Everything You Need To Know About Who Is Spying on You and How They're Doing It
Our divisiveness has allowed the government to provide itself with authorities that are denied to it by The Constitution.
Our divisiveness has allowed the government to provide itself with authorities that are denied to it by The Constitution.
Take Section 1021 of “The National Defense Authorization Act,” for example, which describes terrorists as “associated forces” that have provided “substantial support” to Al Queda or The Taliban, or “anyone who has committed a belligerent act,” which is punishable by “Detention under the law of war without trial until the end of the hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force.” “The Department of Defense Joint Statement for The Record on Law of Armed Conflict, The Use of Military Force and The 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force” before the Committee on Armed Services on May 16, 2013 attempts to clarify some of this language and describes an “associated force” as any “armed group” that is also a “co-belligerent with Al Qaeda in hostilities against the United States,” and in its opening brief before the U.S. Second Court of Appeals in the case Hedges v. Obama, The Obama Administration attempted to clarify the meaning of “substantial support” by providing additional obfuscatory language.
"The term ‘substantial support’ covers support that, in analogous circumstances in a traditional international armed conflict, is sufficient to justify detention. The term thus encompasses individuals who, even if not considered part of the irregular enemy forces at issue in the current conflict, bear sufficiently close ties to those forces and provide them support that warrants their detention in prosecution of the conflict.”
Since the terms “belligerent” and “hostility” remain undefined, the number of interpretations are veritably endless. Many Americans are armed, drunk (belligerent) and hostile to their government, but these qualities don’t rob them of citizenship. On the contrary, those are our rights as citizens. Yet all of this is rhetorical. The original “Authorization for Use of Military Force” leaves the decision entirely in the hands of one man: The President.
“That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”
If the President “determines” you to be a terrorist, you’re a terrorist, and with the authority granted to him by a the ever-expanding Patriot Act, The United States government can detain you without trial, but it can only do so if the people remain ambivalent towards a higher law, the Law of The Land, The Constitution, and remain unaware of a higher power: the sovereign power of the American people. Some have even suggested that The AUMF gives The President the authority to assassinate American citizens, a claim that may be reinforced by language in Section 1021 of The NDAA, which, under the heading, “Covered Persons,” says, “Nothing in this section is intended to limit or expand the authority of the President or the scope of the Authorization for Use of Military Force.” Since The President has already assassinated American citizens extra-judicially (Samir Khan, Anwar Al-Awlaki and his son), lawyers from The Department of Justice could feasibly and rightfully claim that The National Defense Act codifies the extra-judicial killing of U.S. citizens under U.S. law. The Patriot Act and its subsequent revisions, The National Defense Authorization Acts, and The AUMF, are clear violations of the 4th, 5th and 6th Amendments, and its likely that these acts jeopardize additional amendments to and articles of The Constitution.
The broad expansion of Executive war powers doesn’t end with its capacity to indefinitely detain and potentially kill United States citizens. Today, Americans are suspects in The War on Terror as well. All of them. Domestic surveillance and manipulation of the masses by private interests and government bureaus began with the first astroturf campaigns, or Alexander Hamilton’s co-option of New York papers and manumission societies to advance Federalist policies, albeit the current megalith of domestic surveillance can be traced back to 1956, to an insidious program dreamed up by that flamboyant demagogue, the first director of The Federal Bureau of Investigation, J. Edgar Hoover: COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program). In addition to militant groups such as The Black Panthers, and hate groups such as The Ku Klux Klan, COINTELPRO targeted several groups that were neither militant nor hate groups, such as The Socialist Workers Party, The Nation of Islam and a slew of antiwar, community and religious groups that opposed The Vietnam War. Most notable among its targets was Martin Luther King Jr.
The F.B.I. not only spied on American citizens, it actively repressed them. COINTELPRO proliferated propaganda that negatively impacted target groups and members, infiltrated those groups to sow dissent and interrupt financial backing, to incite violence, burglarize, forge documents and collect biometrics (fingerprinting). The most damning indictment of COINTELPRO was its wholehearted acceptance of the assassination of U.S. citizens. All these activities are illegal, so why did the government think it was exempt from the law? More importantly, these activities are clear violations of the first and fourth amendments, so why did the government think it was exempt from The Constitution?
In 1971, The F.B.I. office in Media, Pennsylvania was burglarized by The Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the F.B.I. Several dossiers including over 1000 classified documents were sent to news agencies across the country. 40 percent of the documents pertained to domestic surveillance, 94 percent of which targeted “New Left” groups such as The Socialist Workers Party. The resulting revelation provoked a public backlash that forced the government’s hand. J. Edgar Hoover announced that COINTELPRO was no longer in operation less than a year after the raid. Ensuing lawsuits provided additional context of the program, prompting an investigation by The Senate. The “Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities of the United States Senate” would later be dubbed, “The Church Committee” in honor of its chairman, Frank Church, who discussed The NSA in the following terms: “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.” The Church Committee provided a modicum of transparency while remaining semi-opaque. Many documents were redacted and there’s no way to determine whether documents were withheld from the public.
The Church committee roundly condemned COINTELPRO, yet calls for reform wouldn’t be invoked until one of the nation’s political parties was implicated in an act of domestic espionage. In the wake of The Nixon Watergate Scandal, Congress passed The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Rather than uphold The Constitution, Congress decided to preserve The Executive’s unconstitutional powers of domestic surveillance by passing a law that was advertised as a check on government intelligence programs (a classic example of bait-and-switch). First, FISA defines a “foreign power” as “a group engaged in international terrorism or activities in preparation therefor,” a definition that may have adequately protected the majority of American citizens in 1978, yet doesn’t today. Today, anyone who is armed, drunk and hostile towards The United States government (underemployed) is considered a terrorist, a definition that likely encapsulates a significant minority - if not a majority - of Americans. FISA goes on to provide its own definition of terrorism, which is equally loose with its language.
“‘International Terrorism’ means activities that . . . appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population . . . to influence the policy of government by intimidation or coercion.” Do political pamphlets count as “coercion?” Do political pamphlets count as “intimidation?” These are good questions, questions The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act never answers. Apparently, these are questions American law-makers never asked because they were either too incompetent and unimaginative or deceitful and dangerous to ask them. Regardless, as a result of either duplicity or ignorance, today, any drunk, armed, underemployed American who engages in political activity may be considered a threat to The United States, and as I pause to consider our country’s history, I find myself humbled by the number of men who fit that description. I believe nearly all the men who fought in The Revolutionary War were drunk, armed and underemployed. They were certainly hostile towards their government, although the determination of whether it was England or the colonists who first engaged in hostilities varies depending on whether or not you’re a Tory. I can only assume those who spilled their blood for “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” must be deemed terrorists by the same government that claims them as their birthright.
In addition to vague language that implicates a broad swath of The American public, The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act provides a backdoor for amendments to the law known as the “except as authorized by statute” clause, and although it provides judicial oversight, the court appointed to determine the legitimacy of a request sent to it by The Executive Branch is designed to minimize dissent, not “to minimize the acquisition and retention, and prohibit the dissemination, of nonpublicly available information concerning unconsenting United States persons.” Seven district court judges from seven U.S. judicial circuits, judges who never interact with one another and are never revealed to the public, are expected to determine the validity of electronic surveillance requests filed by The United States government on a case-by-case basis. Each case is examined by only one judge. Cross-examinations are disallowed. Cases are then re-examined by a court of three, which has the power to overturn only decisions to deny applications for electronic surveillance. All ten judges of this court, The Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court, are appointed by The Chief Justice and only the identity of the presiding judge, who sits on the panel of three, is revealed to the public. The apparent function of this court is to carefully scrutinize surveillance requests in order to determine their legitimacy, yet only 11 out of 33,942 requests, or .03 percent, have been denied.
In a Department of Justice white paper dated January 27th, 2006, The Executive Branch cites the “except as authorized by statute” clause, The AUMF, Al Qaeda, which it describes as “not a conventional enemy,” and marijuana as justifications for The United States’ warrentless wiretapping programs. The “except as authorized by statute” clause listed under Section 109 of The FISA Act clarifies and defines the penalty for unlawful activity: “a fine of $10,000 or imprisonment for not more than five years, or both.” In addition to the definition of “offense,” “defense,” “penalty” and “jurisdiction,” the act provides an exemption. “A person is guilty of an offense if he intentionally engages in electronic surveillance under color of law except as authorized by statute.” “Color of law” loosely translates to “the appearance of law.” In other words, if someone, including The President, engages in unwarrented surveillance, he may be punished with a fine of ten thousand dollars, five years in prison, or both, “except as authorized by statute.” The statute of “authorization” that The Executive Branch claims to have exempted it from The FISA penalty - the statute that allows our government to operate with the appearance of law rather than in service to the law - is The “Authorization for Use of Military Force,” which grants The President "all necessary and appropriate military force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided in the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.” According to The Executive Branch, The President can do whatever the hell he wants so long as “The War on Terror” continues.
At the time that The Department of Justice white paper was written, Al Qaeda, the radical Muslim jihadist organization, was widely lauded as the principle threat to United States security, but the definition of “terrorist” has since been doctored with vague language that implicates many of America’s drunk, armed and underemployed who engage in political activity on U.S. soil, and The United States’ relationship with Al Qaeda today could only be described as “complicated.” When The Obama Administration pushed for intervention in Syria in 2013 despite vocal disapproval from Russia, The U.N. and The American people, the administration threatened to ignite a Eurasian conflict in support of Al Qaeda, which composed a significant portion of the rebel forces that desire to overthrow the Syrian government. Did our government threaten American lives in order to aid the enemy, or is the government withholding information that may illuminate a more complete portrait of the situation? If Al Qaeda is no longer the enemy, why are we at war? Who is the principle enemy of The United States’ government? Who is the target in The War on Terror?
Another reason proffered by The Executive Branch as justification for warrentless wiretapping is a relatively recent Supreme Court precedent that redefined the parameters of The Fourth Amendment. In The Supreme Court case, New Jersey v. TLO, Justice Blackmun writes, “Only in those exceptional circumstances in which special needs, beyond the normal need for law enforcement, make the warrant and probable-cause requirement impracticable, is a court entitled to substitute its balancing of interests for that of the Framers.” This rather bold statement, which was written in defense of a high school principle who found marijuana cigarettes in the purse of a student (T.L.O.) who was smoking in her highschool bathroom, was later used as justification for stop-and-frisk procedures practiced by law enforcement across the country and cited as one of several reasons by The Executive branch for its wiretapping program. So the hubris and helicopter-parenting of a single Supreme Court Justice who believed marijuana posed a threat to “establishing discipline and maintaining order” is being used as grounds for the judiciary and law enforcement “to substitute its balancing of interests for that of the Framers,” to replace the judgement of The Constitution with the judgements of our current government.
During the first decade of the 21st century, several amendments to FISA were passed that either expanded the law or curtailed those expansions. The most significant amendments have been The AUMF, which sanctions the collection of “metadata,” or “communications between the United States and abroad; or wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls,” The NDAA, which has redefined the definition of “terror,” and the poorly-worded Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 Amendments Act of 2008, which grants immunity to the entire telecommunications industry “for providing any information, facilities, or assistance” to The Executive Branch, omits language safeguarding “United States citizens” and allows the government to wiretap any individual for a period of seven days with no oversight. The Most startling aspect of The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 Amendments Act of 2008 is the immunity it grants to telecommunications giants. In effect, The Executive Branch is ceding its powers to corporate multinationals. It’s privatizing itself, or dismantling itself, which begs the question(s): “Who runs this new emerging government, what laws does it recognize and in whose interest is it operating?”
The labyrinthine collection of laws that determine the scope and legitimacy of the government’s surveillance program and “terror” policies are riddled with loopholes that allow for widespread abuse, but are those laws being abused? One would need definitive evidence in order to make such an allegation, yet since the surveillance system is covert, a secret service operative would be required to breach an oath of silence and break the law in order to reveal such evidence. Regardless, despite the obvious loopholes in and - arguably - unconstitutionality of laws that determine the scope of the government’s surveillance apparatus, The Supreme Court (in its infinitesimal wisdom) decided that Amnesty International, The ACLU and additional plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case, Amnesty et al. v. Clapper, were without legal footing because they lacked evidence that a covert surveillance system - the parameters of which are outlined in law - undermined the first and fourth amendments. In other words, although the scope of American law provides government with the means to conduct widespread, warrentless, domestic surveillance, The Supreme Court decided those laws are inadequate grounds for an indictment of widespread, warrentless domestic surveillance. If only the Supreme Court decision was delayed by a few months. In May of 2013, three months after The Supreme Court had closed the book on Amnesty et al. v. Clapper, after having said to The ACLU and Amnesty International, “Prove it,” Edward Snowden decided to rebuff The Supreme Court and provide the American people with the necessary proof, leaking evidence of widespread, warrentless, domestic surveillance conducted by The United States government to journalists across the globe. What he revealed would spark a national dialogue across the country on the balance between liberty and security.
Information released to journalists consisted of a dossier of projected slides depicting details covering a wide range of programs with titles like “Prism,” “Marina,” “Tempora,” “Boundless Informant,” “XKeyScore,” “Turbulence,” “Turmoil,” “Tutelage,” “TrafficTheif,” “Mastering the Internet” and “Global Telecoms Exploitation.” The various programs are under the purview of a variety of entities, both governmental and corporate, and describe a system of surveillance that is veritably omnipresent. The “prism” of The Prism program likely refers to a device installed at Telecommunications hubs across The United States. In 2003, Mark Klein, a union AT&T technician in San Francisco, leaked news of the device to the press. The splitter is a glass prism that splits laser light shooting through fiber-optic cable in two directions, thereby duplicating it. While the original signal proceeds to its destination, the duplicate is sent to a “secret room.” In Mark Klein’s case, the room was 641A, a seemingly ordinary room with a mundane, meaningless name.
The Prism program goes far beyond the use of splitters that harvest data from the internet. The Intelligence apparatus is privatizing itself, outsourcing critical government operations to private contractors like Booz Allen Hamilton, the former employer of Edward Snowden, to bypass regulations that restrict government organizations, which is why it was referred to as “warrantless” wiretapping in 2003. Under Prism, The NSA can access databases operated by YouTube, Facebook, Skype, Google, Apple and additional internet and telecommunications companies. The equivalent of 380 years of HDTV in private information is harvested from the internet on a daily basis, then stored in an archive located in Bluffdale, Utah, for one year. The data is then compiled and sorted into an array of graphs, charts, “heat maps” and other visuals to “assist in pattern-of-life development” (whatever that means). An additional 273 years of HDTV in private information is collected from The Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in The United Kingdom. The NSA has also willingly forfeited the private communiques of U.S. citizens to Israel in accord with a secret agreement that places no limitations on the use of that data. Targets aren’t limited to United States citizens or Al Qaeda operatives. They include perceived allies such as Germany, Mexico and Greece, which have been placed in the same category as China, Iraq and Saudia Arabia, and since 90 percent of all internet activity is funneled through The United States, and since The NSA is capable of cracking the most complex encryption algorithms, it remains likely that nearly all data stored on the internet is vulnerable to United States espionage. In those rare instances when U.S. law is deemed capable of interfering with the intelligence-gathering apparatus, the largest and most well-funded surveillance program in the world invariably has an “accident.” In one instance, the accident involved 16,000 phone numbers that were accidentally added to a NSA “alert list.” In another, The NSA intercepted an unspecified “large number” of phone records from the 202 D.C. area code.
One would think that surveillance on this scale, which dwarfs the meticulous and methodical work of The East German Stasi, would be roundly condemned by our law-makers, but they have proven themselves to be accessories to the crime. Suffering from a tiresome bout of cognitive dissonance on June 6th, 2013, Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, defended the government’s domestic spying program while alleging that she has no idea how the data is being used, and her comments were defended by prominent members of The Republican Party, including Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Lindsay Graham of South Carolina. A child knows better, and if you suffer from some misanthropic, 17th century preconception that reduces children to unwitting slaves, consider the words of Judge Reggie Walton of The Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court. After The United States government shared the private information of American citizens with The Israeli government, Walton announced that “The court is exceptionally concerned about what appears to be a flagrant violation of its order in this matter.” Ordinary citizens, judges, foreign diplomats and heads of state from around the world have roundly condemned The United States surveillance program. Argentine President Cristina Fernandez said, “A shiver rand down [her] back when [she] learned that they are spying on all of us.” Peruvian President Ollanta Humala said, “It would be good for [Peru’s] Congress to look with concern at privacy issues related to personal information.” Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff denounced the program at length and in no uncertain terms at The U.N. general assembly on the 24th of September, 2013.
“. . . Brazilian diplomatic missions, among them the permanent mission to the UN and the office of the president of the republic itself, had their communications intercepted . . . Tampering in such a manner in the affairs of other countries is a breach of international law and is an affront of the principles that must guide the relations among them, especially among friendly nations. A sovereign nation can never establish itself to the detriment of another sovereign nation. The right to safety of citizens of one country can never be guaranteed by violating fundamental human rights of citizens of another country . . . Friendly governments and societies that seek to build a true strategic partnership, as in our case, cannot allow recurring illegal actions to take place as if they were normal. They are unacceptable . . . The arguments that the illegal interception of information and data aims at protecting nations against terrorism cannot be sustained. Brazil, Mr. President, knows how to protect itself. We reject, fight and do not harbour terrorist groups . . . As many other Latin Americans, I fought against authoritarianism and censorship and I cannot but defend, in an uncompromising fashion, the right to privacy of individuals and the sovereignty of my country . . . In the absence of the right to privacy, there can be no true freedom of expression and opinion, and therefore no effective democracy. In the absence of the respect for sovereignty, there is no basis for the relationship among nations."
The Brazilian government is so alarmed by the revelations, they have announced plans to bypass The United States by laying fiber-optic cable beneath The Atlantic from South America to Europe.
Among the most disturbing details of The NSA domestic surveillance program is the information it shares with The Drug Enforcement Agency, which has been instructed to hide the source of its intelligence by recreating investigative trails on a case-by-case basis. The collaboration between bureaus begs the question, “Does every consumer of illicit substances qualify as a potential terrorist?” An additional target of the surveillance apparatus are activists, journalists and their sources, “whistleblowers.” David Miranda, the partner of Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who disclosed Edward Snowden’s leaked documents in The Guardian newspaper, was detained for nine hours at Heathrow Airport under schedule 7 provision of the United States’ Terrorism Act of 2000. Baraa Shiban, a Yemeni activist investigating United States anti-terrorism abuses, was interrogated at Gatwick airport under the same provision for over an hour without being read his rights, in the absence of a lawyer, in a manner that could only be characterized as “leading the witness.” An undercover police officer embedded within The Bridgeport community of Chicago prior to the NATO summit of 2012 arrested five activists, three of whom are being indicted on domestic terrorism charges for having discussed the fashioning of molotov cocktails in preparation for the anticipated protests. According to Illinois law, any action may be deemed an act of terror if authorities believe a “significant portion” of the population feels “coerced” or “intimidated” by it. Such acts include the simple act of discussion, which is a gross example of censorship. The polizei of Hamburg would suspect foul play if activists didn’t break windows and throw molotov cocktails on the first of May every year. Discussions of such acts of disobedience are common and although acts of violent civil disobedience are illegal in Germany, arrest is followed by a jury of one’s peers. Under U.S. Terrorism law, a “terrorist” isn’t entitled to a trial by jury. In effect, these three young Americans are facing the prospect of a military tribunal for having exercised their first-amendment rights.
Anti-war activists are increasingly being added to domestic terrorism lists, although the journalists’ sources, whistleblowers, have absorbed the brunt of Executive overreach and congressional and judicial neglect. The tyrannical and punitive tendencies of The Executive branch is exemplified in numerous ways. Among them is the issuance of NSLs, or “national security letters,” de facto gag orders that forbid American citizens employed by government agencies or intelligence contractors to discuss their work with the public. On March 15th, 2013, Judge Illston of The U.S. District Court of Northern California ordered The United States Executive to cease and desist the issuance of national security letters, saying they “significantly infringe on speech regarding controversial government powers.” Whistleblowers have faced demotions, job loss, military tribunals, federal indictments, torture, excommunication and lives lived in constant fear. Foremost among them is Bradley Manning, who was detained in small cage in Kuwait, where he experienced a mental breakdown, after which he was transferred to solitary confinement in The United States and put on “suicide watch,” protocol that required guards to strip him of his clothing and wake him every hour on the hour. He would later be sentenced to 35 years in prison on 17 charges, including five counts of espionage and theft, for leaking documents that exposed human rights abuses conducted by the United States military during its invasion and occupation of Iraq, which include - but are not limited to - the assassination of two Associated Press reporters. Edward Snowden has achieved equal notoriety for having leaked information that exposed The NSA’s massive, domestic surveillance apparatus and the extent of its privatization. He now wanders The Eurasian Steppes, a pariah.
Whistleblowers of less repute and equal importance have faced similar reprisals for less audacious acts of defiance. Among them are Thomas Drake, Franz Gayl, Michael DeKort, and Thomas Tamm. Tamm is a former Department of Justice attorney who revealed the existence of a separate initiative referred to simply as, “the program,” in which the monitoring of citizens occurred without a court-order. Thomas Drake, former senior executive of The NSA, on the other hand, may have witnessed the fetal beginnings of “the program,” and expressed his discontent by filing a complaint with The Department of Defense Inspector General about waste, fraud and abuse in September of 2002 alongside William Binney, J. Kirk Wiebe, Edward Loomis, and Diane S. Roark, a Republican staffer for The House Intelligence Committee. The waste, fraud and abuse in question concerned a 1.2 billion dollar program called, “Trailblazer,” that failed to accomplish its counter-terrorism objectives. In an interview with Tim Shorrock, who writes for The Nation, Thomas Drake described the end result of trailblazer as “a demonstration room, a showcase . . . show and tell, a dog and pony show.” U.S. taxpayers spent 1.2 billion dollars on a “showroom” with “nothing behind it,” yet despite its apparent failure, the boondoggle may have been aptly named.
Trailblazer effectively set the stage for the NSA’s Prism program by expanding, privatizing and commodifying the government’s intelligence sector, a structural modification that would have been necessary in order to conduct massive, unwarranted, domestic surveillance. Private contractors are exempt from laws that regulate government, which is why there are now 5 employees of private contractors spying on American citizens for every 3 goverment employees conducting the same work. These contractors are located in approximately 10,000 locations throughout the country and close to a million people have top-security clearance. William Binney, a crypto-scientist who resigned from The NSA in October of 2001 after having worked there for 30 years, compared the current U.S. sociopolitcal climate to Weimar Germany prior to Hitler’s ascent to power and described the government’s surveillance system as “better than anything that the KGB, the Stasi, or the Gestapo and SS ever had.” A government elected to safeguard tax-paying citizens is purchasing the private information and communications of tax-payers from contractors - corporations - with tax-payer money. In other words, we’re paying corporations to spy on us while Congress bickers over a fabricated debt and deficit that’s accelerating the diminution of the middle class. This is particularly insulting when one considers that Trailblazer, which led to the wholesale privatization of the intelligence sector, cost an estimated 1.2 billion dollars and enabled the violation of Americans’ constitutional rights, replaced ThinThread, a NSA program that was built in-house, cost 3 million dollars and included anonymization software that protected the privacy rights of U.S. citizens, and the privatization scheme (Trailblazer) replaced the smaller program (ThinThread) on August 20th, 2001, 22 days before The September 11th attacks, yet the replacement wasn’t immediate. ThinThread was just shut down.
Thomas Drake insists that the program could have prevented the attacks. The systemic security risks of privatization neither begin nor end with the intelligence sector, nor do they always yield material worthy of dramatic Hollywood spy narratives. They’re often the sort of seedy, mundane, bowel-moving stories one might read on their laptops in the morning, over coffee, in a column beside flashing advertisements for diet pills and workout gadgets, stories of petty corruption, collateral damage and greed. Humvees, for example, were purchased wholesale by The United States Marine Corps for field operations in the Iraq and Afghan wars, but Humvees are incapable of withstanding IED attacks. Franz Gayl, a Marine Corps science and technology advisor, realized this and questioned the legitimacy of their use. Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, or MRAPs, were readily available for purchase yet remained off the docket due to nepotism. As a result of his protests, he was demoted, so he presented his findings to Congress and the public in 2007, after which he was forced out of a job. Franz Gayl was blackballed because he wanted to save the lives of American soldiers, because government was in bed with a contractor that was selling Humvees. Someone wanted to safeguard their profits. Similarly, Michael DeKoort, lead systems engineer for The Deepwater Program, which gave Lockheed Martin 24 billion dollars to build a new generation of Coast Guard cutters, leaked critical information about the radios on the cutters: they weren’t water-resistant.
The Marine Corps and Coast Guard are not the only beneficiaries of the military-industrial complex’s combined incompetence, nepotism and bloodlust. Your average local municipal or county police force is also a beneficiary of military-grade equipment. The Department of Homeland security, a Federal police agency, is buying up enough ammo to wage a war on the scale of the Iraq conflict for over 20 years, including hollow-point bullets, which are forbidden for use in war zones by international law, and sniper rounds. Why such a tall order? “Buy in bulk and save.” Purchases aren’t limited to ammunition. The Department of Defense has been acting as the middle man between local police agencies and arms dealers since 1997, when Section 2576a of The National Defense Authorization Act of 1997 permitted the “Secretary of Defense” to “transfer to Federal and state agencies personal property of The Department of Defense, including small arms and ammunition, that the Secretary determines is suitable for use by the agencies in law enforcement activities, including counter-drug and counter-terrorism activities; and excess to the needs of The Department of Defense.”
As a consequence of The 1997 NDAA, 4.2 billion dollars worth of military-grade equipment has been donated to local police agencies, who have already applied for 34 billion dollars in grants for military-grade equipment. Every police officer in Fargo, North Dakota, for example, is now equipped with military assault rifles, kevlar helmets and battlefield-grade ammunition. They even have their own 257,000 dollar armored truck equipped with a rotating turret. The Sherriff’s Department of Jefferson County, New York, has acquired its own MRAP, which came with a price-tag of 600,000 dollars, but Jefferson County didn’t pay a dime for it. The Indianapolis police force received M-16s and M-14s from The Department of Defense, half of which went missing. New York City’s police department acquired .50 caliber round sniper rifles to “take down a plane.” The Oxford, Alabama police department received a 1.5 million dollar piece of infrared equipment for a helicopter is doesn’t have. The Richland County, South Carolina Sheriff's Department obtained an armored personnel carrier, complete with a belt-fed, .50-cal turreted machine gun. Local police agencies are not only hoarding aircraft, boats, Humvees, body armor, weapon scopes, infrared imaging systems and night-vision goggles, they’re acquiring bookcases, hedge trimmers, telescopes, brassieres, golf carts, coffee makers and television sets with tax-payer money. The cops are pocketing some of these items for themselves. It almost has the appearance of a bribe.
Among the most disturbing aspects of federally-funded militarization of local police forces is the 4.9 billion dollars The Department of Justice recently invested in unmanned aerial vehicles, UAVs, or “drones.” The FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, The DEA and U.S. Marshals Service purchased 3.7 billion dollars worth of drones and 1.2 million dollars in grants were awarded to law enforcement agencies and non-profit groups for UAVs as well. Those law enforcement agencies are located in Gadsden, Alabama, Miami-Dade County, Florida and North Little Rock, Arkansas. Eastern Kentucky University. The Center for Rural Development in Hazard, Kentucky and the Sheriffs' Association of Texas are also beneficiaries of the program. St. Louis too is hatching plans for the acquisition of drone technology and the creation of an “information center” to link data from security cameras and unmanned aerial vehicles. Currently, only nine states prohibit the use of drones in some capacity. Oregon, Montana, Illinois, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida disallow the use of drones by law enforcement agencies. Texas bans the use of drones by private contractors. Idaho is the only state that prohibits the use of drones by either law enforcement or private contractors. There are exceptions to these rules, yet at least these states have addressed the potential deleterious effects upon the people’s right to privacy and their potential safety.
Although payloads currently don’t include Hellfire missiles, there are yet no laws preventing drones from being equipped with armaments in the future. In their Fiscal Year 2010 Report to Congress, The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency under the direction of Homeland Security, which has been deploying drones loaned to it by The DEA, FBI and U.S. Marshals over The U.S. border, indicated that future payloads may one day “include expendables or non-lethal weapons designed to immobilize [targets of interest],” but the agency later contradicted the report and said it had “no plans to arm its unmanned aircraft systems with nonlethal weapons or weapons of any kind” on July 3rd, 2013. The conflicting information assuages few fears, especially when one considers that the border encompasses a 100 mile perimeter around the entire United States, including the entire Southern border, Northern Border, East Coast, West Coast, The Great Lakes, the coast of Alaska, Alaska’s border with Canada and the entire state of Hawaii, an area that encompasses approximately 190 million Americans, 61 percent of the population, including the country’s four largest cities.
The danger drones pose may elude Americans who’ve been and continue to be barraged by marketing campaigns launched by government, the corporate media and academia. For years, the implementation of drone warfare in The Middle East was common knowledge, yet The White House refused to acknowledge it. Numerous articles on the internet and stories in the mainstream media laud the technological advancements and potential beneficial applications of unmanned aerial vehicles, claims that extend to bipedal and four-legged drones reminiscent of Terminator, the movie, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, who appears to have inspired DARPA, The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, to promote a strategy of automation, to create a fully-functional robot combat force by 2030. Degree programs in unmanned aviation are emerging in universities across the country, such as North Dakota University’s program, UAS Ops, or Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operations. Chris Anderson, the former editor of Wired, who now runs a company specializing in unmanned aerial vehicles, bubbled with enthusiasm when approached for comment by The New York Times. “The sky’s going to be dark with these things,” he said, after having apparently forgotten that those of us who can’t afford a drone would also no longer be afforded a view of the sky, or that some of us may consider a sky blackened with moving plastic and metal to be the nightmarish vision of a blood-soaked, fascist technocrat.
Drones can identify the brand of cigarette you smoke from 17,500 feet. They can detect your heat signature through walls and rooftops. They can listen to your phone conversations. They can rain hellfire down upon you and your loved ones. The Air Force Research Laboratory is designing micro-air vehicles, MAVs, which are currently under development and being housed in a “micro-aviary.” These machines fit in the palm of your hand, hover silently above your head and come equipped with what resembles a miniaturized single-shot, break-action firing mechanism.