Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Basic Proposal

I'm establishing this blog to discuss just one concept:

The United States collects and can analyze all voice & electronic communications that pass through our country, a system called "PRISM", in an effort to prevent terrorism. Supposedly originating from a handful of fanatics living in caves, terrorism -- though it is a shocking and heinous crime -- kills fewer Americans than does lightning strikes. On the other hand -- as documented extensively by many reporters such as Matt Taibbi and Bill Moyers -- currency manipulation, front-running, insider trading, rate-fixing, public bid-rigging, and related types of financial fraud have stolen many scores of billions or likely hundreds of billions of dollars over the past ten years alone, from the pockets of nearly every single citizen in the First World, on a daily basis, still ongoing. Yet nobody seems to think we can do anything about that.

Wouldn't the eavesdropping technology be a good match for the crime of sophisticated financial fraud?

I propose that the US Government, presumably through an Act of Congress, order the NSA, who runs the PRISM system, to share its database and its analysis capability with financial law enforcement agencies, such as the SEC, FinCEN, national and local Consumer Protection agencies, even FERC and the FEC, including regional or local law enforcement such as State Attorney Generals, for the express purpose of combating inter-State and international finance collusion, bid-rigging, market manipulation, energy price-gouging, election rigging, and similar crimes.

Please bring this proposal to the attention of your Federal representatives, senators, your neighbors, and the media voices you listen to.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Reasons Why

Here are some reasons why I believe this proposal is important, appropriate, and why it would help improve our country. Here are some answers to some common objections I anticipate.

* The reason PRISM scoops up all US communications, they say, is simply because the majority of world communications pass through our computers even when sent between people outside the US. This is certainly true of financial communications.

* The reason PRISM proponents say that the eavesdropping overrides privacy concerns, such as the 4th Amendment, is because terrorism costs lives, threatens the security and stability of entire countries, and is one of the most illegal activities on the planet. Even though many sophisticated financial frauds exist in legal gray areas... rate-fixing, bid-rigging, and many similar practices are also blatantly illegal. And as their damage piles up to tens of billions of dollars in the middle of a worldwide recession, surely these activities are also a clear and present threat to the security and stability of communities, industries, and even entire countries, including our own. Arguably this threat is even more important than the threat of terrorism, which while heinous and shocking, is far more rare. Fraudulent financial communication over electronic networks occurs virtually every hour of every single day.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Just goes ta show...

There's been a hiatus on this blog mainly because only a handful of people appear to be interested in the specific discussion subject.

However, a news story appeared recently which falls very neatly into this blog's purview. Recently US bombs destroyed a hospital in Afghanistan, a "neutral" hospital being run by the French-based charity, Doctors Without Borders. Destroying any hospital, not just a neutral one, is a war crime. Somebody could receive significant punishment for this. As you might expect, the U.S. government is hemming and hawing, floating different excuses for why this happened, to see what sticks. A UN independent investigation will eventually be convened, but it will take years merely to obtain the evidence and documents, and nobody expects the US to hand over any evidence which is actually incriminating of itself.

Edward Snowden has a quick solution, however: It's to note that the bomber pilots, like everyone else, are under surveillance. Turn over the bomber cockpit recordings to the UN investigation and the investigation will make a lot of progress very quickly.

Snowden on Twitter: AC-130 Warplanes record the gunner's video and audio. It's time to release the tapes to an independent investigation.

So this is a perfect example of the point that this blog is trying to get across. We are all being surveiled in order to detect "potential" criminal (e.g. terrorist) behavior. Everyone is already being surveiled, including people in the established power structure. However, the surveillance will never be used to detect and expose abuses by those in the existing power structure, not unless the people demand such a thing with a united voice. Not even when the already-existing surveillance could clearly be used to further the cause of justice. This applies not only to politicians and the military, but also to police and even to other powerful people such as bankers and corporate executives, whose crimes and abuses could easily be captured (doubtless already are captured) by the electronic surveillance. This is an unequal power relationship which is dangerous and imbalanced, and that's something we all need to know about and to fight to the extent possible.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Superb vintage, this wine...

Following on the theme of, is Edward Snowden a traitor or a hero --

Chris Hedges published his introductory statement to a debate on that subject at Oxford University (which his side won, against a team of former US intelligence officials and pundits). It's brief and worth a read.

Snowden had access to the full roster of everyone working at the NSA. He could have made public the entire intelligence community and undercover assets worldwide. He could have exposed the locations of every clandestine station and their missions. He could have shut down the surveillance system, as he has said, “in an afternoon.” But this was never his intention. He wanted only to halt the wholesale surveillance, which until he documented it was being carried out without our consent or knowledge.

Worth remembering, if Snowden had really wanted to damage the US, he could easily have done an helluvalot more to damage us than he actually did. How do we know he didn't? Well, apart from Snowden and Greenwald's assurances, it's been almost 2 years since the date his documents were downloaded... the NSA has started to compile a list of what he took... do you think anybody would sit on that information for 2 years, and we wouldn't hear about the sudden checkmating of all our strategic operations, or else the ransom they wanted in exchange?
When I assert that Manning and Snowden have done no damage worth speaking of (compared to the value of their revelations), opponents tend to fall back on "Well they broke their oath to keep these things secure, that makes them traitors." Yet every elected official swears an oath to uphold the Constitution, including the 4th Amendment, howcome you're not calling them the oathbreakers? Manning and Snowden simply felt their oaths required them to reveal this stuff, while President Obama and security officials all the way down, felt their oaths permitted them to violate the plain intent of the 4th Amendment, and keep it all hushed up. Breaking an oath is not so clear-cut an issue as conservatives would like to believe.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Fourth Estate, now a broken home

Yet another reason we can't just sit around, read these NSA revelations, and say "Oh well, of course the government's going to spy on everybody, whatchoogonnadooo..."

NSA actions pose 'direct threat to journalism,' leading watchdog warns

The government has never before had the ability to unmask every confidential reporter/source connection as a blanket rule. Whether or not this was the case when they requisitioned the Associated Press records recently -- the "4th Estate" (the Press) in the US is no longer free or independent, if the government can simply Hoover up all a reporter's connections passively... along with all the rest of the citizens. What this means is an end to whistleblowing. Who will want or be able to disclose legitimate cases of government abuses, if they know their disclosure can be traced?

Even if you happen to believe that people like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden really are traitors -- despite how I've shown that the "harm" they did to national security is nonexistent -- even if you believe that anyway, then surely you can see how this policy quashes future dissent and legitimate internal reform.

We already know that the Obama Administration, despite sympathetic rhetoric, has been more hostile to whistleblowers than any previous American Presidential administration. So what happens when some other Administration, one that we trust less than Obama, gets into power?

Yes, yes, on January 17, Obama gave an address where he called for the NSA to relinquish control over the phone portion of the nation's data. (Not to stop collecting it, mind you, but to relinquish direct control.) As Ted Rall says, this is too little, too late. Obama proposes that the NSA hand over control to access of this data, back to the FISA court. You know, the rubberstamp court, that meets in secret, the one which has rejected 11 government requests for your data -- out of roughly 34,000-- since 1979, and none within the past three years.

It is a key facet of the definition of totalitarianism, when the State seeks to prevent anyone from going outside the system to expose abuses. That's the "total" in Totalitarianism. And that's the difference between a sane, democratic country's security policy, and ours. Innocent until proven guilty. You only launch an investigation in response to a specific crime or harm. You don't just Hoover up all communications in the hope that somewhere, somehow in that big pile, you can find something interesting. The latter is paranoia, and totalitarianism. The latter is the first concrete, tangible step towards subjugating all citizens, and treating them as a national resource to be controlled and managed, rather than free independent people.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Fighting Back against Surveillance

This site's been silent for too many months, due to apparent lack of an audience. But as I predicted many months ago, this issue will not simply evaporate and be forgotten. It affects everyone, it impacts almost everything we do in this digital age. This issue isn't going to go away. So today, somebody-or-other has called a "Day of Resistance" against electronic surveillance. I might as well join the festivities, since I've been working on this issue for the better part of a year.

Conversely, in another example of fighting back against surveillance, let's consider the actions of the people that the surveillance is supposed to catch.

I heard the well-worn canard just a couple of days ago: "Edward Snowden ought to be shot, because he revealed our tactics to our enemies. That's treason, and that's a capital offense."

Guess what, my friend, everybody else -- most especially including our enemies -- already knew about our tactics, besides apparently you. The people whom these tactics are used against, figure them out pretty quick.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

About This Proposal -- and What Do I Think Will Happen

I don't believe it is constitutional for the US government to be engaging in massive surveillance of its citizens. But most people seem to agree that the government is going to do this no matter what, and many people argue it's necessary for American safety. If it must be done, then, let's apply it equally. As I imply elsewhere, what's good for the goose is good for the gander. If all 300 million of us Americans' private communications need to be monitored in order to protect our personal safety against a threat that is about as common as shark attacks, then it seems only fair and appropriate that our financial apparatchiks' communications should all be monitored too. In order to prevent a clear and present crime that is not only picking people's pockets directly, as well as depleting the budgets of our States and Cities and major retirement funds, but also sapping tens of billions of dollars from the world economy in a time of incredibly severe economic downturn.

I suspect our politicians and our financial elite share a common belief: that surveillance is for the "little people", that they themselves are above the law and above reproach. I don't believe the financial elites will want this high-tech scrutiny turned upon them, and I believe the financial elites have the power to make sure it doesn't happen.

So if we manage to insert this concept into the public political discussion -- and if we are successful to the point where perhaps some Senators start drafting legislation that would bring this about... it's going to be fun to watch...