Saturday, October 19, 2013

British Columbia Enviro Group Eyes Water Act Change Proposal Closely

West Coast Environmental Law calls for a strong Water Sustainability Act

by WCEN

Vancouver - The West Coast Environmental Law Association responded to the Ministry of Environment’s release, today, of a legislative proposal for a new Water Sustainability Act. The environmental law organization is encouraging British Columbians to press the provincial government for a strong Act that protects water, fish and sustainable communities.

“Water, and how we treat our water, is one of those fundamental issues that touches on so much of who we are, what we do, and how we build our economy,” said Andrew Gage, staff lawyer with the West Coast Environmental Law Association.
“A weak Water Sustainability Act could fail to deal with current unsustainable and inefficient water use, and could lock in these problems for years to come. A strong Act could address past over-use, and wasteful use, of water and protect drinking water and fish from over-use, poor oil and gas, logging or mining practices, and other threats.”

Gage agreed that it was high time that BC considered new legislation protecting water. “BC’s 104-year-old Water Act is failing our fish and our communities, which is why we’re pleased that the BC Government committed to passing a new Water Sustainability Act in 2014.”

West Coast Environmental will be carefully examining the Water Sustainability Act proposal to be sure it includes strong legal protection for our streams, lakes, and groundwater and guarantees water for fish and drinking water ahead of industrial water use. British Columbians have until November 15th to comment on the proposed Water Sustainability Act, after which legislation is expected in the Spring.

“British Columbians need to use this consultation period to press the government for a strong Water Sustainability Act that lives up to that name,” said Gage.
“We also urge BC to engage honourably with First Nations to resolve outstanding issues they have so that this important legislation can move forward.”


- 30 -

For more information contact:
Andrew Gage, Staff Counsel, West Coast Environmental Law Association
Jessica Clogg, Executive Director, West Coast Environmental Law Association

About West Coast Environmental Law

West Coast Environmental Law is a non-profit environmental law and public interest organization that is dedicated to safeguarding the environment through law.

#Elsipogtog the Spark to Ignite Fracking Pushback?


Is #Elsipogtog the spark that will light the Fracking Fire? 

by Kevin Logan - The Common Sense Canadian

Yesterday, Canadian Ministers were attending the World Energy Congress, delivering keynote speeches. BC Minister of Natural gas non-disclosure, Rich Coleman, was in attendance, amidst negotiations for one of the world’s largest energy deals – destined to frack northeast of BC in ways we have never seen before.

The new face of Canadian law enforcement

Canadian Natural resource Minister Joe Oliver told the Congress that Canada expects 650 Billion US dollars worth of investment in the energy industry. We are at the Centre of the international fracking boom and most Canadians dont know it. It is literally like being in the eye of the storm.

And then it happened.

Elsipogtog

Early in the morning, a frightening squadron of snipers crawling on their bellies through the long grass snuck up on a line of tents in rural New Brunswick, where Mi’kmaq elders, children and other “protectors” were camped in a weeks long blockade.

They were quickly followed up with a small army of thoroughly geared para-military-like “authorities”. It looked like a scene from any tin pot dictatorship hell bent on oppressing its own citizens while protecting the rights of foreign energy giants.

The crude awakening for the spattering of Mi’kmaq protectors quickly led to an escalation in fear and soon rubber bullets were flying and police cars were blazing.

What was a weeks-long peaceful display of people protecting their land and demanding a respectful and responsible process that was inclusive and fair in the exploitation our nation’s resource wealth quickly became a spectacle of police state oppression.

Trade Deals and Treaties collide

Much like BC, the Mi’kmaq lands are unceded, with a stalled treaty process that has been going since before the Burying the Hatchet ceremony of 1761. The Treaties did not gain legal status until they were enshrined into the Canadian Constitution in 1982.

Every October 1, “Treaty Day” is now celebrated by Nova Scotians. Recently, upwards of 100,000 of Mi’kmaq people gained “status” due to court proceedings and it was a serious landmark in the struggle of the Mi’kmaq people.

However, today may be the beginning of a another page of history for the Mi’kmaq people.

After yet another prorogued parliament and the day after the pomp and ceremony of the “Speech from the Throne” designed to “turn the channel” away from the torrent of scandals the first half of the Harper majority visited upon the land, the Mi’kmaq people turned the channel back to the now longstanding undercurrent of native unrest from coast to coast, manifested in major movements like Idle no More.

At the very heart of the unrest is the collision between dysfunctional treaty relations, international trade agreements and the unprecedented exploitation of the land. Literally, trillions of dollars of Canadian natural resources are up for grabs and the international corporate model of globalized exploitation has ushered in a third world model of oppression and greed that is sparking significant pushback.

Therefore it was fitting that this event occurred while Harper was skipping out on his first day back at the House to fly to Europe and celebrate his government’s signing of the first major Free Trade Agreement since the Mulroney conservatives entered us into the highly controversial North American Free Trade Agreement.

European trade deal, oil and gas

CETA is a comprehensive trade agreement with huge implications, much of which revolve around oil and gas, despite the fact that all that is being reported is a squabble over cheese.

CETA can be added to a long list of trade and investment agreements that are ushering in a new era, sidelining governments in favour of corporate rights and control and placing the profitability of foreign interests over the citizens of the country, our domestic economy and the environment we all depend upon.

First Nations people understand that the window of opportunity to try and wrestle a modicum of sovereignty and control over our economic destiny and environmental sustainability is closing. CETA, TPP, FIPPA are all about to slam that window shut and build upon existing trade and investment agreements that thoroughly alter the economic and political landscape of the country at the expense of the citizens who depend upon it.

This affects all Canadians

With the pace of the oil and gas agenda reaching a “gold rush” stage and Harper’s vision of “Energy Super Power” becoming crystal clear, people from coast to coast to coast are beginning to realize this might not be all that it was cracked up to be – and that when Harper claimed “you won’t recognize Canada when I am done”, he was right.

The labyrinth of domestic legislation rammed through by way of omnibus coupled with trade and investment agreements have, in effect, left all Canadians voiceless squatters on our own land.

The courageous actions of the Mi’kmaq people and leaders like Pam Palmater are at the tip of the spear.

#Elsipogtog could be the spark that starts the fracking fire, putting at risk the 650 Billion dollar agenda Oliver boasted about and trade agreements Harper celebrated on the same day they unleashed the RCMP in rural New Brunswick against a brave and courageous people.


Kevin Logan's career has been diverse, ranging from small business to NGOs through finance and government. Early on, he operated the research department for the Vancouver branch of international brokerage Richardson Greenshields. After leaving the finance industry he owned operated small businesses and eventually established a consulting company which contracts with both the private and public sectors. He served as a ministerial assistant to numerous ministers and a premier in the former BC NDP Administration. Kevin is also an independent researcher and writer who has administered many diverse and successful campaigns.
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Harper Government Calls Out Snipers, Paramilitary Units to Clear Fracking Protest

Canadian Police Use Military Tactics to Disperse Indigenous Anti-Fracking Blockade

by TRNN

Canadian Police Use Military Tactics to Disperse Indigenous Anti-Fracking Blockade
New Brunswick Mounted Police deploy rubber bullets and tear gas, arrest 40 protesters for blockading highway.

 

Thursday, October 17, 2013, in New Brunswick, Canada, indigenous protesters refused to comply a judge injunction ordering them to surrender the siege of SWN equipment store.The Royal Canadian Mounted Police moved in, fully armed, 200 men strong, arresting many elders. Pictures of agents in camouflage with automatic assault weapons and dogs flowed trough Twitter and other social media websites.SWN Resources Canada is a Houston-based energy company working on shale gas extraction using fracking, a system that injects water and chemicals to the ground to harvest gas. Scientists and activists warn that such procedure can contaminate the ground and the water supply. The company had been conducting seismic testings with the trucks detained inside the compound by the activists.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Nanaimo anti-fracking rally October 19th - Elsipogtog Solidarity

Elsipogtog Solidarity – Nanaimo anti-fracking rally October 19th

by Idle No More and the Mid Island chapter of the Council of Canadians

On Saturday October 19th, Idle No More and the Mid Island chapter of the Council of Canadians will be gathering at Maffeo Sutton Park with other concerned citizens and then marching to Nanaimo RCMP headquarters in solidarity with the Elsipogtog First Nation in New Brunswick.

The rally begins at 2:00 pm and the march will commence at 2:30.


The Elsipogtog First Nation have been blocking exploration for gas fracking on their traditional territory to protect their water supply for the community and future generations.

Idle No More and the Council of Canadians denounce the excessive use of violence by the RCMP and stand in solidarity with those in Rexton, New Brunswick and around the world who oppose shale gas/fracking.

Angela Giles, Atlantic Regional Organizer for the Council, said, “To defend the rights of an American company, the RCMP came in with essentially para-military units including snipers, to remove the opposition. The New Brunswick government does not have the social license to allow fracking and the people will continue to fight for the future of their families, their province, and the environment.”
“Protesters in Rexton are standing up to a Texas company that wants to profit on the backs of New Brunswickers while placing the water and the environment at risk,” says Emma Lui, Water campaigner for the Council of Canadians. “Indigenous communities like the Elsipogtog First Nation are on the frontlines of defending water and the land for everyone, and this should not be criminalized.”

October 19th is also the Global Frackdown with over 200 events in over 20 countries. People across Canada and around the world are standing up in opposition to the fracking process.

There are fracking moratoriums in France, New York state and in Quebec (The Quebec moratorium triggered a $250 million lawsuit from Lone Pine Resources under chapter 11 of NAFTA).

“The Clark government wants to addict the BC economy to the frack pipe and we need to let people know how destructive this process is to the environment and to stand in solidarity with those who are willing to stand up and put a stop to this practice.” Says Paul Manly of the Mid Island Council of Canadians, “We stand in solidarity with the Elsipogtog First Nation and the protesters in Rexton New Brunswick.”

(30)


For Immediate Release

For more information contact:

Paul Manly

paulmanly@shaw.ca250 729-1254

Propaganda Reality Check: Exposing the West's Toxic Lies About Syria

West Toxic Lie On Syria Exposed

by Finian CunninghamInformation Clearing House

They say an expert liar needs to have a good memory to succeed in maintaining deceptions. This is because sooner or later the liar is liable to trip himself up with his own previous lies.

Only weeks after the deadly chemical weapons incident near the Syrian capital Damascus on 21 August, the Western narrative is coming apart at the seams from its own lies.

Recall that this was the “horrific” incident that nearly resulted in the US and its allies launching an all-out war on Syria. “The US doesn’t do pin-pricks,” said President Barack Obama sinisterly as American warships armed with hundreds of Tomahawk Cruise missiles suddenly honed in on the Mediterranean country.

Western turgid claims that Syria’s government forces had carried out an atrocity against civilians with deadly Sarin nerve gas were always tenuous from the outset.

Where are the names and graves of the more than 1,400 people that Washington so adamantly claims “beyond doubt” were killed by Syria’s army? What about the alleged intercepts that the US said it had obtained between Syrian army commanders? Where is the “conclusive intel” that Washington, London and Paris all said they had to justify punitive military attacks on the sovereign government of President Bashar al-Assad?

There is a growing host of evidence that soundly negates the Western claims, and indeed supports an altogether more credible and disturbing narrative. Namely, that a large-scale killing took place near Damascus on 21 August involving Saudi and Western military intelligence in collusion with the foreign-backed anti-government mercenaries. Civilians, including children, were murdered in cold blood, perhaps by lethal injection, in order to stage a provocation that was aimed as a pretext for a US-led military assault on Syria.

That all-out attack on Syria was all the more pressing because of the floundering regime-change objective of the Axis of Evil comprising Washington, London, Paris, Riyadh, Doha, Tel Aviv, Amman and Ankara.

But here is where the liars really come unstuck. President Obama,Britain’s David Cameron, France’s Francois Hollande and all their top officials, including US Secretary of State John Kerry and US ambassador the UN Samantha Power, reiterated the following mantra, “We know the Assad regime did it because the Syrian rebels do not have the capacity to use chemical weapons.”

This assertion that the Western-backed militants in Syria did not have access to chemical weapons was amplified over and over again in the Western mainstream news media.

Of course, more informed observers knew this assertion to be false. Several reports confirmed that the Takfiri and Al Qaeda-linked groups, such as Al Nusra, had been caught red-handed elsewhere in Syria and in Turkey on several occasions with supplies of Sarin and other toxic chemicals.

However, it is worth holding this particular Western contention up to account precisely because it was proffered as a key element in the Western case for military action on Syria.

And it turns out that Western diplomats, media and the UN-approved chemical weapons inspectors are now saying that the Western-backed militants do in fact have access to the internationally banned toxic munitions.

What should have been a startling admission was disclosed rather casually in the New York Times this week. “Pressure intensified on Syrian rebels [sic] on Monday to permit access to chemical weapons sites in areas under their control,” reported the newspaper.

The Times added, “A Western diplomat in the Arab world said that though the Syrian government was legally responsible for dismantling its chemical weapons under an international agreement, its opponents should also cooperate in the process, because several chemical weapons sites were close to confrontation lines or within rebel-held territory.”

Ahmet Uzumcu, the director of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, also said this week that the Syrian government had cooperated fully in providing access to weapons sites under its control, but he added that the problem for his inspection team was gaining safe access to sites under control of militants. This was because of the lawless conduct of these groups, which have opened fire on the inspectors and even set off bombs near one of the hotels where the team is staying.

“We appeal to all sides in Syria to support this mission, to be cooperative and not render this mission more difficult,” said Uzumcu.

The crucial point is that Western government leaders and their most senior representatives, as well as the dutiful Western news media, have been caught choking on their own toxic lies over Syria.

The New York Times and other Western media did not seem to notice the glaring contradiction to the claims that they had been peddling only a few weeks ago - that the militants in Syria allegedly do not have chemical weapons.

Washington and its allies were about to launch a massive missile and bombing attack on Syria that would have probably caused thousands of civilian deaths. That offensive would have been an outrageous criminal aggression because, as it has clearly turned out, it was all based on lies. Central to the fabrication for military attack on Syria was the lie that the Western-backed militants did not carry out the Damascus atrocity because “they did not possess such weaponry.”

Well, clearly as the mainstream media is now letting slip, the militants do have access and control over deadly chemical weapons. So much so that the head of the OPCW is compelled to plead for cooperation from these militants in order to carry out the UN Security Resolution mandating the total chemical disarmament inside Syria.

Western propaganda lies evidently have a memory problem. But we should not let the world forget the criminal deeds that Western governments are prepared to carry out - lest they try to pull another pernicious stunt.

Finian Cunningham, originally from Belfast, Ireland, was born in 1963. He is a prominent expert in international affairs. The author and media commentator was expelled from Bahrain in June 2011 for his critical journalism in which he highlighted human rights violations by the Western-backed regime.

Share This! Google's Plan to Pimp Your Name and Image


How To Opt Out of Google's Shared Endorsements

by Adi Kamdar - EFF 

Google recently announced an update to its Terms of Service, focused on displaying your profile name and photo next to advertisements and reviews. The new feature, which goes into effect on November 11, is called Shared Endorsements and will allow you to share your recommendations (whether a +1 on Google Play or a restaurant rating on Google Maps) with your connections.

For example, if your friend searches "Indian food" and an advertisement shows up for a local restaurant you've rated, your profile picture, name, and review might show up alongside it. Many users will take issue with their likeness used to promote sponsored links without their explicit consent—as Facebook knows all too well. Even more users rightfully have concerns with the fact that old comments posted with one online landscape in mind are now being reused in a completely different manner and placed before a completely different audience.

A crucial component of privacy is control, and being able to control how your information is used is an important user right. Thankfully, Google has made it very simple to opt out of Shared Endorsements. Here's how:

Step 1: Go To Your Settings


Go to the Shared Endorsements setting page. You can find this page by going to Google Plus and clicking "Settings" in the toolbar on the left. Next to "Shared Endorsements," click "Edit."

Revelatory Reductions: What Government Does and Doesn't Value

What Was “Essential” and What Wasn’t: The Government Shutdown in Perspective

by Mattea Kramer and Jo Comerford - TomDispatch

On a damp Friday morning 11 days into the government shutdown, a “few dozen” truckers took to the Capital Beltway in a demonstration with the Twitter hashtag #T2SDA (Truckers to Shut Down America). They wanted to tell lawmakers they were angry, launch an impeachment campaign against the president, and pressure Congress to end itself.

They were on a “ride for the Constitution,” protesting big government and yet the opinion polls were clear. In fact, the numbers were stunning. One after another, they showed that Americans opposed the shutdown and were hurting because of it. At that moment, according to those polls, nearly one in three Americans said they felt personally affected not by too much government, but by too little, by the sudden freeze in critical services.

In reality, that government shutdown was partial and selective. Paychecks, for example, kept flowing to the very lawmakers who most fervently supported it, while the plush congressional gym with its heated pool, paddleball courts, and flat-screen televisions remained open. That’s because “essential” services continued, even as “nonessential” ones ceased. And it turned out that whether the services you cared about were essential or not was a matter of just who got to do the defining. In that distinction between what was necessary and what wasn’t, it was easy enough to spot the values of the people’s representatives. And what we saw was gut-wrenching. Stomach-churning.

Tomgram: Kramer and Comerford, Shutting Down Americans

While this country's creditor nations twitched, the global bankers were worried, too, and in campaign mode. In Washington for the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund, a number of them were predicting that a congressional unwillingness to raise the debt ceiling could take down what global “recovery” there had been since the Great Recession. In the meantime, here we were, yet again teetering at the edge of “the cliff.” And what a strange spectacle these last weeks have been! Yes, we all know that there are deep-seated problems in this country, that infrastructure is crumbling, school systems starved for resources, the gap between rich and poor growing, poverty on the rise, and manufacturing jobs still leaving town. Nonetheless, there is no evidence that, absent the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, we would have been at the edge of any cliff at all.

The spectacle of these last weeks has been thoroughly ginned up, as fictional as the plot of any Hollywood disaster film. But here’s the thing: when, a few months from now, the debt-ceiling and government shutdown issues return like the walking dead and threaten once again to step off that cliff, what could follow would not be fiction and it would be unpredictable. Real life, unlike Hollywood, is that way. For all any of us know, it could take the global financial system down with it and someday historians would wonder just how such a catastrophe could have been created out of thin air.

But we’re not historians of the future, are we? Nor have we simply been spectators at a congressional disaster flick, even if, as TomDispatch regulars Mattea Kramer and Jo Comerford of the invaluable National Priorities Project point out today, we’ve been acting that way. Already, as the government “shutdown” unfolded, a startling number of perfectly real Americans found their lives swept up in the House’s fiction, while the economy, too, took a hit. Let’s hope that, before it’s over in 2014 or beyond, we won’t all discover that, willy-nilly, we’ve been swept into that same film as extras in the crowd scenes, and that, peering into the fog on the horizon of our future, we won't suddenly see the first shadowy, lurching figures staggering toward us. Tom

 

What Was “Essential” and What Wasn’t: The Government Shutdown in Perspective

by Mattea Kramer and Jo Comerford

Prioritized above all else were, of course, “national security” activities, deemed beyond essential under the banner of “protecting life and property.” Surveillance at the National Security Agency, for instance, continued, uninterrupted, though it was liberated from its obviously nonessential and, even in the best-funded of times, minimal responsibility to disclose those activities under the Freedom of Information Act. Such disclosure was judged superfluous in a shutdown era, while spying on Americans (not to speak of Brazilians, Mexicans, Europeans, Indians, and others around the planet) was deemed indispensible.

Then there was the carefully orchestrated Special Operations Forces mission in Libya to capture a terror suspect off the streets of Tripoli in broad daylight, proving that in a shutdown period, the U.S. military wasn’t about to shut off the lights. And don’t forget the nighttime landing of a Navy SEAL team in Somalia in an unsuccessful attempt to capture a different terrorist target. These activities were deemed essential to national survival, even though the chances of an American being killed in a terrorist attack are, at the moment, estimated at around one in 20 million. Remember that number, because we’ll come back to it.

Indeed, only for a brief moment did the shutdown reduce the gusher of taxpayer dollars, billions and billions of them, into the Pentagon’s coffers. After a couple days in which civilian Defense Department employees were furloughed, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced that 90% of them could resume work because they “contribute to morale, well-being, capabilities, and readiness of service members.” This from the crew that, according to Foreign Policy, went on a jaw-dropping, morale-boosting $5 billion spending spree on the eve of the shutdown to exhaust any remaining cash from the closing fiscal year, buying spy satellites, drones, infrared cameras and, yes, a $9 million sparkling new gym for the Air Force Academy, replete with CrossFit space and a “television studio.”

Furloughing Children


Then there were the nonessential activities.

In Arkansas, for instance, federal funds for infant formula to feed 2,000 at-risk newborn babies were in jeopardy, as were 85,000 meals for needy children in that state. Nutrition for low-income kids was considered nonessential even though one in four children in this country doesn’t have consistent access to nutritious food, and medical research makes it clear that improper nutrition stunts brain architecture in the young, forever affecting their ability to learn and interact socially. Things got so bad that a Texas couple dug into their own reserves to keep the program running in six states.

If children in need were “furloughed,” so were abused women. Across the country, domestic violence shelters struggled to provide services as federal funds were cut off. Some shelters raised spare change from their communities to keep the doors open. According to estimates, as many as six million women each year are victims of domestic violence. On average in this country, three women are murdered by an intimate partner every day.

But funding for domestic violence protection: nonessential.

Funds for early childhood education, too, were shut off. Seven thousand low-income kids from 11 states were turned away. Their “head start” was obviously less than essential, even though evidence shows that early education for at-risk children is the best way to help them catch up with their wealthier peers in cognition and adds to their odds of staying out of prison in later life.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) wasn’t accepting new patients because of the shutdown. Typically 200 new patients arrive every week for experimental treatment. On average around 30 of them are children, 10 of whom have cancer.

Cancer, in fact, is the leading cause of death among children ages one to 14. But treatment for them didn’t qualify as essential. Unlike fighting terrorism -- remember the less-likely-than-being-struck-by-lightning odds of one in 20 million -- treating kids with cancer didn’t make the cut as “protecting life and property.”

A father of two young girls in the town of Eliot, Maine, said to a National Priorities Project staffer in disbelief, “If even one kid can’t get cancer treatment, isn’t that enough to end the shutdown?”

Let this be the last time we find ourselves on the wrong side of that question. Because every day we as a nation allowed our lawmakers to keep the government closed was a day in which we as a people were complicit in replying "no."

Let this be the last time that a couple dozen Tea Party truckers are the only ones angry enough to take to the streets. The vast majority of Americans, whatever their anger when faced with pollsters or TV news interviewers, took this shutdown lying down, perhaps imagining -- incorrectly -- that they were powerless.

Let this be the last time we allow ourselves such lethargy. After all, there are 243 million Americans old enough to vote, which means 243 million ways to demand a government that serves the people instead of shutting them out. Keep in mind that in the office of every member of Congress is a staffer tracking constituent calls. And what those constituents say actually matters in how legislators vote. They know that a flood of angry telephone calls from their home districts means legions of angry constituents ready to turn out in the next election and possibly turn them out of office.

Shutting Down Taxes


Americans, however, didn’t get angry enough to demand an end to the shutdown, perhaps at least in part because poisonous rhetoric had convinced many that the government was nothing more than a big, wasteful behemoth -- until, at least, it shut down on them. Think of these last weeks as a vivid lesson in reality, in the ways that every American is intimately connected to government services, whether by enjoying a safe food and water supply and Interstate highways, or through Meals on Wheels, cancer treatment, or tuition assistance for higher education, not to speak of Social Security checks and Medicare.

Deep in the politics of the shutdown lies another truth: that it was all about taxes -- about, to be more specific, the unwillingness of the Republicans to raise a penny of new tax revenue, even by closing egregious loopholes that give billions away to the richest Americans. Simply shutting down the tax break on capital gains and dividends (at $83 billion annually) would be more than enough to triple funding for Head Start, domestic violence protection, the Women, Infants, and Children nutrition program, and cancer care at the NIH.

So let this be the last time we as a nation let our elected officials cut nutrition assistance for vulnerable children at the same moment that they protect deep tax loopholes for the wealthy and corporations. And let’s call recent events in Washington just what they are: breathtaking greed paired with a callous lack of concern for the most vulnerable among us.

It’s time to create a roll of dishonor and call out the lawmakers who supported the shutdown, knowing just what was involved: Mark Meadows (North Carolina, 11th congressional district), Walter Jones (NC-3), Rodney Davis (IL-13), John Mica (FL-7), Daniel Webster (FL-10), Jim Gerlach (PA-6), Justin Amash (MI-3). And that’s just to start a list that seems never to end.

We need a long-haul strategy as well -- the unsexy yet necessary systemic set of changes that will ensure our government truly represents the people. Gerrymandered district lines must be redrawn fairly, which means that citizens in each state will have to wrest control over redistricting from biased political bodies. California has set the example. Then the big money must be pulled out of political campaigns, so that our politicians learn how to be something other than talented (and beholden) fundraisers.

Finally, we must build, person by person, an electorate that’s informed enough about how our government is supposed to work to fulfill its responsibility in this democracy: to ensure, that is, that it operates in the best interests of the broadest diversity of Americans.

Ahead will be long battles. They’ll take years. And it will be worth it if, in the end, we can give the right answer to that father who asked a question that should have been on everyone’s lips.


Mattea Kramer is research director at National Priorities Project, where Jo Comerford is executive director. They authored A People’s Guide to the Federal Budget and serve as regular commentators for media outlets across the country.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook or Tumblr. Check out the newest Dispatch book, Nick Turse’s The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare.

Copyright 2013 Mattea Kramer and Jo Comerford

War Criminal Alert: Halloween Cheney Ghoul Set to Descend on Canada

Dick Cheney is to be “keynote speaker” in Toronto on Oct 31

by Sandra Finley - The Battles

 
PROTEST: Thursday, Oct 31, 11:00am EDT

Metro Toronto Convention Centre

255 Front St W

Toronto

(Facebook)

This is about the Rule of Law.

What is that worth to you?



An incredible array of organizations and people have assembled, to see that if Cheney comes into Canada he is arrested.



Irony: TODAY, in the Speech from the Throne, (twice)

The Government is committed to “The Rule of Law”



Let’s hold them to it!

There are ideas below (spread the word, contact your MP, be creative – - see #5.)



(1) 2013-09-30 Bar Dick Cheney from Canada or arrest and prosecute say U.S. and Canadian torture opponents

EXCERPT:

A letter has been sent to Canada’s Prime Minister, Attorney General and Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Immigration advising them of Canada’s legal obligations. For a complete copy of the letter submitted click here.



(2) 2013-10-16 Canada must arrest & Prosecute Cheney for torture if he enters Canada, NO RESPONSE FROM GOVT – - Protest Planned on Halloween at Metro Toronto Convention Centre



Mount the steeds! Let’s pitch in!



(3) What a beautiful time to contact your MP and quote the Throne Speech to them!

(4) Help spread the word: Protest on Hallowe’en at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The Facebook page for the protest is here.

I’m on facebook for activism reasons. I joined a bunch of peace groups, initially to make the argument that if there is to be peace, we have to address the profitability of making war, the “war corporations” (like Lockheed Martin).

I will post to the peace groups I joined, about this Cheney initiative. Am hoping that lots of phone calls will be made to MP’s.



(5) Who puts on the International Economic Forum of the Americas? (Cheney is guest speaker for them.)

I’ve done some checking. See Who puts on International Economic Forum of the Americas? (Cheney is guest speaker for them.)



= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

My ego does not like to be so wrong! Written at the end of August:

George Bush and Dick Cheney didn’t get arrested for war crimes when they came to Canada, but have you noticed that they stopped coming?!

From The POwer of Fun. Fun in the streets.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

(Background for newcomers:
A chronology of global, on-going work (impressive!) to see that the Laws apply to everyone, including Bush, Cheney & Co.: Arrest George Bush. Rule of Law essential to democracy.
From 2008 – 2009 when Bush and Cheney thought they would be welcome in Canada: Request to RCMP to arrest George Bush (Cheney) when he is in Canada. COMPREHENSIVE argument.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Reinventing Adolf: The Flexible F├╝hrer Complex


If Hitler Didn't Exist the Pentagon Would Have To Invent Him

by David Swanson - War Is a Crime 

When video of the October 14th edition of Thom Hartmann's TV show appears online (here) it will include him asking me to justify not attacking Hitler.

Thom has asked me this repeatedly during multiple appearances on his show, each time a little differently, and each time provocatively. He's right to ask it, and he's been right in some of the answers he's helped provide in the asking.

Without Hitler, the U.S. military would collapse.

For 68 years, wars on poor countries have been justified by the pretended discovery of Hitler's reincarnation. Each time it has turned out to be a false alarm. Every post-WWII war looks disastrous or at least dubious in retrospect to most people. And yet, the justification of the next war is always ready to hand, because the real, original Hitler remains alive in our memories, and he just might come back -- who's to say?

Actually, I think anyone vaguely aware of basic facts about the current world ought to be able to say that Hitler is gone for good.

How do I justify not going to war with Hitler, beyond explaining that Assad isn't Hitler, Gadaffi isn't Hitler, Hussein isn't Hitler, and so on?

Increasingly, I believe we must start with the fact that we live in a different world. Colonization is gone. Empires of the old model are gone. No powerful nation is plotting that sort of global conquest. In fact, no powerful nation is seriously considering war with other powerful nations.

During these past 68 years of misidentifying new Hitler after new Hitler, there has in fact been no World War III. We haven't just made it 25 years. We'll hit the 75-year mark during the next U.S. presidency. Nuclear weapons, awareness of the costs, understanding of the lack of benefits, established norms against the seizure of territory, the utter unacceptability of colonialism, and the vast increase in understanding of the power of nonviolent action all work against the waging of wars among the wealthy, armed nations. Instead, we have proxy wars, wars of exploitation, and poor-on-poor warfare. And even those wars fail miserably on their own terms. Occupations collapse. Puppets grow legs and wander off.

When World War II happened, war had never been prosecuted as a crime. The prosecutions that followed the war were the first. The seizure of territory was only beginning to be delegitimized. Colonialism was still understood as the route to riches, power, and prestige. War was imagined as a contest between armies on a battlefield, rather than what World War II transformed it into: the slaughter of civilians in their homes.

When World War II happened, there were no nukes, no satellites, no drones. There was no (or little) television, no internet, no WikiLeaks. There was no understanding of the tools of nonviolence. History contained no nonviolent overthrows of dictatorships, few examples of creative nonviolent resistance to tyranny, no teams of human shields, no Arab Spring, no Civil Rights movement, no overcoming of Apartheid, no bloodless revolutions in Eastern Europe, no peace studies programs, no expertise in conflict resolution, and no viable alternatives to war -- much less the thousands of tools since devised, tested, and refined.

When we look back at Thomas Jefferson's slavery, we like to excuse it because he lived in an age in which lots of other people engaged in slavery. He didn't know better, we like to say. He didn't have an easy way out that would be equally profitable with so many side benefits. I think we're a bit generous in this act of forgiving, but I think there's also a grain of truth there. Times do change, and actions are taken in contexts.

When we look back at Franklin Roosevelt's war-making, perhaps we should remember that it took place in an era when nothing else was imagined by many people. Punishing the entire nation of Germany following World War I was not recognized as the time bomb it was, not by most people. Funding fascism as preferable to the horror of communism was not recognized as the Frankenstein experiment it was, not by most people. Hyping the danger of a Nazi takeover of the world and jumping into a war, and then escalating that war into the very worst thing the world has ever seen, was not viewed as a barbaric choice, was not viewed as a choice at all -- not by many people.

We live in a different era. When our President claims he simply must send missiles into Syria, we tell him to think harder. We can forgive FDR for war-making as we forgive those who engaged in slavery or dueling or blood feuds or witch hunts. They were products of their times. But we need not go on acting as if it is forever 1945 -- no matter how much that pretense profits certain people.

If we were to recognize that Hitler isn't coming back, and that we could resist him without war if he did, we might suddenly begin demanding the things that other nations have and the U.S. could easily afford: healthcare, education, a secure and adequate income, parental leave, vacation leave, retirement, public transit, sustainable energy, etc. Lockheed and Raytheon and Northrop Grumman would start making solar panels or start departing this world for the pages of history. In other words, we might shut down the other half of the government from the half that's shut down right now.

The following is an excerpt from my book, War No More: The Case for Abolition:

"There Never Was a Good War or a Bad Peace" or How to Be Against Both Hitler and War


Benjamin Franklin, who said that bit inside the quotation marks, lived before Hitler and so may not be qualified—in the minds of many—to speak on the matter. But World War II happened in a very different world from today's, didn't need to happen, and could have been dealt with differently when it did happen. It also happened differently from how we are usually taught. For one thing, the U.S. government was eager to enter the war, and to a great extent did enter the war, in both the Atlantic and the Pacific, prior to Pearl Harbor.

Pre-WWII Germany might have looked very different without the harsh settlement that followed World War I which punished an entire people rather than the war makers, and without the significant monetary support provided for decades past and ongoing through World War II by U.S. corporations like GM, Ford, IBM, and ITT (see Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler by Anthony Sutton).

(Let me insert a parenthetical remark here that I hope many will find quite silly, but that I know others will need to hear. We are talking about World War II, and I've just criticized someone other than Hitler—namely U.S. corporations—so let me hasten to point out that Hitler still gets to be responsible for every hideous crime he committed. Blame is more like sunshine than like fossil fuels; we can give some to Henry Ford for his support of Hitler without taking the slightest bit away from Adolph Hitler himself and without comparing or equating the two.)

Nonviolent resistance to the Nazis in Denmark, Holland, and Norway, as well as the successful protests in Berlin by the non-Jewish wives of imprisoned Jewish husbands suggested a potential that was never fully realized—not even close. The notion that Germany could have maintained a lasting occupation of the rest of Europe and the Soviet Union, and proceeded to attack in the Americas, is extremely unlikely, even given the 1940s' relatively limited knowledge of nonviolent activism. Militarily, Germany was primarily defeated by the Soviet Union, its other enemies playing relatively minor parts.

The important point is not that massive, organized nonviolence should have been used against the Nazis in the 1940s. It wasn't, and many people would have had to see the world very differently in order for that to have happened. Rather the point is that tools of nonviolence are much more widely understood today and can be, and typically will be, used against rising tyrants. We should not imagine returning to an age in which that wasn't so, even if doing so helps to justify outrageous levels of military spending! We should, rather, strengthen our efforts to nonviolently resist the growth of tyrannical powers before they reach a crisis point, and to simultaneously resist efforts to lay the ground work for future wars against them.

Prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, which was not then part of the United States, President Franklin Roosevelt had tried lying to the American people about U.S. ships including the Greer and the Kearny, which had been helping British planes track German submarines, but which Roosevelt pretended had been wrongly attacked. Roosevelt also tried to create support for entering the war by lying that he had in his possession a secret Nazi map planning the conquest of South America, as well as a secret Nazi plan for replacing all religions with Nazism. However, the people of the United States rejected the idea of going into another war until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, by which point Roosevelt had already instituted the draft, activated the National Guard, created and begun using a huge Navy in two oceans, traded old destroyers to England in exchange for the lease of its bases in the Caribbean and Bermuda, and secretly ordered the creation of a list of every Japanese and Japanese-American person in the United States.

When President Roosevelt visited Pearl Harbor seven years before the Japanese attack, the Japanese military (which, just like Hitler or anyone else in the world, gets full blame for all of its inexcusable crimes) expressed apprehension. In March 1935, Roosevelt bestowed Wake Island on the U.S. Navy and gave Pan Am Airways a permit to build runways on Wake Island, Midway Island, and Guam. Japanese military commanders announced that they were disturbed and viewed these runways as a threat. So did peace activists in the United States.

In November 1940, Roosevelt loaned China $100m for war with Japan, and after consulting with the British, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau made plans to send the Chinese bombers with U.S. crews to use in bombing Tokyo and other Japanese cities.

For years prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Navy worked on plans for war with Japan, the March 8, 1939, version of which described "an offensive war of long duration" that would destroy the military and disrupt the economic life of Japan. In January 1941, the Japan Advertiser expressed its outrage over Pearl Harbor in an editorial, and the U.S. ambassador to Japan wrote in his diary: "There is a lot of talk around town to the effect that the Japanese, in case of a break with the United States, are planning to go all out in a surprise mass attack on Pearl Harbor. Of course I informed my government."

On May 24, 1941, the New York Times reported on U.S. training of the Chinese air force, and the provision of "numerous fighting and bombing planes" to China by the United States. "Bombing of Japanese Cities is Expected" read the subheadline.

On July 24, 1941, President Roosevelt remarked, "If we cut the oil off, [the Japanese] probably would have gone down to the Dutch East Indies a year ago, and you would have had a war. It was very essential from our own selfish point of view of defense to prevent a war from starting in the South Pacific. So our foreign policy was trying to stop a war from breaking out there." Reporters noticed that Roosevelt said "was" rather than "is." The next day, Roosevelt issued an executive order freezing Japanese assets. The United States and Britain cut off oil and scrap metal to Japan. Radhabinod Pal, an Indian jurist who served on the war crimes tribunal in Tokyo after the war, called the embargoes a "clear and potent threat to Japan's very existence," and concluded the United States had provoked Japan.

The U.S. government is imposing what it proudly calls "crippling sanctions" on Iran as I write.

On November 15, 1941, Army Chief of Staff George Marshall briefed the media on something we do not remember as "the Marshall Plan." In fact we don't remember it at all. "We are preparing an offensive war against Japan," Marshall said, asking the journalists to keep it a secret.

Ten days later Secretary of War Henry Stimson wrote in his diary that he'd met in the Oval Office with Marshall, President Roosevelt, Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, Admiral Harold Stark, and Secretary of State Cordell Hull. Roosevelt had told them the Japanese were likely to attack soon, possibly next Monday. It has been well documented that the United States had broken the Japanese' codes and that Roosevelt had access to them.

What did not bring the United States into the war or keep it going was a desire to save Jews from persecution. For years Roosevelt blocked legislation that would have allowed Jewish refugees from Germany into the United States. The notion of a war to save the Jews is found on none of the war propaganda posters and essentially arose after the war was over, just as the idea of the "good war" took hold decades later as a comparison to the Vietnam War.

"Disturbed in 1942," wrote Lawrence S. Wittner, "by rumors of Nazi extermination plans, Jessie Wallace Hughan, an educator, a politician, and a founder of the War Resisters League, worried that such a policy, which appeared 'natural, from their pathological point of view,' might be carried out if World War II continued. 'It seems that the only way to save thousands and perhaps millions of European Jews from destruction,' she wrote, 'would be for our government to broadcast the promise' of an 'armistice on condition that the European minorities are not molested any further. ... It would be very terrible if six months from now we should find that this threat has literally come to pass without our making even a gesture to prevent it.' When her predictions were fulfilled only too well by 1943, she wrote to the State Department and the New York Times, decrying the fact that 'two million [Jews] have already died' and that 'two million more will be killed by the end of the war.' Once again she pleaded for the cessation of hostilities, arguing that German military defeats would in turn exact reprisals upon the Jewish scapegoat. 'Victory will not save them,' she insisted, 'for dead men cannot be liberated.'"

In the end some prisoners were rescued, but many more had been killed. Not only did the war not prevent the genocide, but the war itself was worse. The war established that civilians were fair game for mass slaughter and slaughtered them by the tens of millions. Attempts to shock and awe through mass slaughter failed. Fire-bombing cities served no higher purpose. Dropping one, and then a second, nuclear bomb was in no way justified as a way to end a war that was already ending. German and Japanese imperialism were halted, but the U.S. global empire of bases and wars was born—bad news for the Middle East, Latin America, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and elsewhere. The Nazi ideology was not defeated by violence. Many Nazi scientists were brought over to work for the Pentagon, the results of their influence apparent.

But much of what we think of as particularly Nazi evils (eugenics, human experimentation, etc.) could be found in the United States as well, before, during, and after the war. A recent book called Against Their Will: The Secret History of Medical Experimentation on Children in Cold War America collects much of what is known. Eugenics was taught in hundreds of medical schools in the United States by the 1920s and by one estimate in three-quarters of U.S. colleges by the mid 1930s. Non-consensual experimentation on institutionalized children and adults was common in the United States before, during, and especially after the U.S. and its allies prosecuted Nazis for the practice in 1947, sentencing many to prison and seven to be hanged. The tribunal created the Nuremberg Code, standards for medical practice that were immediately ignored back home. American doctors considered it "a good code for barbarians." Thus, we had the Tuskegee syphilis study, and the experimentation at the Jewish Chronic Disease Hospital in Brooklyn, the Willowbrook State School on Staten Island, Holmesburg Prison in Philadelphia, and so many others, including U.S. experiments on Guatemalans during the Nuremberg proceedings. Also during the Nuremberg trial, children at the Pennhurst school in southeastern Pennsylvania were given hepatitis-laced feces to eat. Human experimentation increased in the decades that followed. As each story has leaked out we've seen it as an aberration. Against Their Will suggests otherwise. As I write, there are protests of recent forced sterilizations of women in California prisons.

The point is not to compare the relative levels of evilness of individuals or people. The Nazis' concentration camps are very hard to match in that regard. The point is that no side in a war is good, and evil behavior is no justification for war. American Curtis LeMay, who oversaw the fire bombing of Japanese cities, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians, said that if the other side had won he'd have been prosecuted as a war criminal. That scenario wouldn't have rendered the disgusting war crimes of the Japanese or the Germans acceptable or praiseworthy. But it would have led to the world giving them less thought, or at least less exclusive thought. Instead, the crimes of the allies would be the focus, or at least one focus, of outrage.

You need not think that U.S. entry into World War II was a bad idea in order to oppose all future wars. You can recognize the misguided policies of decades that led to World War II. And you can recognize the imperialism of both sides as a product of their time. There are those who, by this means, excuse Thomas Jefferson's slavery. If we can do that, perhaps we can also excuse Franklin Roosevelt's war. But that doesn't mean we should be making plans to repeat either one of those things.


This article is excerpted from the new book War No More: The Case for Abolition and was originally published at War Is A Crime

Accelerating Surveillance on Both Sides of the Disappearing 49th Parallel Border

Increasing Data Collection and Surveillance in the North American Homeland

by Dana Gabriel - Be Your Own Leader

Some of the corporate interests that are steering the U.S.-Canada Beyond the Border integration agenda are not quite satisfied with its progress so far and they would like the implementation process to be accelerated.

The bilateral initiative which was launched almost two years ago promotes a shared vision for perimeter security. It seeks to improve information sharing between security agencies. Under the agreement, both countries are moving towards a coordinated entry/exit system and are developing a harmonized cargo security strategy.

In addition, the U.S. and Canada are strengthening integrated cross-border intelligence sharing and law enforcement operations. Canada’s own electronic eavesdropping agency is also working hand and hand with the NSA. They are both increasing data collection and surveillance in the North American Homeland.


Minister of Transport Lisa Raitt gave a speech at the Association of Canadian Port Authorities annual conference in August. She stated that, “Ensuring the security of our transportation systems is key to strengthening the Canada-U.S. trade relationship. To build prosperity through trade, businesses and governments on both sides of our shared border must have confidence that our transportation systems will work together to meet our mutual security needs. That is why Canada and the United States are working closely together to implement the Beyond the Border Action Plan.” While she didn’t reference the Maritime Commerce Resilience Project by name, Raitt acknowledged that the U.S. and Canada are, “developing a joint cross-border approach to help maritime commerce recover faster after a major disruption.” This would include a significant natural disaster or terrorist attack that impacts North America. She also mentioned a pilot program underway at the Port of Prince Rupert which is part of efforts to harmonize the cargo screening process between the U.S. and Canada. Both countries continue to advance this agenda through the Integrated Cargo Security Strategy, a key component of the Beyond the Border deal.

The Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) is an influential organization that lobbies the government on behalf of Canada’s largest corporations. Throughout the years, they have tirelessly pushed for deeper continental integration. In a letter sent to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, John Manley, President and CEO of the CCCE lays out what some of the Conservative Party's priorities should be in the next session of parliament. As far as the North American partnership goes, the CCCE called on Canada, the U.S. and Mexico to further strengthen and renew their trilateral relationship. This includes forging a North American energy advantage through projects such as the Keystone XL pipeline which it noted was, “An essential step is the development of a comprehensive strategy to expand and enhance cross-border energy infrastructure.” The CCCE’s letter to Prime Minister Harper also stressed that, “The Canada-U.S. Beyond the Border and Regulatory Cooperation initiatives that you helped launch two years ago hold much promise, although so far tangible benefits have been few and far between.” In other words, big business who have to most to gain from these agreements want to speed up the whole process of North American integration.

At the end of June, the Department of Homeland Security and the Canada Border Services Agency began Phase II of the Entry/Exit System, a commitment of the Beyond the Border action plan. The project builds on Phase I which involved collecting and exchanging biographic information at four selected land border crossings. Phase II has been expanded to include the exchange of biographic entry data collected from third-country nationals and permanent residents of Canada and the U. S. at all common ports of entry. In 2014, they will also start sharing biometric information at the border. Both countries are moving closer to fully implementing a biometric entry and exit data system. They are laying the groundwork for the creation of a North American biometric ID card. The U.S. and Canada are further merging databases and are expanding surveillance and intelligence gathering activities.

On July 12, Montana Democratic Senator Jon Tester chaired the hearing, Protecting our Northern Border: Enhancing Collaboration and Building Local Partnerships. The meeting emphasized how, “Securing such an expansive border requires a multi-faceted approach. In addition to a smart and effective deployment of technology and manpower, we must also be doing everything we can to ensure federal, local, state and Canadian partners are working very closely and collaboratively.” It also described other, “opportunities for collaboration and cost-sharing, including stronger partnerships between agencies, local officials, tribes and the private sector.” Before the hearings took place, Senator Tester talked to the CBC about the prospect of deploying a high-tech cable sensor along the U.S.-Canada border. This would include the installation of the Blue Rose in-ground perimeter defense security system. The low-level surveillance radar is based on fibre optic technology which is used, “to detect sound and vibration transmitted by intruders such as people walking or running and moving vehicles near the sensor.” The increased militarization of the northern border is forcing Canada to further comply with U.S.-style security measures.

A controversial U.S.-Canada cross-border law enforcement initiative which is essentially a land based version of the Shiprider program has been delayed due to legal ramifications. Under the Beyond the Border perimeter security plan, the Next Generation pilot project which would create integrated teams in areas such as intelligence and criminal investigations was scheduled to be launched in the summer of 2012. According to an RCMP memo, the U.S. is demanding that its agents taking part in the bilateral undertaking be exempt from Canadian law. This has raised serious concerns about transparency, accountability and responsibility. It is yet another attempt by the U.S. to chip away at Canadian sovereignty. An article by Michael Harris warned that, “Once you give the U.S a platform to carry weapons and perform investigative duties inside our country, how far will they push the next envelope?” The pilot project is part of the process of further acclimating U.S. policing activities in Canada. As part of a North American security perimeter, both countries continue to expand the nature and scope of joint law enforcement operations, along with intelligence collection and sharing.

An example on how North America is being increasingly viewed a single entity occurred several months back during a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting. California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein displayed a map that was designed by the National Security Agency (NSA) which showed domestic and global terror activity that it has allegedly helped disrupt. When it came to North America, the diagram identified Canada and Mexico as part of the U.S. Homeland. While the move garnered a lot of speculation, RT pointed out, “Whatever the reason for the NSA’s creation of the Homeland, the spy agency has already been condemned for failing to respect the sovereignty of other nations through its extensive data-collection efforts.” The NSA is also working in close partnership with Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC). An article from Global Research explained that, “the two organizations have integrated personnel—i.e. swap personnel to improve seamless collaboration. They also share Internet surveillance programs.” It went on to say that the NSA, “shares information on Canadians’ communications with Canada’s national security apparatus in exchange for information that CSEC gathers on Americans.”

The never ending war on terrorism is being used to justify the huge police state security apparatus being assembled. This includes the militarization of the northern border and the creation of a North American security perimeter. In the name of national security, there has been a steady erosion of civil liberties and privacy rights in both the U.S. and Canada. Our freedoms are under assault. The amount of information being collected and shared on all aspects of our daily lives has expanded and is being stored in massive databases. Sweeping new surveillance powers targeting terrorists and other criminals are being increasingly turned against those who are critical of government policy. There is a concerted effort to demonize political opponents, activists, protesters and other peaceful groups. We are witnessing the criminalization of dissent where those who oppose the government’s agenda are being labelled as terrorists and a threat to security.



Dana Gabriel is an activist and independent researcher. He writes about trade, globalization, sovereignty, security, as well as other issues. Contact: beyourownleader@hotmail.com Visit his blog at Be Your Own Leader


Related articles by Dana Gabriel:
Canada Being Assimilated Into a U.S. Dominated North American Security Perimeter
U.S.-Canada Harmonizing Border Security and Immigration Measures
U.S.-Canada Integrated Cybersecurity Agenda
The Pretext for a North American Homeland Security Perimeter

Killing the Digital Goose: NSA and the War on the Internet


Ungraceful Degradation: The NSA war on Internet integrity

by Peter Lee - China Matters

[This piece appeared at Asia Times Online in a slightly different form on October 15, 2013. It can be reproduced if China Matters is credited and a link provided. This article is a companion piece to an article appearing in an upcoming issue of CounterPunch magazine, which discusses the NSA's across-the-board, intensive commitment to overcoming the greatest obstacle to its surveillance activities--and the bulwark of Internet system integrity for commercial and individual users: the access of non-state actors to strong encryption products. Interested readers can subscribe to CounterPunch Magazine at this link: http://store.counterpunch.org/subscriptions/ ]
The US government has taken a pretty decent open network idea - the Internet - and turned it into a security nightmare.

In one of life's many ironies, the US was forced to degrade the security functions and overall integrity of the Internet because the US Constitution, law, and public and techie opposition combined to impede legal US government surveillance access to communications over the Internet.

Instead of accepting these limits, the US government sought to evade them - by weakening the encryption and security regimes that are at the heart of secure Internet communications for businesses and innocent civilians, as well as for the usual suspects invoked to justify subversion of Internet privacy: terrorists, criminals, and pedophiles.

The role of US IT corporations in crippling the security and privacy functions of the Internet is an awkward and relatively unexplored question.

So far, the most overt naming and shaming has taken place concerning cooperation of the IT bigs in the National Security Agency's PRISM program - which involved controlled, legally colored access to unencrypted materials on corporate servers. Under PRISM, the NSA apparently installed equipment at corporate sites to process government requests for unencrypted user data if it involved people that the NSA was "51%" sure weren't US persons.

Included in the Snowden documents was a slide showing the accession of the US IT heavyweights to the PRISM regime, starting with Microsoft in 2007 and including Yahoo!, Google, Facebook, Youtube, Skype, AOL, and Apple. PRISM looked something like exploitation of the CALEA (Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act) mandated backdoors in US telecommunications equipment, albeit with the disturbing realization that these backdoors could be exploited by anonymous NSA analysts without a FISA court order for a week and, when the free week was up, upon resort to the notoriously rubber-stamp FISA court (without the need to show probable cause as is the case when applying to get a warrant to spy on a US citizen).

The Washington Post's Bernard Gellman spoke of NSA efforts to suppress the names of the nine companies named on the PRISM slide:

Speaking at a Cato Institute conference on Wednesday, Gellman said The Washington Post has a practice of talking to the government before running stories that may impact national security. According to Gelman, there were "certain things" in the PRISM slides that they agreed raised legitimate security concerns. But, he said:
The thing that the government most wanted us to remove was the names of the nine companies. The argument, roughly speaking, was that we will lose cooperation from companies if you expose them in this way. And my reply was "that's why we are including them." Not in order to cause a certain result, or to get you to lose your cooperation but if the harm that you are describing consists of reputational or business damage to a company because the public doesn't like what it's doing or you're doing, that's the accountability we are supposed to be promoting.
Gellman believes that it's because the names were released that many of those technology companies started to be vocal advocates of greater transparency about the program. While they "previously had very little incentive to fight for disclosure because it wasn't their information that was being collected and there was no market pressure," he said, these companies "are now, because they are suffering business damage and reputational harm, pushing very hard in public debate and in lawsuits to disclose more about how the collection program works," which current FISA Court orders prohibit them from telling the public about. [1]
The NSA Nine, perhaps alerted to the upcoming PR firestorm, went public with defenses that sought to give a picture of limited, by-the-book, almost grudging cooperation. There was a lot of generous reporting about the struggles of Google, Facebook, Yahoo! et al to buck their NSA gag orders so they could reveal to an eager world how hard they have struggled to protect user privacy. Also, the PRISM revelations were explained and excused in the public media since they involved responses to FISA court warrants with specific, identified targets and, for that matter, were targeting "non-US persons", ie non-US citizens residing outside the United States.

What IT professionals found more disturbing than government backdoors into corporate servers, however, was Snowden's revelations of the NSA's war on encryption.

As I describe in an article in the upcoming print edition of Counterpunch, the NSA has aggressively acquired capabilities and resources in pursuit of its goal to crack encrypted e-mail, virtual private networks (VPNs), and mobile device communications.

Possible corporate collusion in the apparent NSA campaign to undermine the integrity of encryption and, for that matter, degrade the systemic security functionality of the Internet has received relatively little attention.

It can be speculated that some US IT corporations may have cooperated with the NSA in weakening security standards, installing backdoors, and botching implementation, perhaps with the idea that these were vulnerabilities that probably only the NSA could exploit.

Some of the most egregious NSA shenanigans have been in the arcane area of fiddling with the random number generators that lie at the heart of encryption. If the randomness is compromised incrementally, cracking becomes easier. And the more networked computers an attacker has, and the more messages are stored for analysis, the more important the reduced randomness of the encryption becomes.

It can be seen how US corporations might go along with the US government's machinations in this area; after all, the possibility of a non-NSA actor acquiring all those capabilities to exploit random number generator flaws seems vanishingly small.

At least up until now, there seems to be a code of techie omerta (and maybe the well-founded fear of a lawsuit) that precludes calling out IT bigs for climbing into bed with the NSA on the encryption issue.

In the issue of undermining cryptography, it would seem that a finger could be pointed at RSA Corp. RSA was founded by the three academics, Ron Ravist, Avi Shamir, and Leonard Adleman, who created the RSA algorithm at the heart of many encryption schemes (currently ensconced at MIT, Weizmann Institute, and USC, respectively, the three are apparently not involved in the running of the eponymous corporation).

RSA made it into the news by being forced to withdraw one of its products after September 2013 Snowden reporting let it be known that a random number generating scheme, DUAL EC EBRG, had been compromised during the standards-writing process by the NSA.

What made the RSA climbdown particularly damning was that 1) ever since 2007, DUAL EC EBRG had been recognized by the crypto community as flawed; 2) although its inclusion in encryption products sold to the US government as an option is mandated, no self-respecting crypto-expert ever deployed it as the default random number generator; 3) except RSA, which was was chock-a-block with top flight cryptographers who presumably knew better.

A recent edition of National Public Radio's Science Friday program featured Philip Zimmerman, the father of PGP public key encryption (which provoked the all-out NSA war on encrypted communications), Stanford crypto authority Martin Hellman, and Matthew Green, the Johns Hopkins professor who was in the news after his university pressed him to delete a blog post about the crypto wars.

Host Ira Flatow asked Philip Zimmerman why RSA would have done such a thing. There was a long, awkward silence and some awkward laughter before Zimmerman slid into the passive voice/third person zone:

ZIMMERMAN: And yet RSA did a security - did use it as their default random number generator. And they do have competent cryptographers working there. So.

FLATOW: How do you explain that?

ZIMMERMAN: Well, I'm not going to - I think I'd rather not be the one to say.

(LAUGHTER)

FLATOW: But if someone else were to say it, what would they say?

ZIMMERMAN: Well, someone else might say that maybe they were incentivized. [2] RSA is also responsible for another eminently crackable encryption standard, RC4.

The flagship RSA algorithm also has an unfortunate feature in its implementation in the Secure Socket Layer encryption at the heart of e-commerce and mobile device connections (to ensure privacy when connecting via a public WiFi hotspot). The encryption key used on the server side (ie the servers at Amazon, Visa, your bank, etc.) doesn't change.

Which means if someone stores the encrypted communications (presumably a capability that only the NSA has, thanks to its privileged position on the Internet backbones) and acquires the server side key (something that the NSA is apparently extremely aggressive about), the traffic can eventually be decoded and read.

Nevertheless, nobody has expressed an interest in getting in RSA's face for its possible role in implementing the NSA's weak encryption strategy or, for that matter, exploring Google's, Cisco's, Microsoft's, or Facebook's possible roles in enabling the NSA's acquisition of encryption keys.

This is despite - or because of - the fact that these are publicly traded corporations with vulnerable market capitalizations and accountable to their boards and stockholders and therefore compelled to engage with the media - unlike the NSA.

The collusion between industry and government which, I suspect, may lie at the heart of the NSA revelations, can only be defended if the NSA can claim to control the "resources and methods" and thereby provide legal and moral cover to the IT corporations that justify their cooperation with the thought that only the NSA can crack these systems with these tools, so it's OK.

Well, it's probably not OK.

Edward Snowden walked out the door with the keys to the kingdom. He's not revealing all the keys. But somebody else might.

Much of what's come out has been exposure of massive hacks that rely on the NSA's unique, privileged access to the Internet backbone and corporate servers, the ability to massively archive communications, and to harness unparalleled brain power and computing power for systemic surveillance, analysis, and decryption.

The NSA has more money than god, so it can pursue these capabilities, up to and including quantum computing, which will win the NSA a Nobel Prize as well as the ability to crack any encryption in the world if it can figure out how to really do it. But the real day to day action may lie in evading encryption security through a multitude of smaller exploits lovingly collected, catalogued, and exploited by the NSA.

There are a lot of security flaws on the Internet. Presumably, the NSA created some, mandated its corporate partners to install some more, and picked up information on genuine flaws from black and white hat hackers and their own employees. I imagine there's a lot of penny ante hacks the NSA knows and does, smaller-scale, copyable tricks that Edward Snowden and his media partners have carefully and responsibly chosen not to reveal. Things that the NSA chooses not to alert the IT companies about, at least not right away, because they are convenient, but which the "bad guys" could exploit if they found out.

Maybe things like the Microsoft zero-day (built-in) software vulnerability which the PRC allegedly exploited for its "Aurora" hack of Gmail and other high-tech companies in 2010. Bruce Schneier speculated at the time this could have been the exploitation of the backdoor Google had thoughtfully installed for the US government - and Aurora apparently turned out to be exactly that, according to the Washington Post in May 2013:

Former government officials with knowledge of the breach said attackers successfully accessed a database that flagged Gmail accounts marked for court-ordered wiretaps. Such information would have given attackers insight into active investigations being conducted by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies that involved undercover Chinese operatives. [3] The concurrent exposure of the e-mail accounts of Chinese dissidents, which were described as "a separate branch" of the 2010 Aurora attack on Google - and which allowed Google to clothe itself in anti-authoritarian righteousness while sliding past the issue of government backdoors into its services - raised the interesting possibility that the US government itself was monitoring the e-mail accounts of Chinese dissidents, and that's how they turned up in the database.

One can also speculate that the de facto ban on the use of the PRC-based Huawei and ZTE equipment on the American telecommunications backbone was implemented because the US government was loath to give China any privileged insight into exactly how the covert legal and extra-legal surveillance sausage is created, and denying potential Chinese access to US government watch-lists.

It appears that the NSA has an enormous and potentially unhealthy interest in acquiring and exploiting vulgar computer and Internet vulnerabilities in order to gain access to information it can't get through legal compulsion, court-mandated access, or use of its own big science decryption capabilities.

In describing the NSA's Foxacid program (in which the target computer is duped into communicating with an NSA tool for inserting spyware) Bruce Schneier described how NSA grunts can call up exploits to penetrate a target system as if they're ordering options off a Chinese take-out menu:

Here are the FOXACID basics: By the time the NSA tricks a target into visiting one of those servers, it already knows exactly who that target is, who wants him eavesdropped on, and the expected value of the data it hopes to receive. Based on that information, the server can automatically decide what exploit to serve the target, taking into account the risks associated with attacking the target, as well as the benefits of a successful attack. According to a top-secret operational procedures manual provided by Edward Snowden, an exploit named Validator might be the default, but the NSA has a variety of options. The documentation mentions United Rake, Peddle Cheap, Packet Wrench, and Beach Head - all delivered from a FOXACID subsystem called Ferret Cannon. Oh how I love some of these code names. (On the other hand, EGOTISTICALGIRAFFE has to be the dumbest code name ever.)
Snowden explained this to Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald in Hong Kong. If the target is a high-value one, FOXACID might run a rare zero-day exploit that it developed or purchased. If the target is technically sophisticated, FOXACID might decide that there's too much chance for discovery, and keeping the zero-day exploit a secret is more important. If the target is a low-value one, FOXACID might run an exploit that's less valuable. If the target is low-value and technically sophisticated, FOXACID might even run an already-known vulnerability.

We know that the NSA receives advance warning from Microsoft of vulnerabilities that will soon be patched; there's not much of a loss if an exploit based on that vulnerability is discovered. FOXACID has tiers of exploits it can run, and uses a complicated trade-off system to determine which one to run against any particular target.

This cost-benefit analysis doesn't end at successful exploitation. According to Snowden, the TAO - that's Tailored Access Operations - operators running the FOXACID system have a detailed flowchart, with tons of rules about when to stop. If something doesn't work, stop. If they detect a PSP, a personal security product, stop. If anything goes weird, stop. This is how the NSA avoids detection, and also how it takes mid-level computer operators and turn them into what they call "cyberwarriors." It's not that they're skilled hackers, it's that the procedures do the work for them. [4] 

We can assume Edward Snowden knows about the NSA's portfolio of computer, server, and router vulnerabilities ... and so does the next Edward Snowden, who might find it a lot more pleasant and profitable to sell the keys to the kingdom to Chinese intelligence or the Russian mafia, instead of ruining his life to inform the public and win Glenn Greenwald a (well-deserved) Pulitzer.

Andy Greenberg, a Forbes columnist, provided what he alleged were black-market prices for zero-day exploits, ie inherent vulnerabilities in software systems:

A six-figure price for a single hacking technique may sound extravagant, but it's hardly unique. Based on speaking with sources in this secretive but legal trade, I've assembled a rough price list for zero-day exploits below.
Adobe Reader $5,000-$30,000
Mac OSX $20,000-$50,000
Android $30,000-$60,000
Flash or Java Browser Plug-Ins $40,000-$100,000
Microsoft Word $50,000-$100,000
Windows $60,000-$120,000
Firefox or Safari $60,000-$150,000
Chrome or Internet Explorer $80,000-$200,000
IOS $100,000-$250,000 [5] 

That implies there's a lot of money sitting on the table for the next disgruntled/libertarian and/or greedy system admin to scoop up on his way out of the NSA door.

To market their products, US IT companies rely on the now discredited assumption that they provide the best security that they can to their customers within the limits of the law. The actual situation appears to be that much of the US industry provides the minimum level of security that the NSA permits it to implement.

The most logical conclusion would be to sweep aside the current, compromised regime of the NSA's enablers and replace it with a new, open source system from scratch. But that would involve replacing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of equipment and - perhaps more importantly - stripping away hundreds of billions of dollars of market capitalization of US IT corporations complicit in the current system. That's where the implication of the Edward Snowden revelations seems to lead. But, as yet, it seems nobody wants to go there.


Notes:
1. Post reporter: Here's why we refused the NSA's demand to censor the names of PRISM companies, Washington Post, October 9, 2013.
/ 2. Click here.
3. Google Aurora Hack Was Chinese Counterespionage Operation, Information Week Security, May 21, 2013.
4. Schneier on Security, October 9, 2013.
5. Shopping For Zero-Days: A Price List For Hackers' Secret Software Exploits, Forbes Magazine, March 23, 2012.