Tag Archive: James Bamford

Jul 28 2013

Anti-Capitalist MeetUp: Surveillance Corps Capture Congress, Courts, Exec. by Justina

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Wired.com, in a July 26, 2013 piece by David Cravats, details that not-very-surprising fact that those congressional representatives who received the largest political donations from defense contractors voted last week, 217 to 205, to oppose cuts to NSA’s phone-spying dragnet budget.   Those who opposed the cuts, and thus the “Amash amendment” received 122% more defense contractor funds than those who voted against it, with one Democratic exception of Representative Dennis Moran of Virginia.

An analysis done by the Berkeley non-profit, MapLight for Wired showed that Defense contractor donations averaged $41,635 from the pot, whereas House members who voted to repeal authority averaged $18,765 for the previous two year period.

The only really surprising fact is how very little the defense contractors had to pony-up to buy their contractor-collusive representative over the two year period:  $12.97 million.

In contrast to the billions of dollars these big corporations make each year from their defense contracts in the surveillance industry, the going price for representatives is trifling low.  (Of course, undoubtedly some representatives with committee assignments critical to surveillance budget issues do undoubtedly get lucrative extra perks in the form of post-term jobs, many as lobbyists, should they leave Congress, but still the cost of doing business with friendly congressional representatives is  virtually a rounding error in their corporate budgets.  

Mar 27 2012

The System is Blinking Red

This past week two related stories broke, James Bamford’s article on the NSA’s “Stellar Wind” project in Utah which will dramatically enhance the governments ability to store and process intercepted communications and records and Eric Holder’s announcement that the US will now keep and analyze information gathered about Americans or U.S. residents for 5 years, 10 times the previously allowed period.

These are both somewhat ominous stories.  In describing the Stellar Wind project former senior NSA official and whistleblower, William Binney put it, “We are this far from a turnkey totalitarian state.”  The extension of time announced by Eric Holder for retention and analysis of records increases Americans jeopardy of having their information misused or misinterpreted by agencies that have repeatedly done so and Americans (including Senator Ted Kennedy) have found themselves wrongfully placed on no-fly lists or worse, find their homes bugged and burgled, and their phones wiretapped leading to them being arrested and jailed in error, as happened to Brandon Mayfield.

The details of the Mayfield case illustrate some of the problems with “human factors” in intelligence work:

From the Wikipedia article linked above:

Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, Mayfield was concerned for the safety of his children and wife, and according to his father, he suspected that he was under surveillance by the federal authorities. In the weeks before his arrest, Mayfield’s family was under the impression that their house had been broken into at least twice, although nothing was stolen. According to court documents, the FBI used National Security Letters in order to wiretap his phones, bug his house, and search his house several times.

Fingerprints on a bag containing detonating devices, found by Spanish authorities following the Madrid commuter train bombings, were initially identified by the FBI as belonging to Mayfield (“100% verified”). According to the court documents in judge Ann Aiken’s decision, this information was largely “fabricated and concocted by the FBI and DOJ”. When the FBI finally sent Mayfield’s fingerprints to the Spanish authorities, they contested the matching of the fingerprints from Brandon Mayfield to the ones associated with the Madrid bombing. Further, the Spanish authorities informed the FBI they had other suspects in the case, Moroccan immigrants not linked to anyone in the USA. The FBI completely disregarded all of the information from the Spanish authorities, and proceeded to spy on Mayfield and his family further. …

Before his arrest, Spanish authorities informed the FBI in a letter from April 13, that they reviewed the fingerprint on the bag as a negative match of Mayfield’s fingerprint, though this letter was not communicated to Mayfield’s attorneys. On May 19 the Spanish authorities announced that the fingerprints actually belonged to an Algerian national, Ouhnane Daoud; Brandon Mayfield was released from prison when the international press broke the story the next day – May 20, 2004. A gag order remained in force for the next few days. By May 25, the case was dismissed by the judge, who ordered the return of seized evidence and unsealing of documents pertaining to his arrest.

The FBI conducted an internal review of Mayfield’s arrest and detention, concluding that although he was not arrested solely due to his religious beliefs, they may have contributed to investigator’s failure to take into account the Spanish concerns over fingerprint identification. The FBI issued a press release announcing the report’s conclusion that they had not misused the USA PATRIOT Act in the investigation.