by Tom Burghardt
May 9, 2011
Despite last week's "termination" of America's bęte noire,
Osama bin Laden,
the reputed "emir" and old "new Hitler" of the Afghan-Arab database of
disposable Western intelligence assets known as al-Qaeda, Secrecy News
reports an uptick in domestic spying.
Never mind that the administration is engaged in an unprecedented war on
whistleblowers, or is systematically targeting antiwar and solidarity
activists with trumped-up charges connected to the "material support of
terrorism," as last Fall's multi-state raids on anarchists and socialists in
Chicago and Minneapolis attest.
In order to do their best to "keep us safe," Team Obama is busily building
upon the criminal legacy bequeathed to the administration by
and even asserts the right to assassinate American citizens "without a whiff
of due process," as
Salon's Glenn Greenwald points out.
According to a new
Justice Department report submitted to Congress we learn
"during calendar year 2010, the Government
made 1,579 applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court
(FISC) for authority to conduct electronic surveillance
and/or physical searches" on what U.S. security agencies allege are "for
foreign intelligence purposes."
The April 29 missive, released under the Freedom
of Information Act, documents the persistence of our internal security
apparat's targeting of domestic political opponents, under color of rooting
Secrecy News analyst Steven Aftergood comments that,
"this compares to a reported 1,376
applications in 2009. (In 2008, however, the reported figure - 2,082 -
was quite a bit higher.)"
"In 2010," Aftergood writes, "the government made 96 applications for
access to business records (and 'tangible things') for foreign
intelligence purposes, up from 21 applications in 2009."
Also last year, America's premier domestic
intelligence agency, the FBI,
"made 24,287 'national security letter'
requests for information pertaining to 14,212 different U.S. persons, a
substantial increase from the 2009 level of 14,788 NSL requests
concerning 6,114 U.S. persons. (In 2008, the number of NSL requests was
24,744, pertaining to 7,225 persons.)"
As I have pointed out many times, national
security letters are onerous letters de cachet, secretive administrative
subpoenas with built-in gag orders used by the Bureau to seize records from
third-parties such as banks, libraries and telecommunications providers
without any judicial process whatsoever, not to mention the expenditure of
scarce tax dollars to spy on the American people.
"Money for Nothing..."
With U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's February
the Department of Justice will seek $28.2 billion from Congress in Fiscal
Year 2012, a 1.7% increase, the FBI is slated to reap an $8.1 billion
We're told that the,
"administration supports critical national
security programs within the department, including the FBI and the
National Security Division (NSD)."
"The requested national security resources include $122.5 million in
program increases for the FBI," including "$48.9 million for the FBI to
expand national security related surveillance and enhance its Data
Integration and Visualization System, as well as $18.6 million for the
FBI's Computer Intrusion Initiative to increase coverage in detecting
Rather ironic, considering that
reported last month that a U.S. Department of Justice audit found that the
FBI's ability to "investigate cyber intrusions" was less than adequate.
The report disclosed that "fully 36% [of field
agents] were found to be ill-equipped."
To make matters worse,
"FBI field offices do not have sufficient
analytical and forensic capabilities to support large scale
investigations, the audit revealed."
All the more reason then to shower even more
money on the Bureau!
And with the FBI demanding new authority to peer into our lives, on- and
offline, the FY 2012 budget would,
"address the growing technological gap
between law enforcement's electronic surveillance capabilities and the
number and variety of communications devices available to the public,
$17.0 million in program increases are being requested to bolster the
department's electronic surveillance capabilities."
One sure sign that things haven't changed under
Obama is the FBI's quest for additional funds for what it is now calling
it's Data Integration and Visualization System (DIVS).
According to April congressional testimony by
FBI Director Robert Mueller, DIVS will,
"prioritize and integrate disparate datasets
across the Bureau."
Another in a long line of taxpayer-funded
boondoggles, it appears that DIVS is the latest iteration of various failed
"case management" and "data integration" programs stood up by the Bureau.
As I reported last year, previous failed efforts by the FBI have included
the Bureau's Virtual Case File (VCF) project. Overseen by the spooky
Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), VCF cost
taxpayers some $170 million dollars before it crashed and burned in 2006.
And when defense and security giant Lockheed Martin took over the case
management brief, VCF, now rechristened Sentinel, also enjoyed a similarly
expensive and waste-filled fate.
A 2009 report by the Department of Justice's
Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found that despite some $450
million dollars showered on Lockheed Martin and assorted subcontractors, the
Sentinel system "encountered significant challenges."
According to a notice quietly posted in August in the
"DIVS contains replications and extractions
of information maintained by the FBI in other databases. This
information is replicated or extracted into DIVS in order to provide an
enhanced and integrated view of that information."
Wait a minute! Isn't that what VCF and Sentinel
were supposed to do?
We're told that the,
"purpose of DIVS is to strengthen and
improve the methods by which the FBI searches for and analyzes
information in support of its multifaceted mission responsibilities to
protect the nation against terrorism and espionage and investigate
(Dirty) Business as Usual
While the FBI and the Justice Department have failed to prosecute corporate
criminals responsible for the greatest theft and upward transfer of wealth
in history, not to mention the virtual get-out-of-jail-free cards handed out
to top executives of the
drug-money laundering Wachovia Bank, they're rather
adept at trampling the rights of the American people.
As the San Francisco Bay Guardian
recently reported, while corporate
lawbreakers get a free pass,
"San Francisco cops assigned to the FBI's
terrorism task force can ignore local police orders and California
privacy laws to spy on people without any evidence of a crime."
According to a Memorandum of Understanding
obtained by the ACLU,
"it effectively puts local officers under
the control of the FBI," investigative journalist Sarah Phelan
Civil rights attorney Veena Dubal told
the Bay Guardian that during "the waning months of the Bush administration"
"changed its policies to allow federal
authorities to collect intelligence on a person even if the subject is
not suspected of a crime. The FBI is now allowed to spy on Americans who
have done nothing wrong - and who may be engaged in activities protected
by the First Amendment."
"It's the latest sign of a dangerous trend: San Francisco cops are
working closely with the feds, often in ways that run counter to city
policy," Phelan writes.
"And it raises a far-reaching question: With
a district attorney who used to be police chief, a civilian commission
that isn't getting a straight story from the cops, and a climate of
secrecy over San Francisco's intimate relations with outside agencies,
who is watching the cops?"
Apparently, no one; and in such a repressive
climate the federal government has encouraged the FBI to target anyone
deemed a threat to the new corporate order.
Earlier this year, an Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
report revealed that
the Bureau continues to systematically violate the constitutional guarantees
of American citizens and legal residents, and does so with complete
As I wrote at the time, this was rather ironic considering the free passes
handed out by U.S. securocrats to actual terrorists who killed thousands of
Americans on 9/11, as both
WikiLeaks and FBI whistleblower
According to EFF, more than 2,500 documents obtained under the Freedom of
Information Act revealed that:
From 2001 to 2008, the FBI reported to
the IOB approximately 800 violations of laws, Executive Orders, or
other regulations governing intelligence investigations, although
this number likely significantly under-represents the number of
violations that actually occurred.
From 2001 to 2008, the FBI investigated,
at minimum, 7000 potential violations of laws, Executive Orders, or
other regulations governing intelligence investigations.
Based on the proportion of violations
reported to the IOB and the FBI's own statements regarding the
number of NSL violations that occurred, the actual number of
violations that may have occurred from 2001 to 2008 could approach
40,000 possible violations of law, Executive Order, or other
regulations governing intelligence investigations.
(Electronic Frontier Foundation,
Patterns of Misconduct: FBI Intelligence Violations from 2001-2008,
January 30, 2011)
But FBI lawbreaking didn't stop there.
Citing internal documents, EFF revealed that the
"engaged in a number of flagrant legal
violations" that included, "submitting false or inaccurate declarations
to courts," "using improper evidence to obtain federal grand jury
subpoenas" and "accessing password protected documents without a
And just last week the
watchdogs reported that,
"the U.S. District Court for the Central
District of California has revealed the FBI lied to the court about the
existence of records requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA),
taking the position that FOIA allows it to withhold information from the
court whenever it thinks this is in the interest of national security."
The court sharply disagreed and
"the Government cannot, under any
circumstance, affirmatively mislead the Court."
The Court held, following settled case law that
goes all the way back to Marbury v. Madison (1803) that,
"Numerous statutes, rules, and cases reflect
the understanding that the Judiciary cannot carry out its essential
function if lawyers, parties, or witnesses obscure the facts."
Skewering the FBI, U.S. District Judge Cormac
J. Carney wrote that while,
"The Government contends that the FOIA
permits it to provide the Court with the same misinformation it provided
to Plaintiffs regarding the existence of other responsive information or
else the Government would compromise national security... that argument
Nevertheless, that court and the Ninth Circuit
Court of Appeals still held that despite the Bureau's obvious attempt to
bamboozle the federal judiciary, thus subverting the separation of powers
amongst the three co-equal branches of government as stipulated in the U.S.
Constitution (Article III),
"disclosing the number and nature of the
documents the Government possesses could reasonably be expected to
compromise national security."
Islamic Shura Council of S.
California v. FBI.)
In other words, while the Bureau was chastised
for withholding relevant documents from the court that might demonstrate
their illegal surveillance of organizations and individuals who have never
been indicted, or even charged, with so-called "terrorism offenses," the
"national security" card trumps everything.
Late last month, EFF staff attorney Jennifer Lynch
reported the group
"recently received documents from the FBI
that reveal details about the depth of the agency's electronic
surveillance capabilities and call into question the FBI's controversial
effort to push Congress to expand the Communications Assistance to Law
Enforcement Act (CALEA) for greater access to communications data."
The documents were obtained under a FOIA request
by EFF after a 2007 report published by Wired disclosed that the FBI had
deployed "secret spyware" to track domestic targets.
According to Wired,
"FBI agent Norman Sanders describes the
software as a 'computer and internet protocol address verifier,' or
a follow-up piece, investigative journalist
Ryan Singel revealed that the FBI,
"has quietly built a sophisticated,
point-and-click surveillance system that performs instant wiretaps on
almost any communications device."
That surveillance system known as DCSNet, or
Digital Collection System Network, formerly known as Carnivore,
"connects FBI wiretapping rooms to switches
controlled by traditional land-line operators, internet-telephony
providers and cellular companies," Wired reported.
"It is far more intricately woven into the nation's telecom
infrastructure than observers suspected," Singel wrote at the time, a
point underscored a year later when whistleblower
Babak Pasdar blew the
lid off the close relations amongst America's telecoms and the Bureau's
illegal surveillance programs.
As Antifascist Calling
reported at the time, a
telecom carrier Pasdar worked for as a security consultant, subsequently
named as Verizon
by The Washington Post, said the company maintained a
high-speed DS-3 digital line that allowed the Bureau and other security
agencies "unfettered" access to the carrier's wireless network, including
billing records and customer data "transmitted wirelessly."
While Verizon denied the report that the FBI has open access to its network,
their mendacious claims were demolished when the secrecy-shredding web site
Cryptome published the firm's "Law Enforcement Legal Compliance Guide" in
Amongst the "helpful hints" provided to law enforcement by the carrier,
Verizon urges state spies to "be specific."
"Do not include wording such as 'any and all
records'", we read. "The courts have traditionally ruled that this
wording is considered overly broad and burdensome. Request only what is
On and on it goes...
According to documents obtained by EFF, the technologies discussed by Bureau
snoops, when installed on a target's computer, allows the FBI to collect the
Media Access Control (MAC) address
"Browser environment variables"
Open communication ports
List of the programs running
Operating system type, version, and
Browser type and version
The URL that the target computer was
previously connected to
Registered computer name
Registered company name
Currently logged in user name
Other information that would assist with
"identifying computer users, computer software installed, [and]
computer hardware installed"
(Electronic Frontier Foundation, New
FBI Documents Provide Details on Government's Surveillance Spyware,
April 29, 2011)
According to initial reporting by Wired, the FBI
may have infiltrated the malicious program onto a target's computer by,
"pointing to code that would install the
spyware by exploiting a vulnerability in the user's browser."
Lynch comments that,
"although the documents discuss some
problems with installing the tool in some cases, other documents note
that the agency's Crypto Unit only needs 24-48 hours to prepare
Once the tool is installed, Bureau snoops aver,
"it stay[s] persistent on the compromised
computer and ... every time the computer connects to the Internet, [FBI]
will capture the information associated with the PRTT [Pen Register/Trap
& Trace Order]."
The privacy watchdogs write that the Bureau,
"has been using the tool in domestic
criminal investigations as well as in
FISA cases, and the FISA Court
appears to have questioned the
propriety of the tool."
This is particularly relevant, and troubling,
considering that the FBI and other secret state agencies such as the
already possess formidable surveillance tools in their arsenals and that
private security outfits such as HBGary and Palantir - as well as hundreds
of other firms - are busily concocting ever-more intrusive spyware for their
state and private partners, as the massive disclosure of internal HBGary
emails and documents by the cyber-guerrilla group Anonymous
With all the hot air from Washington surrounding claims by the FBI and other
secret state satrapies that they'll "go dark" unless Congress grants them
authority to build secret backdoors into America's communications networks,
EFF revealed that documents,
"show the FBI already has numerous tools
available to surveil suspects directly, rather than through each of
their communications service providers."
"One heavily redacted
email notes that the FBI has other tools that
'provide the functionality of the CIPAV [text redacted] as well as
provide other useful info that could help further the case'."
What is clear from the latest document release
is that it isn't the FBI that's "going dark" but the right of the American
people to free speech and political organizing without the threat that
government-sanctioned malware which remains "persistent" on a "compromised
computer" becomes one more tool for building "national security" dossiers on