Chertoff Attacks Bill of Rights
Do a Google news search on “National Applications Office.” As of this morning, the search engine returns a measly ten results, never mind that the National Applications Office, described as a subset of the Ministry of Homeland Security, will “coordinate access to spy-satellite data for non-military domestic agencies, including law enforcement,” according to Nick Juliano of Raw Story, citing a recent article published in the Wall Street Journal.
“Chertoff insists the scheme to turn spy satellites — that were originally designed for foreign surveillance — on Americans is legal, although a House committee that would approve the program has not been updated on the program for three months,” in other words there is no “legal framework,” but then the neocons don’t need no stinkin’ legal framework.
Even so, Chertoff said not to worry, because “warrants will be obtained when required before collecting satellite intelligence, and the program won’t use technology to intercept verbal communications.”
Of course, capturing verbal communications is not the job of the Ministry, but rather the NSA. Chertoff takes us for morons — and, apparently, a lot of us are — when he promises to obtain warrants and obey the Constitution, sort of the same way Bush’s massive snoop program obtains warrants. Chertoff is simply attempting to mollify us, not that the corporate media is following this story. Naturally, this makes perfect sense, as there are other, more important stories to report on, for instance the pregnancy of Britney Spears’ sixteen year old sister.
But wait a minute. Chertoff wasn’t finished. In addition to the eye in the sky, our Lavrentiy Beria of the neocon commissariat promised “a cyber-security strategy, part of an estimated $15 billion, multiyear program designed to protect the nation’s Internet infrastructure,” according to the Wall Street Journal. Replace the words “cyber-security strategy” with “cyber snoop strategy” and you’ll get a better idea of what Chertoff and the Ministry have in mind. “The program has been shrouded in secrecy for months and has also prompted privacy concerns on Capitol Hill because it involves government protection of domestic computer networks.” in other words, “domestic computer networks,” that is to say the network you are using to read this, will be protected from thought crime.
“Both areas put Homeland Security in the middle of a public debate over domestic spy powers, kicked off by the revelation two years ago that the National Security Agency had been eavesdropping on some conversations in the U.S. without a warrant.”
Some? As we know, the NSA is employing a vacuum cleaner approach, grabbing everything going over domestic networks, both telephonic and internet, and running keyword algorithms on it all to ferret out al-Qaeda associations. Of course, in this context, al-Qaeda is anybody who disagrees with the government, not strictly a couple mythical guys in a CIA constructed cave complex in Afghanistan.
Back in April, the Ministry demanded Verisign hand over the “master keys” to the internet, an effort that drew about as much attention from the corporate media as the current “cyber-security strategy” and the Ministry’s eye in the sky.
“If it succeeds, the US will be able to track DNS Security Extensions (DNSSec) all the way back to the servers that represent the name system’s root zone on the Internet,” Nick Farrell wrote at the time. “Effectively it would mean that US spooks could snoop on anyone in the Worldwide wibble and place control of the Interweb tubes firmly in the paws of the US government.”
If the U.S. and the Ministry controlled the DNS root zone, they would be able not only to snoop more effectively, but would be able to control DNS lookups. Put in layman’s terms, this means the Ministry would be able control a wide range of internet activity, from email delivery to surfing the net. Imagine a “no-fly” list for the internet.
As for the Ministry’s “satellite surveillance tools,” operated by the newly created National Applications Office, it’s all about real-time snooping.
“The spy surveillance satellites are considered by military experts to be far more powerful than those currently available to civilian officials,” notes Wikipedia. “For example, they can take color photos, see through cloud cover and forest canopies, and use different parts of the light spectrum to locate traces left by chemical weapons. However, the full capabilities of these systems are among the most carefully held governmental secrets.” In October, Congress filed an injunction against the NAO, fretting over civil liberty issues, that is to say at least some of our Congress critters are worried about the Ministry using secretive government technology to further erode the Constitution.
Bureaucrats and underwear drawer snoopers fear not. Because, as should be expected, Congress will flip somersaults like a well-trained dog, afraid of being seen as rolling out a red carpet for al-Qaeda.
“If the plan goes forward, the NAO will create the legal mechanism for an unprecedented degree of domestic intelligence gathering that would make the United States one of the world’s most closely monitored nations,” writes Tim Shorrock. It has nothing to do with Muslim miscreants and everything to do with keeping tabs on the sort of people who hand out sandwiches to Halliburton employees.
In fact, dropping Halliburton’s name in here is entirely appropriate, as the NAO effort will be subcontracted. “The intelligence-sharing system to be managed by the NAO will rely heavily on private contractors, including Boeing, BAE Systems, L-3 Communications and Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC),” Shorrock continues. “These companies already provide technology and personnel to U.S. agencies involved in foreign intelligence, and the NAO greatly expands their markets. Indeed, at an intelligence conference in San Antonio, Texas, last month, the titans of the industry were actively lobbying intelligence officials to buy products specifically designed for domestic surveillance.”
Finally, recall Donald Kerr, principal deputy director of National Intelligence and the National Reconnaissance Office, instructing us to surrender any antiquated reverence for the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. “I think all of us have to really take stock of what we already are willing to give up, in terms of anonymity,” declared Kerr in October.
“Anonymity has been important since the Federalist Papers were written under pseudonyms,” explains Kurt Opsahl, a senior staff lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “The government has tremendous power: the police power, the ability to arrest, to detain, to take away rights. Tying together that someone has spoken out on an issue with their identity is a far more dangerous thing if it is the government that is trying to tie it together.”
Indeed, it is all about people speaking out. It has absolutely nothing to do with al-Qaeda, now a perennial boogieman used to scare school children and intellectually flabby adults alike. The Ministry, NRO, NAO, working with the likes of Boeing, BAE Systems, L-3 Communications and Science Applications International Corporation, are dismantling the Constitution and erecting a high-tech control grid.
But never mind. Didn’t you know that MTV’s Tila Tequila is bisexual? I mean, who has the time to worry about the Bill of Rights when we are offered such lurid spectacles?