America’s Surveillance State 6

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TIME CODE : 00:00 _05:00

Narration:

Welcome to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, one seat of world power. Rest assured, all of the people out here are under constant video monitoring somewhere.

Danny Schechter :

“It’s sunny, it’s hot, here outside the White House--but it’s hard to get people to tell you how they feel about the spying that’s going on. Some may be afraid to speak, others say “I can’t tell you anything because I’m on vacation--so I can’t think about it while I’m on vacation.” Others, were much more clear about their opposition to NSA spying.

Brad Johnson :

It’s illegal. We have rights to privacy, whether it be in public, or on our computers, or on our phones. The government doesn’t have any right to spy on us, and it needs to stop.

Danny Schechter :

And yet they’re doing it big time, aren’t they?

Brad Johnson :

Yup. You can’t drive through a traffic light without having 10 cameras watching you. I mean, do we not have some right to privacy? Even in public? I think we do--I think our government has gone way left, and way socialist.

German Tourist:

I don’t feel good about this. You know there’s a joke now that says, the chancellor changed just her number of telephone (laughs). No, but without joke it is not a good thing, one should know who are your friends, and one should know who are not your friends.

Danny Schechter :

We’re trying to get people’s reaction to NSA spying on people, if you’re worried about it, concerned about it…

Man in Glasses :

If you’re not doing anything wrong, you’ve got nothing to hide.

Woman:

Do I mind that they are listening in on my conversations? Not a bit, because I don’t have anything to hide.

Tom Drake:

Do you know that statement, you have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide? …. the very statement, “you have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide,” was a statement directly attributed to Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi Minister of Propaganda.

Narration: The reality of America’s surveillance state cannot be denied. It is very real, and to critics, very dangerous for the future of democracy. Not only are there protests uniting right and left, but satirists like the creator’s of Australia’s Juice News deploy a “rap attack” on the surveillance state.

“Behold the latest weapon in the War of Terror our greatest invention since nine eleven guaranteed to keep us free and safe forever…I give you The Surveillance State, ladies and generals. Our secret wires log your key style

monitor every single number on your speed dial rewind straight to your position with facial recognition, and pinpoint you within point oh-three of a mile!”

Narration:

While some citizens fight back against more encroachments on privacy, the NSA and its backers in the White House, Congress and the Courts are expanding their own reach, now monitoring literally trillions of messages. And even using state of the art facial recognition software:

NSA is also building facilities to store its data like this top secret $1.7 Billion storage center in Utah, the size of 17 football fields. It will store Yottabytes, the equivalent of 500 quintillion pages of text.

The War on Terror seems almost self-perpetuating along with its insatiable need for endless surveillance, even as the surveillance state is being challenged as never before. There is a political battle over the future of NSA spying with tactics escalating on all sides.

In fact, mass US Surveillance goes back to the our war on the Philippines in 1901 when it was used to identify critics and rebels. It had a strong racial component then, and critics say, it still does, especially in spying on the Muslim Community even as that seems to have abated somewhat:

CBS End of NYPD Surveillance:

“The surveillance program was created 18 months after the 9/11 terror attacks. It’s mission: to have undercover police officers collect information about Muslim and Middle Eastern communities. Eavesdropping on mosques, businesses and restaurants. While supporters argued it was a necessary terror strategy, the program created under the watch of former Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, outraged many Muslims who believed it was a violation of civil rights.”

TIME CODE : 05:00 _10:00

Narration:

What can stop the surveillance state? What about the courts?

Adam Liptak covers the Supreme Court for the New York Times

Adam Liptak :

The press had some great victories in the 60’s and 70’s, so that’s basically in decline, and after 9/11 and much concerns about national security, the landscape for press freedom is not great, the legal landscape.

Danny Schechter :

So, what can journalists do here? Do they, they’re trying to get information legitimately, the government doesn’t want them to have it. That’s a confrontation or a challenge! What do they do?

Adam Liptak :

Well, journalists can be tough and be brave, and seek out information and publish it, and unfortunately sometimes face the consequences.

Narration:

Liptak speaks in terms of a balance between safeguards the government says it needs, and the public’s right to know. He admits his newspaper doesn’t publish everything they know.

Adam Liptak :

There is on the one hand vast over-classification, sometimes to cover up government misleads or embarrassing episodes. On the other hand there are the kinds of secrets that could really endanger the nation. And finding the right line is not an easy thing.

Danny Schechter :

But I mean, the New York Times, published the Pentagon Papers. New York Times is publishing, quote “the Snowden Papers.” Does that make you proud or do you have concerns about that?

Adam Liptak :

I’m not going to second-guess the judge, one of the very good editors of the New York Times, but there are judgments. So, we don’t publish everything that comes into our possession.

Narration:

The press clearly feels constrained, and so has embraced whistleblowers like Edward Snowden. Before Snowden sent NSA documents to reporters, he insist they encrypt their emails to avoid being spied on---and even made this video to show them how to do it:

Snowden Encryption Tutorial :

“Okay, installation is completed, let’s start the program. You have 2 choices, Cleopatra or GPA for New Privacy Assistant--GPA is better in almost every way even though it’s older. This is the interface, your keys, first thing you need to do is new user--go to preferences, click advanced mode--if you don’t click this, you won’t be able to choose your key length, you want a key that is stronger than default length.”

Narration:

Andy Greenberg of Wired Magazine says more and more reporters are encrypting for fear they’re being spied on.

Andy Greenberg :

I the thing that’s often lost as we discussed the NSA’s really incredible surveillance abilities is that they’re not unlimited. There are ways to evade the NSA’s surveillance, as Snowden himself said, “crypto works.” Encryption software can prevent the government, the NSA, from spying on our communications. And so I think that’s created this new renaissance in encryption tools, anonymity programs, that can actually mask or hide or create a kind of bubble of privacy around your activities online that still exist even in today’s world of massive surveillance.

Narration:

“Crypto” may have helped but it was Snowden’s bold acts that captured media attention. He was at the time only 29, a high school drop-out, ending up in a $122,000 a year job. He called himself “Verex”, Latin for truth teller, after using the code name, “True Hooha,” It’s said he spent 8 Months plundering NSA secret files.

The Mass Media is now all over the story. A survey of the LexisNexis database found NSA was mentioned only 675 times in all US media in 2012. That number skyrocketed to 6955 mentions in 2013. Earlier, media critics denounced a lack of NSA investigations by the press before Snowden’s disclosures, and then meager media pickup of them afterwards.

Today, there has been a renaissance of independent investigative reporting. Journalists close to Snowden like Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras launched their own publication, The INTERCEPT, to expose government spying. It is funded by Internet billionaire Pierre Omidyar.

Pieree Omidiyar:

“We’ll give our journalists everything they need to do their jobs well. The freedom to travel, legal protection when they need it, new and innovative technology, and the rarest resource of all: the time and organizational backing to develop their skills.”

Narration:

Omidyar is only one business leader now pushing publically for restraints on NSA spying:

Google, Eric Schmidt:

“Simple example is the National Security Agency allegedly collected the phone records of every phone call of 320 million people in order to identify roughly 300 people who might be a risk...that’s just bad public policy.”

Narration:

At the same time, civil liberties groups on the left and libertarians on the right have been pushing Congress to act because many, like the ACLU’s Ben Wizner see Congressional oversight as a joke:

TIME CODE :10:00_15:00

Ben Wizner :

I think fundamentally our concern is that surveillance technologies have developed so quickly, and democratic controls have been much too slow. So, that’s true basically in our laws that protect our privacy from surveillance, but it’s also true in our oversight. I think that what we learned from the Snowden revelations is that those parts of our democracy that are supposed to do oversight over the Executive Branch have failed miserably. That the Congress, the intelligence committees that are supposed to reign in and oversee the surveillance, in fact do the opposite; they enable it in secret.

Rand Paul:

“Mr. Snowden hasn’t lied to anyone. He did break his oath of office, but part of his oath of office is to constitution and he believes that when James Clapper came in March, our National Director of Intelligence came and lied, that he was simply coming forward and telling the truth that your government was lying. And this is a big concern of mine, because it makes me doubt this administration and their word to us when they come and talk to us because they have now admitted that they will lie to us if they think it’s in the name of national security.”

Narration:

Proposed new Bills would make some necessary changes to a handful of surveillance laws, but not SIGNIFICANTLY narrow the NSA’s powers granted by law and presidential directives.

Ben Wizner :

…You know the NSA has now information on every federal judge, on every member of Congress, on every other member of the Executive branch. They may say it’s just meta-data, but this is the kind of information that could destroy any individual if it were put to the wrong kind of use. So I think people have reason to be worried. You know, not that our form of government is going to change overnight, but that if we don’t put in the right controls there are real threats to our way of life.

Narration:

While government spying is what’s being debated now, private spying is also threatening.

Mike German:

There are private companies gathering information about the political and protest activity of Americans on the streets of American neighborhoods across the country, and there’s virtually no regulation of that activity.

Danny Schechter :

There’s also a private surveillance industry, isn’t there? With their own technologies, and in many cases you have international players, like Israeli companies that are very active…

Mike German :

Right, and you have an infrastructure built for it. So, after 9/11 the US government helped fund the creation of what are called “state and local intelligence fusion centers.” And these fusion centers incorporate state and local law enforcement with federal law enforcement -- often other state and local government entities like fire and emergency response...sometimes even utilities, private companies, and the military. All together collecting information, that’s collected by the local police in your neighborhood as a way to funnel it up to the intelligence community. And then they have programs like what they call the “suspicious activity reporting program” which sounds fine if something is suspicious. But they define what’s suspicious and they say things like “videotaping, photography, note taking, drawing diagrams.” In one case in one program, “espousing extreme views.”

Danny Schechter :

If you see something...say something. Isn’t that the big slogan here in New York?

Mike German :

Exactly. And what we’ve seen -- only a relatively small number of these suspicious activity reports have been made public, but what we see is exactly what we warned they would be. That it’s a proxy for racial profiling, because what’s being reported isn’t suspicious…

Narration:

Former FBI Agent German doesn’t dismiss fears of a police state because he too knows from the Snowden documents that NSA shares intelligence on Americans with the FBI, a domestic law enforcement agency.

Jeff Williamson:

(outside White House) because of my political websites--I was visited by the FBI, the United States marshals, the Secret Service, the Department of Homeland Security, the United States Air Force, and some other people that I don’t even know. And not always, sometimes they just approach me and wanted to know...content about my websites, what certain things meant…

Narration:

Even if government surveillance is somehow restrained or curtailed, private surveillance is growing with new spy technologies now widely available in the consumer market.

Here’s an ad from one company that sells surveillance in the name of personal security.

Mspy App :

“And when you’re not in the office, do you know what your employees are doing? Does it feel like you’re losing control? Introducing Mspy--Mspy is a highly advanced smartphone monitoring software that has been designed to help you mitigate risks at home or at work. Protect your kids, and your loved ones, from online and offline dangers.

TIME CODE : 15:00_20:00

Mspy App :

Track their location, or restrict access to applications and websites, check their SMS, and phone calls. Mspy let’s you prevent risks of data leaks, monitor your employees, and keep track of their productivity in and out of the office.”

Narration:

Surveillance is widespread in the corporate sector with companies spying on customers, employees and rivals. Sam Antar, worked for an electronics chain known as ‘Crazy Eddie’ which was shut down by the federal government for corrupt practices. They were using the surveillance gadgets as if they were their own NSA.

Sam Antar : I’m the former Chief Financial Officer of the criminal enterprise known as Crazy Eddies. I’m a former CPA and I am a convicted felon. Today I advise law enforcement, colleges, universities about white-collar crime.

Danny Schechter :

Sam, you know the issue of surveillance has become a big issue, but is not a new issue, really. What have been your experiences with the surveillance state that we live in?

Sam Antar :

Back in my criminal days… Let’s put it this way. In every organization, whether it’s a legitimate organization or a criminal organization, there are rivals fighting for power, there are factions in every organization. In our criminal enterprise, which is Crazy Eddies, my cousin Eddie used in his realty security company to keep tabs on his rivals within the co-conspiracy. In other words there was no honor among thieves.

Danny Schechter :

Everyone was spying on everyone else.

Sam Antar :

Yes

Danny Schechter :

And this private surveillance, in a way has been going on for a long time, and it’s very pervasive! It’s a big business.

Sam Antar :

Yes. It’s a bigger story than the NSA story. Really, corporate surveillance of critics or corporate surveillance or rivals within their own corporations. In other words, executives surveilling rival executives.

Narration:

Perhaps that’s why in our age of innovation, some engineers and tech geeks are designing a New NSA-surveillance free internet.

Physicists are using quantum physics to design one. Political leaders who have been spied on by the NSA like leaders of Brazil and Germany are encouraging this effort:

Brazil President at Net Mundial Conference :

Brazil believes that the governing of the internet should be multisector, democratic, and transparent. We consider the multilateral model to be the best way to govern it.”

Roy Singham :

my belief is when you’re in a difficult situation avoid the problem because sometimes you can’t win every battle. And my belief is let’s try and put our resources as corporations in the emerging sectors of the economies of the world where we’re helping people with their needs and we’re avoiding being part of a spy network that no matter how well intentioned by some individual per people or end up in very mischievous uses. And we see this all over, repeatedly in history. So, when you can’t win, run to a new corner and try and build something new.

Narration:

The new Quantum computers may not be a panacea for privacy, says tech specialist and former government network administrator Brad Sumerall:

Brad Sumrall :

they have quantum computers coming out. And quantum computers are going to change everything. Because, then, processing data is instantaneous...in any amount.

Danny Schechter :

So, this new technology that’s coming down the pipe, is going to make surveillance and all the things were even talking about now even worse, possibly...

Brad Sumrall :

Yup. A lot worse...a whole lot worse.

Danny Schechter :

Do you feel like sometimes the system just goes off on it’s own, and it’s almost rogue, you can’t control it?

Brad Sumrall :

That’s kind of what’s going on now, especially with that Patriot Act still in effect. A lot of people have to understand, that’s what’s doing the damage, is that Patriot Act.

Ray McGovern :

It is new. I mean, look, money is the driver here. They’ve got money to do everything they want--if they want to snoop on their own people, they got money to do that! Congress is happy to appropriate money to places like NSA...but the stifling effect, I ask you, what college graduate or PhD is gonna want to come down to Washington and to subject him or herself to this kind of Stasi type environment? I suggest to you that they’re going to get a bunch of people I’d rather not see in the high positions of our security services.

Danny Schechter :

Philosophically, do we become the very things we used to, you know, dislike and hate? Do we become the people that we warned others about, like Stasi of East Germany, or the KGB? Have we turned into a Surveillance State?

Ray McGovern :

Well, we have. But there’s some good news, okay? The good news is this: that Surveillance States can’t operate without incredibly gifted, incredibly imaginative, incredibly smart people like Edward Snowden, okay?

TIME CODE : 20:00_25:12

Ray McGovern :

Now, if you only have 1 out of 100 or maybe even out of 1,000...technically proficient people like this, that’s all you need to do what Edward Snowden did. The governments cannot operate without these very bright people--a lot of these bright people bring consciences to their expertise, as long as that’s the case, and that will continue to be the case, the governments will not be able to get away with this kind of thing. So, that’s the good news--bad news of course is that they’ll keep trying, and as I said before, with the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches all kind of complicit in this...well, and then you have the media, and the corporations and all that--it looks very much like the classic definition that Mussolini gave to Fascism.

Mike German :

And there’s still a lot more to be discovered. Because of Edward Snowden we have access to an awful lot of information about an awful lot of program, but it’s not nearly the scope of all these programs. Plus you have so many different agencies involved now, I think there are 16 different agencies that make up the intelligence community. Much less that the multitude of thousands of companies that are involved in this activity -- both here in the US and abroad.

Narration:

Not quite everywhere. In a report on TOP SECRET AMERICA, the Washington Post showed that there are 854,000 contractors with top secret clearances. Since 9/11, 33 new facilities were built or are being built—that’s 17 Million Square feet.

The bottom line seems to be that everyone is in the game, as a very profitable surveillance industry expands beyond the limits of government, and beyond the borders of countries.

Sam Antar :

It’s not a left wing issue. It’s not a right wing issue per se. It, it goes on everywhere in this world. People want to know about what they don’t know about.

Danny Schechter :

And spying agencies play to that.

Sam Antar :

Yes


Narration:

NSA Whistleblowers are hoping the public will get more engaged.

Danny Schechter :

What lessons can we learn from this whole sad saga, if you will, of an agency that seems to have gotten rolled gone rogue, but has gotten more money and more legitimacy as it goes along. What’s in the future for America if this continues at this level?

Russ Tice:

A police state. That’s what we’re talking about. Right now I think we’re at the very beginning of what I call “Police State”-like. Because the police state tries to hide what they’re doing. They’re very covert about their police state activities. And they deny it. And they’re lying about the fact that they do content...

Thomas Drake :

What right do we have as a country to engage in mass surveillance of other nation states? We don't! Remember, the sovereign rights that are granted all human beings extends beyond just the fact that you are an American citizen, thats all human beings. There is an American exceptionalism, somehow we’re immune from history? I dont think so. All empires have ended up in the dustbin of history. But you see, all empires when they subconsciously realise they can end up in the dustbins of history, tend to project, to compensate, and guess what they do? They increasingly militarized themselves, which is precisely what is happening in this country.

Narration:

Let’s give the last word to NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden whose daring disclosures have forced us all to reflect on the dangers of a total surveillance society, and turned the American surveillance state into a battleground.

Edward Snowden:

“I’d like to remind you that even if these state surveillance programs were perfect, even if they were never abused, and even if the oversight failures that are all too common today were fixed, these programs have never been shown to be uniquely valuable in keeping us safe. And again you don’t have to take my word for it. Two independent White House panels with complete access to classified information found that these programs had never stopped a single imminent terrorist attack in the United States, ….

… So I would say, I would argue, I would submit to you, that when all three branches of government agree that these programs must end, it seems clear to me that they’re not a legitimate defense of our freedoms, but they’re in fact a clear and present danger to both them and our way of life as Americans.

Narration:

America’s Surveillance State was produced by Danny Schechter for Globalvision Inc. for Press TV.

   

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