Friday, February 02, 2007

Even More Domestic Surveillance!

Not content to eavesdrop on your phone calls, read your mail, snoop through your bank records, dig around in your credit report, spy on anti-war authors & protest groups, attempt to turn telephone & cable installers into domestic spies, and all of the other bullshit that Bush has put in place across America, now we find out that the FBI isspying wholesale on America's internet use.

The FBI appears to have adopted an invasive Internet surveillance technique that collects far more data on innocent Americans than previously has been disclosed.

Instead of recording only what a particular suspect is doing, agents conducting investigations appear to be assembling the activities of thousands of Internet users at a time into massive databases, according to current and former officials. That database can subsequently be queried for names, e-mail addresses or keywords.

Such a technique is broader and potentially more intrusive than the FBI's Carnivore surveillance system, later renamed DCS1000. It raises concerns similar to those stirred by widespread Internet monitoring that the National Security Agency is said to have done, according to documents that have surfaced in one federal lawsuit, and may stretch the bounds of what's legally permissible.

Call it the vacuum-cleaner approach. It's employed when police have obtained a court order and an Internet service provider can't "isolate the particular person or IP address" because of technical constraints, says Paul Ohm, a former trial attorney at the Justice Department's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section. (An Internet Protocol address is a series of digits that can identify an individual computer.)

That kind of full-pipe surveillance can record all Internet traffic, including Web browsing--or, optionally, only certain subsets such as all e-mail messages flowing through the network. Interception typically takes place inside an Internet provider's network at the junction point of a router or network switch.

"What they're doing is even worse than Carnivore," said Kevin Bankston, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation who attended the Stanford event. "What they're doing is intercepting everyone and then choosing their targets."

When the FBI announced two years ago it had abandoned Carnivore, news reports said that the bureau would increasingly rely on Internet providers to conduct the surveillance and reimburse them for costs. While Carnivore was the subject of congressional scrutiny and outside audits, the FBI's current Internet eavesdropping techniques have received little attention.

Carnivore apparently did not perform full-pipe recording. A technical report (PDF: "Independent Technical Review of the Carnivore System") from December 2000 prepared for the Justice Department said that Carnivore "accumulates no data other than that which passes its filters" and that it saves packets "for later analysis only after they are positively linked by the filter settings to a target."
It's entirely clear that Bush hates and fears America's freedoms. For proof, one need only compare the resources put into snooping into our private lives to the resources spent on, oh, say, x-raying all packages which go onto airplanes (i.e. not a dime... for $50, any Al Qaeda Terrorist can ship a package on a commercial airliner and it won't be x-rayed, even though he's not getting on board).

We used to have a word for people who waste millions of dollars spying on their own citizens: Fascist Dictators.

One Senator Grows A Spine

Naturally, the moment after I post saying "When is Congress going to stand up to this idiot warmonger?" I run across this article in the New York Times which is an interview with new Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV). In it, Rockefeller "sharply criticized the Bush administration's increasingly combative stance toward Iran, saying that White House efforts to portray it as a growing threat are uncomfortably reminiscent of rhetoric about Iraq before the American invasion of 2003." Rockefeller said the White House "was building a case against Tehran even as U.S. intelligence agencies still know little about either Iran's internal dynamics or its intentions in the Middle East."

The Times also quotes the senator as saying, "To be quite honest, I'm a little concerned that it's Iraq again. [...] This whole concept of moving against Iran is bizarre."

Welcome to the Party, Senator. Now let's see how many of your brethren you can bring with you.

Rockefeller said he believed President Bush was getting poor advice from advisers who argue that an uncompromising stance toward the regime in Tehran will serve U.S. interests. "I don't think that policymakers in this administration particularly understand Iran," he said.

The comments of Rockefeller reflect the mounting concerns being voiced by other influential Democrats, including the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, and Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, about the Bush administration's approach to Iran. The Democrats have warned that the administration is moving toward a confrontation with Iran when the United States has neither the military resources nor the support among U.S. allies and members of Congress to carry out such a move.

As one of only a handful of lawmakers with access to the most classified intelligence about the threat from Tehran, Rockefeller's views carry particular weight. He has also historically been more tempered in his criticism of the White House on national security issues than some of his Democratic colleagues.

Rockefeller was biting in his criticism of how Bush has dealt with the threat of Islamic radicalism since the Sept. 11 attacks, saying he believed that the campaign against international terrorism was "still a mystery" to the president. "I don't think he understands the world," Rockefeller said. "I don't think he's particularly curious about the world. I don't think he reads like he says he does."
I sure hope that Rockefeller and his fellow Democrats aren't going to let Bush start another war. Trouble is, I don't know how they can stop him short of pre-emptive impeachment of both Bush AND his Vice President, and that will NEVER happen.

Pentagon Gins Up War Machine

For the last few years, I've been telling people that Iraq was NOT the end zone for the Bush Administration. If you read their Right-Wing Think Tank reports that they write to one another, if you peruse the Project For A New American Century's webpage where they talked about the Middle East, if you pay attention to troop movements in and around the Middle East, it's always been quite clear that Bush's endgame was Iran. Why? Because he and his neoconservative nutjob advisors live in the Fantasy World, as opposed to the Real World... just like in Iraq, Bush's Brains have convinced themselves that the people of Iran will greet our troops with open arms, if only we kill their mullahs and clerics first.

He's wrong, of course, but that hasn't stopped him. Now we hear that JUST LIKE BEFORE IRAQ, Bush has set up his own special "intelligence" group inside the Pentagon, devoted to finding the "evidence" to "justify" an attack on Iran. Additionally worrisome is the fact that NO ONE from this administration will admit that the President needs the authority of Congress to go to war. Even more worrisome is that Bush has recently diverted massive naval air resources into the gulf off Iran's coast, almost BEGGING for an incident he can blow out of proportion and use as an excuse for war. Finally, let's remember that Alberto Gonzales says that Article II of the Constitution plus the 2001 Congressional Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against Iraq means that Bush has special Presidential Superpowers to fight any war he likes.

The only conclusion one can draw is that we're headed to War against Iran.

Current military and former intelligence officials remain concerned about a US-led strike on Iran, despite the recent appearance of diplomacy on the part of the US State Department and the offer of an incentives package to Iran.

Officials point to new developments, such as a recent meeting in Rome between an Iranian arms dealer and controversial neoconservative Michael Ledeen and the March creation of the Iranian directorate inside the Pentagon, as examples of recent events similar to the lead up with war in Iraq.

[..]Lt. Col. Barry E. Venable, a spokesman for the Pentagon, confirmed the creation of the directorate for Iran in both a phone conversation and an email message.

"As the State Department stated in early March (Daily Press Brief, Mar. 3), the U.S. Government is organizing itself better to address what Secretary Rice called ‘one of the great challenges for the United States, a strategic challenge for the United States and for those who desire peace and freedom,'" Venable wrote.
Not content simply to lie and invade Iraq, Bush has now put in place all of the steps to invade Iran, or, at the very least, to bomb them back into the Stone Age. But if we thought we had problems occupying Iraq, let's take a look at what we're facing in Iran:

defeated militarily in 1991
never able to properly re-arm because of sanctions
no air force
demoralized conscript army who mostly surrendered
3 distinct tribal groups, Shiite & Sunni Muslim
population: almost 27,000,000
size: 168,754 sq. miles//437,072 sq km (about that of California)

continuously re-arming since end of 1988 Iran-Iraq war
strong air forces
army of dedicated fanatics
2 intermingled tribal groups, both Shiite Muslim
population: 68,700,000
size: 636,296 sq. miles//1.648 million sq km (slightly larger than Alaska)

So, in other words, Bush is about to attack a country almost 4x as large as Iraq with a population two and a half times the size of Iraq's and a military 1000x as strong as Iraq's was.

Where's he planning to get the troops? He doesn't have enough to lock down Iraq and Afghanistan at the same time. If he does this, there's only one place they can come from: a draft.

When is Congress going to stand up to this idiot warmonger?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

That Booming Economy

The only positive thing this President has done that Republicans can ever point to is our "great economy." They prattle on and on about the economic boom. Point out that it's a boom only for the Wealthy and that the Middle Class and Poor are getting hosed and they say it's a lie, the Economy is great for everyone.

Well, we can put that bullshit spin to rest now...

…the savings rate for all of 2006 was a negative 1 percent, meaning that not only did people spend all the money they earned but they also dipped into savings or increased borrowing to finance purchases. The 2006 figure was lower than a negative 0.4 percent in 2005 and was the poorest showing since a negative 1.5 percent savings rate in 1933 during the Great Depression.
Yup. Great Economy you've got there. People spending 101% of what they make. Exactly how long is that sustainable for? Idiots.

Quick! Don't pay attention! There are Terrorist Toys in Boston!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Far Too Little, Far Too Late

And now, in "Fox To Guard Henhouse" news, we have this doozy:

Army Probes War Contractor Fraud
By John Heilprin
The Associated Press
Saturday 27 January 2007

From high-dollar fraud to conspiracy to bribery and bid rigging, Army investigators have opened up to 50 criminal probes involving battlefield contractors in the war in Iraq and the U.S. fight against terrorism, The Associated Press has learned.
Really? 50? $750 Billion in a pointless, never-ending, waste-filled war and they've uncovered a whopping 50 prosecutions? Wow, how DOES the Pentagon do it? It's like living in a town with Matlock AND Jessica from Murder She Wrote.
Senior contracting officials, government employees, residents of other countries and, in some cases, U.S. military personnel have been implicated in millions of dollars of fraud allegations.
But... our troops... must blindly support all troops... militarized population conditioned to support all troops, does not compute... does not compute... Oh, what's that? A "Few Bad Apples?" Oh, okay, then.
"All of these involve operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait," Chris Grey, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, confirmed Saturday to the AP. "CID agents will pursue leads and the truth wherever it may take us," Grey said. "We take this very seriously."
Really? Even into the Vice President's office and Halliburton's corporate offices in the Cayman Islands? Who's fooling whom, here? Maybe the AP laps up your bullshit, but no one else is.
Battlefield contractors have been implicated in allegations of fraud and abuse since the war in Iraq began in spring 2003. A special inspector general office that focused solely on reconstruction spending in Iraq developed cases that led to four criminal convictions.
Really? $18,000,000,000 in reconstruction funds TOTALLY WASTED and all you could find was four fucking cases? WOW! Move over C.S.I., the crack financial forensics team of the Pentagon is on the case. Maybe the fact that the electrical grid doesn't work, the phones don't work, the bridges are all still bombed out, the sewage system barely works and the hospitals all lie in ruins should have tipped the Pentagon's investigators off that a FUCKING LOT of Contractors and major Republican-connected firms took $18,000,000,000 from America's taxpayers and built nothing in return? Fuck you, this is clearly a weak attempt to head off Congressional Investigation, and it ain't gonna work. I, for one, cannot WAIT to watch Henry Waxman crawl right up the Pentagon's ass and shake free documentation on all of the people involved with this debacle and where, exactly, their political contributions went.
The problems stem in part from the Pentagon's struggle to get a handle on the unprecedented number of contractors now helping run the nation's wars. Contractors are used in battle zones to do nearly everything but fight. They run cafeterias and laundries for troops, move supplies, run communication systems and repair weapons systems.
Problems created by none other than Vice President Dick Cheney, when he was back in the Bush Sr. White House and recommended that all non-combat aspects of war be outsourced to private companies who supposedly could do the job cheaper and faster and better. Cheney then left public "service" to run the largest of these new military outsourcing contractors. So yeah, first off, I'm unimpressed by the idea that the Pentagon is "getting a handle on the unprecedented number of contractors now helping run the nation's wars" because they eagerly aided and abetted this change.

Also, I love how the article avoids talking about the OTHER set of major contractors in Iraq: the Private Military Contractors who are taking US tax dollars in return for riding roughshod over the country's civilians, thereby making Iraqis hate us all the more. And where do these $5000/week mercenaries come from? Oh, the US Military trains them at the cost of millions of dollars, then loses them to PMC's the second their committments are finished... a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars. First, you've paid a fortune to train these mercenaries, then you pay 100x their old military salaries to do the same job. Where's the "savings" in that?
Special agents from the Army's major procurement fraud unit recently were dispatched to Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait, where they are "working closely and sharing information with other law enforcement agencies in the region," Grey said.

"Given the billions of dollars in contract dollars that have been and are being spent, it is our experience that our agents will detect millions of dollars in fraud before we are done," Grey said. "And just as likely, we will be instrumental in bringing back to the U.S. government millions of dollars in recoveries."
Wow, bringing back MILLIONS of dollars. Of course, at $18,000,000,000 that means that even if the Pentagon's investigators return $180 Million dollars, it's still only ONE FUCKING PERCENT of the money which was squandered on Iraq's "rebuilding." And that itself is a drop in the bucket compared to the eventual $1-2 TRILLION dollar cost of this war.
One case involves an Army chief warrant officer accused of taking a $50,000 bribe to steer a contract for paper products and plastic flatware away from a government contractor and to a Kuwaiti company, according to an indictment unsealed Thursday in federal court at Rock Island, Ill.

Prosecutors say the officer took the bribe while at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, while he was the Army's food service adviser for Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait, according to the indictment. The officer is also accused of trying to smuggle $40,000 in undeclared cash into the United States on a December 2005 flight from Kuwait to Dover, Del.
Sooo... it wasn't so much that investigators caught this guy and investigated him, it's more that he got caught at the border with $40G in cash and then the Pentagon figured it out. Oh, yeah, my confidence IS high.
Other cases involve a government officer manipulating a contract in exchange for large bribes, a contractor making false claims against the government and an official accepting gratuities. The cases range in type, seriousness and complexity and involve contractors both inside and outside the United States.
Other such cases include a former President earning billions off the war that his son started, a sitting Vice President falsifying evidence for this war in order to drive the price of his corporation's stock up by 700% since he entered office, and a stubborn dry drunk of a president unwilling to change course or even admit he's made any mistakes because he's absolutely certain that his benefactors in the Saudi Royal Family will handsomely reward him with lavish "Speaking Fees" for speeches in return for his having demolished Iraq's ability to pump oil. These cases, however, will NEVER be investigated, because to do so would be to expose our country's leadership as a group of Armaments Manufacturers who are simply imitating their great-grandparent's activities in World War One.
The Pentagon has viewed outsourcing a wide variety of military tasks as much more efficient, leaving troops trained in combat to the business of war.

But the Government Accountability Office reported in December that the military has been losing millions of dollars because it cannot monitor industry workers in far-flung locations. The Defense Department's inability to manage contractors effectively has hurt military operations and unit morale and cost the Pentagon money, the GAO said.

Some 150,000 contractors have been supporting the Army in Southwest Asia, which includes Iraq. That compares with 9,200 contractors in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

Commanders are often unsure how many contractors use their bases and require food, housing and protection, according to the report. One Army official said the service estimates losing about $43 million each year on free meals provided to contractors who also get a food allowance.

The new Democratic Congress plans to ramp up oversight of the billions of dollars being spent in Iraq, including dollars awarded to contractors. Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, has said he plans to target contractor abuse.
The best news of the entire article, but frankly, it's a bit like closing the barn door after the horses have all run away.