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In today’s New York Times some of the big questions get answered.. Who is looking at all that data? It’s not the government as we were led to believe…
“I’m very concerned that we have government contractors doing what are essentially governmental jobs,” Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said last week.
“Maybe we should bring some of that more in-house,” the House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, mused.
It’s a little late for that. Seventy percent of America’s intelligence budget now flows to private contractors. Going by this year’s estimated budget of about $80 billion, that makes private intelligence a $56 billion-a-year industry.
For decades, the N.S.A. relied on its own computer scientists, cryptographers and mathematicians to tap, decode and analyze communications .. Then came Al Gore’s internet. The NSA could not keep up. In 2000, James R. Clapper Jr., now the director of national intelligence, decided to shift away from its in-house development strategy and outsource on a huge scale.
It does. Here’s why. First, it is dangerous to have half a million people — the number of private contractors holding top-secret security clearances — peering into the lives of their fellow citizens. Contractors aren’t part of the chain of command at the N.S.A. or other agencies and aren’t subject to Congressional oversight. Officially, their only loyalty is to their company and its shareholders.
With billions of dollars of government money sloshing around, and with contractors providing advice on how to spend it, conflicts of interest and corruption are inevitable…
Third, we’ve allowed contractors to conduct our most secret and sensitive operations with virtually no oversight. This is true not only at the N.S.A. Contractors now work alongside the C.I.A. in covert operations (two of the Americans killed in Benghazi were C.I.A. contractors; we still don’t know who their employer was). Contractors were involved in secret and highly sensitive operations that by law are reserved for government operatives.
Whereas you privacy was originally thought between you and the government which was scary in itself… now we understand it was between you, your government and 500,000 private citizens just trying to make a buck anyway they can… Checked your bank balances lately?
(We told you to vote NO for the Patriot Act and its subsequent renewals… What were you all thinking?)
it is probably time to discuss this.
For years we have quietly known and accepted the negatives of having an NSA. Things like we need it for our protection, or it makes things safer, tended to overide our fears that they know too much already, and I can’t do anything in private anymore…
We accepted that as progress.
However, when you have an organization so secret, that members of Congress are shocked to find out what it is doing, that no one knows who is authorizing who gets spied upon and what, that when brought before the courts for overstepping the Constitution, it can’t be prosecuted because a) it operates under “secret” laws, b) with “secret operations”, c) authorized by “secret courts” …. it is time to shut the entire operation down.
Why do we have the NSA when we have the CIA and the FBI. The FBI covers domestic spying. The CIA covers international spying. So, unless we find out that there are aliens and the NSA is really running the world while we think otherwise, then it probably ought to go.
I find it interesting that those on the far right, and those on the far left are the most outraged by this disclosure. We’ve been stating that news on this blog after the story was broken back in 2007-8 and not one press person cared. I supposed the AP Story opened their eyes this time. Struggling to put a finger on why, I came up with the theory primarily by looking at Congress, that it is the libertarians on left and right who are against, and the conformist, primarily in the center who are acceptive. So this gives us a split where the bottom third and the top third of the political body are opposed to the middle third… If you look at Congress that is exactly how it splits up. Moderates are pro domestic spying, the libertarians are not.
Probably similar is the theory that those beholden to corporate interests are pro-spying, after all, that is normal in the corporate environment; interoffice spying is not limited by any judicial system because it is deemed to be private. Those aghast, tend to fight corporate intrusion from their original political perspective, either left of right.
What the NSA does, watch everything to discern what is happening to increase its chances of survival, is not new. Intelligence has been the secret success of many an empire. Knowing what someone will do before they do it, is pretty comfortable in a world where in a day, we probably pass within 10 feet of 10,000 people (that includes inside our vehicles).
That is what all governments with the capacity, do. The biggest argument against it, is that it is un-American. Sure we have the “ability” to do it, but do we have the restraint, not to…
America has always been ruled by restraint. When Washington was entreated to be the King, he restrained and said no. When the heads of Europe all bet that Washington would invent a method to stay in power, he restrained, and government turned over peacefully. When the US was left in charge of a broken Europe, it put it back together and went home. The only country to invade another and give it back willingly to its original owners.
We had a scare in Boston a while back. Did the NSA protect us then? It’s a secret, no one knows. In Newtown 26 bodies littered the floor of an elementary school. Did the NSA protect us then? When a gunman burst into Aurora firing into the audience, did the NSA protect us then? When Gabby Gifford took a bullet, where was the NSA? Did the NSA protect us then?
That is the point. We are always in danger. But our personal lives are more at risk if our private information should fall into a competitors hands, than being victim of a terrorist. In Boston just 2 people died. In Newton 26. But each and every one of us, is at risk that selective information from ones past, can be used in secret to smear each and every one of us, should it fall into the wrong hands.
What would happen if we shut the entire agency known as the NSA down? A big nothing. They overstepped. It is not knee-jerking anger to respond “Shut them down right now!” It it calm, cool reasoning tipping the balance, that points out simply that is the right way to go.
So just putz, putz, putzing around the internet, all snug in the Holiday spirit, off a click of a click, I saw a heading saying something like “Wire tap bill moves to Friday’s vote…”
Wiretap Bill? Gosh, that is so far in back of my head, I really haven’t thought of wiretaps since… Cheney left?
Of course I’ve heard Obama hasn’t done much to mitigate, in fact he has made it worse, but wasn’t that set in stone back in 2008 or something?
No. The 2008 Bill expires 12/31/2012…. After that point, Comcast, Verizon, Facebook or any other telecommunication network, can no longer turn your information over to the government without a warrant…..
But wait. There is an attempt to sneak it through now, while no one is paying attention. Extending it for 5 years… Meaning is will expire after Obama has left office.
The bill was to come up today, voice vote and pass. However watchdogs (EFF, ACLU, Judical Watch, etc) caught it and scurried to get enough people to cause it to be debated. Tomorrow, our rights are on the line. It needs a lot of calls and every citizen who has any libertarian steak inside, needs to get really excited and call their Senators.. (The House version passed a long time ago on a perfunctory voice vote with no debate.)
It must be stopped in the Senate. If the vote to extend it fails. then by January 1, 2013. It is done.
This bill was enacted over the objections of Congress by executive order of George W. Bush. It was to expire in 2008 when it passed confirmation and became law for 4 more years.
9/11 is done. We have left Iraq. We are leaving Afghanistan. We do not need the government going through our private matters unless of course it has reason to… That will be decided by a judge… He will issue a warrant.
As an example of why we need this, the Obama administration has taken a position that makes the Bush administration pro-secrecy campaign seem pale in comparison: namely, that no one can challenge warrantless surveillance unless the government tells you in advance that you’re being surveilled—which national security interests prevent it from doing…
Which means, unless this law expires. it can’t be challenged.
Your voice is needed. The EFF, Electronic Frontier Foundation is the easiest way to reach Carper and Coons. Type in your zip code and a form pops up which sends your message directly to their Senate office. Or the old fashioned way……
Sen. Tom Carper
Sen. Chris Coons
Debate begins at 11 am Eastern…. Vote is later this day….
I’m not the only one comparing Egypt with Iran (79).. Both were populist revolts against dictators, both were lifting off oppressive regimes.
As the people poured into Tehran, Carter did not give them support. We were too tied to the Shah. Thereby when he left, there was a period where the population looked around, saying “what do we do now?”
Khomeini, was in France. He quickly packed and moved back to Iran, and the mullahs, who were the only structure left in that nation, by default, became the government. One that was quite hostile to the US; and considering we supported their oppressor, one would expect they should be…
But for a moment, there was hopefullness. Perhaps here was a new American revolution, where a government was ruled by its citizens, and not … vice versa. There was jubilation, hope, and joy.
Then Khomeini set up shop, and the mullahs—and a roving army of “spiritual enforcers” known as the Revolutionary Guards—ended up substituting one autocratic regime for another. In doing so, they dashed the hopes of millions of middle class Iranians who thought the revolution would bring more freedom, not less.
Women lost the social gains they had made under the Shah, and were forced to wear head coverings and full-body cloaks called chadors. Opponents were imprisoned and tortured as ruthlessly as under the Shah. A parliamentary democracy existed mostly on paper, with true authority residing with the mullahs. With the Shah in exile, Khomeini identified the U.S. as “the Great Satan” and an “enemy of Islam.”
We seemed to be on the same track in Egypt. The Obama administration was proceeding too cautiously, voicing support for Mubarak to finish his term. That made Egyptians view us suspiciously. Was the United States unwilling to see just how hated Mubarak really was? Could they not gauge the hatred which average Egyptians felt towards this man?
Obama was pulling a Carter… Fortunately for the world, instead of a Walter Mondale, he has a Joe Biden (he’s from Delaware, you know) who steps up and speaks from the heart, as would Jackson, Lincoln, Cleveland, Truman, other leaders also cut from the common cloth…
“He stressed that the Egyptian government is responsible for ensuring that peaceful demonstrations don’t lead to violence and intimidation and for allowing journalists and human rights advocates to conduct their important work, including immediately releasing those who have been detained,
Joe Biden is needed in Egypt. The Obama team is too blind. Their backing Suleiman will backfire. He is known as “The CIA’s Man in Cairo.” for his his ardent anti-Islamism, his willingness to talk and act tough on Iran -
Mubarak knew that Suleiman would command an instant lobby of supporters at Langley and among ‘Iran nexters’ in Washington – not to mention among other authoritarian mukhabarat-dependent regimes in the region. Suleiman is a favourite of Israel too; he held the Israel dossier and directed Egypt’s efforts to crush Hamas by demolishing the tunnels that have functioned as a smuggling conduit for both weapons and foodstuffs into Gaza.
Obviously this is not what the Egyptians, those sleeping out in the cold to protest another day, crowds who stop rioting to bow their heads, ex-patriots who are abandoning their European jobs to fight for their homeland against tyranny and oppression, want…
No! America needs to be like France was to us during our similar Revolution. “What do you need?” “I have it if you can deliver?” ” can put our fleet off Yorktown for a week, can you be there?
Only then, if we support the people, … it won’t matter who becomes the ruler. Whoever it is, will be beholden to the people, a people who will love the United States of America.. … Instead of the Great Satan, we become the Great Angel…..
We can do this: and Delaware’s own Joe Biden has taken the lead. His words rippled through Tahrir square like wildfire……
On the other hand the person to whom Obama seems to be willing to throw his support, figured predominantly as Egypt’s torturer-in-chief, during the days of rendition by the US of terror suspects to extract information. At least one person extraordinarily rendered by the CIA to Egypt — Egyptian-born Australian citizen Mamdouh Habib — was reportedly tortured by Suleiman himself.
Equally embarrassing for the Obama administration, is Suleiman’s involvement in the famous torture evidence erroneously proving a link between Saddam and Al Qaeda. It was later refuted. His whereabouts were, in fact, a secret for years, until April 2009 when Human Rights Watch researchers investigating the treatment of Libyan prisoners encountered him in the courtyard of a prison. Two weeks later, on May 10, al-Libi was dead, and the Gaddafi regime claimed it was a suicide.
According to Evan Kohlmann, who enjoys favored status among US officials as an ‘al-Qaeda expert’, citing a classified source: ‘Al-Libi’s death coincided with the first visit by Egypt’s spymaster Omar Suleiman to Tripoli.
Are we putting in another Shah? Another spymaster who will torture and use fear to exert control? We’re doomed if we do…
Better to let the middle class do whatever it is they want, elect whoever it is they want…. Forget the ruler… support the people…
Joe Biden knows this….
Duffy is God’s answer to a prayer.. I miss the old days of blogging when we were debating principals instead of people… Duffy has stuck to the old line of debating principals with facts, and that is what makes him special in the eyes of bloggers everywhere…
Since the passing of Steve Newton, he has been the only one to challenge me in any argument, and usually some pretty good stuff comes out of both sides during the exchange… I have respected that.. Cause once again, opinions mean dick. Facts are what we steer by.. It is my hope that in responding to his challenge that an answer may make itself apparent.. Who knows? It may not come from me… But if I’m the catalyst for bringing it out in the open, then… none of this was in vain..
Why I like to debate Duffy is simple.. Neither side, he or I, is concretely set in their opinions… We accept it when the other side makes sense… I usually go into such debates having no idea where they’ll end up… I hope the rest of you enjoy the ride as welI….
Duffy leads: Wall Street’s problems were caused by Fannie and Freddie loaning money to people they knew couldn’t pay and moreover, forcing banks to lend money to people who couldn’t pay. That was not deregulation but misregulation
kavips rebutt’s:Uh… Mr. President. That’s not entirely accurate.
First off, the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 was developed for, and locked in on, urban developmental areas and had no part of the subprime boom, which primarily occurred out in western desert regions where owning 4 to 5 investment homes was normal… Those homes were overwhelmingly funded by loan originators NOT SUBJECT to the act… We all know the crises was not because people couldn’t afford a payment on their house. It came about, because with no occupants, people could not afford the payments of 4 to 5 houses….. Instead of one loan per borrower turning up in default; four to five were.
Second off, The housing bubble reached its point of maximum inflation in 2005.
Courtesy of NYT
Third off, During those exact same years, Fannie and Freddie were sidelined by Congressional pressure, and saw a sharp drop in their share of loans secured by the Feds… Follow the dotted line on the very bottom of the graph…
Courtesy of NYT
Fourth off; During those exact same years, private secures, like Delaware’s own AIG, grabbed the lions share of the market.
Courtesy of NYT
Remember these graphs for later on when I discuss the results of deregulation, versus regulation… But like it or not, these graphs conclusively show that private insurers, who thanks to Marie Evans, we now know were deregulated by Phil Gramm in the 2000 Omnibus Bill, were the primary cause of the worlds financial collapse.. Probably put best by these words of AIG’s spokesperson, who when asked why they didn’t have sufficient funds to cover losses, said point blank, “We were deregulated. We were no laws requiring us to keep any funds, ..so we spent it…”
Duffy leads: The loosely regulated hedge funds escaped this mess largely unscathed. Why? They can’t count on a bailout like the big banks. The Too Big To Fail banks were counting on a bailout (not unlike the S&L bailouts which started on the Republican’s watch) and they got them.
kavips rebutt’s:Uh… Mr. President. That’s not entirely accurate. I agree that the hedge funds did survive better than the banks. Not because of bailouts, but because they sold short during the crises and made billions while firms closed and people got thrown out of work. There is nothing wrong with that; I did the same. In fact close readers may remember my warnings that the crises was impending almost a year earlier. Very close readers may remember my telling them exactly when to sell, and at what point the stock market would rebound… I must say: I called it rather well.
“Hedge funds were not in my understanding, at fault in the credit crisis,” said David Ruder, former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. “At the most what they did was to sell securities when some of their investments were declining and they needed to have liquid funds. They were not the architects of these problems.”
De regulated hedge funds are not the issue… De-regulated, excessively leveraged, mortgage securities, are a different story however… They, not the banks that held them, are the cause of the crises…Years from now, when academics search for causes of the stock market crash of 2008, they will focus on the pivotal role of mortgage-backed securities. These exotic financial instruments allowed a downturn in U.S. home prices to morph into a contagion that brought down Bear Stearns a year ago this month – and more recently have brought the global banking system to its knees.
Where you err is when you state that banks too big to fail, assumed they would be bailed out… By implication, you say imply they failed from squandering money, and wanted the bailouts.. But your tax dollars didn’t flow directly to the bottom line.
The roughly $200 billion the Treasury Department has handed out to battered banks was swapped for a special class of stock that pays a 5 percent dividend (rising to 9 percent after five years.) As of April 15, the Treasury had collected about $2.5 billion in dividend payments on its investment.
So in that sense, the bailout money represents an expense for banks. That’s one reason a number of banks have said they want to give the money back as soon as possible.
You say big banks were counting on a bailout, and they got them? That didn’t happen to these banks. New Mexico, Georgia, and Florida each lost a bank just last Friday. That brings to 8, the number of banks failed in June. Unfortunately if a bank is failing, it can’t bet on itself to fail, as can a hedge fund.
Duffy leads: Banks have successfully lobbied to get their losses absorbed by taxpayers and gains are kept private. How nice for them. They felt comfortable making insane gambles because they knew they’d be bailed out. Most of them were right. Also remember that it was Bill Clinton who tore down the wall between retail and investment banking. The idea was to give banks more stability as they typically perform as exact opposites in bull and bear markets. (FWIW, I think that was a good idea and I can tell you first hand that two of the Fortune 100 banks I worked for were carried by retail banking in bear years. They may not have had bonuses those years but they didn’t have layoffs either)
kavips rebutt’s:Uh… Mr. President. That’s not entirely accurate. The idea is that the banks made bad decisions knowing taxpayers would bail them out is the issue that is inaccurate. For the record, I have no qualms that it was the Clinton legacy who tore down the wall between banks and investment banking. Like you, I feel it was a good idea to do so… Again the problem was not primarily with banks making loans to people who could not pay.. Although, it was as late as October 2009, when I was made aware of one private Bank in Denver still exaggerating income to make loans look good enough on paper to get approval of securitization. What caused the collapse was the leveraging of those loans as securities, so that as the housing market became overextended, and the ARM jumped past the low cost opening years, the damage was 100 times worse because of leveraging. What made the collapse criminal, was that the insurance most financial institutions had bought from AIG, to cover such an improbable event, had already spent by that companies executives, out on bonuses to themselves. What made it doubly criminal, was that when they received government dollars through a taxpayer bailout, those same executives assumed it was to first go towards paying their bonuses again. However, very recent events may give some cover to the argument that some collusion was implicit in the bailing out of Goldman Sacs and AIG… Basically, once bailed out, AIG paid Goldman Sacs for shares twice as much as they were worth. The documents also indicate that regulators ignored recommendations from their own advisers to force the banks to accept losses on their A.I.G. deals and instead paid the banks in full for the contracts.