Tag Archives: civil liberties

WHOSE security?

Despite President Hopey-Changey’s promises that the vast amount of data that is collected on us Americans — on our dime, of course — never would be used for nefarious purposes, I’m as confident of that as I am that killer drones never would be used on American soil on American citizens who have been branded by the powers that be as “terrorists” simply because they disagree with whichever right-wing (Repugnican Tea Party) or center-right-wing (“Democratic” Party) regime that’s in charge of the show.

Not to try to outdo Alex Jones, but I just don’t buy that the National Security Agency’s Job No. 1 actually is to protect Americans from actual terrorist attacks.

Oh, sure, if there were another 9/11-like terrorist attack, that would be embarrassing to the powers that be who claim that they’re so damned consumed about keeping all of us safe, but would they really care that some anonymous American commoners got snuffed out?

Of course not.

As long at their precious plutocratic asses are safe. That’s all that matters to them.

No, the NSA exists, I’m confident, primarily to sound the alarm for the plutocrats should the worst-case scenario ever actually arise: The American people actually rising up to overthrow their plutocratic overlords who have kept them — us — in politicosocioeconomic bondage for ages.

And the kicker is, as I mentioned, that we spied-upon-by-the-wolves sheeple are the ones who are paying for the whole “security” system that in all probability actually is meant to keep the plutocrats safe from us. (After all, we do have them vastly outnumbered.)

Perhaps the NSA’s greatest triumph is not in keeping us commoners safe, but in inducing us commoners to believe that the NSA actually works for us.

This Associated Press story on the NSA from today, for example, contains not a whiff of a hint that it might not be entirely true that the NSA exists entirely to protect American commoners from harm and that it does not at all exist, not even at least in part, to protect the plutocrats from the masses, should the masses ever actually rise up:

Washington — An email, a telephone call or even the murmur of a conversation captured by the vibration of a window — they’re all part of the data that can be swept up by the sophisticated machinery of the National Security Agency.

Its job is to use the world’s most cutting edge supercomputers and arguably the largest database storage sites to crunch and sift through immense amounts of data. The information analyzed might be stolen from a foreign official’s laptop by a Central Intelligence Agency officer overseas, intercepted by a Navy spy plane flying off the Chinese coast, or, as Americans found out this past week, gathered from U.S. phone records.

Code-breakers at the Fort Meade, Md.-based NSA use software to search for keywords in the emails or patterns in the phone numbers that might link known terrorist targets with possible new suspects. They farm out that information to the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies and to law enforcement, depending on who has the right to access which type of information, acting as gatekeeper, and they say, guardian of the nation’s civil liberties as well as its security.

The super-secret agency is under the spotlight after last week’s revelations of two surveillance programs. One involves the sweeping collection of hundreds of millions of phone records of U.S. customers. The second collects the audio, video, email, photographic and Internet search usage of foreign nationals overseas — and probably some Americans in the process — who use major Internet companies such as Microsoft, Google, Apple and Yahoo.

NSA was founded in 1952. Only years later was the NSA publicly acknowledged, which explains its nickname, “No Such Agency.”

According to its website, NSA is not allowed to spy on Americans. It is supposed to use its formidable technology to “gather information that America’s adversaries wish to keep secret,” and to “protect America’s vital national security information and systems from theft or damage by others,” as well as enabling “network warfare, a military operation,” that includes offensive cyberoperations against U.S. adversaries.

The agency also includes the Central Security Service, the military arm of code-breakers who work jointly with the agency. The two services have their headquarters on a compound that’s technically part of Fort Meade, though it’s slightly set apart from the 5,000-acre Army base.

Visible from a main highway, the tightly guarded compound requires the highest of clearances to enter and is equipped with electronic means to ward off an attack by hackers.

Other NSA facilities in Georgia, Texas, Colorado and Hawaii duplicate much of the headquarters’ brain and computer power in case a terrorist attack takes out the main location, though each one focuses on a different part of the globe.

A new million-square-foot storage facility in Salt Lake City will give the agency untold additional capacity to store the massive amounts of data it collects, as well as adding to its analytical capability.

“NSA is the elephant of the U.S. intelligence community, the biggest organization by far with the most capability and (literally) the most memory,” said former senior CIA official Bruce Riedel, who now runs the Brookings Intelligence Project. …

NSA workers are notoriously secretive. They’re known for keeping their families in the dark about what they do, including their hunt for terror mastermind Osama bin Laden. NSA code-breakers were an essential part of the team that tracked down bin Laden at a compound in Pakistan in 2011.

Their mission tracking al-Qaida and related terrorist groups continues, with NSA analysts and operators sent out to every conflict zone and overseas U.S. post, in addition to surveillance and analysis conducted at headquarters outside Washington.

The director of national intelligence, James Clapper, said in a statement [yesterday] that the NSA’s programs do not target U.S. citizens. But last week’s revelations show that the NSA is allowed to gather U.S. phone calls and emails and to sift through them for information leading to terrorist suspects, as long as a judge signs off. Lawmakers are questioning the scope of the information gathered, and how long and how much of it is kept.

“Does that data all have to be held by the government?” asked Sen. Angus King, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

King, a Maine independent, was briefed on the program this past week, but would not discuss how long the government holds on to the phone records. “I don’t think there is evidence of abuse, but I think the program can be changed to be structured with less levels of intrusion on the privacy of Americans,” he said. …

“Through software, you can search for key words and key phrases linking a communication to a particular group or individual that would fire it off to individual agencies that have interest in it,” just like Amazon or Google scans millions of emails and purchases to track consumer preferences, explained Ronald Marks, a former CIA official and author of Spying in America in the Post 9/11 World.

Detailed algorithms try to determine whether something is U.S. citizen-related or not. “It shows analysts, ‘We’ve got a U.S. citizen here, so we’ve got to be careful with it,'” he said.

Another way counterterrorist officials try to protect U.S. citizens is through centers where operators from the military, CIA, NSA, FBI, Treasury and others sit side by side. When one comes across information that his or her agency is not supposed to access, it’s turned over to someone in the center who’s authorized to see it.

But the process isn’t perfect, and sometimes what should be private information reaches agencies not authorized to see it.

“When information gets sent to the CIA that shouldn’t, it gets destroyed, and a note sent back to NSA saying, ‘You shouldn’t have sent that,'” Marks said. “Mistakes get made, but my own experience on the inside of it is, they tend to be really careful about it.” …

I’m lovin’ those last several paragraphs. We commoners are just supposed to trust that the vast governmental spying that is perpetrated upon us never would be used against us by power-mad individuals who know fully well that information is power, and thus they’re doing their damnedest to gather as much information about us as is possible while they’re telling us that they themselves can’t give us any specific information about their information gathering that they are perpetrating upon us — and that all of this is for our own good. Trust us!

“I don’t think there is evidence of abuse, but I think the program can be changed to be structured with less levels of intrusion on the privacy of Americans,” Sen. Angus King proclaimed.

Of course there wouldn’t be any evidence of abuse by the NSA or any of its subsidiaries. Because of the uber-secretive nature of these organizations, any such evidence never would be made available to anyone on the outside, would it?

And that’s what we are going to be promised in the wake of NSAgate, of course: That, to use King’s words, the “program [will] be changed to be structured with less levels of intrusion on the privacy of Americans.”

Quite predictably, we will be told by the powers that be, including, of course, President Hopey-Changey and his cronies: Shut up and run along now, you silly, paranoid commoners! Trust us! We’ll fix any problems — although, of course, we can’t share any information about that with you! For your own security!

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Mississippi is still burning

Constance McMillen, an 18-year-old senior at Itawamba County ...

Associated Press photo

Lesbian high-school student Constance McMillen was told by her rural Mississippi high-school officials that she could neither wear a tuxedo nor bring her girlfriend to her high-school prom — which the officials then canceled altogether because of her insistence that she be allowed to attend with her girlfriend, wearing what she wishes to wear. It wasn’t that long ago that mixed-race dancing was prohibited at red-state high-school proms, and the same “arguments” that were used to justify racial discrimination are now used to justify discrimination based upon sexual orientation — not only in rural Mississippi but even in the U.S. military, as the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is debated even though it clearly violates the principles of the U.S. Constitution.

If you have read me for any time at all, you know that there is a lot that I fucking hate.

I hate the U.S. military. Not the individual members of the U.S. military, necessarily — although I question how they can support the U.S. military when it has been debased into becoming little but bands of thugs for the megacorporations’ profits (bands of thugs paid for by us, the American taxpayers, and of course the megacorporations don’t pay their fair share of taxes) — but the whole damn idea of the U.S. military, with its might-makes-right, jingoistic bent. The majority of those in the military call themselves devout Christians, too, as though Jesus Christ would have had anything to do with their maiming and killing for the expansion and the preservation of the American Empire in the names of freedom and democracy — and even in the name of Jesus Christ.

Yet, as much as I never would have joined the U.S. military, opposing pretty much all that it stands for (patriarchy, violence and aggression, jingoism, misogyny, homophobia, “Christo”fascism, xenophobia, etc., etc.), I have a real fucking problem with the fact that non-heterosexuals don’t have equal human and civil rights in the U.S. military, that they can be expelled from the military or prevented from joining the military for solely who and what they are.

I never went to my high school prom, either. Not so much because I’m gay and because in the red state of Arizona in the mid-1980s there was no way in hell that I had the opportunity to go to my high-school prom with another male, but because I hate the whole concept of proms, too. I find them to be pretentious wastes of money, relics from the past. (I love the original film version of Stephen King’s “Carrie,” by the way…)

But the idea that high-school officials in rural Missifuckingssippi canceled the high school’s prom because a lesbian student wants to attend prom with her girlfriend boils my blue-state blood.

Reports The Associated Press:

School officials in a rural Mississippi county told a lesbian student to get “guys” to take her and her girlfriend to a high school prom and warned the girls against slow dancing with each other because that could “push people’s buttons,” according to documents filed [today] in federal court.

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the Itawamba County School District and some officials at Itawamba Agricultural High School on behalf of Constance McMillen, 18, who wanted to escort her girlfriend to the prom and wear a tuxedo. A hearing is scheduled for Monday to hear an ACLU motion that seeks to force the district to hold the April 2 prom it canceled after McMillen made her requests.

In the court documents, McMillen said Rick Mitchell, the assistant principal at the school, told her she could not attend the prom with her girlfriend but they could go with “guys.”

Superintendent Teresa McNeece told the teen that the girls should attend the prom separately, had to wear dresses and couldn’t slow dance with each other because that could “push people’s buttons,” according to court documents.

The school district last week said it wouldn’t host the prom “due to the distractions to the educational process caused by recent events.” District officials said they hoped private citizens would sponsor a dance. The decision came on the same day the ACLU asked the district to act on McMillen’s prom requests.

McMillen said she approached school officials weeks ago about wanting to take her girlfriend to the prom.

“I want my prom experience to be the same as all of the other students, a night to remember with the person I’m dating,” McMillen said.

The district, located in northern Mississippi near the Alabama state line, prohibits same-sex dates at the prom. The ACLU has said that violates the rights of gay and lesbian students.

The school district had not responded to the ACLU filing by [this] afternoon.

Christine Sun, a senior counsel with the ACLU’s national gay rights project, said the organization is determined to put the prom back on the school calendar.

Fulton Mayor Paul Walker said he has heard that parents are making plans for a private dance but he didn’t know the details. It’s unclear if gay couples would be welcome at that event….

Shit like this makes me wonder why in the hell the blue states didn’t just allow the red states to secede way back in the day of President Abe. (Speaking of whom, did you know that red states started seceding from the Union after his election but even before his inauguration? Um, yeah.) But then I remind myself that the oppressed peoples of the red states, without the help of those of us of the blue states, would be completely at the mercy of the mouth-breathing fucktards who dominate the red states. It’s not right to allow that to happen.

Equal human and civil rights — liberty and justice for all — just don’t grow naturally in the red states. They have to be forced upon the red states from without. It’s unfortunate that that is so, but it is the red states’ fault — for all of their talk of the founding fathers, for fuck’s sake — for their absolute refusal to live up to the American ideals that every0ne is created equal and that everyone has the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Two female students or two male students dancing at prom together would “push people’s buttons.” Oh, boo fucking hoo!

Was not the very same argument made to outlaw mixed-race dancing at red-state high-school proms past? Or to disallow non-white students to attend prom at all?

And the prom was canceled “due to the distractions to the educational process caused by recent events”?

Really?

Or was the prom canceled because the high school officials are a bunch of fucking homophobes and/or fucking cowards?

“Due to the distractions to the educational process caused by recent events” — that is what you call blaming the victim, who in this case is the lesbian student who just wants the equal human and civil rights to which she is entitled by the founding documents of the United States of America, including the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence (which, I understand, are being rewritten for the Texas public-school textbooks…).

Goddess bless the ACLU.

If a good number of high-school students truly do have a problem seeing same-sex couples at their schools’ dances, that’s probably because they just never see it. What you never have seen, when you see it, can feel and seem quite alien.

But it’s fucking circular: Same-sex dancing at high-school proms is rarely or never seen at most high schools, and so it’s taboo, and because it’s taboo, it is banned at many if not most high schools, and because it is banned, it is never seen, and because it is never seen, it remains taboo, and…

Constance McMillen is brave; she is a sort of Rosa Parks for 2010.

I admire her.

I love her balls.

I hope that she gets to go to her high-school prom with the person of her choice, wearing what she wishes to wear, and that by so doing, she shows her classmates what the noble American principles that the red-staters only claim to value actually look like.

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