Attorney General Holder Authorizes Unprecedented Government Surveillance of U.S. Citizens

In 1974 Congress passed the Federal Privacy Act making it illegal to share information for any other purpose than the reason the data was collected in the first place without obtaining a warrant.  That protection is dead.

Eric Holder
Eric Holder

A secret government agreement granted without approval or debate from lawmakers, by Attorney General Eric Holder, allows the National Counterterroism Center (NCTC) to monitor records of citizens for any potential criminal activity, without a warrant and without suspicion.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the records that will be subject to seizure and examination by the NCTC include “flight records, casino-employee lists, the names of Americans hosting foreign exchange students and many others.”

Whereas previously the law prohibited the center from storing data compilations on U.S. citizens unless they were suspected of terrorist activity or were relevant to an ongoing terrorism investigation, the new powers give the center the ability to not only collect and store vast databases of information but also to trawl through and analyze it for suspicious patterns of behavior in order to uncover activity that could launch an investigation.

Furthermore, this information could only be stored for five years; that information will be stored indefinitely, so that the data can be analyzed by federal agents for signs of potential criminal behavior.

The changes granted by Holder would also allow databases containing information about U.S. citizens to be shared with foreign governments for their own analysis.

In a historic and unconstitutional way, the new directives grant NCTC the power to place every American under the constant surveillance of the federal government, not because these people have ever merited the attention, but because someday they might.

Granting an agency of the federal government the power to place innocent citizens under surveillance is not only an unconscionable diminution of due process rights, but a wholesale regulatory nullification of the Bill of Rights.

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Soldiers Ordered Not To Offend Radical Islamists

When the Ft. Hood terrorist shooting became “workplace violence”, after certain words such as “Radical Islam”, “terrorism” and “Jihadist” were removed from all national security documents, or when the FBI allowed a known Hamas operative into a six week program that included tours of top-secret areas of our National Counterterrorism Center, I truly thought it couldn’t get worse. I was wrong.

What has been termed “Green on Blue” attacks, (with green being the Afghan forces and blue being the U.N. or Coalition forces), has killed 125 troops.  A breakdown of deaths per year and percentage of Coalition deaths caused by such attacks shows the increase since these attacks started,

  • 2008 – 2 – less than 1%
  • 2009 – 12 – 2%
  • 2010 – 16 – 2%
  • 2011 – 35 – 6%
  • 2012 – 60 – 16%

A Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article on December 11 reported on a new Army manual or handbook for U.S. Troops that goes beyond any stupidity I have seen thus far from this administration,

The 75-page manual, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, is part of a continuing effort by the U.S. military to combat a rise in attacks by Afghan security forces aimed at coalition troops.

The proposed Army handbook suggests that Western ignorance of Afghan culture, not Taliban infiltration, has helped drive the recent spike in deadly attacks by Afghan soldiers against the coalition forces.

According to the draft handbook prepared by Army researchers,  “Many of the confrontations occur because of [coalition] ignorance of, or lack of empathy for, Muslim and/or Afghan cultural norms, resulting in a violent reaction from the [Afghan security force] member.”

According to Pamela Gellar of atlasshrugs.com:

“The draft leaked to the newspaper offers a list of “taboo conversation topics” that soldiers should avoid, including “making derogatory comments about the Taliban,” “advocating women’s rights,” “any criticism of pedophilia,” “directing any criticism towards Afghans,” “mentioning homosexuality and homosexual conduct” or “anything related to Islam.”

In addition to this madness, the manual also claims that it is not the Taliban that is causing the rise in attacks by Afghan soldiers, but a lack of understanding on the part of the West.

The “study” for this new manual is what I find to be most interesting,

The study, based on interviews with 600 members of the Afghan security forces and 200 American soldiers, painted a grim portrait of opposing cultures with simmering disdain for their counterparts.

The draft handbook uses Maj. Bordin’s conclusions to psychologically prepare troops for serving in Afghanistan. A summary includes views of some U.S. soldiers that Afghan forces engage in thievery, are “gutless in combat,” are “basically stupid,” “profoundly dishonest,” and engage in “treasonous collusion and alliances with enemy forces.”

So basically after interviewing 200 U.S. soldiers the overwhelming consensus is that Afghan forces are thieves who are gutless, basically stupid, profoundly dishonest and are treasonous. So rather than believing those that have served and fought there, just write a rule book telling them not to say or do anything.

The U.S. is due to pull out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014 just one year from now. As soon as the U.S. and coalition forces leave, the Taliban will step right back in and it will have been 13 years of wasted time, money and worst of all lives.

I have an idea, let’s forget about not insulting them and just leave now. I mean why bother waiting for more “green on blue” attacks and more deaths and for the military to realize that maybe it was because of the war and not the insults.

Iran Pursues Development of Deadly Bioweapons

Russian scientists have helped Iran master four microbial agents for bombs, which the Islamic regime has used to arm 37 launch-ready missiles so far, sources have revealed.

Shahid Bahonar Microbial Bomb plant
Shahid Bahonar Microbial Bomb plant

The secret work is being done at a plant named Shahid Bahonar on a mountaintop by the city of Marzanabad off the mountainous Chalus road to the Iranian Caspian Sea.

The plant, under the supervision of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, is headed by Dr. Esmaeil Namazi, who oversees 28 Iranian and 12 Russian scientists, according to a source in the Revolutionary Guards intelligence division with access to the site.

There are several underground facilities at two levels with elevators reaching the lower level some 40 feet underground and where more than 100 personnel work on the microbial bomb project, the source said.

The plant has been expanded significantly in the last two years, and two high-power towers, one at the bottom of the mountain and one behind the plant, provide the needed electricity for the site.

Homes have been built close by to accommodate personnel so they would not raise suspicion by commuting back and forth.

The Shahid Bahonar site is heavily guarded and is visited weekly by a representative of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. All personnel, including members of the intelligence division on routine inspection, are disarmed before being allowed entry. Antiaircraft missiles and batteries surround the site, and plans call for further expansion, including a hospital for plant personnel.

The scientists are working on 18 agents but so far they have developed four for weaponization, according to the source, who provided particulars on three of them:

  • Bacillus anthracis (anthrax). This bacteria was developed by the United States during World War II and through espionage was obtained by the Soviet Union, which has long mastered the production. Russian scientists have helped the Iranians to produce anthrax.
  • Encephalitis. The blueprint of this virus, Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis, was provided by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in an agreement two years ago with the Islamic regime.
  • Yellow grain. This third agent, developed with the help of North Korea but named “yellow grain” by the Iranians, has no smell and upon impact will destroy the body’s defensive system. Victims would have a hard time walking or breathing within hours and slowly their digestive systems would be destroyed, likely followed by death within 48 hours.  (“Yellow grain” could be similar to “yellow rain,” which the then-Soviet Union allegedly provided to North Vietnam and Laos to use against U.S.-backed rebels.)

Peter Vincent Pry“It is no secret that Iran, in addition to pursuing nuclear weapons, has major programs for biological and chemical weapons, in defiance of the Biological and Chemical Weapons Convention that supposedly bans such weapons worldwide,” said Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, an advisory board to Congress.

Dr. Pry said a former high-ranking Iranian official of proven credibility with access to the inner circles of Iran’s government also alleged that Iran has armed missiles with chemical and biological warheads. According to this source, Iran has contingency plans for a massive biological and chemical attack against Israel should Israel attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The arming of warheads with microbial agents takes place at the Shahid Bahonar site and, according to the source, those warheads, which do not create an explosion but spray a large area, can kill tens of thousands of people quickly.

Clare LopezClare M. Lopez, a senior fellow at the Center for Security Policy, said:

“From research published by Dr. Jill Dekker of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Dr. Anthony Cordesman at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and others, we know that Iran, although a signatory to the Biological Weapons Convention, is reported to have weaponized anthrax, mycotoxins and smallpox. Iran possesses a sophisticated technological infrastructure, including university laboratories, within which it seeks to conceal its (biological weapons) program.

“The use or even threat of use of biological weapons by Iran – whether a bacterium like anthrax, a virus like Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis or a mycotoxin like yellow rain – would cross a red line, certainly for Israel and for the international community as well. Iran must know that even the threatened deployment of such biological weapons would invite an overwhelming military response that could devastate the country.”

As reported in WND on Dec. 4, the Islamic regime has 170 ballistic missiles pointed at Tel Aviv alone, some armed with biological warheads. A knowledgeable Middle East security official from another country, who did not want to be named, verified knowledge of Iranian ballistic missiles armed with biological weapons, stating that 500 ballistic missiles are pointed at Israel and that also several other countries are on the regime’s target list.

Obama Plans to Expand Military In The Philippines

U.S. and Philippine officials are expected to agree on an increase in the number of U.S. military ships, aircraft and troops rotating through the Philippines, Filipino officials said, as tensions simmer with China over its maritime claims.

According to the Diplomat, the United States

“has reportedly agreed to substantially increase its military presence in the Philippines, increasing the number of troops, aircraft and ships which routinely rotate through the country. Details surrounding the scale of the increase were not made public but Pio Lorenzo Batino, the Philippines deputy defense minister said policy consultations were also held on a framework that would allow Washington to bolster military equipment in-country as well.”

The size of the increase in the U.S. military assets in the Philippines, a former U.S. colony, was unclear.

But it comes as the Philippines, Australia and other parts of the region have seen a resurgence of U.S. warships, planes and personnel under Washington’s so-called “pivot” in foreign, economic and security policy towards Asia announced last year.

U.S. and Philippine officials say there is no plan to revive permanent U.S. military bases in the Philippines – the last ones were closed in 1992 – and that the increased presence would help provide relief during disasters such as a typhoon last week that killed more than 700 people.

“The increase rotation presence is in areas where we have been traditionally exercising,” said Sorreta. “There are other areas for example where we have been experiencing more disasters. So we might be expanding exercises there.”

One U.S. official said Washington was not ready to wade directly into the territorial dispute in the South China Sea and instead would focus on strengthening security ties with long-standing allies such as the Philippines.

It is rather obvious to the world why we are making this deal with the Philippines. But, of course, the United States is pretending this is all about humanitarian help.

“Increased U.S. support would also serve The Philippines when struggling against natural disasters, which occur quite frequently. Typhoon Bopha was the most recent, claiming more than 900 lives as it swept across the southern Philippines last week. Both Manila and Washington seemed to emphasis the humanitarian nature of the increased U.S. presence in the country, likely in an effort to assuage China’s inevitable concern,” according to the Diplomat report.

I am sorry for the Philippines suffering in natural disasters, but we have our own disasters to worry about. And it is not the responsibility of the US Armed Forces to help other countries with natural disasters. And it isn’t clear how bolstering “military equipment in-country” would be necessary for this sort of humanitarian aid.

When we look out over the world and read the news, one wonders if it would be simpler to list the countries where we aren’t sending troops. Here we are in the middle of an economic crisis, and facing the need to make massive spending cuts, yet Obama is committed to encircling China. This has been a fixation of his, as BBC reported last year, on Obama’s speech in Australia:

“The Asia-Pacific region is now a ‘top priority’ of US security policy, President Barack Obama has said in a speech to the Australian parliament. Mr Obama insisted US spending cuts would not affect the Asia-Pacific, saying the US is ‘here to stay.’ His comments are seen as a challenge to China, which is striving to be the main power in the region. Mr Obama announced a plan on Wednesday to station a full US Marine task force in Australia by 2016. The measure will eventually see 2,500 US personnel based in the north of the country.”

Why are we insisting in involving ourselves in far away nations and provoking China? Why aren’t we cutting back and bringing the troops home in order to reduce the deficit?

I have no fondness for Chinese communist government, but the United States’ impending debt collapse is far more of a serious national security threat than anything on that side of the Pacific.

China Calls for Gun Controls in U.S.

Chinese flag mapThe state news agency in China, the official voice of the government, has called for the United States to quickly adopt stricter gun controls in the aftermath of the shooting rampage in Connecticut that left 28 people dead, including 20 schoolchildren.

“Their blood and tears demand no delay for U.S. gun control,” said the news agency, Xinhua, which listed a series of shootings this year in the United States.

“However, this time, the public feels somewhat tired and helpless,” the commentary said. “The past six months have seen enough shooting rampages in the United States.”

Hmmmm…well, if the Chinese think we should ban guns, maybe we should consider their record…

Were you aware that on the same day as the attack in Connecticut, China suffered its own school tragedy ?

In that case a man stabbed 22 children at a village elementary school in Henan Province. An 85-year-old woman also was stabbed.

There were no fatalities, although Xinhua reported that some of the children had had their fingers and ears cut off. The attacker, a 36-year-old man, was reportedly in custody. There was no immediate explanation for his possible motives.

China experienced a spate of attacks on schoolchildren in 2010, with almost 20 deaths and more than 50 injuries. In the fourth of the assaults, a crazed man beat five toddlers with a hammer, then set himself on fire while holding two youngsters.

The most recent such attack took place in August, when a man broke into a middle school in the southern city of Nanchang and stabbed two students before fleeing.

In one of the worst attacks, a man described as an unemployed, middle-aged doctor killed eight children with a knife in March 2010 to vent his anger over a thwarted romantic relationship.

Private ownership of guns — whether pistols, rifles or shotguns — is almost unheard of in China. The Chinese school assaults were carried out with knives, kitchen cleavers or hammers, the usual weapons of choice in mass attacks in China.

These are the folks lecturing us about passing gun controls?

Americans Are The Most Spied On People In History

On August 17, 1975, Sen. Frank Church appeared on “Meet the Press” to discuss his investigations into the surveillance capabilities of America’s intelligence agencies.

Sen. Frank Church
Sen. Frank Church

We have a particular obligation to examine the NSA, in light of its tremendous potential for abuse . . . The danger lies in the ability of the NSA to turn its awesome technology against domestic communications…

That capacity at any time could be turned around on the American people and no American would have any privacy left; such [is] the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter.

There would be no place to hide. If government ever became a tyranny, if a Dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back, because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology.

Since the day when Senator Church spoke the words quoted above, there has been a dramatic change in the way Americans and for that matter the world communicates. Thousands of miles of fiber optic cables rest on the sea bottom around the world allowing transmissions of voice, email, graphics and music to travel at the speed of light. Additionally the pervasive use of cell phones has changed the way that the intelligence community has risen to meet the challenges.

Today there is very little that is known about peoples of the world that is not lying in massive global databases under the scrutiny of governments. The expansion of technology since 9/11 has grown tremendously and governments are spending billions annually to spy on their own people.

Julia Angwin
Julia Angwin

In a radio interview, Wall Street Journal reporter Julia Angwin made a simple observation that the US surveillance regime has more data on the average American than the Stasi ever did on East Germans.Indeed, the American government has more information on the average American than Stalin had on Russians, Hitler had on German citizens, or any other government has ever had on its people.The American government is collecting and storing virtually every phone call, purchases, email, text message, internet searches, social media communications, health information, employment history, travel and student records, and virtually all other information of every American.Some also claim that the government is also using facial recognition software and surveillance cameras to track where everyone is going.

Moreover, cell towers track where your phone is at any moment, and the major cell carriers, including Verizon and AT&T, responded to at least 1.3 million law enforcement requests for cell phone locations and other data in 2011. And – given that your smart phone routinely sends your location information back to Apple or Google – it would be child’s play for the government to track your location that way.

William Binney
William Binney

As the top spy chief at the U.S. National Security Agency explained, the American government is collecting some 100 billion 1,000-character emails per day, and 20 trillion communications of all types per year.

He says that the government has collected all of the communications of congressional leaders, generals and everyone else in the U.S. for the last 10 years.

He further explains that he set up the NSA’s system so that all of the information would automatically be encrypted, so that the government had to obtain a search warrant based upon probably cause before a particular suspect’s communications could be decrypted. But the NSA now collects all data in an unencrypted form, so that no probable cause is needed to view any citizen’s information.

He says that if anyone gets on the government’s “enemies list”, then the stored information will be used to target them. Specifically, he notes that if the government decides it doesn’t like someone, it analyzes all of the data it has collected on that person and his or her associates over the last 10 years to build a case against him.

TechDirt points out:

While the Stasi likely wanted more info and would have loved to have been able to tap into a digitally connected world like we have today, that just wasn’t possible.

Big Brother is Watching, Listening, Reading, Inspecting...That’s true. The tyrants in Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia and Stasi Eastern Europe would have liked to easedrop on every communication and every transaction of every citizen.

But in the world before the internet, smart phones, electronic medical records and digital credit card transactions, much of what happened behind closed doors remained private.

In modern America, a much higher percentage of your communications and transactions are being recorded and stored by the government.

“I don’t want to see this country ever go across the bridge,” Senator Church said. “I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.”

Who Owns Our National Debt?

Former Senator Alan Simpson has arguably done more to address our fiscal problems than anyone else in the last three years. He was co-chairman of the president’s deficit-reduction committee, commonly known as the Simpson-Bowles budget plan.  He has travelled the nation talking with groups, large and small, about our nation’s fiscal problems.

Recently, he appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and was talking about the fiscal cliff:

Alan Simpson on Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Alan Simpson talking with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show

There’s a group out there that doesn’t give a damn about Republicans or Democrats or the president, and it’s the people we owe $16 trillion to. Half of that is owned by private people — people in New York or Cody, Wyoming. The other half is owned by feds, and half of that is owned by China.

Now, hold on just a moment!  I know that is in vogue to say that China is our largest creditor, but let’s try something unusual.  Let’s try getting some the facts out in the open.

China doesn’t own a quarter of our debt. It doesn’t even own 10%. When the latest data comes out, it probably won’t even be the largest foreign creditor. (That will likely be Japan!)  Actually, China has been a net seller of Treasuries for almost two years.

So, who does own our $16 trillion national debt?  Here are the figures as of June 2012 (the most recent month for which data is available):

debta_largeAnd here’s the breakdown of the 10 largest foreign holders as of September:

debtb_largeYes, China is the largest foreign holder — though its share is nowhere near one-quarter of the total. But Japan owns an almost identical amount of Treasuries, and its share is growing like a weed.

So, why all the fuss about China when no one seems to care about Japan?

China, as mentioned, has been a net seller of Treasuries since 2011. In May 2011, China held $1.31 trillion in Treasuries — $200 billion more than it owns today.

Many have asked in panicked tones what will happen to interest rates when China stops buying our debt. The answer: It already has. And, yet the world goes on in spite of the facts.  And what’s more, interest rates are at all-time lows.

Some will counter that the only reason interest rates are low is that the Federal Reserve is buying all the new debt — right?

The answer is: sort of, but there are misconceptions here, too.

The Fed has purchased a lot of Treasuries over the last few years, but that was after it slashed its holdings in late 2008 to make room on its balance sheet for emergency programs to stabilize the financial system.

Since 2002, the Fed’s holdings of Treasuries have increased by $1 trillion, or 10.8% of the new debt issued during that time.

So who has purchased the $9.3 trillion in new debt issued over the last decade? Pulling from several different sources, here’s what I came up with:

debtc_largeNone of this should be taken as an attempt to belittle those nervous about the debt. It’s a very serious issue and no one should take lightly.

The fact that we rely on foreign investors to finance 44% of our annual deficit is, to put it lightly, not ideal. The kindness of strangers doesn’t last forever.

But what’s more dangerous than a massive mountain of national debt?

Lies, exaggerations and misconceptions about that debt.