German Data Angst

Introduction
In June 2013, whistleblower Edward Snowden in collaboration with journalist Glenn Greenwald and filmmaker Laura Poitras published leaked NSA documents, which revealed large-scale programs (PRISM, Tempora, etc.) that monitor Internet activity worldwide by American intelligence. Since then, further documents have been published. Snowden had the documents handed over to the British Guardian newspaper. In German-speaking countries, the weekly Der Spiegel and the Spiegel Online site (SPON) have published numerous articles on the NSA documents. In addition to new information about the pervasive monitoring of internet traffic, further facts have been published about espionage activities. In October 2013, it was announced that the mobile phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other German politicians were wiretapped. This intensified the worldwide debate about the role of state intelligence agencies. [Read more →]

News (Datacide 14): Endless War; Social Media and Internet Surveillance; Music Industry and Copyright

Endless 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 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. [Read more →]

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.
[Read more →]

Life During Wartime

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 government and military in international arenas such as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has been concurrently executed in the US mainland by a myriad of local, state and federal policing organizations and security apparatuses against political dissidents and activists. Various articles focus on the theories and deployment of COIN strategies, as well as methods of resistance, from diverse perspectives of individuals, groups and networks in Occupy, ecological, anarchist and anti-globalization struggles, as well as activists against border control, gang injunctions and the prison industrial complex. This book is an important contribution to the wider discourses about the domestic security state and political organizing, and has clear, continuing relevance given the ongoing deployment of COIN, current and pending trials, and ongoing diverse political actions. The book was published prior to the exposure by Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and others, based on leaked documents provided by Edward Snowden, of the NSA’s international and domestic spying regime on all electronic, internet and phone communications, as well as a plethora of other personal information. It would be very useful to have updates by the authors of these articles and activists about how they view COIN in relation to those revelations. There appears to be no mechanism, as of yet, for how activists or targets of COIN could discover if they were subject to NSA spying, and learn how that information could have been used against them, but certain articles in this book elucidate methods of FBI, police and COIN methods in spying, surveillance and infiltration. This book is the culmination of work started at the “Counter Counter-Insurgency Convergence” at Reed College in Portland, Oregon during 2011. The book articles are reworks of the conference presentations given by activists, researchers, academics, organizers and others. Two of the editors have gone on a networked book publicity tour around the US, including in Los Angeles, where I saw them give talks based on their articles. [Read more →]