Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Tale of Coup Cities - 4

Welcome to Stalingrad, DC Comrade
In the last post of this series we looked at the difference between a "coup" and a "coup d'état", noting that the distinguishing dynamic is merely a matter of degree in most cases.

In other words, one of the effects we observe when we consider the notion of whether or not either a coup or a coup d'état has taken place is revealed by first making a relevant comparison of before and after characteristics.

If it has taken place, then the government will be much different than it was prior to the coup event.

While reading the book The Cuckoo's Egg, I noticed some characteristics of the U.S. government that have drastically changed from what the author of that true story experienced while on the trail of a hacker at Lawrence Livermore Laboratories.

This was illustrated, as the book points out, when scientist Cliff Stoll called the NSA for help:
"Cliff, I'd like to take over, but our charter prevents it. NSA can't engage in domestic monitoring, even if we're asked. That's prison term stuff." He took this seriously.
(The Cuckoo's Egg, by Clifford Stoll, page 87 PDF, emphasis added). The NSA agent told him, circa 1986-87, that if an NSA agent did monitoring of U.S. citizens in the U.S. they would be violating criminal laws and would go to prison for it.

A recent post on a popular blog backs up the notion that things have changed during the two decades since then:
The security policy of the U.S. government from Cheney to Obama has passed from secret surveillance of communications abroad to secret surveillance of all communications at home. In what stages did it happen? Some day the history will be written; for now, it is instructive to rehearse the facts.
(Huffington Post, by David Bromwich, emphasis added). The coup is exposed, it is real, but note that it will take some research to find all of the footprints of each and every stage of the coup:
Five years ago, Barack Obama was a candidate for president who pledged to filibuster a congressional bill awarding amnesty to telecoms that illegally gave information on American customers to the government. When Obama backed down from that promise, he pledged, if elected, to have his attorney general investigate the surveillance of Americans and bring the NSA and the justice department back within the limits of the fourth amendment. As it turned out, he made Eric Holder his attorney general, and the security policy of the Obama administration came to be defined, most of all, by its harsh prosecution of whistleblowers who brought to light illegal searches and seizures by the government.

Yesterday in the Guardian, Glenn Greenwald offered a startling glimpse of the program of systemic surveillance Dick Cheney innovated and Obama has refined. A FISA court order, obtained by Greenwald and linked in the article, compels the Verizon Business Network to furnish for the NSA "on an ongoing daily basis for the duration of this order. . .all call detail records. . .created for Verizon for communications (i) between the United States and abroad; or (ii) wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls." This command is sweeping. It makes Verizon hand over to the FBI all "From" and "To" information about all phone calls made by all customers using Verizon. The order is dated April 25, 2013. It expires on July 19, 2013. It is classified "Top Secret," and due to be declassified on 12 April 2038. It is one of the approximately seven million documents which the Obama administration hides from most Americans every year.

This revelation is only the latest indication of the modus operandi of the Holder justice department.
(ibid, Huffington Post-Bromwich). Other major events in the coup which has changed the nature of the U.S. government was also articulated by a well known General:
"What happened in 9/11 is we didn't have a strategy. We didn't have bipartisan agreement. We didn't have American understanding of it. And we had instead a policy coup in this country, a coup, a policy coup.

Some hard nosed people took over American policy and they never bothered to inform the rest of us."
(A Tale of Coup Cities - 3, quoting Gen. Wesley Clark). A former cabinet member noticed changes too:
I fear that at least since 2010 we’ve been witnessing a quiet, slow-motion coup d’etat whose purpose is to repeal every bit of progressive legislation since the New Deal and entrench the privileged positions of the wealthy and powerful — who haven’t been as wealthy or as powerful since the Gilded Age of the late 19th century.
(ibid, A Tale of Coup Cities - 3, quoting Dr. Robert Reich). One thing is for sure, the NSA has gone from no domestic spying on pain of prison to capturing the private records of all Americans:
By what right are the addressed envelopes of the spoken communications of 280 million citizens plucked from the air by government and filed away? Supported by whose oath and what affirmation? There is a simple force to the words of the fourth amendment after all. It says: we do not live by secret laws, and we will not abide by general warrants. And to the comfort offered by senators Chambliss, Graham, and Feinstein, who ask us to sleep well and sleep long, there is a simple reply. In what country do they think they are living, and under what constitution?
(ibid, Huffington Post-Bromwich, emphasis added). Regular readers know that we recently asked the same questions (The Queens of Stalingrad) while using the same metaphor indicating "this is not the same country anymore."

What naive people do not realize is that this has been ongoing for a long time, as revealed by "60 Minutes" on February 27, 2000:
If you made a phone call today or sent an e-mail to a friend, there's a good chance what you said or wrote was captured and screened by the country's largest intelligence agency. The top-secret Global Surveillance Network is called Echelon, and it's run by the National Security Agency and four English-speaking allies: Canada, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

The mission is to eavesdrop on enemies of the state: foreign countries, terrorist groups and drug cartels. But in the process, Echelon's computers capture virtually every electronic conversation around the world.

How does it work, and what happens to all the information that's gathered? A lot of people have begun to ask that question, and some suspect that the information is being used for more than just catching bad guys.

(Footage of satellite; person talking on cell phone; fax machine; ATM being used; telephone pole and wires; radio towers)

KROFT: (Voiceover) We can't see them, but the air around us is filled with invisible electronic signals, everything from cell phone conversations to fax transmissions to ATM transfers. What most people don't realize is that virtually every signal radiated across the electromagnetic spectrum is being collected and analyzed.

How much of the world is covered by them?

Mr. MIKE FROST (Former Spy): The entire world, the whole planet--covers everything. Echelon covers everything that's radiated worldwide at any given instant.

KROFT: Every square inch is covered.

Mr. FROST: Every square inch is covered.
(60 Minutes Transcript, emphasis added; see also Echelon). What "60 Minutes" (Season 32, Episode 24, "Echelon") shows is that the coup took place incrementally over a couple of decades.

It gained a foothold through corruption and decay in certain segments of the government, then through metastasis it eventually spread far and wide (The Germ Theory of Government; cf Democracy Inc.).

A congressman has been quoted as saying:
The National Security Agency has acknowledged in a new classified briefing that it does not need court authorization to listen to domestic phone calls.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, disclosed this week that during a secret briefing to members of Congress, he was told that the contents of a phone call could be accessed “simply based on an analyst deciding that.”

If the NSA wants “to listen to the phone,” an analyst’s decision is sufficient, without any other legal authorization required, Nadler said he learned. “I was rather startled,” said Nadler, an attorney and congressman who serves on the House Judiciary committee.
(CNET). The congressman walked some of that back, but what he said before they corrected his memory is not unlike the Echelon whistleblower's revelations some 13 years earlier.

The next post in this series is here, the previous post in this series is here.


  1. The FISA court even ruled that some of the DOJ activity violated the Fourth Amendment. Link

  2. Hey Dredd, Lottakatz here, I try to post with Wordpress but I get redirected to Blogger and they want my real name, I don't do that so I'll post as anonymous but open any comment I make with 'Lottakatz here' so you know who is. Yea, yea, a pitiful attempt at retaining a shred of privacy, I know. :-)

    The coup has come and gone, what was illegal is now illegal (as it was in the prior Administration) because they have legal opinions (secret legal opinions) saying it's legal and a court (a secret court)doling out the warrants, (secret warrants) and the not-secret high court has tied the law in knots to avoid getting involved. If we were watching this machine being diagramed on SNL or John Stewart's show we would be laughing too hard to breathe at its absurdity.

    What is amazing is that I and you and others, all over the Interwebs, have been saying that for years and it was as if one was howling into the storm and no discernable sound issued. Being ahead of the curve isn't what it's cracked up to be, there is no satisfaction in being right. Keep up the good work Dredd.

    We don't live in Orwell's world or even Kafka's; we live with Alice in Lewis Carroll's world. It's a scary place.