Tag Archives: National Security Agency

Tropical Topical

I’m at the stage in life where people can be themselves (within reason) around me. I may listen and interact with people who hold entirely different opinions and ideas than I. I may contend with those ideas if I believe they’re something I find significantly wrongly directed. It’s not out of the ordinary for others to disagree with me. I find this wholly satisfactory as long as we can be civil and the person I’m involved with doesn’t go off the rails.Image

A civil society should be able to agree to disagree but at the end of the day, we have to figure out how to get along and work out things for the better. It’s interesting to see what really puts a burr in the collar of some people. Generally speaking, even though I may engage in offering an opinion, I don’t always have a strong commitment to it because it doesn’t directly affect me. I’m sorry, I may sound a mite selfish there, but I can’t get overly concerned about things which have little impact on my life. Here’s an example…

“Coast Guard Academy has first same-sex marriage announcement”.

love birdsThis falls into the category of whooptydodaday
What I mean by that is, how does that affect me? Why should I be concerned? As far as I care, if these two women lived next door to me, I couldn’t be bothered by their choice. Perhaps if I were gay, homosexual or lesbian I might have cause to celebrate on their behalf. As it is, all I can say is, I wish them well, I hope they have a nice life together. Yes, I’m a conservative person in a general sense, but that’s really more about financial matters and having honest responsible government. If two people love each other, that’s a lot better than two which are hateful. We’ve got enough of this hate thing going around. I suggest, let them alone, don’t try to convince me that western civilization is on the brink of an apocalyptic collapse due to about 2% or 3% of the population claiming they want to be intimate with the same-sex. It’s just not any of my business. No harm, no foul.

“NSA officials consider Edward Snowden amnesty in return for documents”

I have more interest in this story because of the background and context it has for everyone in this country. While we live in a “free society”, the world around us is a dangerous place. We have enemies from within and without and the NSA is supposedly responsible for a goodly portion of staying close to understanding what  threats are significant and must be thwarted. It’s a very broad mandate.

NSA Fort Meade MD headquarters

NSA headquarters in Fort Meade MD. – able to decrypt routine SSL and banking transactions

Ever since September 11, 2001 the United States was placed on a higher alert status when it came to possible terrorist activities. It more or less placed us on a war footing. An entirely new vast government entity was established under the title of “Homeland Security”. In some respects it more closely aligned us with the world described in the novel by George Orwell, “1984.” The rules of privacy and individual liberty were rewritten. It happened under a Republican administration and seemingly joyously accepted by the Democrats. Curiously, there were many of them decrying the heavy-handed nature of surveillance and the broad powers used by the NSA and Homeland Security when the Republicans occupied the oval office, but somehow this is much more acceptable even under more aggressive activity once the Democrats became the dominant executives in charge.

Edward Snowden became a bigger public anathema to the NSA than WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. His public statements about the voracity and scope of NSA eavesdropping put them in the spotlight of the world community in a manner to which they never wanted. Besides the obvious media revelations about all U.S. citizens as well as many foreign nationals, have their phone, email and text conversations recorded. In the midst of constructing larger facilities in Utah, they have found themselves temporarily in the cross hairs of a public outcry on a range of indiscretions. Further revelations from Mr. Snowden include the admittance he absconded with a lot of supportive material revealing their electronic spy tactics.

This latest story suggests that some compromises have been entertained amongst the community to retrieve those documents, even if it might require amnesty. If they get the documents, they can squelch any story counter to their own PR. Of course the State Department, an official arm of the administration wants no deal and would like to see the man locked up without any foreseeable release date.

New NSA Data Center in Bluffdale, Utah

NSA Data Center under construction in Bluffdale, UT – Photograph owned AP

You can rape your sister, kill your brother, but when you mess with the ruling class, you’re going to get the full onslaught of those in charge. It’s always been that way. It threatens their ability to be in control. We like to think we live in modern times, but all societies treat national secrets whistle blowers as a pariah. Full understanding of those facts combined with the integrity of one’s word, should guide decisions of others contemplating this type of activity.

Minions

The National Security Agency is vacuuming up records of millions of phone calls made inside the United States. A court order reveals Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC ), whose proceedings rarely become public, was signed by Judge Roger Vinson, a federal judge in Florida.

Vinson’s order relies on Section 215 of the Patriot Act, 50 USC 1861, better known as the “business records” portion. It allows FBI agents to obtain any “tangible thing,” including “books, records, papers, documents, and other items,” a broad term that includes dumps from private-sector computer databases with limited judicial oversight.

This story contradicts that of the NSA when they sat down with CBS News to explain how they function.

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Welcome to 21st Century Reality

ImageWe find ourselves at a crossroad as a governed society, on one hand we demand our privacy and on the other require security of our persons. We want to be able to walk or drive the streets, live in our homes or conduct work at our employer without fear or harm by others. News stories carry the message forth; we live in a dangerous world where common criminals bear arms or covert terrorists plan or conduct their next attack.

We want the government to indemnify each citizen from, including but not limited to, physical attack, catastrophic weather, loss of health coverage, intellectual creative rights, disability, climate fluctuation, pollution, piracy, nefarious corporations and invasion by aliens. We also want this all done in a fair, objective and gentle way unless the protection is from villainous corporations which are genetically altering all edible plant life. In that case, some demand water boarding may be too soft a punishment.

Dick Cheny & Tom Ridge inspect new DHS operations center Herndon, VA.

Vice-President Cheney and DHS Secretary Ridge at the opening of the DHS Operations Center in Herndon, VA. – New York Times, 7/9/ 2004

The defense department budget is shrinking but not domestic surveillance and anti-terrorism programs throughout the U.S. As revealed by several recent whistle blowers, all our phone calls and email are now ‘surveilled‘ on a routine basis.

Since the events of 9/11, the U.S. has launched an entire new Department of Homeland Security, participated in policing and anti-terrorist activities, funded added police programs, conducted mock urban warfare scenarios and have built large strategically located disaster-recovery compounds throughout the nation. We have come to accept these incremental changes as good practice in order to protect us.

The U.S. government hasn’t been satisfied with merely spying on us. Indeed their technological tools have permitted them to spy on foreign dignitaries as well as political leaders in addition to more traditional targets. Recent revelations have shown Chancellor Anglela Merkel of Germany and President of France Francois Hollande are among 35 leaders who have had their phone conversations monitored by the U.S.

Many world leaders have come to the U.N. asking for a plan of intervention to block the U.S. from monitoring their calls and email. The 1st term trip Obama used to ingratiate himself as a leader of compassion and understanding of the sovereign rights of other nations appears to be completely undone by the revelations of the actions of the NSA & CIA.

At this crossroad one wonders what are the limits to these activities? Who determines what are the boundaries? So far, President Obama acts as if he’s not connected to this or other International events involving the U.S. including the controversial international & domestic drone programs.

If the leader of our nation doesn’t take an active role in setting limits, who is in charge? By what standard of ethics do we regulate any or all police & surveillance activity? It’s not appropriate for a leader of any country to just shrug their shoulders and suggest, “darned if you do or darned if you don’t“. At some point it’s necessary to accept responsibility.

Your comments are invited.

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What Are You Thinking?

OK, you’re locked in a room with a couple hundred people and the room has a bomb in it set to go off in a few hours and none of your devices work to communicate with the outside world, what do you do?
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A – Yell and blame each other
B – Pound on the doors and wait for help
C – Sit down & whine about your situation
D – Break the doors down and leave the problem for someone else
E – Disarm the bomb and then break the doors down

I’m not one that usually gets caught up in theatrics or hysterics, however there’s a need to be actively engaged in the current power struggle. This has been an ongoing struggle for opportunity, choice, rights and freedom. Sometimes it has been done in open declared battle, Civil War, World War II and Korea. At other times it’s been for the benefit of those manipulating people into believing it was for those choices.

We’re in the midst of a full fledge struggle to determine the direction our country will take and continue on for probably at least the next generation or two. I feel the loss for my children and especially my grandchildren as they do not know what it was like to live in a country with as much freedom to choose as we once had. Yes, there are many revisionists who wish to recount all of the things that were wrong with it, but seldom do they know what it was like proportional to the strife and disharmony we all share in today.

No where is this disunity and lack of clear direction more manifest than it is with our leadership in Washington. The 20th century witnessed many dictators and power struggles to resist them. Some of those dictators were stopped and for other parts of the world they just got more powerful. Our political leaders in Washington have been aggregating power over many years. It has come down to primarily two groups, Republicans & Democrats. These 2 organizations have pushed, pulled and struggled with each other claiming they have the vision and the inherent ability by virtue of party alignment to lead our nation. They have a lot of willing foot soldiers as well as powerful courtiers in support of their agenda. Each group will fight, scream and declare the other side are incompetent, foolish, moronic or sinners.

What we don’t have adequate representation, for a constituency called America. These party people push and posture for themselves and if possible lay the blame / responsibility for the problem(s) on the door step of each other. It’s almost like the time when we were kids. For Halloween there would be a small group which gathered feces from various yards and placed it in a brown paper bag. The bag was doused with lighter fluid and the bag was placed at the door step of the unsuspecting victim. Usually the most grumpy person in the neighborhood was selected, someone who yelled at you if you stepped on their precious grass. The doorbell rang and the package was set ablaze. Then because the fire was minimal (minimal lighter fluid) the person often would choose to stomp it out with their feet. That resulted in a stinky surprise for the victim and a few laughs for the group.

What we have here stinks, and it’s no laughing matter. The most serious problems we face as a nation are being overlooked while these two dysfunctional groups claim to be in charge. The problem is mathematically simple, we have fewer dollars coming in then we have going out, a lot fewer. Some people believe in magical solutions like, if we just tax more fairly we’ll have enough for health care, social security retirement, public welfare, education, military, arts, science, etc.  Nonono, sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings but there isn’t enough money for what we spend even if you take 100% of the money from the top 10% wealthiest in our country. We just burn through cash that fast. What we don’t have in revenue, we simply use fancy named instruments of investment, which are loans. The IOU’s are piling up fast and we have two groups locked in a stare down with each other.

playing chicken with peopleCooler heads must prevail in this situation if we are to ultimately come out of this together without severe repercussions down the road. The economics won’t support the “everything we want” program. Some things are going to have to be jettisoned while others will have to find less expensive solutions. These programs all have an emotional component attached and an argument can be made to keep all of them intact.  Someday, who knows exactly when, the wheels are going to come off the wagon and our arguments to save the arts programs, public TV, $600+ million health care web sites, super $2-3 billion NSA buildings with spy craft people in them, a huge military budget, bribe payments to other nations, etc. They all will starve because all of the loans and the interest will far exceed our capacity to repay them and the debts will come due.

“The Founding Fathers knew a government can’t control the economy without controlling people. And they knew when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. So we have come to a time for choosing.”
— Ronald Reagan  October 27, 1964

Why are there so many challenges to a restrictive view of the Constitution? The Constitution of the United States demands equality under the law. Corrupt politicians continually attempt to subvert the Constitution by providing perks and privileges to any class that appear willing to cede them political power. They will pander to that group so long as it allows them to achieve that end.

Also, look up the phrase Fabian Society.

I highly recommend you read this post from Thomas Sowell – Who Shut Down the Government?