Political News (Datacide 13): Infiltration and Agents Provocateurs; Vision Tech; Endless War; Surveillance, Control and Repression
Infiltration and Agents Provocateurs
From 2007-09, John Towery, a criminal intelligence army analyst in the Force Protection Service fusion center at the Fort Lewis military base spied on anarchists and peace activists in Tacoma and Olympia, WA who were part of SDS and the Port Militarization Resistance, which protested international war shipments. Under the name ‘John Jacob’, Towery became close friends with the activists, surveilled them, and shared data with local, state, federal and military agencies. A public records request uncovered the surveillance operation of Towery against the Olympia Movement for Justice and Peace, IWW, Iraq Veterans Against the War, an anarchist bookshop, amongst others. The 9th circuit court of appeals has ruled in December 2012 that the subsequent lawsuit against Towery can proceed in the narrow terms of intentionally enabling arrest without probable cause in order to repress free speech, but apparently not on the Posse Comitatus law that bars the use of armed forces for law enforcement activities inside the US.
The Earth Island Journal published documents obtained through FOIA requests that show how the Bryan County, Oklahoma Sheriff’s department was spying on the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance and other direct action groups against the proposed tar sands pipeline to run from Canada to Texas. Some activists were arrested earlier, the action camp infiltrated and a protest preempted. The targets are described as eco-activists; Native American resisters; Occupy members; Anarchists; and locals from the community. Documents also show how the corporation TransCanada who will build the pipeline works closely with the multi-government agency Fusion Center in Oklahoma advising on policy, changing laws, sharing intel, ensnaring activists, and generally protecting their own interests and facilitating the increase of their profits.
The agent provocateur “Anna” performed extensive FBI surveillance and entrapment of three other activists (see the Life During Wartime book review) used to convict Eric McDavid for 19 years and 7 months, the second longest sentence for recent environmental prisoners. During McDavid’s trial, his lawyer attempted to argue government misconduct because of “Anna’s” intimate relationship with him, however this was dismissed in light of the 1991 9th Circuit ruling in US v Simpson that the government can exploit intimate and sexual relations between the infiltrator and anyone under a surveillance investigation.
Back in January 2011, The Guardian newspaper journalists Paul Lewis and Rob Evans broke the huge story of how Mark Kennedy, a London Metropolitan Police officer, infiltrated numerous European left and direct action networks under the name “Mark Stone” and “Flash”. 22 countries including Germany used Kennedy as an agent provocateur in order to ensnare activists in illegal activities, gather information, maps networks, etc. (The website “Mark Kennedy: A chronology of his activities” gives more details and corrections to the initial news reports, although not on his Berlin spying.) Various British police and government agencies cut Kennedy loose, avoided responsibility, attempted to stop or curtail “reform” of undercover agents’ behavior, and denied their support of his spying, especially concerning how Kennedy had sexual relations with numerous women over the years in order to gather intel and ensnare them. 8 of those women have sued Scotland Yard for sexual misconduct by five agent provocateurs Bob Lambert, John Dines, Jim Boyling, Mark Cassidy and Mark Kennedy. The reporters have in 2013 published a book on the wider use of infiltration and surveillance called Undercover: The True Story of Britain’s Secret Police.
The Associated Press reporters Matt Abuzzo and Adam Goldmann, who won two Pulitzer Prizes for their series of investigations of the NYPD’s surveillance operations against Muslim Americans (in and outside NYC and the state), have published a new book Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD’s Spying Unit that gives much greater detail through meticulous research on these operations. NYPD’s Demographics Unit spent six years using a huge network of informants to surveil every aspect of life, actions which did not lead to a single arrest, criminal cases or thwarting of so-called ‘terrorism’ plots. (Ray Kelly, the NYPD Commissioner, has been floated to be nominated to run the Department of Homeland Security.) Various lawsuits brought against the NYPD by Muslim Americans affect by the spying are pending in court.
The UK Home Office has funded the development of the Discriminating Irritant Projectile (DIP), something like a gun that fires CS gas, pepper spray or other substance as far as 131 feet away from the intended targets. They have also tested a new Taser gun, the X2, that can taser multiple people at once. Both are slated to be deployed in large protests and arrest situations.
A declassified 1998 Pentagon report “The Bioeffects of Selected Non-Lethal Weapons” shows that there is a possibility to weaponize the use of microwave hearing technology to make a subject hear voices or words in their head without audible sound, which is predicted to have devastating psychological effects. The report also discusses the idea of using electromagnetic pulses to disrupt the brain’s functioning. However, the report doesn’t indicate any ongoing programs for the development of these weapon ideas.
Ohio instituted, with no oversight or public comment, a new facial recognition program that matches any image from videos, pictures, mug shots, etc. to an storage state issued ID card (drivers’ license) image, as well as contact info, bank accounts and flight departure/arrival plans. Various federal agencies and 28 states already have similar programs with Florida running a program containing 120 million identified faces. Similar database programs store biometric data such as iris scans (also used in Fallujah, Iraq), skin textures, vein patterns, palm and finger prints, and personal physical demarcations such as a gait while walking.
The Supreme Court ruled in June 2013 in a split decision that arrestees can be forced prior to arraignment to give up DNA samples to the police, who do not need a warrant, and there is no distinction concerning minor and serious offenses, thus all arrestees could be targeted. The case Maryland v King concerns the defendant who was arrested for a gun related assault charges, whose DNA was taken against his will, and then matched in a database to an unsolved rape case. The court ruled that DNA sampling is legitimate police booking method like fingerprinting, and 28 states run such programs. This ruling may further support the establishment of a national DNA database.
In February 2013, a 16 page legal ‘white paper’, prepared by the Obama DOJ was released by the press, articulated the supposed ‘lawfulness’ of assassinating Americans (named on the kill list, see datacide 12 news) for allegedly being al-Qaida or associated forces member. This document isn’t the OLC memo the ACLU and other organizations are still trying to get released. Assassinations are justified by the government’s accusations or implied associations between two plus targets, not through any legal mechanism to assess guilt. Targeting killing continue to expand the George W. Bush doctrine of the ‘world is a battlefield’, and such murder can be instituted without an ‘imminent’ threat to the US or its allies. Assassination targets are also foreigners, whose targeted killing mostly by drones is facilitated between the NSA/CIA/etc and British GCHQ. On 19 July 2013, the ACLU and CCR argued in federal court that the assassinations of 3 US citizens (2 on the kill list) is unconstitutional, and the case is covered extensively in the new book and documentary film Dirty Wars by journalist Jeremy Scahill. Documents compiled by various human rights organizations and media outlets convincingly demonstrate that the vast majority of people killed by drones are civilians (although the Obama administration argues that any man of military age near a strike zone is considered a ‘combatant’ or ‘militant’, and can be ‘lawfully’ killed without due process, and are not considered ‘civilian’, unless they are later proven innocent.) The website Naming the Dead by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism attempts to record accurately the names, and as much other information as possible, about people killed by drone strikes in Pakistan.
The Rendition Project has created a detailed mapping, database, and informational website that provides new and extensive research on the extraordinary rendition program set up by the CIA after 9/11. It documents how governments around the world actively participated in the illegal rendition program and facilitated torture.
In July, a federal 2nd circuit appeals court overturned the court order injunction against the implementation of Section 1021 of the NDAA, which authorizes the president to indefinitely detain “a person who was part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces” (this includes American citizens detained in the US) (see datacide 12 news).
The federal lawsuit brought in court by four Iraqi victims tortured at Abu Ghraib prison called Al Shimari v CACI attempts to prove the private military contractor’s participation and conspiracy in war crimes, torture, and other offenses. On June 26, 2013, the judge dismissed the whole case based on a recent Supreme Court decision that Alien Tort Statue claims made by international victims could not be applied to violations by Americans or American companies outside the US, thus the case didn’t actually resolve at all the question of the contractor’s culpability. In a further blow, the court ordered the Iraqi victims to pay the expensive legal fees run up by CACI in this case.
Surveillance, Control and Repression
On June 5, 2013, Glenn Greenwald, journalist at The Guardian, and Laura Poitras, independent filmmaker, broke the first story about NSA spying on domestic and international all phone, internet and electronic communications, based on leaked documents provided by former NSA contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden. (Connected stories document the collection and spying on all other personal data including banking, tax and medical records, all domestic and international mail in the US, etc.) Since then, several hundred articles have been published on innumerable aspects of secret NSA spying programs, the methods, what US officials knew, how this was kept secret, ‘legal’ justifications and ‘oversight’, various funding issues, Congress members attempts to ‘reform’ the programs, corporations and manufacturers involvement and facilitation, as well as numerous international stories concerning foreign governments participation in data sharing and dual programs, as well as lots of international fallout, so its impossible to even describe an overview here of the revelations and ramifications. The most recent story published on October 4 reveals how the NSA has attempted through various methods to uncover the anonymity of Tor, an open-source public software project that keeps users’ internet traffic anonymous and protected from censorship tools.
On September 25, Pirate Bay founder Gottfrid Svarthom appealed the previous conviction that he was found guilt of hacking a Swedish IT company and not guilty of hacking a local bank. He had his sentence in the case reduced to one year, in part based on testimony from Jacob Appelbaum demonstrating that the prosecution couldn’t disprove that Svarthom’s computer could have been taken over and abused remotely. All the Pirate Bay founders continue to have legal problems, jail time and must pay huge fines, while Svarthom will be extradited to Denmark to face new charges.
Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley Manning) was convicted in military court to 35 years in prison for 20 charges related to the leaking over 700,000 classified documents to Wikileaks, which comprised the Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs, the Collateral Murder Video, and Cable Gate, amongst others. Manning was found not guilt of the most nefarious offense “aiding the enemy”. Manning is seeking a presidential pardon.
Journalist James Risen lost his appeal in July to avoid the subpoena issued against him to testify in the case of US v Sterling, thus his option is to go to prison for contempt of court, or be forced to reveal his sources during the trial. The court found that journalists have no special privileges to avoid self-incrimination or to refuse to give court testimony. Sterling was indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act, for allegedly passing to an unauthorized person (Risen) national defense information about the Clinton administration’s plan to pass faulty nuclear weapon blueprints to Iran. Sterling is only the fifth person in US history to be tried under this act, and is part of the Obama administration’s aggressive campaign against whistleblowers and leakers.
Compiled by Nemeton
- 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…
- News (Datacide 14): Endless War; Social Media and Internet Surveillance; Music Industry and CopyrightEndless War 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…
- Largely unnoticed by the public the Labour government has been sneaking in “anti-terrorist” legislation in the wake of the Omagh bombing and is planning to sharpen their knives even further with new proposed laws. It becomes clear that ‘new’ Labour has been put into power because it is even more…
One thought on “Political News (Datacide 13): Infiltration and Agents Provocateurs; Vision Tech; Endless War; Surveillance, Control and Repression”
For more on state-corporate joint efforts to spy on activists, I strongly recommend the lucid history ‘Secret Manouevres in the Dark’ by Eveline Lubbers (Pluto Press 2012). Thanks for the update Nemeton!