Y'know, I really really really REALLY would prefer to address any
topic other than the NSA right now. But that topic is Not So Avoidable.
We've just learned that the Big Plot uncovered by those stalwart lads and lasses at NSA involved an Al Qaeda scheme to take over Yemen
Yemeni government spokesman Rajeh Badi said the plot involved blowing up oil pipelines and taking control of certain cities - including two ports in the south, one of which accounts for the bulk of Yemen's oil exports and is where a number of foreign workers are employed.
Sources have told BBC Newsnight that the US is preparing special operations forces for possible strike operations against al-Qaeda in Yemen.
Although the US has previously sent special forces to train counter-terrorist units, there are now suggestions that the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), may be preparing units for strike operations, the sources said.
All very exciting. And, I suspect, all very fictional.
Faraway Yemen is a great place to set your Wag-the-Dog yarn. Who can double-check?
NSA defenders say that everything they do has congressional approval and oversight. To the contrary
On MSNBC on Wednesday night, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Ct) was asked by host Chris Hayes: "How much are you learning about what the government that you are charged with overseeing and holding accountable is doing from the newspaper and how much of this do you know?" The Senator's reply:
The revelations about the magnitude, the scope and scale of these surveillances, the metadata and the invasive actions surveillance of social media Web sites were indeed revelations to me."
But it is not merely that members of Congress are unaware of the very existence of these programs, let alone their capabilities. Beyond that, members who seek out basic information - including about NSA programs they are required to vote on and FISA court (FISC) rulings on the legality of those programs - find that they are unable to obtain it.
Denial of access for members of Congress to basic information about the NSA and the FISC appears to be common. Justin Amash, the GOP representative who, along with Democratic Rep. John Conyers, co-sponsored the amendment to ban the NSA's bulk collection of Americans' phone records, told CNN on July 31: "I, as a member of Congress, can't get access to the court opinions. I have to beg for access, and I'm denied it if I - if I make that request."
What about the intel committees?
Its members typically receive much larger contributions from the defense and surveillance industries than non-Committee members. And the two Committee Chairs - Democrat Dianne Feinstein in the Senate and Republican Mike Rogers in the House - are two of the most steadfast NSA loyalists in Congress. The senior Democrat on the House Committee is ardent NSA defender Dutch Ruppersberger, whose district not only includes NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, but who is also himself the second-largest recipient of defense/intelligence industry cash.
Moreover, even when members of the Intelligence Committee learn of what they believe to be serious abuses by the NSA, they are barred by law from informing the public.
Dutch -- who is also my
congressman -- is a Democrat, and has a "good" voting record (from a blue-state perspective) on most issues. This dichotomy is what makes his NSAttitude so annoying.
It's simple: We long ago reached the point where we no longer run the spooks. The spooks run us.
Speaking of dichotomies, we have a doozie
when it comes to everyone's favorite whistleblower. The official spookland spokespersons have, at various times, said that Snowden never had access to the programs he has revealed...
First up, we've got intelligence officials claiming that Snowden didn't get the really deep dark secrets of the NSA:
U.S. intelligence now believes Edward Snowden did not gain access to the "crown jewels" of National Security Agency programs that secretly intercept and monitor conversations around the world, CNN has learned.
Note that comes from CNN reporter Barbara Starr who is well known for basically spreading the NSA official line so much that she's been called "the Pentagon spokesperson who works for CNN." However, just a day later, another site published a quote from General Bob Kehler, who "oversees cyber warfare" and is "sort of" NSA chief Keith Alexander's boss, claiming something quite different:
He referred to the type of information Snowden released as ”the deepest of the deep secrets.”
So... he didn't get access to the "crown jewels" but has already released "the deepest of the deep secrets"? How does that work?
You can't claim a man is the new Benedict Arnold while simultaneously dismissing him as unimportant. It's got to be one or the other. Propagandists should follow the KYSS principle -- Keep Your Stories Straight!
Speaking of double-dealing...
Why is it okay for the Obama administration to reveal the details of (allegedly) intercepted Al Qaeda emails?
I mean, doesn't that get into a Snowden-esque "sources and methods" area?
Toss out your V mask:
Ed Snowden is the new Guy Fawkes.
How to use your secret info: This story
from a couple of days ago notes the main problem facing our spook overlords. Since we have not yet entered the era of open
technofascism, the feds face what we might call a "Coventry" dilemma: How do you use the information you've obtained without revealing the methods by which you obtained it?
If you're a fan of the BBC's Sherlock
series, you know the story about how Churchill allegedly let the Nazis bomb Coventry because preventing the raid would have revealed that he had obtained an Enigma machine. Although that story is questionable
(much of it derives from a fantasy writer named William Stephenson), the basic idea illustrates one of the major problems that all intelligence officials have faced. If, for example, you use information from an agent planted within an enemy government, you may not be able to act on that information without exposing your source.
In the current situation, the spooks have access to your every email and telephone conversation, but they don't want to broadcast that fact in any official way. In a sense, the Coventry problem is the only thing keeping you safe right now. Until the day comes when your masters decide to drop all pretense of democracy, you must be granted the illusion of privacy.
So what happens when FBI agents want to build a case based on data that they can't let the world know they know? Retuers gives us a few clues...
A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.
Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin - not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges.
The unit of the DEA that distributes the information is called the Special Operations Division, or SOD. Two dozen partner agencies comprise the unit, including the FBI, CIA, NSA, Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Homeland Security. It was created in 1994 to combat Latin American drug cartels and has grown from several dozen employees to several hundred.
So...you might say that America is under the SOD. The unit is located "in Virginia." Reuters won't say where
in Virginia, apparently at SOD's request -- national security and all that -- so I will happily give you the bits that Reuters left out. The Special Operations Division is located at 14560 Avion Parkway, Chantilly, VA 20151, a stone's throw away from the National Air and Space Museum (not the one on the Mall, but the really cool Udvar-Hazy center where they keep the space shuttle Discovery). Phone number: 703-488-4200. SOD is run by a fellow named Joseph Keefe. If you know where to look online, you may be able to find the address and phone number for a Joseph Keefe living in Chantilly. If you stop by, say "Hi" to Joey and tell him that Cannon sends his love.
Back to our Reuters story...
But two senior DEA officials defended the program, and said trying to "recreate" an investigative trail is not only legal but a technique that is used almost daily.
A former federal agent in the northeastern United States who received such tips from SOD described the process. "You'd be told only, ‘Be at a certain truck stop at a certain time and look for a certain vehicle.' And so we'd alert the state police to find an excuse to stop that vehicle, and then have a drug dog search it," the agent said.
Well, that's one
solution to the Coventry problem.
Remember the TOR spyware?
In our previous installment, we said that it was an FBI thing. Some white-hat hackers did a little digging and found that it transmits info to an IP address owned and operated by the NSA. Go here
and scroll down.