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Li Runsen, the powerful technology director of China’s ministry of public security, is best known for leading Project Golden Shield, China’s intensive effort to strengthen police control over the Internet. But last month Mr. Li took an additional title: director for China Security and Surveillance Technology, a fast-growing company that installs and sometimes operates surveillance systems for Chinese police agencies, jails and banks, among other customers. The company has just been approved for a listing on the New York Stock Exchange. The company’s listing and Mr. Li’s membership on its board are just the latest signs of ever-closer ties among Wall Street, surveillance companies and the Chinese government’s security apparatus. Wall Street analysts now follow the growth of companies that install surveillance systems providing Chinese police stations with 24-hour video feeds from nearby Internet cafes. Hedge fund money from the United States has paid for the development of not just better video cameras, but face-recognition software and even newer behavior-recognition software designed to spot the beginnings of a street protest and notify police. Executives of Chinese surveillance companies say they are helping their government reduce street crime, preserve social stability and prevent terrorism. They note that London has a more sophisticated surveillance system, although the Chinese system will soon be far more extensive. Wall Street executives also defend the industry as necessary to keep the peace at a time of rapid change in China. They point out that New York has begun experimenting with surveillance cameras in Lower Manhattan and other areas of the city.
Traditionally, powerful spy satellites have been used to search for strategic threats overseas. But now the Department of Homeland Security has developed a new office to use the satellites to [monitor the US itself]. [DHS] officials ... faced extensive criticism [in Congress] about the privacy and civil liberty concerns of the new office, called the National Applications Office. [House Homeland Security] Committee members expressed concern about abuse of the satellite imagery, charging that Homeland Security had not informed the oversight committee about the program. "What's most disturbing is learning about it from The Wall Street Journal," said Committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss. The lawmakers also expressed concern about using military capabilities for U.S. law enforcement and Homeland Security operations, potentially a violation of the Posse Comitatus Act, which bars the military from serving as a law enforcement body within the United States. Committee members said that in addition to not being informed about the National Applications Office program, they had not yet been provided with documents defining the limits and legal guidance about the program. [They] sent a letter to Homeland Security saying, "We are so concerned that ... we are calling for a moratorium on the program. Today's testimony made clear that there is effectively no legal framework governing the domestic use of satellite imagery for the various purposes envisioned by the department."
Broad new surveillance powers approved by Congress this month could allow the Bush administration to conduct spy operations that go well beyond wiretapping to include — without court approval — certain types of physical searches on American soil and the collection of Americans’ business records. “This may give the administration even more authority than people thought,” said David Kris, a former senior Justice Department lawyer in the Bush and Clinton administrations. Several legal experts said that by redefining the meaning of “electronic surveillance,” the new law narrows the types of communications covered in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA, by indirectly giving the government the power to use intelligence collection methods far beyond wiretapping that previously required court approval if conducted inside the United States. These new powers include the collection of business records, physical searches and so-called “trap and trace” operations, analyzing specific calling patterns. For instance, the legislation would allow the government, under certain circumstances, to demand the business records of an American in Chicago without a warrant if it asserts that the search concerns its surveillance of a person who is in Paris, experts said. Some civil rights advocates said they suspected that the administration made the language of the bill intentionally vague to allow it even broader discretion over wiretapping decisions. The end result ... is that the legislation may grant the government the right to collect a range of information on American citizens inside the United States without warrants, as long as the administration asserts that the spying concerns the monitoring of a person believed to be overseas.
The Bush administration has approved a plan to expand domestic access to some of the most powerful tools of 21st-century spycraft, giving law enforcement officials and others the ability to view data obtained from satellite and aircraft sensors that can see through cloud cover and even penetrate buildings and underground bunkers. A program approved by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security will allow broader domestic use of secret overhead imagery beginning as early as this fall, with the expectation that state and local law enforcement officials will eventually be able to tap into technology once largely restricted to foreign surveillance. But the program ... quickly provoked opposition from civil liberties advocates, who said the government is crossing a well-established line against the use of military assets in domestic law enforcement. The administration's decision would provide domestic authorities with unprecedented access to high-resolution, real-time satellite photos. They could also have access to much more. Civil liberties groups quickly condemned the move, which Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies, ... likened to "Big Brother in the sky. They want to turn these enormous spy capabilities ... onto Americans. They are laying the bricks one at a time for a police state." Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists, said that ... oversight for the program was woefully inadequate. Enhanced access "shouldn't be adopted at all costs because it comes with risk to privacy and to the integrity of our political institutions," he said.
At least 20,000 police surveillance cameras are being installed along streets here [in Shenzhen] in southern China and will soon be guided by sophisticated computer software from an American-financed company to recognize automatically the faces of police suspects and detect unusual activity. Starting this month in a port neighborhood and then spreading across Shenzhen, a city of 12.4 million people, residency cards fitted with powerful computer chips programmed by the same company will be issued to most citizens. Data on the chip will include not just the citizen’s name and address but also work history, educational background, religion, ethnicity, police record, medical insurance status and landlord’s phone number. Even personal reproductive history will be included, for enforcement of China’s controversial “one child” policy. Plans are being studied to add credit histories, subway travel payments and small purchases charged to the card. Security experts describe China’s plans as the world’s largest effort to meld cutting-edge computer technology with police work to track the activities of a population. But they say the technology can be used to violate civil rights. “We have a very good relationship with U.S. companies like I.B.M., Cisco, H.P., Dell,” said Robin Huang, the chief operating officer of China Public Security. “All of these U.S. companies work with us to build our system together.” The role of American companies in helping Chinese security forces has periodically been controversial in the United States. Executives from Yahoo, Google, Microsoft and Cisco Systems testified in February 2006 at a Congressional hearing called to review whether they had deliberately designed their systems to help the Chinese state muzzle dissidents on the Internet; they denied having done so.
The Department of Homeland Security is funneling millions of dollars to local governments nationwide for purchasing high-tech video camera networks, accelerating the rise of a "surveillance society" in which the sense of freedom that stems from being anonymous in public will be lost, privacy rights advocates warn. The department ... has doled out millions on surveillance cameras, transforming city streets and parks into places under constant observation. A Globe [investigation] shows that a large number of new surveillance systems, costing at least tens and probably hundreds of millions of dollars, are being simultaneously installed around the country as part of homeland security grants. Federal money is helping New York, Baltimore, and Chicago build massive surveillance systems that may also link thousands of privately owned security cameras. Boston has installed about 500 cameras in the MBTA system, funded in part with homeland security funds. Marc Rotenberg, director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said [the] Homeland Security Department is the primary driver in spreading surveillance cameras, making their adoption more attractive by offering federal money to city and state leaders. The proliferation of cameras could mean that Americans will feel less free because legal public behavior -- attending a political rally, entering a doctor's office, or even joking with friends in a park -- will leave a permanent record, retrievable by authorities at any time.
The Bush administration plans to leave oversight of its expanded foreign eavesdropping program to the same government officials who supervise the surveillance activities and to the intelligence personnel who carry them out, senior government officials said yesterday. The law, which permits intercepting Americans' calls and e-mails without a warrant if the communications involve overseas transmission, gives Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell and Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales responsibility for creating the broad procedures determining whose telephone calls and e-mails are collected. It also gives McConnell and Gonzales the role of assessing compliance with those procedures. The law ... does not contain provisions for outside oversight -- unlike an earlier House measure that called for audits every 60 days by the Justice Department's inspector general. The controversial changes to the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act were approved by both chambers of the Democratic-controlled Congress despite privacy concerns raised by Democratic leaders and civil liberties advocacy groups. Central to the new program is the collection of foreign intelligence from "communication service providers," which the officials declined to identify, citing secrecy concerns. Under the new law, the attorney general is required to draw up the governing procedures for surveillance activity, for approval by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Once the procedures are established, the attorney general and director of national intelligence will formally certify that the collection of data is authorized. But the certification will be placed under seal "unless the certification is necessary to determine the legality of the acquisition," according to the law signed by Bush.
The Bush administration rushed to defend new espionage legislation Monday amid growing concern that the changes could lead to increased spying by U.S. intelligence agencies on American citizens. But officials declined to provide details about how the new capabilities might be used by the National Security Agency and other spy services. And in many cases, they could point only to internal monitoring mechanisms to prevent abuse of the new rules that appear to give the government greater authority to tap into the traffic flowing across U.S. telecommunications networks. Officials rejected assertions that the new capabilities would enable the government to cast electronic "drift nets" that might ensnare U.S. citizens [and] that the new legislation would amount to the expansion of a controversial — and critics contend unconstitutional — warrantless wiretapping program that President Bush authorized after the 9/11 attacks. Intelligence experts said there were an array of provisions in the new legislation that appeared to make it possible for the government to engage in intelligence-collection activities that the Bush administration officials were discounting. "They are trying to shift the terms of the debate to their intentions and away from the meaning of the new law," said Steven Aftergood, an intelligence policy analyst at the Federation of American Scientists. "The new law gives them authority to do far more than simply surveil foreign communications abroad," he said. "It expands the surveillance program beyond terrorism to encompass foreign intelligence. It permits the monitoring of communications of a U.S. person as long as he or she is not the primary target. And it effectively removes judicial supervision of the surveillance process."
It was appalling to watch over the last few days as Congress — now led by Democrats — caved in to yet another unnecessary and dangerous expansion of President Bush’s powers, this time to spy on Americans in violation of basic constitutional rights. Many of the 16 Democrats in the Senate and 41 in the House who voted for the bill said that they had acted in the name of national security, but the only security at play was their job security. What [do] the Democrats ... plan to do with their majority in Congress if they are too scared of Republican campaign ads to use it to protect the Constitution and restrain an out-of-control president[?] The White House and its allies on Capitol Hill railroaded Congress into voting a vast expansion of the president’s powers. They gave the director of national intelligence and the attorney general authority to intercept — without warrant, court supervision or accountability — any telephone call or e-mail message that moves in, out of or through the United States as long as there is a “reasonable belief” that one party is not in the United States. While serving little purpose, the new law has real dangers. It would allow the government to intercept, without a warrant, every communication into or out of any country, including the United States. The Democratic majority has made strides on other issues like children’s health insurance against White House opposition. As important as these measures are, they do not excuse the Democrats from remedying the damage Mr. Bush has done to civil liberties and the Bill of Rights. That is their most important duty.
President Bush signed into law ... legislation that broadly [expands] the government’s authority to eavesdrop on the international telephone calls and e-mail messages of American citizens without warrants. The law [goes] far beyond the small fixes that administration officials had said were needed to gather information about foreign terrorists [and will] sharply alter the legal limits on the government’s ability to monitor millions of phone calls and e-mail messages going in and out of the United States. The new law for the first time [provides] a legal framework for much of the surveillance without warrants that was being conducted in secret by the National Security Agency and outside the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the 1978 law that is supposed to regulate the way the government can listen to the private communications of American citizens. “This more or less legalizes the N.S.A. program,” said Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies in Washington. Previously, the government needed search warrants approved by a special intelligence court to eavesdrop on ... electronic communications between individuals inside the United States and people overseas. The new law gives the attorney general and the director of national intelligence the power to approve the international surveillance, rather than the special intelligence court. The law also gave the administration greater power to force telecommunications companies to cooperate with such spying operations. The companies can now be compelled to cooperate by orders from the attorney general and the director of national intelligence.
President Bush's latest affront to the U.S. Constitution [is] in plain view on the White House Web site: "Executive Order: Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq." This far-reaching order ... is a frontal assault on the Fifth Amendment, which decrees that the government cannot seize an individual's property without due process. [The order asserts] the authority to freeze the American assets of anyone who directly or indirectly assists someone who poses "a significant risk" [to] the "peace and stability" of [Iraq] or the reconstruction effort. "On its face, this is the greatest encroachment on civil liberties since the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II," said Bruce Fein, a constitutional lawyer who was a deputy attorney general in the Reagan administration. Fein said the sanctions against suspected violators would amount to "a financial death penalty. King George III really would have been jealous of this power." The executive order not only calls for the freezing of assets of anyone who directly or indirectly [opposes US policy in Iraq,] it prohibits anyone else from providing "funds, goods or services" to a blacklisted individual. In other words, a friend or relative could have his or her assets seized for trying to help someone whose bank account is suddenly frozen. An attorney who offered legal help could risk losing everything he or she owned. Then again, there's not much need for lawyers in the world of this executive order. The blacklist would be drawn up by the "secretary of treasury, in consultation with the secretary of state and the secretary of defense." The Fifth Amendment was written for good reason: It's dangerous to give the government unchecked authority to seize private property without judicial review.
[BBC Radio] uncovers details of a planned coup in the USA in 1933 by right-wing American businessmen. The coup was aimed at toppling President Franklin D Roosevelt with the help of half-a-million war veterans. The plotters, who were alleged to involve some of the most famous families in America (owners of Heinz, Birds Eye, Goodtea, Maxwell [House] and George Bush’s grandfather, Prescott [Bush]) believed that their country should adopt the policies of Hitler and Mussolini to beat the great depression. Why [is] so little ... known about this biggest ever peacetime threat to American democracy?
Note: The highly decorated General Smedley Butler, author of the landmark book War is a Racket, was approached by the plotters for assistance in carrying out this coup. He at first played along, but then eventually exposed the coup plot in Congressional testimony. Yet news of this huge plot was squelched by both the government and media. To understand why, read a two-page summary of General Butler's book by clicking here and listen to the gripping, 30-minute BBC broadcast at the link above.
CityWatcher.com, a provider of surveillance equipment, attracted little notice itself until a year ago, when two of its employees had glass-encapsulated microchips with miniature antennas embedded in their forearms. The "chipping" of two workers with RFIDs radio frequency identification tags ... was merely a way of restricting access to ... sensitive data and images ... the company said. Innocuous? Maybe. But the news that Americans had, for the first time, been injected with electronic identifiers to perform their jobs fired up a debate over the proliferation of ever-more-precise tracking technologies and their ability to erode privacy in the digital age. To some, the ... notion of tagging people was Orwellian. Chipping, these critics said, might start with Alzheimer's patients or Army Rangers, but would eventually be suggested for convicts, then parolees, then sex offenders, then illegal aliens until one day, a majority of Americans, falling into one category or another, would find themselves electronically tagged. "It was scary that a government contractor that specialized in putting surveillance cameras on city streets was the first to incorporate this technology in the workplace," says Liz McIntyre, co-author of Spychips: How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track Your Every Move with RFID. Within days of the company's announcement, civil libertarians and Christian conservatives joined to excoriate the microchip's implantation in people.
Note: For educated speculation on how certain powerful people might like to have everyone implanted with microchips for security and control purposes, click here.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is developing a computer-profiling system that would enable investigators to target possible terror suspects. The System to Assess Risk, or STAR, assigns risk scores to possible suspects based on a variety of information, similar to the way a credit bureau assigns a rating based on a consumer's spending behavior and debt. The program focuses on foreign suspects but also includes data about some U.S. residents. Some lawmakers said ... that the report raises new questions about the government's power to use personal information and intelligence without accountability. "The Bush administration has expanded the use of this technology, often in secret, to collect and sift through Americans' most sensitive personal information," said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The use of data mining in the war on terror has sparked criticism. An airplane-passenger screening program called CAPPS II was revamped and renamed because of civil liberty concerns. An effort to collect Americans' personal and financial data called Total Information Awareness was killed. Law enforcement and national security officials have continued working on other programs to use computers to sift through information for signs of threats. The Department of Homeland Security, for example, flags travelers entering and leaving the United States who may be potential suspects through a risk-assessment program called the Automated Targeting System.
A proposed new FBI program would skirt federal laws by paying private companies to hold millions of phone and Internet records which the bureau is barred from keeping itself, experts say. The $5 million project would apparently pay private firms to store at least two years' worth of telephone and Internet activity by millions of Americans, few of whom would ever be considered a suspect in any terrorism, intelligence or criminal matter. The FBI is barred by law from collecting and storing such data if it has no connection to a specific investigation or intelligence matter. In recent years the bureau has tried to encourage telecommunications firms to voluntarily store such information, but corporations have balked at the cost of keeping records they don't need. "The government isn't allowed to warehouse the information, and the companies don't want to, so this creates a business incentive for the companies to warehouse it, so the government can access it later," said Mike German, a policy expert on national security and privacy issues for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). "It's a public-private partnership that puts civil liberties to the test." In March, an FBI official identified the companies as Verizon, MCI and AT&T. Even the bureau's own top lawyer said she found the [FBI's] behavior "disturbing," noting that when requesting access to phone company records, it repeatedly referenced "emergency" situations that did not exist, falsely claimed grand juries had subpoenaed information and failed to keep records on much of its own activity.
Federal agents do not need a search warrant to monitor a suspect's computer use and determine the e-mail addresses and Web pages the suspect is contacting, a federal appeals court ruled Friday. In a drug case from San Diego County, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco likened computer surveillance to the "pen register" devices that officers use to pinpoint the phone numbers a suspect dials, without listening to the phone calls themselves. In Friday's ruling, the court said computer users should know that they lose privacy protections with e-mail and Web site addresses when they are communicated to the company whose equipment carries the messages. The search is no more intrusive than officers' examination of a list of phone numbers or the outside of a mailed package, neither of which requires a warrant, Judge Raymond Fisher said in the 3-0 ruling. Defense lawyer Michael Crowley disagreed. His client, Dennis Alba, was sentenced to 30 years in prison after being convicted of operating a laboratory in Escondido that manufactured the drug ecstasy. Some of the evidence against Alba came from agents' tracking of his computer use. The court upheld his conviction and sentence. Expert evidence in Alba's case showed that the Web addresses obtained by federal agents included page numbers that allowed the agents to determine what someone read online, Crowley said. The ruling "further erodes our privacy," the attorney said. "The great political marketplace of ideas is the Internet, and the government has unbridled access to it."
Note: So now every email you send and read can be monitored legally. Why didn't this make news headlines?
Long-secret documents released Tuesday provide new details about how the Central Intelligence Agency illegally spied on Americans decades ago. Known inside the agency as the “family jewels,” the 702 pages of documents released Tuesday catalog domestic wiretapping operations, failed assassination plots, mind-control experiments and spying on journalists from the early years of the C.I.A. The papers provide evidence of paranoia and occasional incompetence as the agency began a string of illegal spying operations in the 1960s and 1970s, often to hunt links between Communist governments and the domestic protests that roiled the nation in that period. Yet the long-awaited documents leave out a great deal. Large sections are censored, showing that the C.I.A. still cannot bring itself to expose all the skeletons in its closet. And many activities about overseas operations disclosed years ago by journalists, Congressional investigators and a presidential commission — which led to reforms of the nation’s intelligence agencies — are not detailed in the papers. The 60-year-old agency has been under fire ... by critics [of] the secret prisons and harsh interrogation practices it has adopted since the Sept. 11 attacks. Some intelligence experts suggested ... that the release of the documents was intended to distract from the current controversies. And they and historians expressed disappointment that the documents were so heavily censored. Tom Blanton of the National Security Archive, the research group that filed the Freedom of Information request in 1992 that led to the documents’ becoming public, said he was initially underwhelmed by them because they contained little about the agency’s foreign operations. But Mr. Blanton said what was striking was the scope of the C.I.A’s domestic spying efforts.
Note: The entire body of the CIA's "Family Jewels" documents have been posted online by the National Security Archives, and can be read by clicking here.
The U.S. Northern Command, the military command responsible for "homeland defense," has asked the Pentagon if it can establish its own special operations command for domestic missions. The request ... would establish a permanent sub-command for responses to incidents of domestic terrorism as well as other occasions where special operators may be necessary on American soil. The establishment of a domestic special operations mission, and the preparation of contingency plans to employ commandos in the United States, would upend decades of tradition. Military actions within the United States are the responsibility of state militias (the National Guard), and federal law enforcement is a function of the FBI. Employing special operations for domestic missions sounds very ominous, and NORTHCOM's request earlier this year should receive the closest possible Pentagon and congressional scrutiny. There's only one problem: NORTHCOM is already doing what it has requested permission to do. When NORTHCOM was established after 9/11 to be the military counterpart to the Department of Homeland Security, within its headquarters staff it established a Compartmented Planning and Operations Cell (CPOC) responsible for planning and directing a set of "compartmented" and "sensitive" operations on U.S., Canadian and Mexican soil. In other words, these are the very special operations that NORTHCOM is now formally asking the Pentagon to beef up into a public and acknowledged sub-command.
The CIA will declassify hundreds of pages of long-secret records detailing some of the intelligence agency's worst illegal abuses -- the so-called "family jewels" documenting a quarter-century of overseas assassination attempts, domestic spying, kidnapping and infiltration of leftist groups ... CIA Director Michael V. Hayden said yesterday. The documents ... also include accounts of break-ins and theft, the agency's opening of private mail to and from China and the Soviet Union, wiretaps and surveillance of journalists, and a series of "unwitting" tests on U.S. civilians, including the use of drugs. The documents have been sought for decades by historians, journalists and conspiracy theorists and have been the subject of many fruitless Freedom of Information Act requests. In anticipation of the CIA's release, the National Security Archive at George Washington University yesterday published a separate set of documents from January 1975 detailing internal government discussions of the abuses. Those documents portray a rising sense of panic within the administration of President Gerald R. Ford that what then-CIA Director William E. Colby called "skeletons" in the CIA's closet had begun to be revealed in news accounts. "It's surely part of [Hayden's] program now to draw a bright line with the past," said National Security Archive Director Thomas S. Blanton. "But it's uncanny how the government keeps dipping into the black bag." Newly revealed details of ancient CIA operations, Blanton said, "are pretty resonant today."
William E. Colby faced an uneasy decision in late 1973 when he took over the Central Intelligence Agency: whether to make public the agency’s internal accounting, then being compiled, of its domestic spying, assassination plots and other misdeeds since its founding nearly three decades earlier. Mr. Colby decided to keep the so-called family jewels a secret, and wrote in his memoir in 1978 that he believed the agency’s already sullied reputation ... could not have withstood a public airing of all its dirty laundry. So why, at a time when the agency has again been besieged by criticism, this time for its program of secret detentions and interrogations since the Sept. 11 attacks, would the current director, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, decide to declassify the same documents that Mr. Colby chose to keep secret? General Hayden said it was essential for the C.I.A. ... to be as open as possible in order to build public trust and dispel myths surrounding its operations. The more that the agency can tell the public, he said, the less chance that misinformation among the public will “fill the vacuum.” It was this outlook that General Hayden, whose public relations skills are well known in Washington, brought to an earlier job. There, as director of the National Security Agency, he tried to overhaul the N.S.A.’s public image — that of the shadowy, menacing organization portrayed in the movie “Enemy of the State” — by inviting reporters to briefings and authorizing its officials to speak to the author James Bamford for his book on the agency, “Body of Secrets.”
Note: For a brief summary of and links to further information about James Bamford's important book on the NSA, Body of Secrets, click here.
Important Note: Explore our full index to key excerpts of revealing major media news articles on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.