was investigating when he was arrested and turned into a political prisoner. As might be expected, The Guardian has broken Mr. Snowden’s story. Some choice excerpts are below:
The individual responsible for one of the most significant leaks in US political history is Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden has been working at the National Security Agency for the last four years as an employee of various outside contractors, including Booz Allen and Dell.
The Guardian, after several days of interviews, is revealing his identity at his request. From the moment he decided to disclose numerous top-secret documents to the public, he was determined not to opt for the protection of anonymity. “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” he said.
In a note accompanying the first set of documents he provided, he wrote: “I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions,” but “I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant.”
He has had “a very comfortable life” that included a salary of roughly $200,000, a girlfriend with whom he shared a home in Hawaii, a stable career, and a family he loves. “I’m willing to sacrifice all of that because I can’t in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.”
Actually the image is titled “Stasi USA” and it’s another brilliant gem from William Banzai7. Some things never CHANGE.