04/24/2012 archive

NSA: Every Step You Take, We’ll be Watching You

Whistleblower: The NSA is Lying-U.S. Government Has Copies of Most of Your Emails

National Security Agency whistleblower William Binney reveals he believes domestic surveillance has become more expansive under President Obama than President George W. Bush. He estimates the NSA has assembled 20 trillion “transactions” – phone calls, emails and other forms of data – from Americans. This likely includes copies of almost all of the emails sent and received from most people living in the United States. Binney talks about Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act and challenges NSA Director Keith Alexander’s assertion that the NSA is not intercepting information about U.S. citizens

This interview is part of a 4-part special. Click here to see segment 1, 2, and 4. [includes rush transcript]


William Binney, served in the NSA for over 30 years, including a time as director of the NSA’s World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group. Since retiring from the NSA in 2001, he has warned that the NSA’s data-mining program has become so vast that it could “create an Orwellian state.”

Jacob Appelbaum, a computer security researcher who has volunteered with WikiLeaks. He is a developer and advocate for the Tor Project, a network enabling its users to communicate anonymously on the internet.

Laura Poitras, an award-winning documentary filmmaker and producer. She is working on the third part of a trilogy of films about America post-9/11. The first film was My Country, My Country,” and the second was The Oath.

Influential Senator Warned in 1975: “Th[e National Security Agency’s] Capability At Any Time Could Be Turned Around On The American People, And No American Would Have Any Privacy Left …There Would Be No Place To Hide. [If A Dictator Ever Took Over, The N.S.A.] Could Enable It To Impose Total Tyranny, And There Would Be No Way To Fight Back”

by George Washington at naked capitalism

Senator Church’s Prophetic Warning

Senator Frank Church – who chaired the famous “Church Committee” into the unlawful FBI Cointel program, and who chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – said in 1975:

   “Th[e National Security Agency’s]  capability 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 a dictator ever took over, the N.S.A.] could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back.

Now, the NSA is building a $2 billion dollar facility in Utah which will use the world’s most powerful supercomputer to monitor virtually all phone calls, emails, internet usage, purchases and rentals, break all encryption, and then store everyone’s data permanently.

The former head of the program for the NSA recently held his thumb and forefinger close together, and said:

   We are, like, that far from a turnkey totalitarian state

So Senator Church’s warning was prophetic.

George goes on to extensively discuss:

  • how “the government’s illegal spying on Americans actually began before 9/11″;
  • that the NSA heard the 9/11 hijackers’ plans from their own mouths and did nothing to stop them;
  • the spying isn’t being done to keep us safe, but to crush dissent and to help the too big to fail businesses compete against smaller businesses;
  • and it isn’t only the NSA but other agencies and “shady foreign groups“.
  • This started in the 1970’s during the Ford administration when Dick Cheney and Donald Rumseld pushed for wiretaps without approval by a judge. It has expanded under each successive president, including the present occupant of the White House who was elected after lying about “fixing” FISA and the Patriot Act.

    Punting the Pundits

    “Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

    Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

    New York Times Editorial: France Votes Its Discontents

    The first-round vote in the French presidential election produced a curious bi-directional backlash – from the left against the policies of austerity and from the right against immigration. The final round, which will be held on May 6, is likely to be important for all of Europe.

    Sunday’s vote produced two front-runners: François Hollande, the Socialist Party challenger who received more than 28 percent of the vote; and President Nicolas Sarkozy, who got about 27 percent. Since neither got a majority, they will face each other in a runoff. [..]

    A second-round victory by Mr. Hollande would signal a major change in fiscal direction for France and, by extension, for the entire 17-nation euro zone. A cautious moderate on most issues, and certainly not a socialist in the historic meaning of that term, Mr. Hollande, nevertheless, recognizes that the German-inspired austerity policies Mr. Sarkozy favors are not succeeding.

    Eugene Robinson: Could overseas events drive the 2012 election?

    It may not be the economy, stupid.

    Then again, James Carville’s famous maxim about the 1992 presidential campaign might well be valid in 2012. But it’s quite possible that on Election Day, voters’ most urgent concerns – economic or not – will be driven by overseas events that neither President Obama nor his Republican opponent can predict or control. [..]

    But it might be more pertinent to ask, for example, what the North Korean news agency meant Monday with its threat to reduce parts of Seoul to ash with a military attack “by unprecedented peculiar means and methods of our own style.”

    North Korea’s apocalyptic rhetoric can usually be written off as bluster. But the Stalinist dynasty in charge of the world’s most isolated country has an inexperienced young leader whose first attempt to cover himself in glory – testing a provocative new long-range missile – was a humiliating failure. Could Kim Jong Eun actually be thinking the unthinkable?

    Wendell Potter: Health Insurer CEOs’ Big Paychecks Are Latest Target of Outraged Shareholders

    One of my responsibilities when I was head of corporate communications at Cigna was to help ensure that the company’s annual meeting of shareholders ran smoothly and, if at all possible, attracted no negative publicity.

    I always dreaded the annual meeting because you really never knew if one or more disgruntled shareholders might show up and ask rude questions of the CEO. But during all of my years of helping plan those meetings, we had an unblemished string of non-events. We considered the meetings marathons if they lasted more than 15 minutes. Most of them were over-long before then. Over the course of 10 years, I only recall two reporters who felt compelled to attend, and one of them got stuck in traffic and missed the whole thing.

    Some of my peers at other health insurers were not that lucky, but relatively few of the big-profit insurers have had to cope with contentious shareholder meetings.

    It is clear those days are over.

    Dean Baker: Killing the Messenger: The Downsizing and Death of the Postal Service

    It is fashionable to think of the postal service as an antiquated relic of a different era in the same way that all right-thinking people regarded standard 30-year fixed rate mortgages as old-fashioned at the peak of the housing bubble. Many of the same people who assured us that we could effectively manage risk through mortgage securitization are now anxious to hand the postal service a death sentence.

    Death, or at least a near death experience, is the likely outcome of S.1789, the bill to downsize the Postal Service that the Senate is scheduled to vote on Tuesday night. The bill would end Saturday delivery and also raise the target delivery time from 1-2 days to 2-3 days.  

    The idea is that people won’t generally care if a letter takes 3 days rather than 2 to reach its destination. While that is probably true, this will certainly increase the frequency with which a letter takes a week or more to reach its destination, and people do care about and remember these instances. This additional delay is likely to seriously reduce the standing of the Postal Service in most people’s eyes, leading to a further erosion of business.

    Ari Melber: Media Favored Horserace Over Issues in Presidential Primary

    For all the griping about media bias in politics, good data is in short supply. Every four years,    however, the nonpartisan Pew Research Center releases exhaustive, quantitative reports on how the press covers the presidential campaign. Their new report, out Monday, shows that the largest bias this year did not favor an ideology or candidate-though Santorum never got much love-but favored the coverage of the horserace and personal issues over public policy.

    The press covered the horserace seven times more than domestic issues in the GOP primary. [..]

    While it’s hard to see what voters are supposed to base their decisions on if most coverage is about tactics, not the actual issues in the race, Pew notes that 2012 was actually better on this score than last cycle. Then, strategy made up a whopping 80 percent of press coverage about the GOP field, and 78 percent for the Democrats. That may have been because the 2008 race had even more drama between the candidates.

    Paul Buchheit: The Middle Class Hasn’t Disappeared. It’s Just Sliding Toward the Bottom

    It used to be that the average American resided halfway between two extremes:

       Steven Schwarzman’s home was being partially replicated in a Park Avenue hall for his gala $5 million 60th birthday party. The guest of honor’s full-length portrait greeted the invitees as they proceeded past rows of orchids and palm trees to the dining area, where they feasted on lobster, filet mignon, baked Alaska, and the finest of wines. Martin Short provided the laughs, and the music came compliments of Marvin Hamlisch, Patti LaBelle, and Rod Stewart.

       Eloise Pittman’s home had been purchased in the 1950s by her mother, who washed dishes to pay off the mortgage. In 1985 the younger Ms. Pittman, a schoolteacher, went to Chase Bank and took out a loan on the house. It was a predatory loan with balloon payments, and Ms. Pittman was forced to borrow more and more money to keep from defaulting. When she died in November 2011, she was $400,000 in debt. A week after her death her family received an eviction notice.

    There’s no ‘average’ anymore, in the sense of a normal curve with most of the people and most of the money in the middle.

    Today, 400 individuals have as much wealth as an entire HALF of America.

    On This Day In History April 24

    This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

    Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

    (Click on images to enlarge)

    April 24 is the 114th day of the year (115th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 251 days remaining until the end of the year.

    On this day in 1916, Easter Rebellion begins.

    On Easter Monday in Dublin, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, a secret organization of Irish nationalists led by Patrick Pearse, launches the so-called Easter Rebellion, an armed uprising against British rule. Assisted by militant Irish socialists under James Connolly, Pearse and his fellow Republicans rioted and attacked British provincial government headquarters across Dublin and seized the Irish capital’s General Post Office. Following these successes, they proclaimed the independence of Ireland, which had been under the repressive thumb of the United Kingdom for centuries, and by the next morning were in control of much of the city. Later that day, however, British authorities launched a counteroffensive, and by April 29 the uprising had been crushed. Nevertheless, the Easter Rebellion is considered a significant marker on the road to establishing an independent Irish republic.

    Following the uprising, Pearse and 14 other nationalist leaders were executed for their participation and held up as martyrs by many in Ireland. There was little love lost among most Irish people for the British, who had enacted a series of harsh anti-Catholic restrictions, the Penal Laws, in the 18th century, and then let 1.5 million Irish starve during the Potato Famine of 1845-1848. Armed protest continued after the Easter Rebellion and in 1921, 26 of Ireland’s 32 counties won independence with the declaration of the Irish Free State. The Free State became an independent republic in 1949. However, six northeastern counties of the Emerald Isle remained part of the United Kingdom, prompting some nationalists to reorganize themselves into the Irish Republican Army (IRA) to continue their struggle for full Irish independence.


    The Act of Union 1801 united the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland, abolishing the Irish Parliament and giving Ireland representation at Westminster. From early on, many Irish nationalists opposed the union and what was seen as the exploitation of the country.

    Opposition took various forms: constitutional (the Repeal Association; the Home Rule League), social (disestablishment of the Church of Ireland; the Land League) and revolutionary (Rebellion of 1848; Fenian Rising). Constitutional nationalism enjoyed its greatest success in the 1880s and 1890s when the Irish Parliamentary Party under Charles Stewart Parnell succeeded in having two Home Rule bills introduced by the Liberal government of William Ewart Gladstone, though both failed. The First Home Rule Bill of 1886 was defeated in the House of Commons, while the Second Home Rule Bill of 1893 was passed by the Commons but rejected by the House of Lords. After the fall of Parnell, younger and more radical nationalists became disillusioned with parliamentary politics and turned towards more extreme forms of separatism. The Gaelic Athletic Association, the Gaelic League and the cultural revival under W. B. Yeats and Lady Augusta Gregory, together with the new political thinking of Arthur Griffith expressed in his newspaper Sinn Féin and the organisations the National Council and the Sinn Féin League led to the identification of Irish people with the concept of a Gaelic nation and culture, completely independent of Britain. This was sometimes referred to by the generic term Sinn Féin.

    The Third Home Rule Bill was introduced by British Prime Minister H. H. Asquith in 1912. The Irish Unionists, led by Sir Edward Carson, opposed home rule in the light of what they saw as an impending Roman Catholic-dominated Dublin government. They formed the Ulster Volunteer Force on 13 January 1913.

    The Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) saw an opportunity to create an armed organisation to advance its own ends, and on 25 November 1913 the Irish Volunteers, whose stated object was “to secure and to maintain the rights and liberties common to all the people of Ireland”, was formed. Its leader was Eoin MacNeill, who was not an IRB member. A Provisional Committee was formed that included people with a wide range of political views, and the Volunteers’ ranks were open to “all able-bodied Irishmen without distinction of creed, politics or social group.” Another militant group, the Irish Citizen Army, was formed by trade unionists as a result of the Dublin Lockout of that year. However, the increasing militarisation of Irish politics was overshadowed soon after by the outbreak of a larger conflict-the First World War  and Ireland’s involvement in the conflict.

    The Animated Bayeux Tapestry

    The Animated Bayeux Tapestry

    The Animated Bayeux Tapestry was created as a student project while at Goldsmiths College. Just as the historic original embroidary does, the animation depicts the lead up to to the Norman Invasion of Britain in 1066. It proved popular online gaining almost 750,000 views and being requested for downloads by teachers around the world. In 2009, Marc Sylvan redid the soundtrack to include orignal music and sound effects.

    Animation by David Newton

    Music and sound design by Marc Sylvan


    Here you can read the tale told by the Bayeux Tapestry –

    The story of William the Conqueror and Harold, Earl of Wessex, the men who led the Norman and Saxon armies in 1066. William’s defeat of Harold at the Battle of Hastings ensured the success of the Norman invasion of England…

    The Victorian replica of the Tapestry is housed in its own gallery at Reading Museum,

    where it can be viewed for FREE during the Museum opening hours

    h/t Hecate for the video link.