"In time of crisis, the government will exercise its power to conduct domestic intelligence activities to the fullest extent. The distinction between legal dissent and criminal conduct is easily forgotten," ~ The Senate panel, known as the "Church committee" after its chairman, Sen. Frank Church, D-Idaho, warned that technological advances would make it even harder for the government to stay within acceptable limits of respecting privacy rights, especially when the nation is at risk of attack.
"No one was surprised that the NSA was collecting phone records. What's surprising is that they were authorised to collect the records of an entire nation. The only reason the bulk collection lasted as long as it did is because it was under secret law."
“It’s just the excuse. It’s about social and economic control.” True, as was slavery in the U.S., the holocaust under Nazi Germany, apartheid in South Africa and so forth; U.S. mega surveillance is also legal. The definition of “wrong” can change very quickly, especially if you have no way to defend yourself, or even know you’re under suspicion.
The Alien & Sedition Acts were 4 bills, that challenged the Bill of Rights, and was passed by the Federalist-dominated 5th US Congress and signed into law by President John Adams in 1798. Clearly, the Federalists saw foreigners as a deep threat to American security. The Naturalization Act of 1798, increased the period necessary for “any alien, being a free white person” to become naturalized citizens in the United States from 5 to 14 years.
In the UK, for a population of 62 million, there are 6 million CCTVs throughout the country, with 6 lakh in Metropolitan London alone. This means for every 11 persons, there’s one CCTV camera.
Ralph Nader’s exposes, the My Lai massacre’s whistleblowers, Daniel Ellsberg’s Pentagon Papers leaks, and Deep Throat, created a popular counter-narrative, turning turncoats into flag-wavers.
U.S. snooping has a history older than the republic. With the help of a code-breaker, George Washington deciphered British messages during the critical siege of Yorktown. At least three times he planted false war plans and military documents on agents in successful bids to deceive the British.
The Cipher Bureau otherwise known as The Black Chamber was the United States' first peacetime cryptanalytic organization, and a forerunner of the National Security Agency. The only prior codes and cypher organizations maintained by the US government had been some intermittent, and always abandoned, attempts by Armed Forces branches prior to World War I.
Headed by Herbert O. Yardley (1889–1958), it was founded in May 1919 following World War I. Yardley had commanded the Army cryptographic section of Military Intelligence (MI-8) during World War I. MI-8 was disbanded after the war. Jointly funded by the Army and the State Department, the Cipher Bureau was disguised as a New York City commercial code company; it actually produced and sold such codes for business use. It’s true mission, however, was to break the communications (chiefly diplomatic) of other nations. Its most notable known success was during the Washington Naval Conference during which it aided American negotiators considerably by providing them with the decrypted traffic of many of the Conference delegations, most notably the Japanese.
In 1929, the State Department withdrew its share of the funding, the Army declined to bear the entire load, and the Black Chamber closed down the Cipher Bureau. In his much later memoirs, then new Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson said that: "Gentlemen do not read each other's mail." His views on the worth of cryptanalysis had changed by the time he became Secretary of War during World War II, before and during which he, and the entire US command structure, relied heavily on decrypted enemy communications.
In 1931, and in need of money, Yardley wrote a book about the Cipher Bureau, entitled The American Black Chamber. Yardley was the proud father of that surveillance state, creating the forerunner of the National Security Agency. (He had persuaded the head of military intelligence to admit him to the army to set up MI-8, a new cryptographic bureau.) He published a blockbuster book after the government decided that reading private messages was not in keeping with American values.
The term "Black Chamber" predates Yardley's use of it in the title of his book. The first in a long line of cabinet noirs was established by King Henry IV of France in 1590 as part of the Poste aux Lettres. Its mission was to open, read and reseal letters, and great expertise was developed in the restoration of broken seals. In the knowledge that mail was being opened, correspondents began to develop systems to encrypt and decrypt their letters, the breaking of these codes giving birth to modern systematic scientific code breaking.
The Black Chambers survived through to the Twentieth Century in a variety of guises and inspired similar organisations in other countries, such as the "Secret Office" of the British Post Office, and it is within this historical framework that Yardley uses the term. (Also in Britain after 1920 telegraph companies had to hand over telegrams requested with a warrant.) Britain’s military code-breaking operation, Room 40, helped usher the United States into the war, without American leaders having any idea of its precise role. The unit made copies of every message that went over America’s trans-Atlantic telegraph cable by tapping into all traffic that passed through a relay station at Porthcurno, on the western edge of England, before they travelled across the ocean.
It was also used at about that time in Poland.
William F. Friedman, Yardley's rival, was helping to prepare America for the age of (temporarily) unbreakable cipher machines, including Enigma, that would later play a vital role in the WW2.
In the 19th century – the first half of the 20th century the scholars debated the relative importance of land (Halford Mackinder, the heartland theory) or sea power (Nicolas John Spykman, the conception of Rimland) for global leadership.
The control over air and space started to be normally seen as crucial in the second half of the 20th century. The NSA was born in 1952, under Harry Truman.
The XXI century started with the maxim defining the control over cyberspace as the key to world dominance. The use of large-scale violence against civilians to achieve political goals was a hallmark of the Reagan "playbook," employed not just in Nicaragua but in countries like El Salvador, Guatemala and Angola.
United States' playbook during the Ronald Reagan presidency, when the Soviet empire began to unravel thanks to a relentless US covert-action campaign. Rather than confront Moscow head-on, Reagan nibbled at the edges, by supporting movements that destabilized Russian power in Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Angola and, finally, Poland and Eastern Europe. After the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, the United States funded guerrillas, many of them religious extremists, to fight the occupation government.
It was a clever American strategy back then, pushing a wounded Soviet Union and opportunistically exploiting local grievances wherever possible. And it’s an equally clever Russian approach now, offering maximum gain at minimum potential cost. It is a clever exploitation of local cultural and religious bias — the sort of “divide and rule” move favored by intelligence agencies for centuries.
In the early ’40s, the hysteria against right-wing supervision so penetrated American society that the left, practically paranoid concerning incipient fascism, lost its traditional commitment to civil liberties. Franklin Roosevelt wanted a file on Americans who sent him critical telegrams. In mid-May 1940, in asking Congress for additional defense appropriations, Roosevelt referred to “treacherous use of the fifth column,” noting in particular the possibility that refugees were enemy agents. In accepting the nomination for a third term, he claimed that he was duty-bound to lead the nation amid the threat of “unbelievable types of espionage and national treachery.”
In January 1941, while seeking public support for the Lend-Lease bill, he accused those encouraging “skepticism,” promoting “disunity,” or advocating “appeasement” as being fifth columnists. He warned against “those American citizens, many of them in high places,” who were often unwittingly “aiding and abetting” the work of destructive foreign agents.
Little wonder certain prominent administration members portrayed administration critics as fascist dupes, sometimes as little better than Nazis. Interior Secretary Harold Ickes, for example, called prominent FDR critics Nazi fellow-travelers. In Roosevelt & the Isolationists, 1932-45 (1983), historian Wayne S. Cole aptly points to a “guilt-by-association” approach, a phrase usually associated with the later tactics of Senator Joseph McCarthy.
Operation Mockingbird: Begun in the 1950s, it was initially organized by Cord Meyer and Allen W. Dulles, and was later led by Frank Wisner after Dulles became the head of the CIA. In 1948, Frank Wisner was appointed director of the Office of Special Projects (OSP). Soon afterwards, OSP was renamed the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC), which became the CIA's covert action branch. The Office of Policy Coordination (OPC) was funded by siphoning off funds intended for the Marshall Plan.
Wisner was told to create an organization that concentrated on "propaganda, economic warfare; preventive direct action, including sabotage, anti-sabotage, demolition and evacuation measures; subversion against hostile states, including assistance to underground resistance groups, and support of indigenous anti-Communist elements in threatened countries of the free world".
Operation Mockingbird was a secret campaign by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to influence media. The organization recruited leading American journalists into a network to help present the CIA's views, and funded some student and cultural organizations, and magazines as fronts. After 1953, the network was overseen by CIA Director Allen Dulles, by which time Operation Mockingbird had major influence over 25 newspapers and wire agencies. As it developed, it also worked to influence foreign media and political campaigns, in addition to activities by other operating units of the CIA.
In addition to earlier exposés of CIA activities in foreign affairs, in 1966, Ramparts magazine published an article revealing that the National Student Association was funded by the CIA. The media operation was first called Mockingbird in Deborah Davis's 1979 book, Katharine the Great: Katharine Graham and The Washington Post.
Lyndon Johnson asked the FBI to get him the phone records of Republican vice presidential candidate Spiro Agnew. During the Cold War, the Federal Bureau of Investigation fed information concerning alleged subversives to Senator Joseph McCarthy and other enemies of the Truman administration. Revelations made during the ’70s showed that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover had cast an extremely wide net, illegally wiretapping such figures as John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King and infiltrating such organizations as the Students for a Democratic Society, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, the Black Panther Party, and the Congress of Racial Equality.
Attorney General Robert Kennedy, remembered today as a champion of the underdog, approved wiretaps on the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. In one of the most notorious examples, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover launched a campaign to discredit King that included an attempt to get him to commit suicide. After gathering evidence of King's extramarital affairs, the agency sent a compilation of incriminating audiotapes to King's wife and sent him a note suggesting that he take his own life.
Mass surveillance has been widely criticized on several grounds such as violations of privacy rights, illegality, and for preventing political and social freedoms, which some fear will ultimately lead to a totalitarian state where political dissent is crushed by COINTELPRO-like programs. Such a state may also be referred to as an Electronic Police State.
State enforced: Privacy International's 2007 survey, covering 47 countries, indicated that there had been an increase in surveillance and a decline in the performance of privacy safeguards, compared to the previous year. Balancing these factors, eight countries were rated as being 'endemic surveillance societies'. Of these eight, China, Malaysia and Russia scored lowest, followed jointly by Singapore and the United Kingdom, then jointly by Taiwan, Thailand and the United States. The best ranking was given to Greece, which was judged to have 'adequate safeguards against abuse'.
Many countries throughout the world have already been adding thousands of surveillance cameras to their urban, suburban and even rural areas. For example, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has directly stated that "we are fast approaching a genuine surveillance society in the United States - a dark future where our every move, our every transaction, our every communication is recorded, compiled, and stored away, ready to be examined and used against us by the authorities whenever they want."
The 21st century started with the maxim defining the control over cyberspace as the key to world dominance. Edward Snowden has revealed the extent of control exercised over countries and peoples, something that changes the very perception of the contemporary world. The first lesson of paramount importance to be drawn as a result of Snowden’s revelations is the fact that the United States is involved in overt and covert global cyberspace surveillance to maintain its leadership and gain foreign policy advantages. It’s not only the collection of confidential information about the humanity on an unprecedented scale. The US is using cyberspace to acquire the capability to inflict serious material and military damage to a potential enemy and exert influence on other world actors.
Asked about the United States formally complaining it was a victim of cyber spying conducted by a number of states with China at the top of the list, Snowden replied quite reasonably that the United States practically hacked all messages. No matter the US propensity to differentiate things, in reality it is America that is actually spying on everyone without distinction. US and UK intelligence services know how to break encryption codes that protect electronic messages and data related to banking accounts and medical records.
Suffice it to remember that Internet, a cornerstone of contemporary cyberspace, was created and funded as ARPANET project by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is part of the US Defense Department structure. There have always been doubts about its, now it has become clear the generic umbilical cord between US security agencies and the new information space has always remained intact. Internet is the basis for World Wide Web, WWW and a lot of other communications systems.
A special structure to carry out the mission – the United States Cyber Command – was established upon President Obama’s order in 2009. General Keith B. Alexander, (the head of the National Security Agency – the most secret entity of US intelligence community) was appointed the Commander, U.S. Cyber Command.
In 2010 the United States was the first country to regard cyber space as another domain adding to land, sea and airspace. In 2011 Congress approved funds for Cybercom’s offensive technologies development. In August 2012 it was reported for the first time that the Pentagon took practical steps to introduce them online.
The National Security Agency secretly worked to acquire the capability to crack the most widely spread encryption codes used in Internet to protect various data: from electronic messages to financial transactions. It used diversified methods to achieve the goal: from establishing so called «back doors» and «black boxes» in popular programs to using supercomputers, secret court warrants and manipulating international procedures of encryption standards. SSL is the most widely spread one, so it was paid special attention to. It was broken by specifically designed top secret Bullrun program. The similar British program is called Edgehill. 4G wireless technology was given priority. The NSA XKeyscore is another tool used.
According to Snowden, the NSA interests go far beyond the mission of countering «unfriendly penetration» or terrorism, something the White House officials constantly talk about to justify the activities. In reality they encompass the whole range of relevant information on key issues home and abroad.
In particular, this approach has been adopted by Americans recently to overcome the implications of world financial crisis at the expense of rivals and partners as well. Taking advantage of the fact it is closely acquainted with all ins and outs of world business situation, the US has managed to keep its economy afloat and redirect the process of its keeping one step ahead of others when it comes to making offers while competing.
Second lesson. The control over cyberspace is exercised in close alliance with the chosen countries of Anglo-Saxon world – Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. In this case the interaction is much more extensive than with other partners, especially in the field of information exchange. In London it went as far as a team of special services agents breaking into the Guardian office and senselessly destroying the equipment to take revenge for making public what Snowden had said. Before the raid the Guardian published his revelations about Great Britain and the United States snooping together during the G20 London summit in 2009.
Top level foreign politicians and officials had their messages intercepted and phone calls tapped during the event. The operation was carried out by Britain’s electronic eavesdropping agency (GCHQ) and the US National Security Agency.
Brushing up on the fascinating masterpiece of anti-utopian vision 1984 by George Orwell, this community of nations could be compared with Oceania. The coalition of Anglo-Saxon nations is based on the interoperability of their armed forces. The idea to develop close military cooperation belongs to generals Dwight Eisenhower and Bernard Montgomery. The level of interoperability is even higher than in NATO.
Third lesson. Being a US ally is not a guarantee of a country’s information sovereignty being respected. The cyberspace control is not an end in itself. The real objective is carrying out the traditional strategic mission of gaining geo-political dominance over large spaces. The evidence adduced by Snowden proves that the United States closely monitors the European Union’s central structures as well as the communications of its closest allies among the EU member-states. Japan, Mexico, South Korea and Turkey are all under tight surveillance being non-European friends of the U.S. The United States tapped the phone calls of 35 world leaders, mainly those who headed US-allied states. The fact is corroborated by the recent publications by the Guardian based on the evidence produced by Snowden. According to the newspaper reports, the National Security Agency asked White House, State Department and Pentagon officials to share contact information on foreign politicians. The experts say the evidence obtained by Snowden shows Europeans are not US equal partners and do not enjoy full sovereignty
In a NSA document, that saw light in September 2010, Europeans are defined as a location target. The European Union’s embassy in Washington and the New York-based EU United Nations mission were for Americans from top to bottom as a result of the operation Perdido.
The phones were tapped, computers cracked, hard disks copied and inside office net communications intercepted. The interference was immune to all attempts to enhance protection systems and encompassed the European Union’s central servers in Brussels. The EU central office in the Belgian capital was monitored by the US mission at NATO headquarters.
Perhaps this kind of special attention was especially insulting for Francois Hollande who has always made a point of being close to the U.S.A. – a rare case for a French leader. No go. As it happened, he and French state agencies have regularly been targets for US snooping efforts. This espionage operation was described in the NSA memo, as a silent success in which SIGINT helped to shape U.S. foreign policy. To vaunt its merits, the intelligence agency even quoted the American Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice about the work carried out on this occasion by the NSA. According to her, the information she received, "helped me to know ….. the truth… revealed their real position on sanctions … gave us an upper hand in the negotiations".
According to the Spiegel investigation conducted jointly with the BND (the German Federal Intelligence Service) and BSI (the German Federal Office for Information Security), Angela Merkel has been under surveillance for many years.
The eavesdropping was not limited by those who were suspected of involvement in terrorist activities but also spread on prominent bankers and politicians. For instance, from December 10 2012 to January 8 2013 there were 70, 3 million recordings of French citizens’ telephone data were made by the NSA, text messages (SMS) were captured too. The NSA graph shows a peak of intercepts falls on December 24, 2012 (the Christmas eve) and January 7 2013.
Fourth lesson. China, India, Brazil, Mexico and other emerging world leaders are special targets. In this case the surveillance is even more imposing as these nations are viewed as game changers capable of exerting significant influence over world affairs.
The disclosed scale of US interference into their cyberspace has happened to be too large. For instance, upon getting the news on total surveillance President of Brazil Dilma Rousseff cancelled an official visit to the United States. She also demanded explanations from Ottawa, a part of Anglosphere, concerning the fact that Canadian spies targeted Brazil’s Mines and Energy Ministry. China and India have announced the implementation of large-scale countermeasures programs.
Fifth lesson. Russia is still a target of priority for US spying activities, no matter it has unilaterally abandoned the policy of global standoff against the United States. Unlike what is stated by US officials publicly, the National Security Agency secret documents define it as a partner of convenience and envisage taking the most extreme measures against it if need be. Due to the reasons stipulated by geographic realities (Russia is a huge space).
The Russia’s U.S. offices and missions are under total surveillance – this fact is confirmed by the recent row over the snooping on Rossotrudnichestvo. Besides the Guardian obtained from Edward Snowden a map with the National Security Agency’s foreign infrastructure, including the widest reaching system developing intelligence from computer networks called XKeyscoreis. According to it, one of the largest servers is installed in the US Moscow embassy.
Sixth lesson. The leading international organizations like the United Nations, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and others are viewed by the United States as rivals in their aspiration to gain control over the world, they are seen as targets for surveillance efforts.
Striving for global dominance, Washington snoops on these international entities without looking back at international law or moral norms of diplomacy.
The National Security Agency has conducted total surveillance over everything happening in the United Nations headquarters providing an advantage for US diplomacy. The NSA operatives constantly work in the UN under the cover of diplomats getting reinforcements during the sessions of UN General Assembly.
The same thing applies to the International Atomic Energy Agency and other international bodies. There is one thing that makes the disclosures provided by Snowden even more delicate – the internal instructions say all US staffers of international bodies without exclusions (not the special services operatives only) are to collect and submit upon command all personal data on foreigners without making any distinction.
Seventh lesson. The cyberspace control exercised by the United States envisions not only the collection of information but also massive psycho-political operations of unparalleled scale aimed at acquisition of control over people’s behavior. It all leads to the conclusion: aside from the classic components of national might, any contemporary state that wants to be independent on international scene needs to have its own enhanced information space infrastructure and adequate means to protect it.
At least 80% of all audio calls, not just metadata, are recorded and stored in the US, says whistleblower William Binney – that's a 'totalitarian mentality'
The U.S. 4th Amendment does not allow the government to conduct a general, suspicionless search in order to locate specific information or evidence. Instead, as the ACLU has explained at length elsewhere, the government is required to have probable cause — and a warrant — before it searches the contents of our communications. The FBI and government agencies are be able to search multiple computers across the country with a single warrant thanks to warrants obtained under Rule 41. Upstream surveillance reverses this logic, using the end results of the NSA’s searches to justify the continuous, bulk review of Americans’ Internet traffic. The ODNI General Counsel has effectively called for rewriting the Fourth Amendment to permit these types of searches.
While the Fourth Amendment concerns about 702 and mass surveillance are important, we must remember that First Amendment gives us the right to anonymously speak, associate, access information, and engage in political activism are the bedrock of our democracy. The surveillance of our communications systems, and thereby the surveillance of our communications, infringes on the very rights of private association upheld by the Supreme Court in 1958. The NSA’s digital surveillance of countless law-abiding Americans also indirectly affects another key First Amendment right: our right to assembly.
Digital surveillance challenges our values as a society that respects and safeguards the right to plan and participate in protests and other political activity. So how does the First Amendment come to apply to mass surveillance? To understand this, we need to begin with a little history of the civil rights movement. As part of the backlash to the Supreme Court’s ruling striking down segregation in schools, the Attorney General of Alabama, John Patterson, brought a lawsuit against a leading civil rights organization, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).