Thursday, October 29, 2015

Our spies, our skies, our lies (updated)

Late-breaking update: We've learned more about the so-called National Liberation Militia and the planned Halloween attack. The group now appears to be real-ish, and apparently has some connection to Anonymous, although there is some evidence that the whole thing is really an anti-Anonymous sting operation. I'll have more to say about this document as soon as I've made sense of it.

A note of thanks. Many thanks to the readers who helped out during a time of crisis. Even though I did not formally ask for help, you came through anyways. The new ISP will be operational at some point next week.

To be honest, I did not know for a while that any donations had come in!

Y'see, the notifications went to my old Yahoo email account, which I don't often check. That account has devolved into a spam trap, stuffed with thousands of messages from every Democratic and Republican candidate running for every office in every state. You'd be amazed by the wide variety of people who want me as a pen pal, from Richard Viguerie to Barack Obama to the Anton Bruckner Society. I've tried to respond to the donors individually, but in case I missed any of you -- well, let me state here that our gratitude is profound.

A CIA black bag job. Northwest Research, a site which offers a lot of fine writing, has issued a bombshell report. The backstory takes us back to 1981, when "our" counterinsurgency forces in El Salvador massacred civilians in Santa Cruz. The operation was led by a particularly vicious Salvadoran officer named Sigifredo Ochoa Pérez, a close associate of the terrorist Roberto D’Aubuisson, blamed for the assassination of archbishop Oscar Romero.

Ancient history? The past is never dead, as the saying goes: It isn't even past.

Researchers at the University of Washington's Center for Human Rights filed an FOIA suit to find out what the CIA had on Ochoa. (It has long been known that the these thugs committed their murders under the watchful eye of American intelligence.) The CIA refused to comply with this request -- in fact, the Agency even refused to acknowledge the existence of pertinent documents that had been released years ago.

Result: Lawsuit.

By purest coincidence, CIA Director John Brennan spoke to the law school on that campus about a week and a half ago. At the same time, someone broke into the offices of Dr. Angelina Godoy, the Director of the Center for Human Rights.

It was a very odd crime...
First, there was no sign of forcible entry; the office was searched but its contents were treated carefully and the door was locked upon exit, characteristics which do not fit the pattern of opportunistic campus theft. Prof. Godoy’s office was the only one targeted, although it is located midway down a hallway of offices, all containing computers. The hard drive has no real resale value, so there seems no reason to take it unless the intention was to extract information. Lastly, the timing of this incident—in the wake of the recent publicity around our freedom of information lawsuit against the CIA regarding information on a suspected perpetrator of grave human rights violations in El Salvador—invites doubt as to potential motives. We have contacted colleagues in El Salvador, many of whom have emphasized parallels between this incident and attacks Salvadoran human rights organizations have experienced in recent years.
There's much more. What's the motive for this break-in? Why would the spooks, at this late date, try to cover up the horrors of the early Reagan era?

Well, there are indications of a link between the El Salvadoran thugs and former CIA director George H.W. Bush, who then served as Reagan's VP. I'm guessing that a faction within Spookland didn't want the Bush name to be further sullied in an election year.

Ever notice? For all of their paranoia, and for all of their blather about the evils of Big Gummint, right-wingers never denounce these outrageous actions against anti-CIA activists. (The Center for Human Rights break-in fits into a very familiar pattern.) Black bag jobs are always directed against serious researchers -- academics -- and never against goofballs like Alex Jones.

Speaking of goofballs: There was goofiness galore during the most recent GOP debate. Republican candidate John Kasich is one of the few members of his party whose cerebellum is not lodged firmly within his rectal regions.
"I've about had it with these people," Kasich said at the rally in Westerville, Ohio. "We got one candidate that says we ought to abolish Medicaid and Medicare. You ever heard of anything so crazy as that? Telling our people in this country who are seniors, who are about to be seniors that we're going to abolish Medicaid and Medicare?"
That's a reference to Ben Carson, whose speaking style reminds me of a spacier version of Emo Philips, or maybe a midway-through-SRS version of Michael Jackson. Carson also wants to raise taxes on poor people, because not taxing them is "condescending." He's also big on argumentum ad Hitlerum, on spreading the Gospel according to Cleon Skousen (Glenn Beck's favorite kook), and on uncovering The Dreaded Saul Alinski Conspiracy. He's a very strange guy. 

In our current political reality, a semi-reasonable personage like Kasich has no real chance at the nomination, while Space-Case Carson is the man to beat. Should liberals hope that the Republicans choose someone so unelectable?

Bye-bye, spy in the sky! You've probably heard about the very expensive blimp that got away, placing the entire program in danger. I had been watching these white elephants dancing above our skies for some time. (They were tethered over the Aberdeen Proving Grounds, and were visible for quite a few miles around.)

Although CNN wants us to feel sad to see the billion-buck blimp battalion go bust, I am of two minds. The stated purpose of these aerostats is to target missiles, boats and drones launched by an enemy, and most of us will have no problem with that. But, captious lad that I am, I wonder if the real purpose of this program is to spy on We the People.

The Intercept wrote about the aerostat progam last December:
And while the blimps may never stave off a barrage of enemy missiles, their ability to spot and track cars, trucks and boats hundreds of miles away is raising serious privacy concerns.

The project is called JLENS – or “Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System.” And you couldn’t come up with a better metaphor for wildly inflated defense contracts, a ponderous Pentagon bureaucracy, and the U.S. surveillance leviathan all in one.
Aerostats like JLENS aren’t limited to radar. If equipped with extremely high-resolution video cameras, they can see and record everything for miles, with extraordinary detail. In Kabul, for example, residents are used to seeing the U.S. military’s tethered aerostat—called the Persistent Ground Surveillance system—hovering above the city, capturing video of daily life below.

The Army insists that there will be no cameras on JLENS for now. In a test last year, however, Raytheon equipped one of the blimps with an MTS-B Multi-Spectral Targeting System that provides both day and night imaging, laser designation, and laser illumination capabilities.
Look, I'm not a stone-cold anti-surveillance fundamentalist, and I can see how such an airborne system might be useful during a certain type of terrorist attack. But is anti-terrorism the real reason why these aerostats went airborne?

At any rate, please don't blame the Runaway Blimp on me. I didn't do it. In fact, I feel sad for the other blimp. It must be feeling very lonely.

J.K. Rowling is hard at work on her latest book, Harry Potter and the Use of Strained Rationalization to Justify the Empowerment of Fascism and Racism. Spoiler: Hagrid's hut get bulldozed. The new Hogwarts administration decides to "mow the lawn" in the surrounding muggle communities, and anyone who opposes this action is accused of anti-Wizardism. 
Ben Carson is Alan Keyes on Valium.

I have NOT copyrighted this trope, nor will I. Everyone, please fell free to use it. ^_^
I think the problem nowadays is governments have to "curate" millions of pieces of data on possibly an hourly basis. The Blimp might help achieve that goal.
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