Monthly Archives: June 2008

Legal Defense Fund Moves To Stop Animal ID Program

Falls Church, Virginia, (May 15, 2008) — Attorneys for the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund today sent a Notice of Intent to Sue letter to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) over implementation of the National Animal Identification System (NAIS), a plan to electronically track every livestock animal in the country.

The Notice asks the USDA and MDA to “immediately suspend the funding and implementation of NAIS,” and “fully and fairly examine” whether there is even a need for such a program.

Taaron Meikle, Fund president, said that contrary to USDA’s claim, NAIS will do nothing to protect the health of livestock and poultry. “At a time when food safety and costs are a concern, the USDA has spent over $118 million to promote a program that will burden everyone from pleasure horse owners to ranchers and small farmers to individuals who raise a few chickens or steers on their own land for their own use.”

Once fully implemented, the NAIS program would require every person who owns even one livestock or poultry animal (a single chicken or a pet pony) to register their property with the state and federal government, to tag each animal, and to report “events” to a database within 24 hours. Reportable events would include such things as a private sale, a state fair, or a horse show.

The Notice charges that USDA has never published rules regarding NAIS, in violation of the Federal Administrative Procedures Act; has never performed an Environmental Impact Statement or an Environmental Assessment as required by the National Environmental Policy Act; is in violation of the Regulatory Flexibility Act that requires them to analyze proposed rules for their impact on small entities and local governments; and violates religious freedoms guaranteed by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“We also think there are constitutional issues at stake here,” Meikle noted. “The requirement to use electronic ear tags or RFID chips violates the religious beliefs of some farmers, such as the Amish, and provisions in a memorandum of understanding between the USDA and the MDA could violate the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution by requiring the state to stop and inspect vehicles carrying livestock without a warrant or probable cause.”

The MDA has implemented the first two stages of NAIS –property registration and animal identification – for all cattle and farmers across the state as part of its mandatory bovine tuberculosis disease control program, which is mandated by a grant from the USDA.

“While touted as a disease control program, the NAIS will drive many small farmers out of business” Meikle noted, “and burden every person who owns even one horse, chicken, cow, goat, sheep, pig, llama, alpaca, or other livestock animal with expensive and intrusive government regulations.”

Joe Golimbieski, a farmer from Standish, Michigan and Fund member, explains: “The cost of the tags is just the start. We’re at the mercy of whatever price the stockyards charge to do the tagging. And our farm doesn’t have extra employees to deal with paperwork. NAIS is likely to put us out of business.”

Gary Cox, General Counsel for the Fund, states that “USDA and MDA have exceeded their authority and they have completely failed to follow the proper procedures. We are calling on the agencies to immediately halt implementation of the program or face appropriate action.”

About The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund: The Fund’s mission is to defend the freedoms and to broaden the rights of sustainable farmers and their consumers to produce and consume local, nutrient-dense foods. Concerned citizens can support the Fund by joining at or by contacting the Fund at 703-208-FARM. The Fund’s sister organization, the Farm-to-Consumer Foundation (, works to support farmers engaged in sustainable farm stewardship and promote consumer access to local, nutrient-dense food.

Editor’s Note: The Notice of Intent to Sue the (USDA) and (MDA) is available at

Fox News Guest Openly Calls For Obama Assassination

Paul Joseph Watson / Prison Planet | May 26, 2008

Neo-Con obsession with killing Democratic candidate takes sick new turn as Hillary Clinton makes veiled threat

The Neo-Cons’ sick obsession with assassinating Barack Obama took another bizarre turn yesterday when Fox News guest Liz Trotta openly expressed a desire to see someone “knock off” the Democratic candidate.

Trotta, former New York bureau chief of the Washington Times, referred to the Democratic frontrunner as “Osama” before quipping that it would be nice to see both Bin Laden and Barack Obama killed.

TROTTA: And now we have what some are reading as a suggestion that somebody knock off Osama — Obama. Well, both, if we could.

HOST: Talk about how you really feel.

This latest example follows the trend of a bizarre and disturbing corporate media obsession with Obama being killed before he is able to take office.

Neo-Cons, who will whine and bitch all day long about how protesters should be scrutinized and often brutalized for using their right to free speech “in a time of war,” apparently consider themselves above the law when it comes to making death threats against public figures.

Imagine if CNN pundits had joked about Bush being assassinated during the 2004 presidential campaign – they would have been booted off the air and interrogated by the secret service.

Keith Olbermann took Hillary Clinton to task on Friday for implying that she would stay in the Democratic race, despite the fact that she has virtually no chance of succeeding, because extraneous circumstances, such as an assassination, could change the picture.

Clinton made specific reference to the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Only the most naive and deluded observer could take this as anything other than a veiled threat.

Olbermann’s fury is justified but, as Kurt Nimmo points out, this goes deeper than a mere faux pas on the part of Hillary. In reality, political crime families kill the opposition and the Clintons are notorious for having their adversaries “taken care of”.

Several high profile public figures have warned that Obama may be the target of an assassination attempt before he is able to occupy the White House.

Appearing on The Alex Jones Show last month, former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura warned that Obama could be in the crosshairs.

“I believe very strongly that if an independent candidate like myself – a rogue – were to get into the President’s race legitimately, if the polls looked like he had a chance to win, I believe that candidate would either be physically assassinated or would be assassinated credibility-wise or in some manner by our government because I do not believe they would ever allow a true independent or a citizen to become President of the United States,” said Ventura.

“I say this in all seriousness – watch out Barack Obama,” he added.

British Nobel Prize winner Doris Lessing said Obama would be taken out if he became President in February.

“He would probably not last long, a black man in the position of president. They would kill him,” Lessing told a Swedish newspaper.

Princeton University political science professor-Melissa Harris-Lacewell echoed the same sentiment a month before, saying: “For many black supporters, there is a lot of anxiety that he will be killed. It is on people’s minds.”

“You can’t make a prediction like this – like he has a 50 per cent chance of getting shot.”

“But the greater his visibility and the greater his access to people, there is a danger.”

Some speculated that Obama had been set up for an assassination attempt during a February 20 rally in Dallas, after it emerged that Secret Service gave the order to stop screening for weapons a full hour before the event began.

Corporations Outsource Farms To Mexico

Associated Press
May 27, 2008

IRAPUATO, Mexico (AP) — Antonio Martinez used to pay smugglers thousands of dollars each year to sneak him into the United States to manage farm crews. Now, the work comes to him.

Supervising lettuce pickers in central Mexico, Martinez earns just half of the $1,100 a week he made in the U.S. But the job has its advantages, including working without fear of immigration raids.

Martinez, now a legal employee of U.S.-owned VegPacker de Mexico, is exactly the kind of worker more American farm companies are seeking. Many have moved their fields to Mexico, where they can find qualified people, often with U.S. experience, who can’t be deported.

“Because I never moved my family to the U.S., I was always alone there,” said Martinez, 45, who could never get a work permit, even after 16 years in agriculture in California and Arizona. “When I got the opportunity to be close to my family, doing similar work, I didn’t even have to think about it.”

American companies now farm more than 45,000 acres of land in three Mexican states, employing about 11,000 people, a 2007 survey by the U.S. farm group Western Growers shows.

Read article

Missouri Activates Variable Speed Trap Program

The Newspaper
May 28, 2008

Motorists on Missouri’s Interstate 270 yesterday experienced for the first time an enforced speed limit that was lowered by remote control. Under a new variable speed limit program, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) installed electronic signs that allow officials to reduce the maximum speed limit on particular sections of road by as much as 20 MPH from the basic 60 MPH speed limit. Motorists who may have missed the sign, perhaps obscured by a passing semi truck, risk being ticketed if they continue driving at 60 MPH.

“A defensive driver, who is paying attention to the road, should be able to pay attention to the speed limit signs, important messages on the overhead message board, his or her speed, as well as paying attention to the other drivers on the road,” the MoDOT website explains. “The Missouri Highway Patrol has the primary responsibility of enforcing those speed limits. They have indicated that they will support the reduced limits and will be using various methods to track speeders and issue tickets.”

The transportation department spent $900,000 in gas tax funds to purchase the complex equipment required to administer the system, insisting its sole motive was to help reduce congestion, not increase traffic citations. A computer program monitors average road speeds from and makes “suggestions” on when to reduce the limit and when to allow it to return. A live MoDOT employee at a Transportation Management Center can accept the reductions in 5 MPH increments down to 40 MPH — the minimum speed limit allowed under state law. The system must also wait five minutes in between each change. Officials insist the speed difference between any two of the seventy speed limit signs will never be more than 15 MPH.

Marines Combat Train In Indianapolis

Vic Ryckaert
May 29, 2008

“If this were a dictatorship, it’d be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I’m the dictator.” President-Elect George W. Bush

U.S. Marine helicopters will land at the old Eastgate Consumer Mall, Brookside Park and other Indianapolis locations when the city becomes a mock battlefield next week.

About 2,300 Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., will conduct urban warfare training from Wednesday through June 19 in and around Indianapolis.

Most of the troops will be deployed at the Indiana State Fairgrounds and the Raytheon facility on Holt Road, said Debbi Fletcher of the Indianapolis/Marion County Emergency Management Agency.

“We don’t want anyone thinking that there’s an invasion happening or that we declared martial law or something like that,” Fletcher said.

The Marines have been cleared by state, federal and local authorities, Fletcher said. The unit’s commander promised to try to keep noise to a minimum and give neighbors plenty of warning.

“Our aim in Indianapolis is to expose our Marines to realistic scenarios and stresses posed by operating in an actual urban community, thereby increasing their proficiency in built-up areas,” Col. Mark J. Desens, commander of the 26th MEU, said in a statement. “While some of the activity will take place around Camp Atterbury, residents in many areas can expect to see helicopters flying overhead, military vehicles on the roads and Marines patrolling on foot,” Desens said.

The Marines will practice firing weapons, conducting patrols, running vehicle checkpoints, reacting to ambushes and employing nonlethal weapons, according to a statement.

In addition to Eastgate and Brookside Park, Indianapolis offered the Marines 24 other training sites, including Raymond Park Middle School, Ellenberger Park, Christian Park, Southeastway Park, the old Bush Stadium and Douglass Park.

However, not all cities are so open to the training. In February, after first canceling scheduled training, Toledo (Ohio) Mayor Carty Finkbeiner invited the Marines to train in the city, but outside the downtown area.

Corr Brother Says 9/11 ‘An Inside Job’

Richie Taylor
May 30, 2008

CORRS guitarist Jim Corr has claimed that there was overwhelming evidence that the 9/11 attacks in America were carried out by “rogue elements” of US President George Bush‘s “neo-con administration”.

In a rare intervention into the political arena, the male singer with The Corrs band came out against the Lisbon Treaty claiming that it is “tip-toe totalitarianism in the West”.

In an interview with Matt Cooper on Today FM‘s ‘Last Word’, Corr made the case for voting ‘No’ to Lisbon, claiming it could introduce the death penalty to Ireland and contribute to a “new world order”.

Corr’s opposition is based on his three years “studying the New World Order which the European Union is a part of”.

He said “the EU is a stepping stone towards a world government, they will merge it with the Asia Pacific Union, the African Union and the North American Union“. The Lisbon Treaty itself will introduce “a scientific technocracy” to Europe which will erode national sovereignty.

Corr claimed that The Charter of Fundamental Rights allows for the introduction of the death penalty.

“It makes provision for the introduction to law for the death penalty in times of war or imminent threat of war.

“What we are seeing is tip-toe totalitarianism in the West with 9/11 the key to understanding this.

“When you study 9/11 it becomes very apparent… it was a staged terrorist attack, what they call a false flag operation.”

Corr said overwhelming evidence suggests 9/11 “was carried out by rogue elements in the Bush neo-con administration”.

– Richie Taylor

Ohio DHS’ “See Something, Say Something” Campaign Takes to Lake Erie

The Beacon
May 28, 2008

Ohio Homeland Security Encourages Boaters to Be Prepared

Warm weather brings a multitude of tourists, boaters, and fishermen to the Lake Erie region. These watercrafts can be one of Ohio’s greatest security resources, and the Ohio Department of Public Safety (ODPS) is working to encourage boaters and fishermen to be prepared and aware of their surroundings.

Ohio Homeland Security (a division of ODPS) recently established the Northern Border Initiative (NBI), a collaborative Homeland Security effort among federal, state and local partners along Ohio’s international maritime border and Lake Erie shoreline. Through both the NBI and the “See Something, Say Something” campaign, Ohio Homeland Security is taking a proactive approach and involving citizens in domestic preparedness efforts.

Through Ohio Homeland Security, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, US Coast Guard and US Border Patrol, various law enforcement and community leaders from Lake Erie’s North Coast region are partnering to encourage boaters and tourists protect the Lake Erie region. The NBI is an extension of the “See Something, Say Something” public awareness campaign, aimed at educating Ohioans on recognizing the possible signs of terrorism.

“The people of Ohio are our most valuable resources,” said Henry Guzmán, ODPS director. “Boaters and fishermen who travel our northern maritime border for business and pleasure are in key positions to be able to identify when something is out of place or potentially dangerous.”

Ohioans are reminded to contact local law enforcement or the Ohio Terrorism Tipline (1-877-647-4683 or 1-877-OHS-INTEL) if suspicious activity is observed, such as: unattended vessels or vehicles in unusual locations, lights flashing between boats, recovering or tossing items into/onto the waterway or shoreline and/or transfer or people or things between ships or between ship and shore outside of port.

“The Northern Border Initiative is a cooperative initiative for state, local and federal law enforcement to create a fusion of efforts as each entity works to keep these waterways and the mainland as safe as possible for everyone,” said William Vedra, executive director of Ohio Homeland Security.

Two arrested at Old Rochester Regional High School Reading George Orwell’s novel, “1984.” Over Intercom

May 21, 2008 7:18 PM

MATTAPOISETT — Two students were arrested and another 15 to 20 staged a sit-in at Old Rochester Regional High School Wednesday in a protest that began after students briefly commandeered the intercom system during MCAS testing, school officials and students said.

Thomas Buckley, 17, of 111 Acushnet Road, Mattapoisett, and Zachary Sherman, 17, of 79 Dexter Lane, Rochester, were charged with disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace and disturbing the school, according to police reports.

They were arraigned in Wareham District Court and released on personal recognizance; pre-trial is set for June 27, police said.

The incident unfolded around 8:30 a.m. when two to five students used a special code to access the school-wide intercom via a classroom system, officials and students said.

According to ORR High School Principal Sheila Haskins, one of the students read a passage from something they apparently were studying in an English or history class. Exactly what they read wasn’t clear, but Ms. Haskins said it might have been excerpts from a Fidel Castro speech. That was reflected in police reports.

However, some students said it was a passage from George Orwell’s novel, “1984.”

The intercom announcement was likely part of a senior prank, Ms. Haskins said, as today is the final day of classes for seniors.

“There wasn’t anything threatening — nothing that would cause any panic or alarm,” she said.

Superintendent Bill Cooper said that although the announcement was a disturbance to the ninth- and 10th-graders taking the MCAS, it should not affect the outcome of the test, as students are given as much time as they need to finish.

After the intercom announcement, Ms. Haskins gathered the senior students in the cafeteria to speak about appropriate behavior and consequences if they acted out, according to a press release from the Mattapoisett police.

Some students were disruptive and disrespectful to the principal, and police were called. Five officers from Marion and Mattapoisett responded to the school, and all but one of them left a short time later, officials said.

“There was a level of disrespect shown to school officials and police by the students,” Mattapoisett Police Chief Mary Lyons said.

Dr. Cooper and the principal said two of the students involved in the intercom incident were sent home from school for a one-day suspension but will be able to participate in all senior activities.

About two hours later, as word spread through the school, roughly 25 students gathered in the main corridor at ORR and began “expressing their displeasure with everything, I guess,” Dr. Cooper said.

No fights broke out; however, Mattapoisett Police Officer Mitchell Suzan, who was still at the scene, called for additional officers.

Several police cruisers responded with sirens blaring, students said.
According to police, the students were blocking two major hallways and would not return to their classrooms, despite repeated requests from Ms. Haskins and Assistant Principal Al Laboranti.

Police said the students in the lobby were screaming and yelling to “free” the suspended students. One female student held a sign.

“That’s disruptive to the learning environment and the kids who were trying to take the MCAS,” Chief Lyons said.

When police arrived, students questioned why they had to disperse. When told by police that they would be arrested if they did not go back to their classrooms, most of the students walked away, but two, Mr. Buckley and Mr. Sherman, stayed and were arrested, according to police.

“They were mouthing off,” Chief Lyons said.

Mr. Sherman could not be reached for comment but Mr. Buckley said Wednesday night that they were “involved in a protest with 10 or 15 other kids when (police) came and asked us to leave. I was starting to walk away when I was pushed up against the wall and handcuffed” by a Marion police officer he didn’t know.

“I was completely polite and I didn’t give anyone any back talk,” said Mr. Buckley, who said he spent three hours in jail before his arraignment.

Chief Lyons said there were reports that Mr. Buckley and Mr. Sherman were swearing at police.

Liza Buckley, Thomas’s mother, said Wednesday night that after her son, a junior, was arrested, she spoke with Officer Suzan, the ORR school resource officer. “He said Thomas was respectful and didn’t swear … my son would never be disrespectful like that.”

Officer Suzan could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.

By 11 a.m., the corridor was cleared, but at 12:20 p.m. students re-emerged and 15 to 20 of them staged a sit-in the hallway, prepared to fight for their right to peacefully assemble.

“Apparently we shed our civil rights when we walked in the school door,” said Lucy Turowski, also a senior, commenting on the students who were taken away in the earlier protest.

Students had printouts that reportedly listed their right to assemble and maintained they were careful not to block hallways or be noisy.

Additional police were not called during the afternoon incident, although at least two cruisers were in the parking lot for the 2:05 p.m. dismissal.

At the close of school, officials discovered three bathrooms had been vandalized with holes kicked in the walls and toilet paper strewn about, according to police.

Ms. Haskins emphasized that a relatively small number of students were involved in the disturbance, and the senior class should not be remembered for a few poor choices on the next to last day of school.

“I’d just not like to see a bad light shed on the seniors because two kids did something,” she said. “The majority of them are wonderful kids.”

Chief Lyons agreed.

“This is out of character for the school,” she said.

Contact Jennifer Lade at

Telecom Companies In Cahoots With Illegal Bush Admin Surveillance Programs

Tom Burghardt / Global Research | May 28, 2008

The hot-button issue of retroactive immunity for telecom companies in cahoots with illegal Bush administration surveillance programs is close to reaching its inevitable dénouement.

But what’s gotten little media play throughout the endless months of “debate” are the huge piles of cash that have changed hands to influence congressional Democrats and Republicans.

According to Glenn Greenwald:

Just in the first three months of 2008, recent lobbyist disclosure statements reveal that AT&T spent $5.2 million in lobbyist fees (putting it well ahead of its 2007 pace, when it spent just over $17 million). In the first quarter of 2008, Verizon spent $4.8 million on lobbyist fees, while Comcast spent $2.6 million. So in the first three months of this year, those three telecoms–which would be among the biggest beneficiaries of telecom amnesty (right after the White House)–spent a combined total of almost $13 million on lobbyists. They’re on pace to spend more than $50 million on lobbying this year–just those three companies. (“How Telecoms Are Attempting to Buy Amnesty from Congress,” Salon, May 24, 2008)

No matter how you squeeze it, that’s a lot of corporatist “juice” flowing into campaign coffers.

Until, that is, you consider that “outsourced” government contracts are worth tens of billions of dollars annually to enterprising telecom companies for communications and IT services to a gaggle of shadowy intelligence agencies fighting to “keep America safe”–from lower quarterly earnings!

Ranging from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the National Security Agency (NSA), not to mention low profile “partners” such as the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) or the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA)–$50 million is chump change.

And what are these corporate pirates seeking from Congress? Why “get-out-of-jail-free-cards,” of course!

Behind closed doors, House and Senate negotiators are “are closing in on a deal” with the White House over illegal government domestic spying, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

Touted as a “compromise” and a “major breakthrough” by both Democrats and Republicans, the deal would “would kick the issue to a secret national-security court. Earlier versions of the legislation wanted to grant telecom companies blanket retroactive immunity from lawsuits,” Siobhan Gorman avers.

However, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group representing plaintiffs in Hepting vs. AT&T, brought by AT&T customers in the wake of revelations of massive domestic spying by the Bush administration and their “private” partners in the telecom industry, the congressional “compromise” is a monumental fraud:

“The purported immunity ‘compromise’ announced on Thursday by Senator Bond is a pure sham that’s even worse than the original immunity provision passed by the Senate,” said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. “The stacked-deck immunity determination to be made by the court apparently still doesn’t include any meaningful review of the telecoms’ conduct or the legality of their cooperation with the NSA, simply a review of whether the companies got a piece of paper saying that the president authorized the surveillance. And the deck would be stacked even more by the proposed transfer to the FISA court–the most conservative and secretive federal court in the nation. Bottom line: it’s still immunity, and this so-called compromise concedes nothing.” (“EFF Blasts New ‘Compromise’ Offer on Teleco Immunity,” Electronic Frontier Foundation, Press Release, May 23, 2008)

Some “compromise”!

According to the Federation of American Scientists, the FISA court,

…is responsible for reviewing and approving government applications under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act for domestic electronic surveillance and physical search of suspected foreign intelligence agents or terrorists.

But it does more than that. The Court also reinterprets the terms of the Act in an undisclosed fashion, producing in effect a body of “secret law,” a matter discussed at an April 30 hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“The FISC has in fact issued… legally significant decisions that remain classified and have not been released to the public,” observed Judge John D. Bates, a member of the FIS Court, when he denied an ACLU motion for disclosure of portions of those decisions last December. (“Intel Surveillance Court Gets Two New Judges,” Federation of American Scientists, Secrecy News, May 23, 2008)

During the April 30 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing referenced above, John P. Elwood, a DoJ official “disclosed a previously unpublicized method to cloak government activities,” according to The New York Times.

In keeping with the Bush administration’s penchant for lawless behavior, Elwood acknowledged that the executive branch believed that “the president could ignore or modify existing executive orders that he or other presidents have issued without disclosing the new interpretation,” Times’ reporters Scott Shane and David Johnson wrote.

Conceding nothing that would dispel fears that the administration is operating on the basis of “secret law” beyond the purview of the courts or Congress, the state’s “legal stance would let it secretly operate programs that are at odds with public executive orders that to all appearance remain in force,” the Times reported.

Demonstrating profound contempt for classification rules, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), said the administration’s contention that it can “selectively modify” executive orders “turns The Federal Register into a screen of falsehoods behind whose phony regulations lawless programs can operate in secret.”

In other words, following dictums laid down by French monarch, the “sun king” Louis XIV, the law is whatever our decider-president and his minions say it is.

While warrantless wiretapping and the subversion of law is bad enough, the question inevitably arises: what other programs are being hidden from the American people?

Investigative journalist Christopher Ketcham believes that a “highly classified program with sinister implications” may lie at the heart of Bush administration’s refusal to back-down on telecom immunity. Through an as yet-undisclosed “black program,” the administration may be “compiling a secret enemies list of citizens who could face detention under martial law.”

According to Ketcham, recounting Acting Attorney General James Comey’s now infamous 2004 tussle with the White House, and the bureaucrat’s refusal to reauthorize Bush’s illegal programs, Ketcham writes,

Yet in his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he described how he had grown increasingly uneasy reviewing the Bush administration’s various domestic surveillance and spying programs. Much of his testimony centered on an operation so clandestine he wasn’t allowed to name it or even describe what it did. (“The Last Roundup,” Radar, May/June 2008)

Welcome (once again) to the bizarro world of “Continuity of Government” whose illegally-beating dark heart may dwell in what intelligence insiders have called the ultra-top secret “Main Core” database.

Some months after The New York Times revealed in December 2005 that the Bush administration had illegally spied on Americans through its so-called “Terrorist Surveillance Program,” USA TODAY reported,

With access to records of billions of domestic calls, the NSA has gained a secret window into the communications habits of millions of Americans. Customers’ names, street addresses and other personal information are not being handed over as part of NSA’s domestic program, the sources said. But the phone numbers the NSA collects can easily be cross-checked with other databases to obtain that information. (Leslie Cauley, “NSA has massive database of Americans’ phone calls,” USA TODAY, May 11, 2006) [emphasis added]

Keep in mind that AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, the nation’s three largest telecommunication providers, are well-positioned to serve as the state’s “outsourced” eyes-and-ears. Collectively, the three carriers provide an array of services: local and long-distance calling, wireless and high-speed broadband internet access, as well as video and cable services.

Once communications information has been “fused” with records gleaned from commercially-available databases–sold, of course, to the state as a “patriotic” duty–NSA “partners” such as Booz Allen Hamilton, IBM, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, CACI and L-3, can then analyze data such as medical histories, travel itineraries, shopping habits, political affiliations, subscription lists, DVD rentals, etc. In a nanosecond, a unique profile of an individual’s “transactional” life has thus been created.

This however, is not without risk to offending spies and data-miners. And given the nature of financial penalties under section 222 of the Communications Act, telecom executives have every reason to sweat. The FCC “can levy fines up to $130,000 per day per violation, with a cap of $1.325 million per violation. The FCC has no hard definition of ‘violation.’ In practice, that means a single ‘violation’ could cover one customer or 1 million,” Cauley reported.

But the Bush administration’s so-called “Terrorist Surveillance Program” may very well be a smokescreen for collecting political data on millions of Americans, a secret “enemies list” far more dangerous to a democratic society than anything conceived by the team of “national security” paranoids assembled by Richard Nixon. Ketcham reports,

According to a senior government official who served with high-level security clearances in five administrations, “There exists a database of Americans, who, often for the slightest and most trivial reason, are considered unfriendly, and who, in a time of panic, might be incarcerated. The database can identify and locate perceived ‘enemies of the state’ almost instantaneously.” He and other sources tell Radar that the database is sometimes referred to by the code name Main Core. One knowledgeable source claims that 8 million Americans are now listed in Main Core as potentially suspect. In the event of a national emergency, these people could be subject to everything from heightened surveillance and tracking to direct questioning and possibly even detention. …

A host of publicly disclosed programs, sources say, now supply data to Main Core. Most notable are the NSA domestic surveillance programs, initiated in the wake of 9/11, typically referred to in press reports as “warrantless wiretapping.” In March, a front-page article in the Wall Street Journal shed further light onto the extraordinarily invasive scope of the NSA efforts: According to the Journal, the government can now electronically monitor “huge volumes of records of domestic e-mails and Internet searches, as well as bank transfers, credit card transactions, travel, and telephone records.” Authorities employ “sophisticated software programs” to sift through the data, searching for “suspicious patterns.” In effect, the program is a mass catalog of the private lives of Americans. And it’s notable that the article hints at the possibility of programs like Main Core. “The [NSA] effort also ties into data from an ad-hoc collection of so-called black programs whose existence is undisclosed,” the Journal reported, quoting unnamed officials. “Many of the programs in various agencies began years before the 9/11 attacks but have since been given greater reach.”

As disturbing as Ketcham’s report is, consider this: the ACLU’s “Watch List Counter” documents that the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center currently lists (as of 5/26/08) 975,883 (!) individuals as potential “threats” to “national security.” What are the criteria for inclusion? No one knows and the FBI and DHS aren’t saying.

It is of course absurd to believe there are nearly a million U.S. sympathizers of the Afghan-Arab database of disposable intelligence assets, aka al-Qaeda, roaming the streets of American cities. However, if history is any guide to present state surveillance activities, a database like Main Core, if it exists, would include dissidents and activists of all stripes, ranging from socialists and communists, anarchists, tax protestors, gun owners, lawyers and professors, “illegal” migrants, publishers and journalists, or just plain folk caught in the government’s data driftnet.

But over and above the question of telecom immunity for law-breaking communication corporations looms the issue of intelligence outsourcing as a lucrative business arrangement with the state, the ubiquitous “public-private partnership” in political repression that affect all our lives. As investigative journalist Tim Shorrock documents,

A second form of cooperation that few Americans are aware of concern the role of the telecom giants as contractors for the Intelligence Community. As commercial communications and encryption technologies advanced in the years leading up to 2001, AT&T, Verizon and the other major carriers were hired by the government to build classified communications networks for the NSA and Pentagon. That alliance spawned new institutions where the government could carry out a dialogue with these companies. Many industry executives, for example, hold leading positions in a secretive agency called the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee, a group of business leaders who meet regularly with President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and senior officials in the Intelligence Community to discuss critical issues affecting the national telecommunications system. …

That broad alliance between the NSA and the government on one hand and the telecommunications and IT industries on the other is the fundamental issue at stake in the national debate that erupted around FISA in 2007 and 2008. That debate was about far more than a few telecom companies cooperating with the government. (Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008, pp. 307, 308)

In this context, the political economy of telecom immunity should be considered a shield for government “black” programs that could be quickly rolled-out during a “national emergency.” That congressional leaders–Democrats and Republicans–would grant their corporate benefactors nearly unlimited power to spy on Americans, or worse, is an indication that elite consensus has been reached in favor of maintaining an all-encompassing surveillance state.

Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly, Love & Rage and Antifa Forum, he is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military “Civil Disturbance” Planning, distributed by AK Press.

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