April 11, 2012
By Madison Ruppert
“The future is here. The robots are coming.” –KTRN
Last year I reported on the Pentagon’s 1033 Program, wherein local law enforcement agencies can obtain surplus military hardware through a website, only having to pay to pick up the equipment.
Now, according to the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), law enforcement will be even further militarized through the use of hundreds of military robots acquired by the Department of Defense over the past decade.
According to the head of the eastern team of DLA’s disposition services office, Dan Arnold, the older and more heavily used items will likely be robots for explosive ordnance disposal and surveillance, although some of the hardware is nearly brand new and never been deployed overseas.
According to National Defense, Arnold said to the attendees of the GovSec conference in Washington, D.C., that these robots are just one instance of the surplus equipment that will likely become available as the conflict in Afghanistan supposedly winds down.
These items will be available to absolutely any law enforcement agency, be they federal, state or local, so long as they have a counter-narcotics or counterterrorism mission of some kind.
Arnold said that they are still working out the final details with the Army’s Tank Automotive, Research and Development Command out of Warren, Michigan.
March 29, 2012
By Brandon Turbeville
Only a day before Barack Obama signed the recent National Defense Resources Preparedness Executive Order giving himself and his Secretaries complete control over every material needed for human survival, Attorney General Eric Holder also signed new guidelines for the National Counterterrorism Center which will officially allow the NCTC to increase the amount of information gleaned from American citizens and the amount of time this information can be legally held.
The new guidelines lengthen the amount of time the NCTC can retain the private information of Americans who are not suspected of having any ties to terrorism from 180 days to five years.
Not only that, but the new guidelines have developed new “tracks” by which the NCTC can acquire information which is gathered by another agency. The tracks are thus: by conducting the search itself, by asking the other agency to conduct the search, or by “replicating the database and analyzing the information itself.”
In terms of commercial data such as credit cards and other forms of purchases, the guidelines are silent, leaving a gaping hole of broad interpretation that will no doubt be used in order to encompass every other possible piece of data available. That is, information that is not already being provided to the NCTC by private corporations who have obtained it via consumer records.
For those who are easily confused by legalese, these new “tracks” essentially open up the ability of the NCTC to acquire and centralize all information gathered by itself and other agencies in its entirety. Basically, the new guidelines allow for creation of a massive centralized database of information compiled on average, law-abiding Americans.
In essence, we are seeing the legal reaffirmation of the Total Information Awareness program in legal terms.
March 29, 2012
By Madison Ruppert
“Land of the free? Think again.” –KTRN
It has now emerged that the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) formally taught their agents that they were able to “bend or suspend the law and impinge upon the freedoms of others” in their quest to find alleged terrorists and criminals.
It gets even worse when we read that they claim they have “the ability to gather information on individuals which would normally be protected under the US Constitution through the use of FISA, Title 3 monitoring, NSL reports, etc.”
While the FBI’s extrajudicial assaults on the freedoms of Americans is nothing new, along with the federal government’s insane expansion of authority into unthinkable realms including the power to assassinate Americans at will, these discoveries are especially troubling.
According to Wired’s Danger Room, the FBI claims they simply didn’t mean it and since have removed the offending document from their counterterrorism training curriculum, characterizing it as an “imprecise” instruction.
This explanation is hardly surprising given that the Department of Defense made similar claims after it emerged that their training materials explicitly classified protesting as an act of “low-level terrorism.”
“Dismissing this statement as ‘imprecise’ is a rather unsatisfying response given the very precise lines Congress and the courts have repeatedly drawn between what is and is not permissible, even in counterterrorism cases, over the past decade,” Steve Vladeck, a national-security law professor at American University, said to Danger Room.
“It might technically be true that the FBI has certain authorities when conducting counterterrorism investigations that the Constitution otherwise forbids, but that’s good only so far as it goes,” he added.
However, I think that the lines drawn by Congress have been woefully incomplete, especially given the fact that it is unusual for one of our so-called representatives to actually stand up for our rights against an increasingly infringing federal government.
January 27, 2012
CBS New York
They’re used in war zones for surveillance and military strikes.
But are there plans to deploy drones in the Big Apple to keep an eye on New Yorkers?
More and more people believe it’s inevitable, reports CBS 2’s Don Dahler.
Drones are unmanned aircraft that can fly at low altitudes and shoot live video — or shoot live missiles.
Surveillance cameras already dot the city’s streets, but is the NYPD exploring the use of even more eyes in the skies, in the form of drones? Some evidence points to yes.
A website named Gay City News posted an e-mail it says it acquired through the Freedom of Information Act. It’s purportedly from a detective in the NYPD counterterrorism division, asking the Federal Aviation Administration about the use of unmanned aerial vehicles as a law enforcement tool.
And the following is part of a recent interview with Commission Ray Kelly that raised more questions than it answered.
“In an extreme situation, you would have some means to take down a plane,” Kelly told “60 Minutes.”
Drones are already being used by law enforcement in other cities. CBS 2 has obtained footage of a huge protest in Poland a few months ago, shot by a small drone that could fly a few dozen feet right over the heads of the crowd and the police. High-resolution cameras can capture every detail, including faces and license plate numbers. In this country, Miami and several cities in Texas are experimenting with such aircraft.
January 17, 2012
By Ilan Berman
Earlier today, President Obama unveiled a revamped national military strategy in a major address at the Pentagon. While the full details of the strategy—dubbed “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense”—have yet to be disclosed, early reports offer some important insights into the Administration’s evolving national security and defense priorities.
Transitioning beyond the War on Terror. In his remarks, President Obama emphasized that the White House was “turning the page on a decade of war,” and that the U.S. withdrawals from both Iraq and Afghanistan are part of that process. So too, according to the President, is a reorientation of U.S. military strategy toward a qualitatively new set of strategic priorities. This suggests that, with the death of Osama bin Laden, the White House is eager change the conversation away from counterterrorism, even though al-Qaeda and other terrorist actors still represent a serious threat.
More emphasis on cyberspace. The strategy pledges new investments in defense against hostile intrusion and cyber attack. This is an area where the Obama administration, for all of its rhetoric to the contrary, has done comparatively little. Of the 24 near- and medium-term priorities for bolstering national cybersecurity outlined by the Administration in its May 2009 cybersecurity review, the Government Accountability Office last year found just two to have been fully implemented. The U.S. military, to its credit, has done a bit more. Yet a comprehensive strategy for cyberoffense and cyberdefense remains a long way off. That the Pentagon now plans to invest more heavily on those fronts is unequivocally a good thing.
A retreat from Europe? The strategy suggests a major shift in America’s relations with Europe is in the offing, stressing that the U.S. presence on the Old Continent must “evolve.” What that means, concretely, remains to be seen. Most likely, it foreshadows a reduction of U.S. troop basing there in favor of deployments in Asia, a region that has taken center stage on the Administration’s foreign policy agenda of late. But political compromises could figure into the equation as well, since the Obama administration’s efforts to erect a missile shield in Europe have met with stiff resistance from the Kremlin, and the White House is still heavily invested in its “reset” of relations with Russia. As such, it could easily be tempted to pivot away from the idea of defending Europe from ballistic missile attack—something that would leave vulnerable Eastern European allies in the cold while handing Moscow a major geopolitical victory.
January 11, 2012
By Greg Miller
The Obama administration’s counterterrorism accomplishments are most apparent in what it has been able to dismantle, including CIA prisons and entire tiers of al-Qaeda’s leadership. But what the administration has assembled, hidden from public view, may be equally consequential.
In the space of three years, the administration has built an extensive apparatus for using drones to carry out targeted killings of suspected terrorists and stealth surveillance of other adversaries. The apparatus involves dozens of secret facilities, including two operational hubs on the East Coast, virtual Air Force cockpits in the Southwest and clandestine bases in at least six countries on two continents.
The emergence of hunter-killer and surveillance drones as revolutionary new weapons in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in counterterrorism operations in places such as Pakistan and Yemen, has spawned a multibillion-dollar industry.
Other commanders in chief have presided over wars with far higher casualty counts. But no president has ever relied so extensively on the secret killing of individuals to advance the nation’s security goals.
The rapid expansion of the drone program has blurred long-standing boundaries between the CIA and the military. Lethal operations are increasingly assembled a la carte, piecing together personnel and equipment in ways that allow the White House to toggle between separate legal authorities that govern the use of lethal force.
In Yemen, for instance, the CIA and the military’s Joint Special Operations Command pursue the same adversary with nearly identical aircraft. But they alternate taking the lead on strikes to exploit their separate authorities, and they maintain separate kill lists that overlap but don’t match. CIA and military strikes this fall killed three U.S. citizens, two of whom were suspected al-Qaeda operatives.
The convergence of military and intelligence resources has created blind spots in congressional oversight. Intelligence committees are briefed on CIA operations, and JSOC reports to armed services panels. As a result, no committee has a complete, unobstructed view.
With a year to go in President Obama’s first term, his administration can point to undeniable results: Osama bin Laden is dead, the core al-Qaeda network is near defeat, and members of its regional affiliates scan the sky for metallic glints.
December 14, 2011
By Adam Serwer
The version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that emerged from a House-Senate conference meeting Tuesday morning contains many of the same provisions that administration officials and national security experts have warned would harm national security. But while earlier incarnations of the detention provisions were confusing and harmful, now they’re confusing and largely symbolic.
“Those who were big supporters of this provision, well, this doesn’t accomplish what they wanted. Their enthusiasm is misplaced,” said Robert Chesney, a national security law expert who teaches at the University of Texas School of Law. “Those who are decrying this as the militarization of domestic law enforcement, it doesn’t have to be that either.”
The new bill still mandates military detention without trial for any non-citizen terrorism suspect apprehended in the US who is determined to be a member of al Qaeda or an “affiliated group.” The administration now has several ways to get around that requirement, however. It could issue a national security waiver—a letter from the administration authorizing a trial in civilian court. Alternatively, the FBI could simply detain a suspect up until a determination is made that he can be detained by the military. Even after that, if the administration decides to try the suspect in civilian court, there’s still no need to put him in military custody. Under the latest version of the law, someone like underwear bomber Umar Abdulmutallab could still go from interrogation to trial without ever passing through military hands—and without the need for a national security waiver. (The national security waiver option that has been a part of the Senate bill since the earliest drafts, although the authority to grant the waiver now rests with the president instead of the secretary of defense—a change a Senate aide said was requested by the administration.)
The question is why the detention provisions remain in the bill at all. It looks like Congress, in responding to concerns raised by national security officials, essentially made the “mandatory” military detention optional. The new bill still shifts the presumption towards military custody, and in doing so, sets up a potential controversy every time a non-citizen terror suspect is apprehended in the US. The changes allow members of Congress to claim they’re not hampering counterterrorism operations while still leaving them room to slam the president should he decide to forgo military detention. Republicans have seized on previous incidents to criticize the president for not being “tougher” on terrorism by extending the military’s role. At least in a symbolic sense, this bill gives them more ammunition in case another underwear bomber type situation occurs, because they would be able to accuse the president of ignoring the law. Perhaps, convinced of the danger of micromanaging the president in advance, Congress has made it easier to do so after the fact.
November 7, 2011
By KIMBERLY DOZIER
In an anonymous industrial park, CIA analysts who jokingly call themselves the “ninja librarians” are mining the mass of information people publish about themselves overseas, tracking everything from common public opinion to revolutions.
The group’s effort gives the White House a daily snapshot of the world built from tweets, newspaper articles and Facebook updates.
The agency’s Open Source Center sometimes looks at 5 million tweets a day. The analysts are also checking out TV news channels, local radio stations, Internet chat rooms — anything overseas that people can access and contribute to openly.
The Associated Press got an apparently unprecedented view of the center’s operations, including a tour of the main facility. The AP agreed not to reveal its exact location and to withhold the identities of some who work there because much of the center’s work is secret.
From Arabic to Mandarin, from an angry tweet to a thoughtful blog, the analysts gather the information, often in a native tongue. They cross-reference it with a local newspaper or a clandestinely intercepted phone conversation. From there, they build a picture sought by the highest levels at the White House. There might be a real-time peek, for example, at the mood of a region after the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden, or perhaps a prediction of which Mideast nation seems ripe for revolt.
Yes, they saw the uprising in Egypt coming; they just didn’t know exactly when revolution might hit, says the center’s director, Doug Naquin.
The center already had “predicted that social media in places like Egypt could be a game-changer and a threat to the regime,” he said in an interview.
The CIA facility was set up in response to a recommendation by the 9/11 Commission, its first priority to focus on counterterrorism and counterproliferation. Its predecessor organization had its staff heavily cut in the 1990s — something the CIA’s management has vowed to keep from happening again, with new budget reductions looming across the national security spectrum.
The center’s several hundred analysts — the actual number is classified — track a broad range of subjects, including Chinese Internet access and the mood on the street in Pakistan.
While most analysts are based in Virginia, they also are scattered throughout U.S. embassies worldwide to get a step closer to their subjects.
The center’s analysis ends up in President Barack Obama’s daily intelligence briefing in one form or another almost every day. The material is often used to answer questions Obama poses to his inner circle of intelligence advisers when they give him the morning rundown of threats and trouble spots.
“The OSC’s focus is overseas, collecting against foreign intelligence issues,” said CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood. “Looking at social media outlets overseas is just a small part of what this skilled organization does,” she said. “There is no effort to collect on Americans.”
The most successful open source analysts, Naquin said, are something like the heroine of the crime novel “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” a quirky, irreverent computer hacker who “knows how to find stuff other people don’t know exists.”
An analyst with a master’s degree in library science and multiple languages, especially one who grew up speaking another language, makes “a powerful open source officer,” Naquin said.
The center had started focusing on social media after watching the Twitter-sphere rock the Iranian regime during the Green Revolution of 2009, when thousands protested the results of the elections that kept Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in power. “Farsi was the third largest presence in social media blogs at the time on the Web,” Naquin said.
After bin Laden was killed in Pakistan in May, the CIA followed Twitter to give the White House a snapshot of world public opinion.
October 27, 2011
The Washington Post
By Craig Whitlock
The Air Force has been secretly flying armed Reaper drones on counterterrorism missions from a remote civilian airport in southern Ethiopia as part of a rapidly expanding U.S.-led proxy war against an al-Qaeda affiliate in East Africa, U.S. military officials said.
The Air Force has invested millions of dollars to upgrade an airfield in Arba Minch, Ethiopia, where it has built a small annex to house a fleet of drones that can be equipped with Hellfire missiles and satellite-guided bombs. The Reapers began flying missions earlier this year over neighboring Somalia, where the United States and its allies in the region have been targeting al-Shabab, a militant Islamist group connected to al-Qaeda.
Mindful of the 1993 “Black Hawk Down” debacle in which two U.S. military helicopters were shot down in the Somali capital of Mogadishu and 18 Americans killed, the Obama administration has sought to avoid deploying troops to the country.
As a result, the United States has relied on lethal drone attacks, a burgeoning CIA presence in Mogadishu and small-scale missions carried out by U.S. special forces. In addition, the United States has increased its funding for and training of African peacekeeping forces in Somalia that fight al-Shabab.
The Washington Post reported last month that the Obama administration is building a constellation of secret drone bases in the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa, including one site in Ethiopia. The location of the Ethiopian base and the fact that it became operational this year, however, have not been previously disclosed. Some bases in the region also have been used to carry out operations against the al-Qaeda affiliate in Yemen.
October 17, 2011
New York Magazine
By Joe Coscarelli
The Associated Press’s series on NYPD spying continues today with the news that Muslim students at colleges in New York were investigated covertly by the secret NYPD and CIA program that also monitored community centers, government allies, and entire neighborhoods in the years after September 11. The new report places NYPD undercover officers at schools including Brooklyn College, Baruch, Hunter, City College, Queens College, La Guardia, and St. John’s, where they sought out student radicalization. But according to experts, their methods “may have broken a 19-year-old pact with the colleges and violated U.S. privacy laws, jeopardizing millions of dollars in federal research money and student aid.”
“The government, through the police department, is working privately to destroy the private lives of Muslim citizens,” said Moustafa Bayoumi, an English professor at Brooklyn College.
“We come to the room, we talk, we chill,” said one 20-year-old student of his Islamic Society group at school. “So if another sister comes into the room and she’s a cop, that’s not cool. I’m really scared about this.”
Last week, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly defended the program and insisted the department does not racially profile. “The value we place on privacy rights and other constitutional protections is part of what motivates the work of counterterrorism,” Kelly said. “It would be counterproductive in the extreme if we violated those freedoms in the course of our work to defend New York.”
But it appears to be exactly what happened at local schools, and federal funding makes it all the more complicated, especially because the NYPD solicited help from campus police. If colleges broke the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act by handing over student records without permission, they could lose “every single federal dollar: the research funds, the federal loans, the Pell grants,” a privacy expert explained.
The authorities, according to documents, were even worried about “militant paintball trips” organized by Muslim students at Brooklyn College. “You could say the same thing about football,” countered one student, a sophomore. “You know, football’s violent. They could say, ‘They’re trying to teach Muslims how to hit.’” Or, young man, how to be a real American.