Monday, June 10, 2013

To Squeal or Not to Squeal ? Whistle-blowing and Unconstitutionality

Top Secret. Torture. Violations of the Geneva Convention. Whistle-blowers on Trial.
Did you know the Obama Administration has prosecuted whistle-blowers at a historically unprecedented rate?

These are some disturbing events and long-disputed moral dilemmas that have been occurring in the United States the last few years, but have been pushed to the background. We'd rather focus on events that we feel "concern us as individuals on a personal level."  Well guess what. THIS DOES.  

But not many citizens took much notice of it (myself included, I am ashamed to admit I was sorely misinformed and am making up for it now) until now, with all the uproar about Verizon being involved.
Because that is an American household name and when people hear whisperings (now shouting) that their electronic devices are being mined for personal data going on record that could possible be used against them in the future, that sure as hell gets their attention.

So I'll talk about that first, since that is the priority for most Americans, and then go into the real story with Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning.

On April 25, the NSA (National Security Agency--employed as intelligence gathering and analysis, particularly from foreign sources in order to protect the U.S. via information security and cryptography) ordered Verizon to give them records of all customers' phone calls (within and outside of the U.S.) between that date and mid-July of this year.  ALL customers, regardless of it they have a rational cause for investigating a particular customer of Verizon.  And there is reason to believe Verizon is not the only carrier to receive this order (AT&T and Sprint are also suspected to have been pulled).  All in all, the Washington Post has declared that nine carriers are currently involved.
WHY? To protect us.

Supposedly this order does not give them access to actual recorded calls, but to who made them and who they called and how long the call lasted...but there is this op within the NSA order called "PRISM" that allows them to pull data from clients' phones, including photos, emails, videos, internet history, etc.
President Obama is currently defending it as being necessary to national security and claims that it is only being used outside of the U.S. (contrary to the actual content of the order).
So we've got this triangle here of the NSA requesting the order, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approving the order, and Obama defending it rather than restricting/withdrawing it.

And if you get any ambitious little J. Edgar Hoover types in there, it won't take long for the accumulation of records on "persons of interest" turns to blackmail.
Have you seen Enemy of the State? That's the real deal now.

Some say "how dare they spy on me?!?!" while others acknowledge the necessity of such a program (like PRISM) to prevent terrorist attacks that have become all to common in our modern world.
What do you think?
[Remember those Maryland nuns that made it onto the supposed terrorist database???]

Also keep in mind that many of the people getting up a head of steam about their privacy being violated have Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Google, LinkedIn, etc.  So anyone can find anything about them and they are offering up their personal lives to Big Brother.  If you consider all of the intimate crap we put on these sites and the amount of data it accumulates to, the internet knows more about us than our own parents (what blogs you follow, who you got drunk with last weekend, where you get your hair cut). Not to mention GoogleEarth.
That should scare you. And many of these are within your control.

So watch the hypocrisy.  This is a social media age and we are creating a dangerous situation for ourselves where oversharing is not just common, it is encouraged.

And this is rewarding for the terrorists--the mass hysteria that has been awoken in the American public. It is how we first ended up in Iraq (and a lot of the foreign conflicts of the 1950s-70s).
Government acts (often secret) are nothing new in America's pursuance of peace and liberty and all that--just look up the Insurrection Act of 1807, The Garden Plot, Posse Comitatus.

Self-education is critical...these government forces rely on corrupt media to continue to misinform (and it is working all too well).
Do your research, know your rights.

The new NSA center in Utah (about half an hour outside of Salt Lake City) is slated to be fully functional in October.  And it is MASSIVE. We've watched them gradually build it here and the capabilities of this building are astronomical.  That is a big reason why I am so interested in this stuff and the capabilities of government agencies.  It is mystifying.
We drove by last November and it was a bit eerie to see about 40 brand new police cars and a dozen tanks in the parking lot with a dusting of snow on them, and no people around.

It belongs in the public domain.

So now onto these two young men, the Whistle-blowers involved in releasing secret documents.

Bradley Manning is a 25 year old Army Intelligence Analyst that released a series of information regarding the war in the Middle East, particularly injustices going on in Iraq that the government has covered up.
You may have heard of the Collateral Murder video--he released that via WikiLeaks.  It shows a U.S. Army  Apache helicopter taking out a crowd including a Reuters journalist and his photographer in 2007, and then killing a man that stopped to help them. A few of them were carrying weapons, but obviously without intent to do anything with them... if you know anything about the Middle East, it is common and practical to have guns with you on the street.  And journalists are definitely a target themselves.
Warning--this video is graphic and upsetting.

The next day the American military released a statement about the 11 people killed in "a raid...against a hostile force." Full article here.
The most disgusting part of this military video is the commentary of the soldiers involved in it.  One guy can be heard cheering "oh yeah, look at those dead bastards!" and they even captured a crewman begging to shoot the Good Samaritan that arrived in his van to help the wounded in the street (permission was granted, and when two small children were found in the van afterward, shot and bleeding, another soldier declared "it's their fault bringing their kids to a battle."
There are claims the journalist's telephoto lens was mistaken for a rocket launcher.
You can hear them laughing while "engaging" men that have done nothing to indicate they are dangerous in the slightest.  And when a few of them attempt to crawl away, they mow them down. And laugh about one of their tanks driving over a body.

Manning's other documents illuminated the real number of civilian casualties and causes of their deaths, which was obviously recondite knowledge, as well as abuses perpetrated by U.S. contracted parties in the Middle East (the dirty work we'll pay other to do).  

What is notable about Manning's release of this secret information is that he had access to even higher classified records but he did not yield anything that would endanger any troops or civilians.  He released evidence of war crimes.

And what happened? Manning is on trial of course.  The evidence he provided with information allowing those responsible for war crimes has not resulted in their prosecution, but his own.
Isn't that just the American way?
Chat log of Manning's that is being used as evidence.
The soldiers responsible for his holding have also broken U.S. Military law in the manner of his imprisonment, denying his rights as a prisoner and executing severe pre-trial punishment. This is abhorrently unacceptable.  I continue to be disappointed in the American military and what it has become, through my experience with family members and friends that have served, and my outside research including this case.

In one week, more than half a million Americans signed a petition for President Obama to intervene (not to free Manning, just to end the inhumanity of his imprisonment).  He did not respond.
300 elite legal advisors have concluded this ongoing abuse is in violation of both the 5th and 8th Amendments.

Manning fits the definition of whistle-blower and he deserves better treatment.  He has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.  And he is my age! It makes you wonder how far you would go to do what you know is right.  Learn more at

I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong.

Now what of Edward Snowden?
This is the dude responsible for one of the biggest leaks in U.S. history who has requested they reveal his identity because he has "no intention of hiding who I am because I have done nothing wrong."
Damn, he is audacious and resolute.  This 29 year old recently gave up information on the NSA (he was a technical assistant for the CIA and worked with several outside contractors).

After he removed the documents from the NSA and made them available to the American public, he fled to Hong Kong (because of their "spirited commitment to free speech) where he is now attempting to hide out, until he is captured.  There are multiple people and organizations with reasons for this, including NSA spies, the CIA, the Chinese government, or any third party with something to gain.

He is the one that released much of the information I disclosed above, particularly regarding the PRISM program.

In his own words:

"Most of the secrets the CIA has are about people, not machines and systems, so I didn't feel comfortable with disclosures that I thought could endanger anyone".

"I really want the focus to be on these documents and the debate which I hope this will trigger among citizens around the globe about what kind of world we want to live in... My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them."

"you can't wait around for someone else to act. I had been looking for leaders, but I realized that leadership is about being the first to act."

 "There are more important things than money. If I were motivated by money, I could have sold these documents to any number of countries and gotten very rich...The government has granted itself power it is not entitled to. There is no public oversight. The result is people like myself have the latitude to go further than they are allowed to."

"I carefully evaluated every single document I disclosed to ensure that each was legitimately in the public interest," he said. "There are all sorts of documents that would have made a big impact that I didn't turn over, because harming people isn't my goal. Transparency is."

Read more here
I applaud both of these courageous, defiant young men and their dedication to inform their country-- a country that has long had the wool pulled over its eyes by the very systems that are supposed to protect us.  Enforced ignorance is not the equivalence of safety.

Please educate yourself and ensure their risks were not taken in vain.
They remind my of Daniel Ellsberg, who took a comparable gamble to inform the American public about Vietnam.  He will be the topic of my blog tomorrow.

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