Friday, June 7, 2013

Government Surveillance and Data Mining Reading List

Got yer weekend reading assignment all lined up, folks...
Digging around at my old blog, I uncovered a few links that put the current hoopla about government secrecy and spying into a more historic perspective. 
These practices are nothing new. 
It's always been happening but the Twin Towers attack put the spy people on steroids. 

Take a look at these links:

2005 ==►Sixty-four percent (64%) of Americans believe the National Security Agency (NSA) should be allowed to intercept telephone conversations between terrorism suspects in other countries and people living in the United States. A Rasmussen Reports survey found that just 23% disagree.

2005 ==►Liberals are claiming that President Bush has violated constitutional restrictions on torture and spying on Americans. Don’t they understand that the constitution is a living document that must be reinterpreted in light of new events and understandings? An originalist reading of the constitution would throw us back into the primitive past when the minimum wage was unconstitutional. Fortunately, conservatives know that constitutional interpretation must change with the times and never more so than now. We live in a different world. The Founding Fathers may have been great in their time but they did not face the problems that we face today and we should not be bound by their 18th century ideas of liberty and executive tyranny.

2004 ==► (Australia) Big Brother sends in the hit squads to clean up national security threat (Who think America is behind Australia?  Hold up your hands.)

2005 ==►This week, The New York Times revealed that the Bush administration ignored the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, and intercepted telephone calls and e-mails from American citizens without a warrant. FISA requires that investigators provide a judge with evidence that there's reason to believe the person they plan to place under surveillance is an agent of a foreign power. Applications for these warrants are at an all-time high, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (often called "the secret court") almost never denies the requests.

2005==► A BBC article from 2004 reported that intelligence agencies routinely employ the remote-activiation method. "A mobile sitting on the desk of a politician or businessman can act as a powerful, undetectable bug," the article said, "enabling them to be activated at a later date to pick up sounds even when the receiver is down."
For its part, Nextel said through spokesman Travis Sowders: "We're not aware of this investigation, and we weren't asked to participate."
Other mobile providers were reluctant to talk about this kind of surveillance. Verizon Wireless said only that it "works closely with law enforcement and public safety officials. When presented with legally authorized orders, we assist law enforcement in every way possible."
Verizon? Where have we heard that?

2005 ==► The largest U.S. spy agency warned the incoming Bush administration in its "Transition 2001" report that the Information Age required rethinking the policies and authorities that kept the National Security Agency in compliance with the Constitution's 4th Amendment prohibition on "unreasonable searches and seizures" without warrant and "probable cause," according to an updated briefing book of declassified NSA documents posted today on the World Wide Web.

2005 ==► Echelon  [ACLU Report here]
Much of what we know about the NSA's spying prior to the recent revelations comes from the late 1990s, when a fair amount of information emerged about a system popularly referred to by the name "Echelon" -- a codename the NSA had used at least at one time (although their continued use of the term, if at all, is unknown). Echelon was a system for mass eavesdropping on communications around the world by the NSA and its allies among the intelligence agencies of other nations. The best source of information on Echelon was two reports commissioned by the European Parliament (in part due to suspicions among Europeans that the NSA was carrying out economic espionage on behalf of American corporations). Other bits of information were gleaned from documents obtained through the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, as well as statements by foreign governments that were partners in the program (the UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand).

As of the late 1990s/early 2000s, Echelon swept up global communications using two primary methods:

  • The interception of satellite and microwave signals. One way that telephone calls and other communications are sent from the United States to Europe and other destinations is via satellite and microwave transmissions. ECHELON was known to use numerous satellite receivers ("dishes") -- located on the east and west coasts of the United States, in England, Australia, Germany, and elsewhere around the globe -- to vacuum up the "spillover" broadcasts from these satellite transmissions.
  • Transoceanic cable tapping. ECHELON's other primary eavesdropping method was to tap into the transoceanic cables that also carry phone calls across the seas. According to published reports, American divers were able to install surveillance devices onto these cables. One of these taps was discovered in 1982, but other devices apparently continued to function undetected. It is more difficult to tap into fiber-optic cables (which unlike other cables do not "leak" radio signals that can be picked up by a device attached to the outside of the cable), but there is no reason to believe that that problem remained unsolved by the agency.
We do not know the extent to which these sources of data continue to be significant for the NSA, or the extent to which they have been superseded by the agency's new direct access to the infrastructure, including the Internet itself, over which both voice and data communications travel.

2006 ==►Shameless self-promotion here. One of this blogger's archived posts discussing data mining and government secrecy. I was pleased with what I said seven years ago and it still sounds pretty good. 

Data Mining by Big Brother: A Primer

Talk Left has published a model of journalistic excellence in blogging, a comprehensive survey of data mining applications by official agencies of the government. An ever-improving capability of the private sector to sift through unbelievable volumes of generic information for the purpose of improving services or products has political implications and applications of which the vast majority of our democratically elected form of government are unaware.

Hold that thought as you go wading through this link. It is easy to forget which forest you are in because the trees are so interesting. We are about to travel from the private sector forest into the government sector. The dynamic of rewards and punishments for the two is very different. In the private sector, rewards and punishments can be measured in dollars. But in the government sector, euphemistically called the public sector, the rewards are less manageable on a spreadsheet. The metric here becomes a toxic mix of power, taxes, votes, and political planning with a very different agenda than the bottom line of a balance sheet.


Shift now to the present. 
This is yesterdays entry on Secrecy News, blog of the Federation of American Scientists. 

Read this post title carefully. 
Take time to let the acronym MARO entice your imagination.

DoD Releases Doctrine on Mass Atrocity Response Operations
Joint Publication 3-07.3
Over a hundred pages long for
your weekend reading pleasure. 
Military Doctrine, Secrecy

The Department of Defense this week released the 2012 update of its doctrine on“Peace Operations” including new guidance on so-called Mass Atrocity Response Operations that are designed to prevent or halt genocide or other large-scale acts of violence directed at civilian populations.

A mass atrocity consists of “widespread and often systematic acts of violence against civilians by state or non-state armed groups, including killing, causing serious bodily or mental harm, or deliberately inflicting conditions of life that cause serious bodily or mental harm,” the updated Pentagon guidance said in Joint Publication 3-07.3 on Peace Operations.

“Mass atrocities can erupt at any time during any operation even in an initially uncontested peacekeeping or humanitarian relief operation,” it stated.

Mass Atrocity Response Operations, or MARO, is a newly adopted doctrinal concept that is detailed in Appendix B to the DoD Joint Publication on Peace Operations. The document, dated 01 August 2012, was withheld from online public access on the DoD Joint Electronic Library. But a copy was released to the Federation of American Scientists this week under the Freedom of Information Act.

The MARO concept (and even the term itself) is traceable to an influential advocacy effort by Sarah Sewall and her colleagues at the Harvard Kennedy School over the past several years.

In a 2010 Handbook on MARO, they wrote that “The United States does not currently recognize mass atrocities as a unique operational challenge, and there is no operational concept or doctrine that might help commanders understand the dynamics and demands of responding to mass atrocities. As a result, the US is not fully prepared to intervene effectively in a mass atrocity situation.”

Their project aimed to change that state of affairs, and they succeeded to a remarkable extent. “The term MARO is not yet enshrined in military doctrine,” they wrote then, “but it should be.” And now, with the new Joint Publication on Peace Operations, it is.

(Along the way, in the August 2011 Presidential Study Directive 10, President Obama declared that “Preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States.”)

But the Harvard MARO Project was not without critics. Alan J. Kuperman of the University of Texas wrote that the 2010 MARO Handbook emphasized operational issues to the detriment of larger strategic considerations: “Unfortunately, since military intervention can unintentionally increase the likelihood of atrocities, the ‘how’ of intervention is inextricably linked to debates about ‘whether’ such action is advisable.”

“Since the advent of widespread humanitarian military intervention in the 1990s, such operations have frequently backfired strategically, by increasing civilian suffering, contrary to their political objective,” he wrote. (“Mass Atrocity Response Operations: Doctrine in Search of Strategy,” Genocide Studies and Prevention, April 2011, pp. 59-65.)

The new DoD doctrine appears cognizant of these ambiguities and countervailing factors, without being to resolve them in any categorical way.

“The PO [peace operations] force may face difficulties when conducting MARO,” the doctrine notes, “including the challenge of distinguishing between perpetrator and victim groups when the groups are intermingled, when atrocities are being committed by multiple groups, or when the actions are reciprocal… Because a MARO can alter power balances, former victim groups may be able to conduct their own revenge atrocities…. Many people may be misled into assisting in the commission of atrocities by being convinced that they are acting in self-defense.”

“MARO can include unique escalatory dynamics,” as further detailed in the Joint Publication. “By pursuing MARO, the PO force may change the dynamics on the ground, leading to the potential for MARO to generate second- and third-order effects, intended or unintended.”

These are not issues that can be conclusively settled in military doctrine. “Most of the complexity in MARO — e.g., how to identify perpetrators, whether to treat the symptoms of the violence and/or the root causes, and the degree of risk to assume in moving swiftly — should be addressed by interagency mechanisms such as the President’s Atrocities Prevention Board.”

It will still be up to policymakers “to provide the PO [peace operations] force commander with clear guidance and objectives.”


2011, August 4 ==► SUBJECT: Creation of an Interagency Atrocities Prevention Board and Corresponding Interagency Review

Preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States.
Our security is affected when masses of civilians are slaughtered, refugees flow across borders, and murderers wreak havoc on regional stability and livelihoods. America's reputation suffers, and our ability to bring about change is constrained, when we are perceived as idle in the face of mass atrocities and genocide. Unfortunately, history has taught us that our pursuit of a world where states do not systematically slaughter civilians will not come to fruition without concerted and coordinated effort.

Governmental engagement on atrocities and genocide too often arrives too late, when opportunities for prevention or low-cost, low-risk action have been missed. By the time these issues have commanded the attention of senior policy makers, the menu of options has shrunk considerably and the costs of action have risen.

In the face of a potential mass atrocity, our options are never limited to either sending in the military or standing by and doing nothing. The actions that can be taken are many they range from economic to diplomatic interventions, and from non combat military actions to outright intervention. But ensuring that the full range of options is available requires a level of governmental organization that matches the methodical organization characteristic of mass killings.

Sixty six years since the Holocaust and 17 years after Rwanda, the United States still lacks a comprehensive policy framework and a corresponding interagency mechanism for preventing and responding to mass atrocities and genocide. This has left us ill prepared to engage early, proactively, and decisively to prevent threats from evolving into large scale civilian atrocities.

Accordingly, I hereby direct the establishment of an interagency Atrocities Prevention Board within 120 days from the date of this Presidential Study Directive. The primary purpose of the Atrocities Prevention Board shall be to coordinate a whole of government approach to preventing mass atrocities and genocide. By institutionalizing the coordination of atrocity prevention, we can ensure: (1) that our national security apparatus recognizes and is responsive to early indicators of potential atrocities; (2) that departments and agencies develop and implement comprehensive atrocity prevention and response strategies in a manner that allows "red flags" and dissent to be raised to decision makers; (3) that we increase the capacity and develop doctrine for our foreign service, armed services, development professionals, and other actors to engage in the full spectrum of smart prevention activities; and (4) that we are optimally positioned to work with our allies in order to ensure that the burdens of atrocity prevention and response are appropriately shared.

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