Originally Published: 6/15/2013
National Security as an Industry: That an uneducated, untrained, 29-year-old, high school drop-out who was only employed for 3 months (Guardian) was given top-secret clearance should make anyone cringe. Edward Snowden worked for Booz Allen Hamilton, one of the several companies known as “Beltway Bandits.” These are “private companies in or near Washington whose major business is providing services to the government.” Booz Allen gets about 98% of its revenue from government contracts. It’s employees, who’ve taken no oath to uphold the Constitution and whose only interest is to make lots of money for their employer, are the ones vacuuming up all our data. Snowden claimed that his clearance was such that he had the ability to “wiretap the President” if he wanted. (Business Insider) Does anyone else see something very wrong with this?
It’s Not Just Booz Allen: Our quest for privatization of everything has led to privatizing our national security. Private companies that have one purpose - to make money - are handling our national security. And Booz Allen Hamilton isn’t the only one. AlterNet has a great piece on the private companies that are “getting rich examining your private information for the government.” Former NSA Director Michael Hayden described these companies as “digital Blackwater.” “Over the past decade, the U.S. intelligence community has relied increasingly on the technical expertise of private firms such as Booz Allen, SAIC, the Boeing subsidiary Narus, and Northrop Grumman. About 70% of the national intelligence budget was spent on the private sector as of 2007.” (Democracy Now) And, according to Bloomberg, the data the national security agencies get is routinely shared with private corporations. Think Progress uncovered a plot by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce where they hired, through a lobbying firm, some of these security companies to use the data against political enemies. John Nichols at The Nation wrote: “Political candidates, political parties, Super PACs, and dark-money groups are among the most ambitious data miners around. They use data to supercharge their fund-raising, to target multimillion-dollar ad buys, and to stir passions and fears at election time.” Tim Shorrock at The Nation calls this a modern-day stasi state.
Private Take-Over: A report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said that a total of 483,263 contractors held top secret clearances in 2012. That’s almost one-half million non-government people with access to the most secret things held by the U.S. government. Add it to the number of public sector employees with top secret clearance and we have 1.4 million people. Some secret, huh? Tim Murphy at Mother Jones has numbers that’ll make your jaw drop. There were 4.4 million private contractors serving the federal government in 1999. By 2005 there were 7.6 million. However, in 1999 there were 1.8 federal civil servants and in 2005 the number was unchanged. No increase. Government functions were transferred from federal employees to the private sector, where the costs are much higher because of the profit motive. 90% of the intelligence contracts are classified - we don’t know who they are. There are 1,931 private firms working on counterterrorism, intelligence, or homeland security.
NSA’s Rise: Long before Bush launched the Global War on Terror after 9/11, the NSA was calling for our leaders to “rethink” the 4th Amendment. Transition 2001, dated December 2000 (after Bush’s appointment to the presidency by the Supreme Court but before he was sworn in), shows that the NSA was planning changes that would take place under the new administration. Do you remember the Project for the New American Century? Its paper, Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century, is revealing. On page 51 it states: “Control of space and cyberspace. Much as control of the high seas - and the protection of international commerce - defined global powers in the past, so will control of the new ‘international commons’ be a key to world power in the future. An America incapable of protecting its interests or that of its allies in space or the ‘infosphere’ will find it difficult to exert global political leadership.” It’s important to remember that the Project for the New American Century envisioned a kick-off by a “new Pearl Harbor event” which would lead to a dominance of commerce, trade, financial markets, and global political leadership. They even outlined the steps, starting with the collapse of the global economy wherein they could take control and then NSA asserting control over cyperspace. The last 10 years of increased “patriotic” surveillance will culminate this fall with the opening of the new NSA complex at Camp Williams, Utah. “Billions of dollars have gone into creating this cyberintelligence facility for the National Security Agency.” No one has bothered to tell us taxpayers who paid for this monster what it is for, but “it’s obviously been built to vastly increase the agency’s capacity to suck in, digest, analyze, and store whatever the intelligence community decides to collect.” (Daily Beast)
Legislation: A bill introduced by Senators Jeff Merkley (D, OR), Mike Lee (R, UT), Patrick Leahy (D, VT), Dean Heller (R, NV), Mark Begich (D, AK), Al Franken (D, MN), Jon Tester (D, MT), and Ron Wyden (D, OR) would supposedly shed light on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) opinions by requiring the Attorney General to declassify its decisions. In this way the public would know how the government is interpreting its legal authority to snoop under the Patriot Act and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Let me point out that the reason the FISC was created in the first place was because they wanted to keep the issues secret.
Greece: As part of the austerity program which has so devastated the country, this week the public television broadcaster, ERT, shut down. It’s been on the air for more than 70 years. More than 2,500 employees lost their jobs. (BBC) This will do a lot to help the economy, won’t it? MSCI, an investment index provider, has moved Greece from its “Developed Markets” index to “Emerging Markets.” This is the first time the company has downgraded a country from developed to emerging since it launched the emerging markets index in 1987. (Wall Street Journal)
Syria: Despite the lack of confirmation as to who, if anyone, is using chemical weapons (TWW, Syria, 5/11/13), our wonderful “intelligence community” says that it has “high confidence” that it is being used by the Assad regime. So, Obama has decided to send “military support” to the rebels. (McClatchy) Apparently he had to be dragged into this decision, with the final push coming from Bill Clinton. (NY Times)
Sequestration: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is urging the U.S. to repeal its “sweeping” cuts due to sequestration. “In its annual check of the health of the U.S. economy, the IMF forecast economic growth would be a sluggish 1.9% this year. The IMF estimates growth would be as much as 1.75 percentage points higher if not for a rush to cut the government’s budget deficit.” [Emphasis added.] (Reuters) You think anyone will listen? Not a chance.
Supremes on Genes: The Supreme Court has determined that “isolated human genes may not be patented.” It was a unanimous opinion. “The case concerned patents held by Myriad Genetics, a Utah company, on genes that correlate with increased risk of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.” (NY Times)
DNA Collection: In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision regarding collecting DNA (TWW, The Supremes on DNA, 6/8/13), “a growing number” of local law enforcement agencies are amassing their own DNA databases of potential suspects, once the domain of the FBI. “These local databases operate under their own rules, providing the police much more leeway than state and federal regulations. And the police sometimes collect samples from far more than those convicted of or arrested for serious offenses - in some cases, innocent victims of crimes who do not necessarily realize their DNA will be saved for future searches.” (NY Times)
IRS-gate: “A U.S Internal Revenue Service manager, who described himself as a conservative Republican, told congressional investigators that he and a local colleague decided to give conservative groups the extra scrutiny that has prompted weeks of political controversy.” (Reuters)
Transgendered Persons: The Social Security Administration will now allow transgendered people to change their gender listing. (Raw Story)
Plan B: The Obama administration announced that it was going to drop all appeals (TWW, Plan B, 6/8/13) to restrict access to the morning after pill. (NY Times)
GMOs: A study published by the Journal of Organic Systems found that “pigs fed a diet of only genetically modified grain showed markedly higher stomach inflammation than pigs who dined on conventional feed.” GMO crops are “widely used by U.S. and Latin American farmers and in many other countries around the world. (Reuters) So, what does this stuff do to humans?
High-Fructose Corn Syrup: A new study by Canadian researchers found that high-fructose corn syrup can cause reactions similar to those of cocaine. In other words, it’s addictive. This may explain the global obesity epidemic as well as the rise in diabetes and liver disease. (Daily Mail)
Meat: Britain is saying that, if they ate less meat, “It would ease inflation and help the developing world.” These are some awakening statistics: Globally “livestock stands accused of producing 37% of the world’s methane (which has 23 times the global warming potential of CO2). More than 55% of the agriculture sector’s emissions come from rearing livestock alone. The meat and dairy sector uses 70% of the agricultural land.” (Guardian)
Wage Drop: In the first 3 months of 2013, hourly wages for nonfarm workers dropped 3.8% - the largest drop in the 65 years that the statistic has been collected. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
Rigging Rates: Traders “at some of the world’s biggest banks manipulated benchmark foreign-exchange (FX) rates used to set the value of trillions of dollars of investments.” They’ve been “front-running and rigging WM/Reuters rates” by pushing through trades before and during the 60-second windows when the benchmarks are set. In other words, “dealers colluded with counterparts to boost chances of moving the rates.” They did this daily to affect the value of funds and derivatives. “The $4.7-trillion-a-day currency market, the biggest in the financial system, is one of the least regulated.” Of course, the financial institutions profited big-time off this manipulation. (Bloomberg) If this gets confusing, try Matt Taibbi’s piece at the Rolling Stone. It’s much more understandable.