Thursday, July 26, 2007
In a move startlingly similar to that of the East German government during the Cold war, the FBI wants to recruit thousands of covert informants in the US and work with the CIA to train them in an effort to expand and adopt more aggressive intelligence capabilities.
ABC's The Blotter reports that according to a recent unclassified report to Congress, the FBI, driven by a 2004 directive from President Bush, wants to recruit more than 15,000 informants in the US, entailing a complete overhaul of its database systems at a cost of around $22 million.
The FBI expects its informants to provide secrets about possible terrorists and foreign spies, although some may also be expected to aid with criminal investigations, in the tradition of law enforcement confidential informants. The FBI did not respond to requests for comment on this story.
The move comes in addition to other proposals to expand the collection and analysis of data on U.S. persons, retain years' worth of Americans' phone records and even increase so-called "black bag" secret entry operations, the Blotter reports.
Though the FBI has decided not to completely adopt CIA training methods on recruiting informants, which include bribery, extortion, and other patently illegal acts, the two are to work closely together on the program.
Though the reasoning is, as ever, to target terror cells in the US, the report also states that "some may also be expected to aid with criminal investigations, in the tradition of law enforcement confidential informants".
Within the last two years it has come to light that the FBI, along with the Pentagon and the NSA has been spying on antiwar activists, rights groups and peace campaigners within the US, labeling some of them as "terrorists" and placing them within their databases.
It appears operations are now to be stepped up to include the Stasi like recruiting of informants within such groups to report what is deemed to be politically subversive behavior among American citizens.
In 2004 the ACLU revealed that after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 sparked the Bush administration’s “war on terrorism,” Attorney General John Ashcroft scrapped an FBI guideline—enacted after the agency infiltrated numerous groups during the 1960s and 1970s Civil Rights Movement—that blocked its agents from spying on groups and individuals unless they were investigating a crime.
By scrapping that policy, Gen. Ashcroft was, “essentially encouraging FBI agents to do fishing expeditions to spy in mosques, in anti-war meetings ... without any reasonable suspicion that a crime was being committed,” ACLU attorney Ben Wizner said.
In late 2005 lawmakers expressed concern that the FBI was aggressively pushing the powers of the anti-terrorist USA Patriot Act to get access to private phone and financial records of ordinary people.
Around the same time it was revealed that the Bush administration had secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without [obtaining] court-approved warrants.
Though this was dubbed by the corporate mainstream media to be "a major shift in American intelligence-gathering practices", eavesdropping on citizens is nothing new, the only shift that has occurred is that the government can now TELL us that they're spying on us and it will slowly be accepted.
If the mainstream media is to be believed, the National Security Agency engages in “some eavesdropping inside the country,” There are hundreds of sources that prove however that the intelligence services have been operating similar programs for decades.
The FBI itself has been targeting domestic groups since its inception, the most notorious example being Hoover's COINTELPRO (Counter-Intelligence Program) which covertly spied on all manner of organizations and individuals from Dr. Martin Luther King to the National Lawyers Guild.
Operation CHAOS under the CIA highlights another example of domestic spying:
“In June 1970 Nixon met with Hoover [FBI], Helms [CIA], NSA Director Admiral Noel Gaylor, and Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) representative Lt. Gen. Donald V. Bennett and told them he wanted a coordinated and concentrated effort against domestic dissenters,” Verne Lyon - former CIA undercover operative.For over fifteen years, the CIA, with assistance from numerous government agencies, conducted a massive illegal domestic covert operation called Operation CHAOS. It was one of the largest and most pervasive domestic surveillance programs in the history of this country. Throughout the duration of CHAOS, the CIA spied on thousands of U.S. citizens. The CIA went to great lengths to conceal this operation from the public while every president from Eisenhower to Nixon exploited CHAOS for his own political ends."
There are also multiple Pentagon projects in operation that involve the collection of intelligence through domestic eavesdropping. One example is the Defense Department's Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA)
Consider this from William M. Arkin of the Washington Post:
"CIFA already has these authorities, has its own agents, and collects information on common American citizens under the guise of "sabotage" and "force protection" threats to the military. Since 9/11, functions that were previously intended to protect U.S. forces overseas from terrorism and protect U.S. secrets from spies have been combined in one super-intelligence function that constitutes the greatest threat to U.S. civil liberties since the domestic spying days of the 1970's.""On May 2, 2003, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz signed a memorandum directing the military to collect and report "non-validated threat information" relating to U.S. military forces, installations or missions. His memorandum followed from the establishment of the Domestic Threat Working Group after 9/11, the intent of which was to create a mechanism to share low-level domestic "threat information" between the military and intelligence agencies."
Then we have the "Total Information Awareness" program whereby every purchase you make with a credit card, every magazine subscription you buy and medical prescription you fill, every Web site you visit and e-mail you send or receive, every academic grade you receive, every bank deposit you make, every trip you book and every event you attend — all these transactions and communications will go into what the Defense Department describes as "a virtual, centralized grand database."
Shortly after the announcement of TIA, the Pentagon backtracked and told us that TIA was shutting down, but on reading the second paragraph in this article, it becomes clear that the tools are there waiting to be used. The Pentagon has since started up multiple programs all bearing exact similarities to TIA.
The Tools of TIA include "LifeLog" which is described as "a multimedia, digital record of everywhere you go and everything you see, hear, read, say and touch". Another tool is the MATRIX database, A federally funded crime database run by multiple states at once.
Operation TIPS and similar programs were geared towards turning citizens themselves into domestic spies.
Then of course there is the joint NSA / Government Communications Head Quarters of England (GCHQ) Project Echelon. This long running operation was first exposed in the mid nineties and then again most prominently by author James Bamford in his 1999 book Body of Secrets. Bamford comments, "The cooperation between the Echelon countries is worrying. For decades, these organizations have worked closely together, monitoring communications and sharing the information gathered. Now, through Echelon, they are pooling their resources and targets, maximizing the collection and analysis of intercepted information."
In the greatest surveillance effort ever established, the NSA global spy system captures and analyzes virtually every phone call, fax, email and telex message sent anywhere in the world. Quite obviously they cannot listen to everyone anywhere ALL the time, but they have the capability to choose when to listen and who to listen to, wherever they may be.
James Bamford famously recalled how the NSA successfully intercepted satellite calls from Osama Bin Laden in the late nineties as he was talking to his mother.
"I don't want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return." - Senator Frank Church, quoted in ECHELON: America's Secret Global Surveillance Network
Under the Clinton Administration Echelon certainly turned its attention to citizens of countries everywhere and monitored millions of calls and other communications.
Echelon expert Mike Frost, who spent 20 years as a spy for the Canadian equivalent of the National Security Agency, told CBS's "60 Minutes" that the agency was monitoring "everything from data transfers to cell phones to portable phones to baby monitors to ATMs."
Domestic spying is nothing new, there has been at least half a century of such activity in America. However, the general public will believe that government spying on them is new, and secondly, they will just accept it because they are being told in a very unsophisticated fashion, that it is keeping them safe.
On Tuesday current Attorney General Alberto Gonzales once again gave testimony concerning the ongoing investigations into the legality of "terrorist surveillance program" and seemed to confirm that numerous domestic surveillance programs are in operation.
The fact that less than 0.01% of Homeland Security cases are related to terrorism in America begs the question why does America need an army of secret police to keep tabs on its own citizens?Domestic government surveillance is becoming accepted as the norm. The fact remains however that you cannot have a free state that relies upon a covert network of government spies and recruited informants to maintain law and order within its own borders.