It’s Baaack!

Polls have consistently shown that, being the macho folks we apparently are, Americans don’t care if the U.S. government listens in on our phone conversations, spies on our e-mails, and/or secretly black-bags our domiciles, frames some of us, and now, peeks over our shoulders at our bank accounts. Even if the government breaks its own laws doing it – and doesn’t really need to. [1]

After all, despite Ben Franklin’s quip "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety," what’s a loss of "essential liberty" as long as the government provides us a "little temporary safety"?

And we know it does because just over two weeks ago, Vice President Dick Cheney told us so! And after all, we haven’t been attacked by terrorists since 9/11 – except in Iraq, of course. Have we? [2]

Well, for the sake of argument, let’s concede the point and then ask, "Why not?" Has it been the government that’s given us "a little temporary safety"?

Well, to start with, we could listen to experts like Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Desert Storm Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, and Time Man of the Year and former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani:

"Short of closing down America and closing down the city of New York, it would be impossible to entirely prevent terrorism."
– Mayor Rudy Giuliani, quoted by Brian Jenkins, CNN Live, Feb. 19, 1998

"There is no way to stop a dedicated terrorist who is willing to pay the price."
– Gen. Norman Schwartzkopf (ret.), MSNBC, Aug. 8, 1998

Why not?

"The asymmetrical advantage a terrorist has is that he can strike any place at any time, using any conceivable method of attack, and this is impossible to defend against."
– Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, CNN’s Late Edition, May 26, 2002

"If we had to protect everything all the time, we simply couldn’t do it."
– Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, CNBC, July 3, 2002

"It’s impossible to have a police officer every place. That would be unrealistic and it would change the nature of a free society."
– Giuliani, ibid.

In fact, if we followed Rudy Giuliani’s self-nixed prescription of having "a police officer every place," and thus "change[d] the nature of [our] free society," clearly even that wouldn’t do the job:

"Unknown bomber(s) explode a bomb near Wall Street, blowing the front windows out of a building during a nearby police anti-terrorist exercise."
CNN Headline News, Nov. 9, 1997

Still skeptical? It’s good to be skeptical these days, because even our much vaunted "free press" – especially the U.S. corporate media – is now part of the "military-industrial complex" former President (and five-star general) Dwight David Eisenhower warned us against in his farewell address. [3] This means we don’t exactly get the unvarnished truth from the six o’clock news.

If you want to see the details that pretty much prove we aren’t being protected, you can find them here, here, and here. And you can find the true value of the Bush administration’s unconstitutional and illegal NSA spying program in The Silly Truth About NSA Spying: Short & Sweet.

How well did the government protect us from Hurricane Katrina? And troublingly, unlike the situation with those who "can strike any place at any time," Uncle Sam knew exactly where Katrina was going to strike. And when!

How well did he do?

It’s clear that the "little temporary safety" we get in return for our "essential liberty" is very little indeed.

Look at the illegal Bush/NSA spying caper, for example. How much safety will it give us? Let’s start with Mr. Bush himself:

"My problem is I can’t explain to you how it [NSA spying] works – in order to justify your question – without telling the enemy what we’re doin’. And ah, this debate is an interesting debate. I’m troubled by it only because the enemy listens and they see what we’re doin’ and these are smart people and they will adjust."
– President George W. Bush, Jan. 29, 2006

So, according to Mr. Bush, "these are smart people and they will adjust."

How might they do that?

Well, for starters, they could subscribe to Vonage, Skype, France’s Wengophone – or any of those other VoIP services that use the Internet for calls. That’s right. For now, that’s all they have to do to adjust to NSA spying.

See, because of the way the Internet works, the old CALEA-mandated hardware that allows the Feds to easily listen in on your heart-to-hearts with mom and brother Bill doesn’t work on VoIP to VoIP calls. And it will be difficult – or perhaps impossible – to change that situation. Skype is particularly good (or bad) so far, because it’s seriously encrypted right out of the box.

And snooping on all these extra phones, our phones, is highly counterproductive – if it’s really terrorists you’re after, that is:

"WASHINGTON – U.S. intelligence overheard al-Qaeda operatives discussing a major pending terrorist attack in the weeks prior to Sept. 11. … Some of the clues lie buried in 350,000 pages of documents turned over by the CIA for the hearings. …

"The intercepts of conversations are in 13,000 pages of material from the National Security Agency, the nation’s eavesdropping service, U.S. officials say. Two U.S. intelligence officials said some were translated and analyzed before Sept. 11. Others went unread until later because of a shortage of translators."
– "U.S. Had Agents Inside al-Qaeda," John Diamond, USA Today, June 4, 2002

"There aren’t enough analysts on the face of the earth to analyze the amount of information we can collect."
– Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) Intelligence Committee, June 8, 2002 [4]

As Rummy revealed, "It’s like trying to take a sip of water out of a fire hose."

Adding more phone taps, then, is like looking for a needle in a haystack by adding more hay. Which brings us to the latest spy program to be revealed – you know, prying into your bank records – even more useless than usual. The "terrorists" stopped using U.S. banking channels years ago, probably well before 9/11. And they weren’t the only ones. You would too if you had your assets frozen because you had a disagreement with the D.C. mercantilist oligarchs. This freezing of assets became common practice back in the 1980s.

Even most drug dealers know to avoid U.S. banks: Do a Google (or Yahoo!, Clusty, etc.) search for "FINCEN." That’s short for "Financial Crimes Enforcement Network." Look at the number of hits. You’ll find approximately 350,000 of them. Not exactly secret, now, is it? Then why did the Bush administration make such a fuss when the New York Times did a story on these programs? Especially since the administration itself had already blabbed about the effort?

But, if the "terrorists" don’t use our banks, how do they transfer money? They use alternative banking methods that leave no paper trail. This is done through the hawala system, the granddaddy of all banking institutions – which is still alive and well and living all over the world. And they don’t need all that much money – for example it’s estimated that while the 9/11 attacks may have cost as much as $500,000 [5], the Madrid bombings of 2004 are believed to have cost no more than $15,000, and last year’s London attacks perhaps $2,000.

So, what’s the point of spying on our bank transactions – and trying to keep the fact you’re doing it from we the people?

Can you spell IRS? How about police state?

The same "why spy" question arises with the phone-tapping and black-bag work done under the NSA program. When you cobble all these basically worthless programs together – worthless, that is, for catching any but the most inept terrorists – what you discover is that they are the reincarnation of the "Total Information Awareness" program, supposedly defunded by Congress in 2003 because it looked, well, too much like the mother of all police states – even, apparently, to all us macho Ben Franklin-deniers.

That’s what’s baaack!

The bottom line is that while the Feds may still be able to easily eavesdrop on you, mom, and brother Bill, they’ll have a really rough time with folks like Zacarias Moussaoui and Richard "Shoe Bomber" Reid. Let alone real terrorists.

As New York University law professor and ACLU President Nadine Strossen points out in an Insight Magazine piece, "There is no connection between the Sept. 11 attacks and what is in this legislation." She goes on to predict that, just as the 1996 anti-terrorism surveillance legislation was used against citizens rather than terrorists, the same will happen this time.

And well-known whistleblower Steve Martin provides the icing:

"The Bush administration very craftily says to the people that we need this power to detain terrorists, to freeze assets of terrorists, and to hold terrorists ex post facto of habeas corpus. What they’re not seeing is that in the actual authorization bills, obviously the word ‘terrorist’ is not used. The word ‘suspect’ or ‘detainee’ is used."
Al Martin, From the United States of America to the National Security States of America, [6]

What, me worry?

Well, if we look at a couple of examples of how these laws are being applied, maybe…

Tomas Foral, a 26-year-old graduate student at the University of Connecticut, was moving biological specimens from a broken lab freezer last fall when he came upon some samples collected nearly 35 years ago from an anthrax-infected cow. Foral moved two samples to a working freezer in the building and promptly forgot about the matter. Now, he is paying for this seemingly innocent and mundane act.

"In July, Foral became the first person to be charged under the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 with possessing a biological agent with no ‘reasonably justified’ purpose – a crime that carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. He was investigated by the FBI and now faces an investigation by his university. His name was added to a computerized government watch list along with fugitives, drug smugglers, and immigration violators."
– "In the Lab, Suspicion Spreads," Rosie Mestel, L.A. Times, Aug. 28, 2002

So one of the first guys to be busted under the so-called anti-terrorist PATRIOT Act was busted for keeping folks in his school from coming down with anthrax.

Now there’s a good idea!

And then there’s the case of Professor Sami al-Arian, accused of raising money for a terrorist organization. After 10 years of wiretaps, including over 400,000 taped conversations, the federal prosecutors couldn’t get a jury to convict him of anything. Maybe that was because the best they could come up with in court was that when he was talking to his mother in Palestine and mentioned "the family" – and he had a big one – "family" was a code word, for, you know, the terrorists. But after an estimated $50 million spent over 10 years, even with the help of the PATRIOT Act, the jury wasn’t buying it. Maybe the prosecutors watched The Godfather a few times too many?

There are at least 200,000 people in the U.S. terror database – and at least 30,000 of them don’t belong there.

Now me worry!


[1] Why doesn’t the Bush administration simply use the special but secret FISA court as a rubber-stamp for spying? According to NSA insider Russell Tice, the FISA court has rejected only five of over 20,000 requests to spy – and now allows 72 hours, just upped from 48 – before the NSA even has to advise the FISA court of a wire tap. Even ex-NSA head and legendary spook Gen. Bobby Ray Inman says Bush needlessly breaks the law by sidestepping FISA. return

[2] Those multiple simultaneous brush fires in California, the anomalous pre-9/11 Flight 800 explosion, the bombing of the Northwest U.S. high voltage tower that caused a power outage all over the West Coast, numerous suspicious train derailings all across the country, etc., suggest to some "probing attacks," characteristic of what some avant-garde military thinkers call "Fourth Generation Warfare." return

[3] In his farewell address, Ike warned about "the military-industrial complex" and that it created "the potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power" that "exists and will persist." In an original draft of the speech, he implicated Congress too, calling it the military-industrial-congressional complex. He clearly understood the economic factors that have led to the 27,000 paid lobbyists prowling the halls of government, seeking special favors for their well-heeled corporate employers, paid for by your tax money. return

[4] Assuming the translators manage to get the info to the analysts. "Sibel Edmonds, a translator who worked at the FBI’s language division, says the documents weren’t translated because the division was riddled with incompetence and corruption. In several cases, translations she’d already completed were purposely erased because higher-ups wanted to use 9/11 to get more funding. Edmonds was fired after reporting her concerns to FBI officials." "Lost in Translation," CBS 60 Minutes, June 6, 2004. return

[5] Interestingly, the 9/11 attacks may have been financed by use of conventional banking, but not necessarily the way you would think. It seems there was the matter of $100,000 dollars wired to purported head hijacker Mohammed Atta on the orders of Gen. Mahmoud Ahmed, head of Pakistan’s ISI, daughter organization and puppet of our own CIA. Far out – maybe even in tinfoil hat range? Maybe, but you can decide for yourself. Check it out in “The Pakistan Connection," Michael Meacher, July 22, 2004, in The Guardian. Mr. Meacher is a former British Cabinet minister and current member of Parliament. return

[6] Al Martin is America’s foremost whistleblower on government fraud and corruption. A retired U.S. Navy lieutenant commander and former officer in the Office of Naval Intelligence, he has testified before Congress (the Kerry Committee and the Alexander Committee) regarding Iran-Contra. Al Martin is the author of The Conspirators: Secrets of an Iran-Contra Insider (01, National Liberty Press, $19.95; To order: 1-866-317-1390) return