A leaked classified US government document published by The Intercept gives more precise numbers about people placed on various ‘terrorism’ suspect databases as of August 2013. The Terrorism Screening Database (TSDB) has 680,000 ‘known or suspected terrorists’, with 40% or 280,000 labeled as having ‘no recognized terrorist group affiliation’. An additional 320,000 are in Terrorism Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE). This unclassified information is based on ‘reasonable suspicion’ (not facts or evidence), and is routinely shared to intelligence, military, local police, foreign governments and private companies. The second highest concentration of ‘known or suspected terrorists’ is in Dearborn, Michigan, a city with the largest percentage of Arab-Americans, which makes the racial profiling practices of the databases clear. There are 240 nominations a day to TIDE. The no-fly list contains 47,000 people; 16,000 more people are ‘selectees’ given addition airport screening. TIDE includes more than 860,000 biometric files (face scans, fingerprints, iris scans) on 144,000 people. The Intercept also published the leaked March 2013 Watchlisting Guidance document which details the secret procedures that 19 government agencies use to put people on these various databases.
Rahinah Ibrahim is the first person to successfully challenge her placement on the government no-fly list. The federal court judge ruled that she was not a ‘threat’ to national security and had been placed on the no-fly list because of a bureaucratic ‘mistake’ when the FBI official, Kevin Kelley, filled out the form wrong by checking the ‘wrong boxes’. Her name has to be purged from the list, or the government has to certify her name is already removed. Four American Muslims have filed a lawsuit in which they accuse the FBI of putting them on the no-fly list in order to either intimidate them into becoming informants or retaliating against them for refusing. In another American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawsuit on behalf of 13 US citizens, a federal judge struck down as unconstitutional the procedures people on the list must use to contest their inclusion. The government must create a new remedy process, but the judge did not in any way stop the implementation of the no-fly list.
In April 2014, publicintelligence.net made public a 2011 US Army Commander’s Guide to Biometrics in Afghanistan, which thoroughly details the government’s goal to collect biometric data (facial photos, iris scans, and all ten fingerprints) from every person in Afghanistan. The biopolitical war project includes not only attempting to ID ‘terrorists’ by running the biometrics through Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and FBI databases, but also the management of entire populations.
In a court case filed by The New York Times and the ACLU, the Justice Department was forced to make public a memorandum in redacted form, which shows the government’s ‘reasoning’ for ‘legally’ killing US citizens (including Anwar al-Awlaki) abroad without a trial or even criminal allegations made against them. ‘Targeted killing’ is justified in the memo, written by David Barron (now a federal judge), through the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) enacted by Congress in 2001.
In a separate case, a federal judge ruled that US officials cannot be held liable for the killing of citizens abroad, that the judiciary cannot provide a remedy for extrajudicial killings during war, and that the court would not assess the allegations against the victims and simply accept the government’s allegations as ‘facts’. The lawsuit concerned the targeted drone killing of al-Awlaki (who was on the ‘kill list’) and Samir Khan in drone one strike, and al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son in another.
Another federal district court ruled that US officials are not liable for torturing U.S. citizens. The ACLU case was brought by Amir Meshal who was rendered in Kenya and held in incommunicado detention in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, where he was tortured, interrogated by the FBI, and was never charged with any crime. After 4 months of abuse, he was only flown back to the US because of the scandal caused by a McClatchy news story about his case.
Surveillance, Control and Repression
In July, the UK parliament quickly passed the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill (DRIP), which requires internet service providers and mobile operators to store customer metadata for 12 months and have it freely accessible to law enforcement agencies. It also expanded the government’s ability to intercept phone calls and digital communication.
UK Home Secretary Theresa May and other politicians are seeking to enact a law to strip British nationals of their citizenship for alleged involvement in ‘terrorism’. The Home Secretary already has the authority to strip dual citizens of their British citizenship; Section 40 of the British Nationality Act 1981 allows for further citizenship revocation circumstances. The government also wants to give police the power to seize passports of travellers temporarily. Politicians in the US and in Germany have also discussed proposing laws to strip citizenship from individuals who pose a ‘national security threat’ and/or fight for terrorist organizations including the Islamic State.
The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 is now UK law and greatly expands government powers concerning anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs). Previous ASBOs from the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 are now grouped into 6 initiatives: injunction; criminal behaviour order; dispersal powers, community protection notices and orders; public spaces protection orders; and closure of premises. The Act also updates powers concerning enforcement, environmental crime and protection, housing, public health and licensing.
The UK Crown Prosecution Services ruled this August that there was ‘insufficient evidence’ to prosecute five undercover police officers, Jim Boyling, Bob Lambert, John Dines, Mark Cassidy, and Mark Kennedy, for crimes including rape, sexual assault, and other offenses. The 8 female plaintiffs had attempted to hold the undercover police officers accountable. The Metropolitan Police was forced to officially name in court two of the Special Demonstration Squad operators, Jim Boyling and Bob Lambert.
Based on leaked NSA documents from Edward Snowden, it has been shown that the NSA gathered information about sexual activities and internet porn viewing habits with the intention to discredit individuals. The document describes such spying against 6 Muslims who the agency believed were ‘radicalizing’ others. In another news exposé, leaked NSA documents show that NSA officials (both male and female) spied on current or former love interests. They used the term LOVEINT to describe the spying. Twelve cases have been publicly identified and none of the individuals have been prosecuted.
The Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), the CIA and the US military primarily rely on metadata and cell phone tracking technologies to identify targets to be killed with drones. Two drone operators, including Brandon Bryant who has done extensive interviews, and leaked NSA documents by Snowden indicate that one tactic used by NSA is to geolocate a sim card or cell phone of the target, thus primarily focusing on the metadata rather than the content of actual calls. Furthermore, it often isn’t known who is actually holding the targeted sim card or if other innocent victims are in the area. Former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden has publically admitted that people are killed on the basis of metadata.
The leaked NSA Snowden files show that the agency archives the audio recordings of all cell phone communications in the Bahamas and Afghanistan (The Intercept named the first country only and Wikileaks named both). The metadata of all cell phone communications from the Bahamas, Mexico, the Philippines, Afghanistan and Kenya are swept up by the NSA. Since at least 2005, NSA director Keith Alexander attempted to have the NSA collect every email, SMS and phone call in Iraq. Cryptom.org has a tally and database of all the NSA files released thus far organized by date and news outlet source. ProPublica published the handy NSA Surveillance Lawsuit Tracker, a database of all the pending US legal challenges against various government agencies for illegal surveillance. The Snowden files and accompanying reporting demonstrate that the NSA and other US agencies, with the help of the other ‘Five Eyes’ partner countries (UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand), are attempting to ‘collect it all’: collect, monitor and store all forms of communication and eliminate privacy worldwide.
A Toronto woman intended to fly to New York for vacation, but was denied entry by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and was told she would have to get ‘medical clearance’ and be examined by three doctors accepted by Homeland Security. The official cited the US Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 212, which denies entry to individuals who have mental or physical disorders that may pose a ‘threat’ to themselves or others. The woman was given a signed document that CBP had done a system check and because of a listed ‘mental episode’ she would have to be examined. Thus, the CBP had access to the private medical files of Canadian citizens – the Canadian Police Information Center contains all sorts of information on Canadians that is shared with the FBI, CBP and other U.S. agencies.
A U.S. federal judge reaffirmed a federal policy that Border Patrol/CBP has the authority to search all people (and their belongings) based on ‘reasonable suspicion’ within 100 miles of any US border, known as the ‘border exemption’. Border Patrol operates at least 170 interior checkpoints and innumerable roving patrols by over 21,000 agents.
Homeland Security and Citizenship and Immigration Services are using rapid DNA analyzer machines to process samples in as little as 2 hours. This allows officials to verify identities, check claims that an individual has family in the U.S., and store the data in the FBI’s criminal DNA database. Government agencies seek to acquire and store biometric data from all immigrants entering or seeking to enter the US.
Social Media and Internet Surveillance
Continuing a trend of many years, Facebook is working with US police departments to censor posts by blocking users who may post information deemed ‘criminal’ and through strategic placement or deletion of news feeds and trends. Based on users’ activities at demonstrations, police and Facebook employ geofencing software to block service to specific devices in a geographic area. Creativity Software (UK) sold geofencing programs to Iran to track, disrupt and imprison dissidents. The Facebook Drug Task Force, the Drug Enforcement Agency and local police monitor all information on Facebook to assess who talks about drugs, and who may buy or sell, leading many users to self-censor their ‘speech’ on the platform.
Instead of blocking protestors’ use of social media on their cell phones, on January 21, 2014, Ukrainian police used geotracking data to locate all cell phones in the protest area and sent all individuals the following SMS: ‘Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance’. This criminalized all people in a geofenced area, regardless of their activity.
Based on social media usage, as well as crime reports, disturbance calls and suspicious person reports, the Chicago police have compiled a list of the ‘most dangerous people’ in the city, which presently contains 400 names but could grow much larger.The project is funded by the Justice Department’s grant ‘two degrees of association’.
A Southern Poverty Law Center report details that in the last five years almost 100 people have been murdered by registered users of the white supremacist website Stormfront, 69 of whom were killed by Anders Behring Breivik. On a given day, the largest racist internet forum in the world has about 1,800 users logging in, with more than half residing outside the US.
After hacker Jeremy Hammond was sentenced to 10 years in prison for violating the computer fraud and abuse act, Wikileaks released the rest of Hammond’s hacked Stratfor files known as the Global Intelligence Files. The private global intelligence company gathered information on a number of groups including Denver Anarchist Black Cross, Occupy Austin, and it was revealed in other emails that informant Brandon Darby was in contact with Stratfor. It should hardly be surprising that our comrades at 325 (see 325.nostate.net and the print magazine) were also monitored by Stratfor.
British Intelligence and the ‘Five Eyes’ alliance employ a diverse array of tactics for online covert operations to ‘control, infiltrate, manipulate and warp online discourse’, according to the leaked NSA document reported on by journalist Glen Greenwald. The GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) documents describe the many ways to discredit a target, and to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate desired outcomes. The document details all sorts of specific tactics, as well as social science research, used to achieve social engineering aims. This is one of many updates to the information wars previously written about in Datacide 5.
Apple finally approved the Metadata+ app, which tracks every reported U.S. drone strike worldwide. The app user can search all recorded drone strikes via the map as well as brief news feed descriptions like “September 28, 2014, Pakistan: ‘Four people suspects of being militants’ were killed by an American drone”. The developer artist has also mapped US worldwide military installations (empire.is) and displayed aerial photos of US prisons (prisonmap.com).
In the ongoing disturbances, Hong Kong protestors organize themselves using the app FireChat, which allows text and photo communication by users 30 feet from each other through a mesh network via the phone’s Bluetooth or Wi-Fi (even if there is no Wi-Fi connectivity). This works without the necessity of cell towers or Internet service. Between Sunday and Monday morning, 100,000 protestors had downloaded the app. In one weekend in early June, 40,000 Iraqis downloaded FireChat due to internet shutdown and slowing by the Iraqi government.
Music Industry and Copyright
An Urban Outfitters (UO) executive claimed recently that the clothing store company is the world’s largest retailer of vinyl records, which was widely reported in the news and was received by record collectors and indie stores with disdain. However, this assertion is easily disproven. In the US, according to Billboard, Amazon is the largest vinyl seller with 12.3% market share to UO’s 8.1%, and UO only has 50 stores outside of the US. The largest US vinyl account, Alliance Entertainment, wholesales vinyl to big chains like Best Buy, Barnes & Noble, and Trans World Entertainment, as well as to indie stores.
Like many other vinyl distributors in the UK and elsewhere, ST Holdings has closed. First opened in 1998, the distributor became one of the major distributors of drum ‘n’ bass, grime, dubstep, UK garage and other genres.
2013 was the first year that digital download sales declined, and this trend continued in the first half of 2014, along with a double-digit decline in album sales according to Nielsen SoundScan. However, on-demand streaming increased dramatically again, and in 2013 streaming music revenue grew 39%, or one-fifth of the US music industry’s business (totaling around $7 billion) according to Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Spotify is the largest streaming business with 10 million global paying subscribers. Some stats claim that 34% of music streamers don’t pay, and predominantly use YouTube, SoundCloud and Mixcloud, amongst others. Following the usual trend, these platforms have already monetized or are planning to do so.
YouTube is about to launch a paid-subscription steaming service called YouTube Music Key, and has threatened to drop major indie labels if they don’t sign licensing agreements, which some claim are unfair and favor major industry labels. In response to this, the Worldwide Independent Network got 700 indie labels including Ninja Tune, Mute, Brainfeeder, 4AD, Domino and Warp to sign the ‘Fair Digital Deals Declaration’, which contains 5 agreements including ensuring clear explanations of artists’ share of revenues, readable royalty statements, and support for artists who oppose unauthorized uses of their music. Revenue from paid-streaming subscriptions and digital sales also relates to other types of royalty collection services for artists who become members at copyright protection agencies GEMA (DE); SUISA (CH), SACEM (FR), PRS for Music (UK), Harry Fox Agency (US).
The continuing debate about ‘fair’ compensation from digital and streaming sales to artists coincided with the second meeting of the US Congressional review of copyright law that hosted all the big names of the music industry like the RIAA, Alliance of Independent Music Merchants (AAIM), major labels, Spotify, Pandora, etc. The Digital Millenium Copyright Act was the last ‘amendment’ to US copyright law, and these industry interests are attempting to make sure any new copyright laws and licensing right’s agreements will shore up their share of the profits.
Soundcloud recently introduced ads from ‘brand partners’ on its website and app. Invited premier members can also monetize tracks through advertising. This continues Soundcloud’s business model of increased fees for membership, restriction of access based on what country a member signs up from or the national location of music, and allowing Universal Music to flag accounts, serve song removal and copyright infringement notifications and enact account terminations. Soundcloud is also data mining users’ online history through hinging to Facebook or google+, and then sells the data to interested parties.
In September, Pioneer announced it was selling off Pioneer DJ for $551 million to US firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts. Pioneer DJ is the second most lucrative DJ equipment business behind Native Instruments. Pioneer DJ had been slowly discontinuing budget mixer models, including all two channel mixers. It is unclear how its product line will be affected by the sale.
In May and September 2013, the City of Boston in collaboration with IBM had the Boston Police secretly test advanced facial recognition software to track the faces and bodies of every single attendee at the mainstream Boston Calling Music Festival. The digital information is stored by IBM and could be used against a person in the future. This is part of IBM’s ‘Smarter Cities Initiative” that will be implemented in many US cities.
The Pirate Bay (TPB) co-founder Gottfrid Svartholm Wartg was extradited to Denmark from Sweden in November 2013, and is presently a defendant in the biggest Danish hacking trial with an unnamed Danish accomplice for allegations of hacking the Center for Cyber Security. Another TPB co-founder Peter Sunde is currently serving an eight-month prison term in Denmark after two years on the run.
In other copyright news, on April 30, 2014, the Marxist Internet Archive (MIA) was forced to remove webpages containing the Marx Engels Collected Works (MECW), some 1,600 free and accessible documents, from its site based on a copyright infringement claim by the British publishing house Lawrence and Wishart (L&W). L&W, former publishing house of the Communist Party of Great Britain, holds copyright of the English translation of the MECW with International Publishers and the obsolete Soviet Progress Publishers. They had until 1991 worked with the Institute of Marxism-Leninism in Moscow on the publication of the MECW in fifty volumes. On April 25, L&W defended their ownership of the copyright in response to two online protest petitions that gathered over 9,000 signatures, and on May 2, L&W said they would try to find a solution to provide ‘greater access’ to the MECW, which may be limited to selling the e-books/pdfs to institutional libraries. The dispute remains unresolved, but MECW is available easily for download via various torrent or links.
Compiled by Nemeton
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- Social Media Surveillance and Repression Previously undisclosed government documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation through Freedom of Information Act (FIOA) lawsuits give hard evidence to previous reports that various spy agencies including the FBI, CIA, and others under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are using social media sites…
- Book review by Nemeton Kristian Williams, Will Munger and Lara Messersmith-Glaving, eds. Life During Wartime: Resisting Counterinsurgency. Oakland: AK Press, 2013. The 439-page book Life During Wartime: Resisting Counterinsurgency is a collection of articles organized thematically that elucidate the central argument that the doctrine of counterinsurgency (COIN) deployed by the US…