Top Secret America

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Re: DC's spy establishment in panic over Washington Post exp

Postby StarmanSkye » Wed Dec 15, 2010 10:21 pm

Jack -- Great synopsis sampling something of the enormous range, scope and over-arching control exerted by the hidden, security, deep state, that has effectively hi-jacked our demo-Republic, mostly within clear sight (though with covert means using every trick, method, system, racket, scam, tactic, technique and means in the unpublished book -- in fact, a whole encyclopedia of dirty tricks, fair and especially foul to subvert the ideals the nation supposedly embodies (as the myth goes).

Douglas Valentine, Peter Dale Scott and Greenwald (among others) are among my fav invaluable resources to 'see' the bigger picture of how this vast labyrinthe of compartmentalized interests & assets works against the common good. The ability of true-believers to believe their own monstrous lies is too grotesque for words, a testamant to the human capacity to agree 2 + 2 equals whatever it must for the expediency of a given end, no matter how monstrous or devious. The mindwarriers know this all too well. They think they have all the angles well-plotted. Living with honor in this post Cold War era will require rethinking what traits and qualities like valor, courage, sacrifice, struggle, integrity, dedication, respect and principle mean, and what they require.

Good Luck to us, but most of all, clarity and strength.
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Re: DC's spy establishment in panic over Washington Post exp

Postby Simulist » Wed Dec 15, 2010 10:50 pm

JackRiddler wrote:
Simulist wrote:Back in the mid 1980s, I remember reading about the old Soviet Union and how the KGB and its informants were rather ubiquitous in that society. If this is also true for the modern-day United States — and the quote from above seems to suggest that it might be — then who really knows some of the people each of us assumes we "know"? Some people ranging from your local grocer to the parish priest could have objectives as informants few of us dared suspect, lest we think of ourselves as paranoids.

In other words, this might be notably more common than most people may realize, or even suspect.

The comparison you suggest may be illuminating, including for the differences.

In the GDR, the Stasi employed about 100,000 people at any given time (so figure at least that many formers, many of whom remained connected as they drew a standard pension) and ran a network of 175,000 informants so far identified. This is in a country of 16 million people. It was centralized and it was obvious. For all the stories like that of the woman who discovered her husband was actually her spy of a dozen years standing, for the most part people knew or could guess when they were dealing with their own watchers, and at any rate knew they were being watched.

The Stasi and the state had a comparatively clear internal hierarchy and chain of command and a clear primary function of maintaining the power of a centralized one-party state over a population who, while generally conformist during most periods of East German history, as a whole would have preferred to see that state disappear; as it did, in the end. Furthermore, the Stasi was not home to a habitat for parapolitics and private or rogue initiative nearly one-tenth as rich as that provided by the giant riot of US alphabet agencies, black budget programs, front companies and, of course, the private contractors who now get most of the US intel budget money. (The latter can largely do whatever business in addition that they please, and have more options for doing that business in collaboration with allied agencies and contractors as well as money launderers and arms and drug dealers and militias and proxy armies across a worldwide empire.)

The Stasi's per-capita GDP, so to speak, was necessarily lower than they would have liked, and there were fewer opportunities for profit and fewer actors worldwide clamoring to do business with them. The overseers of the Stasi could look into its compartments with relative ease, when they desired, and thus had an easier time remaining in control of it. For them, the Stasi was comparably transparent! The Stasi kept well-organized, centralized and comprehensive records, on paper; notwithstanding a great deal of re-writing and fakery that entered from the operative level. The state and its officials did not need to develop the same sophistication of establishing cover stories for plausible deniability, and thus did not flood the world with comparably effective disinformation. It was a small world run by one big gorilla. They told their lies, nobody believed them, and it didn't matter; they got their way.

The constitutional arrangements were generally known to be fake and thus East Germany was a dictatorship that called itself a democracy, but functionally much less of a dual state.


Ola Tunander

In a 1955 study of the United States State Department, Hans Morgenthau discussed the existence of a US ‘dual state’. According to Morgenthau, the US state includes both a ‘regular state hierarchy’ that acts according to the rule of law and a more or less hidden ‘security hierarchy’—which I will refer to here as the ‘security state’ (also known in some countries as the ‘deep state’) —that not only acts in parallel to the former but also monitors and exerts control over it. In Morgenthau’s view, this security aspect of the state—the ‘security state’—is able to ‘exert an effective veto over the decisions’ of the regular state governed by the rule of law. While the ‘democratic state’ offers legitimacy to security politics, the ‘security state’ intervenes where necessary, by limiting the range of democratic politics. While the ‘democratic state’ deals with political alternatives, the ‘security state’ enters the scene when ‘no alternative exists’, when particular activities are ‘securitised’ —in the event of an ‘emergency’. In fact, the security state is the very apparatus that defines when and whether a ‘state of emergency’ will emerge. This aspect of the state is what Carl Schmitt, in his 1922 work Political Theology, referred to as the ‘sovereign’.

Logically speaking, one might argue that Morgenthau’s ‘dual state’ is derived from the same duality as that described in Ernst Fraenkel’s conception of the ‘dual state’, which Fraenkel described as typifying the Nazi regime of Hitler’s Germany. In the Nazi case, though, this duality was overt, combining the ‘regular’ legal state with a parallel ‘prerogative state’, an autocratic paramilitary emergency state or Machtstaat that operated outside or ‘above’ the legal system, with its philosophical foundation in the Schmittian ‘sovereign’. Fraenkel refers to Emil Lederer, who argues that this Machtstaat (‘power state’, as distinct from the Rechtstaat) has its historical origins in the European aristocratic elite, which still played an important role within European society after the triumph of democracy. This elite acted behind the scene in the 1920s, but considered it necessary to intervene in support of the Nazi Party in the 1930s to prevent a possible socialist takeover. However, this autocratic Machtstaat—the Nazi SS-state—was arbitrary, because of its individualised command. In his analysis, Morgenthau draws a parallel between Nazi Germany and the US dual state. Indeed, in his view, the autocratic ‘security state’ may be less visible and less arbitrary in democratic societies such as the US, but it is no less important. Morgenthau argues that the power of making decisions remains with the authorities charged by law with making them, while, as a matter of fact, by virtue of their power over life and death, the agents of the secret police… [and what I would call the security state: author] at the very least exert an effective veto over [these] decisions.

Much more here: ... &start=675

The US security state is much more complex, rich and labyrinthine, with many more compartments that do not know what's happening in the other boxes, many more storehouses of protected information, many more primary actors in the mix pursuing independent agendas in competition, and less oversight or even possibility of oversight, not just from Congress but from any authority at the top. The US security state is not dedicated to a true primary function as a whole, despite its manufacture of hundreds of threats, but above all to its own self-perpetuation and growth. Otherwise its blind tentacles pursue about 14,000 different interests in 200 countries worldwide (just to make up a number).

From the Washington Post series:

"There has been so much growth since 9/11 that getting your arms around that - not just for the CIA, for the secretary of defense - is a challenge," Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said in an interview with The Post last week.

In the Department of Defense, where more than two-thirds of the intelligence programs reside, only a handful of senior officials - called Super Users - have the ability to even know about all the department's activities. But as two of the Super Users indicated in interviews, there is simply no way they can keep up with the nation's most sensitive work.

"I'm not going to live long enough to be briefed on everything" was how one Super User put it. The other recounted that for his initial briefing, he was escorted into a tiny, dark room, seated at a small table and told he couldn't take notes. Program after program began flashing on a screen, he said, until he yelled ''Stop!" in frustration.

"I wasn't remembering any of it," he said.

Underscoring the seriousness of these issues are the conclusions of retired Army Lt. Gen. John R. Vines, who was asked last year to review the method for tracking the Defense Department's most sensitive programs. Vines, who once commanded 145,000 troops in Iraq and is familiar with complex problems, was stunned by what he discovered.

"I'm not aware of any agency with the authority, responsibility or a process in place to coordinate all these interagency and commercial activities," he said in an interview. "The complexity of this system defies description."

Here the Washington Post shows its limits in failing to ask a rather elementary question: Who devised the slide-show that was too fast and long and overwhelming for the "Super-User" to follow? Obviously, someone did. The Super-User, presumably the holder of a high-ranking office as appointed by the elected government of the United States, doesn't have the authority to take notes at his briefing, but some team, however it may itself be compartmentalized or cleared, prepared this enormous briefing and is privy to the information. Who is that? Who is the "Slide-Maker"?

(I have one possible answer and you won't be surprised to know it's sociological and based on the concept of caste and the organic development of bureaucracies that outlive all users, Super and otherwise. There is no One Driver of the Car. It's more like a herd that functions by the behavioral rules its species evolved over time, rules that the herd leader does not determine and is not necessarily more conscious of than the others.)

Why can't the Super-User, whose position in the official hierarchy legally is probably superior to the Slide-Maker's, command that, yes, he will take notes and go at his own speed? Who made the rules of this briefing, and who can change them? On what understanding of authority was it doubtless the case that the Super-User, before being allowed to take office, was subjected to a background vetting process by other members of the Slide-Maker caste, but probably doesn't get to vet them in return? Who wrote the vetting rules, and when?

This is the dual state in action, even within the top offices of the Pentagon. The dividing line between formal state and deep state is everywhere within the state and its industrial complexes, and can be found running through the people themselves.

But to get back to your question, Simulist, damn it must be a lot of spooks and former spooks now occupying a host of roles in our society, and enjoying benefits of their spook connections, and/or continuing to pursue spook agendas under private cover, and the most interesting questions are probably not about grocers or parish priests but Senators and news anchors and corporate chiefs and hedge fund managers and think-tank professors and gurus and popes. Currently 865,000 holders of Top Secret clearances, two-thirds of them spread among a couple of thousand private contractors, a couple of million graduates, a labyrinth of parapolitics, all this only begins to indicate the size of the "dark matter." And we've not even begun to consider the local analogues, FBI and state and municipal police and their fifth-generation Red Squads and informants and contractors and barnacles.

Very broadly speaking it all lives from one ideology, however. On this scale very little of it can be animated from within or justified to the outside without the "national" in national security. It needs believers.


jingofever! An idea. This was a fine beginning, but what say you petition the RIPTB to change the title of this thread to "Top Secret America," so that newbies know what it's about (now that the WP story is half a year old) and we can consolidate discussion on that subject here?


That was a brilliant post, Jack. I sincerely appreciated reading it.

I had no knowledge at all about many of the facts you shared concerning the Stasi, and your comparison and contrast between this and the many-headed hydra of the American intelligence apparatus was especially instructive — even now, as I read it again.

Your remarks about "Super Users" — and how restricted even they are from seeing and digesting the whole picture — should give everyone pause to reconsider many of the "facts" on intelligence-related matters many of us think we can be confident about, and your suggested possible answer concerning "Who is the Slide-maker?" seems especially worth considering.

If there really are a series of organic cues and "behavioral rules" at work, guiding the collective "drivers" of U.S. intelligence, then this contextualizes the utility of belief in even demonstrably false American narratives, which probably serve nonetheless as a sort of coded "software" in order for the hive to continue to function and orient itself.

And no wonder those who provide reasons to question such core beliefs — even, perhaps especially, when obviously false — are deemed so threatening to the survival of the hive.
"The most strongly enforced of all known taboos is the taboo against knowing who or what you really are behind the mask of your apparently separate, independent, and isolated ego."
    — Alan Watts
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Re: DC's spy establishment in panic over Washington Post exp

Postby JackRiddler » Thu Dec 16, 2010 6:59 pm


thank you starman and simulist.

Here's hoping jingofever agrees to retitle this thread to "Top Secret America" so that more people will join in. (Nothing wrong with the original title, but it's a headline from six months ago that people are now less likely to click.)

I've been thinking today that I only scratched the surface and showed a bias toward the chaos and "everyone's in it for the profit" aspects of an attempted map. However, large sectors of the national security state are visible (at least in outlines), highly structured and clearly hierarchical, and run on behalf of policy (which may differ from announced policy, ha ha) as set by the civilian administrations over decades and with maintenance of empire as the raison d'etre. There are civilian steering committees with great influence in defining policy, like the PFIAB and the Cheney energy meetings and the Defense Policy Review Board under Bush, and the machine does follow their orders. There is also policy as injected by the corporate clients, notably the contractors as well as the financial sector, arms dealers, and the big energy companies. Large sectors are stable, self-perpetuating bureacracies that just want to scare Congress into continuing that perpetuation without asking questions. (They're busy planning every possible contingency regardless of policy, and plans have a habit of coming true independently of civilian-set policy.) And all of these structures are surrounded by unknowable compartments and what I've called the parapolitical dark matter of inner rogues, networks, private operators, allied agencies, etc. So if I gave the impression the last is the only thing, well not at all.

I'd like for all of us to try to expand on what the map really looks like. I think I'll go dig up some Trevor Paglen. Also, the Jimmy Johnson article on "Secrecy and Literacy" from the Wikileaks thread. Also, anyone know what a general book on this beast looks like. (Arkin's Codename book that just listed operations and programs for several hundred pages was one such. Anyone read Shorrock's book?)

We meet at the borders of our being, we dream something of each others reality. - Harvey of R.I.

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I am by virtue of its might divine,
The highest Wisdom and the first Love.

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Re: Top Secret America

Postby hanshan » Thu Dec 16, 2010 9:12 pm


bumping in lieu of a lost post

Great analysis Jack, Simulist, redsock, etal

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Re: Top Secret America

Postby JackRiddler » Thu Dec 16, 2010 9:18 pm


Yes, this thread is now called "Top Secret America" - thanks jingo, barracuda and Jeff. (That makes it sounds like a lot of bureaucracy was involved, but with rapid expedition.)

Point being, please read the Washington Post expose (for a start) of the same title, as linked in the OP, and give your thoughts, not just about how limited it is, but also:

What is the shape of Top Secret America? Who are its authorities and policy-makers? How much is it "under control"? How many independent players are involved? Where do the private and parapolitical and cross-institutional networks and formal and private fusion points fit in? How can we really find out its form empirically, beyond relying on its statements and whatever it is willing to release via FOIA (or whatever gets leaked)? Are there ways to cast a light and see its shadow? Is there a driver or drivers? Etc.
We meet at the borders of our being, we dream something of each others reality. - Harvey of R.I.

To Justice my maker from on high did incline:
I am by virtue of its might divine,
The highest Wisdom and the first Love.

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Re: Top Secret America

Postby hanshan » Thu Dec 16, 2010 9:30 pm

JackRiddler wrote:.

Yes, this thread is now called "Top Secret America" - thanks jingo, barracuda and Jeff. (That makes it sounds like a lot of bureaucracy was involved, but with rapid expedition.)

Point being, please read the Washington Post expose (for a start) of the same title, as linked in the OP, and give your thoughts, not just about how limited it is, but also:

What is the shape of Top Secret America? Who are its authorities and policy-makers? How much is it "under control"? How many independent players are involved? Where do the private and parapolitical and cross-institutional networks and formal and private fusion points fit in? How can we really find out its form empirically, beyond relying on its statements and whatever it is willing to release via FOIA (or whatever gets leaked)? Are there ways to cast a light and see its shadow? Is there a driver or drivers? Etc.

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Re: Top Secret America

Postby JackRiddler » Thu Feb 10, 2011 12:50 am


I don't know if people have realized that there was a new installment of "Top Secret America" back on Dec. 20, this one on domestic "Monitoring America."

It allows for most of the usual justifications and rationalizations -- in the end allowing a police chief to say crime is the real terrorist threat (since there is basically no terrorist threat). But it describes a domestic law enforcement/spook complex of a size and complexity rarely acknowledged.

Top Secret America - Front Page

Part I (July 19) ... d-control/

Part II (July 20) ... urity-inc/

Part III (July 21) ... next-door/

Part IV:

Monitoring America


Monday, December 20, 2010; 1:40 AM

Correction to this article: An earlier version of this article contained several incorrect numbers that have since been updated. The errors occurred because of the accidental duplication of 74 records in a database of over 4,000 counterterrorism organizations that The Post assembled. While not affecting the overall conclusions of the article, the 74 duplications mean that there are 3,984 federal, state and local organizations working on domestic counterterrorism, not 4,058. Of the total, the number created since the 2001 attacks is 934, not 935.

Nine years after the terrorist attacks of 2001, the United States is assembling a vast domestic intelligence apparatus to collect information about Americans, using the FBI, local police, state homeland security offices and military criminal investigators.

The system, by far the largest and most technologically sophisticated in the nation's history, collects, stores and analyzes information about thousands of U.S. citizens and residents, many of whom have not been accused of any wrongdoing.

The government's goal is to have every state and local law enforcement agency in the country feed information to Washington to buttress the work of the FBI, which is in charge of terrorism investigations in the United States.

Other democracies - Britain and Israel, to name two - are well acquainted with such domestic security measures. But for the United States, the sum of these new activities represents a new level of governmental scrutiny.

This localized intelligence apparatus is part of a larger Top Secret America created since the attacks. In July, The Washington Post described an alternative geography of the United States, one that has grown so large, unwieldy and secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs or how many programs exist within it.

Today's story, along with related material on The Post's Web site, examines how Top Secret America plays out at the local level. It describes a web of 3,984 federal, state and local organizations, each with its own counterterrorism responsibilities and jurisdictions. At least 934 of these organizations have been created since the 2001 attacks or became involved in counterterrorism for the first time after 9/11.

(Search our database for your state to find a detailed profile of counterterrorism efforts in your community.) ... ca/states/

The months-long investigation, based on nearly 100 interviews and 1,000 documents, found that:

* Technologies and techniques honed for use on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan have migrated into the hands of law enforcement agencies in America.

* The FBI is building a database with the names and certain personal information, such as employment history, of thousands of U.S. citizens and residents whom a local police officer or a fellow citizen believed to be acting suspiciously. It is accessible to an increasing number of local law enforcement and military criminal investigators, increasing concerns that it could somehow end up in the public domain.

* Seeking to learn more about Islam and terrorism, some law enforcement agencies have hired as trainers self-described experts whose extremist views on Islam and terrorism are considered inaccurate and counterproductive by the FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies.

* The Department of Homeland Security sends its state and local partners intelligence reports with little meaningful guidance, and state reports have sometimes inappropriately reported on lawful meetings.

Counterterrorism on Main Street
In cities across Tennessee and across the nation local agencies are using sophisticated equipment and techniques to keep an eye out for terrorist threats -- and to watch Americans in the process. Launch Gallery »

The need to identify U.S.-born or naturalized citizens who are planning violent attacks is more urgent than ever, U.S. intelligence officials say. This month's FBI sting operation involving a Baltimore construction worker who allegedly planned to bomb a Maryland military recruiting station is the latest example. It followed a similar arrest of a Somali-born naturalized U.S. citizen allegedly seeking to detonate a bomb near a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, Ore. There have been nearly two dozen other cases just this year.

"The old view that 'if we fight the terrorists abroad, we won't have to fight them here' is just that - the old view," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told police and firefighters recently.

The Obama administration heralds this local approach as a much-needed evolution in the way the country confronts terrorism.

Top Secret America is a project two years in the making that describes the huge security buildup in the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Today’s story is about those efforts at the local level, including law enforcement and homeland security agencies in every state and thousands of communities. View previous stories, explore relationships between government organizations and the types of work being done, and view top-secret geography on an interactive map.

However, just as at the federal level, the effectiveness of these programs, as well as their cost, is difficult to determine. The Department of Homeland Security, for example, does not know how much money it spends each year on what are known as state fusion centers, which bring together and analyze information from various agencies within a state.

The total cost of the localized system is also hard to gauge. The DHS has given $31 billion in grants since 2003 to state and local governments for homeland security and to improve their ability to find and protect against terrorists, including $3.8 billion in 2010. At least four other federal departments also contribute to local efforts. But the bulk of the spending every year comes from state and local budgets that are too disparately recorded to aggregate into an overall total.

The Post findings paint a picture of a country at a crossroads, where long-standing privacy principles are under challenge by these new efforts to keep the nation safe.

The public face of this pivotal effort is Napolitano, the former governor of Arizona, which years ago built one of the strongest state intelligence organizations outside of New York to try to stop illegal immigration and drug importation.

Napolitano has taken her "See Something, Say Something" campaign far beyond the traffic signs that ask drivers coming into the nation's capital for "Terror Tips" and to "Report Suspicious Activity."

She recently enlisted the help of Wal-Mart, Amtrak, major sports leagues, hotel chains and metro riders. In her speeches, she compares the undertaking to the Cold War fight against communists.

"This represents a shift for our country," she told New York City police officers and firefighters on the eve of the 9/11 anniversary this fall. "In a sense, this harkens back to when we drew on the tradition of civil defense and preparedness that predated today's concerns."


From Afghanistan to Tennessee

On a recent night in Memphis, a patrol car rolled slowly through a parking lot in a run-down section of town. The military-grade infrared camera on its hood moved robotically from left to right, snapping digital images of one license plate after another and analyzing each almost instantly.

Suddenly, a red light flashed on the car's screen along with the word "warrant."

"Got a live one! Let's do it," an officer called out.

The streets of Memphis are a world away from the streets of Kabul, yet these days, the same types of technologies and techniques are being used in both places to identify and collect information about suspected criminals and terrorists.

The examples go far beyond Memphis.

* Hand-held, wireless fingerprint scanners were carried by U.S. troops during the insurgency in Iraq to register residents of entire neighborhoods. L-1 Identity Solutions is selling the same type of equipment to police departments to check motorists' identities.

* In Arizona, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Facial Recognition Unit, using a type of equipment prevalent in war zones, records 9,000 biometric digital mug shots a month.

* U.S. Customs and Border Protection flies General Atomics' Predator drones along the Mexican and Canadian borders - the same kind of aircraft, equipped with real-time, full-motion video cameras, that has been used in wars in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan to track the enemy.

The special operations units deployed overseas to kill the al-Qaeda leadership drove technological advances that are now expanding in use across the United States. On the front lines, those advances allowed the rapid fusing of biometric identification, captured computer records and cellphone numbers so troops could launch the next surprise raid.

Here at home, it's the DHS that is enamored with collecting photos, video images and other personal information about U.S. residents in the hopes of teasing out terrorists.

The DHS helped Memphis buy surveillance cameras that monitor residents near high-crime housing projects, problematic street corners, and bridges and other critical infrastructure. It helped pay for license plate readers and defrayed some of the cost of setting up Memphis's crime-analysis center. All together it has given Memphis $11 million since 2003 in homeland security grants, most of which the city has used to fight crime.

"We have got things now we didn't have before," said Memphis Police Department Director Larry Godwin, who has produced record numbers of arrests using all this new analysis and technology. "Some of them we can talk about. Some of them we can't."

One of the biggest advocates of Memphis's data revolution is John Harvey, the police department's technology specialist, whose computer systems are the civilian equivalent of the fancier special ops equipment used by the military.

Harvey collects any information he can pry out of government and industry. When officers were wasting time knocking on the wrong doors to serve warrants, he persuaded the local utility company to give him a daily update of the names and addresses of customers.

When he wanted more information about phones captured at crime scenes, he programmed a way to store all emergency 911 calls, which often include names and addresses to associate with phone numbers. He created another program to upload new crime reports every five minutes and mine them for the phone numbers of victims, suspects, witnesses and anyone else listed on them.

Now, instead of having to decide which license plate numbers to type into a computer console in the patrol car, an officer can simply drive around, and the automatic license plate reader on his hood captures the numbers on every vehicle nearby. If the officer pulls over a driver, instead of having to wait 20 minutes for someone back at the office to manually check records, he can use a hand-held device to instantly call up a mug shot, a Social Security number, the status of the driver's license and any outstanding warrants.

The computer in the cruiser can tell an officer even more about who owns the vehicle, the owner's name and address and criminal history, and who else with a criminal history might live at the same address.

Take a recent case of two officers with the hood-mounted camera equipment who stopped a man driving on a suspended license. One handcuffed him, and the other checked his own PDA. Based on the information that came up, the man was ordered downtown to pay a fine and released as the officers drove off to stop another car.

That wasn't the end of it, though.

A record of that stop - and the details of every other arrest made that night, and every summons written - was automatically transferred to the Memphis Real Time Crime Center, a command center with three walls of streaming surveillance video and analysis capabilities that rival those of an Army command center.

There, the information would be geocoded on a map to produce a visual rendering of crime patterns. This information would help the crime intelligence analysts predict trends so the department could figure out what neighborhoods to swarm with officers and surveillance cameras.

But that was still not the end of it, because the fingerprints from the crime records would also go to the FBI's data campus in Clarksburg, W.Va. There, fingerprints from across the United States are stored, along with others collected by American authorities from prisoners in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, Iraq and Afghanistan.

There are 96 million sets of fingerprints in Clarksburg, a volume that government officials view not as daunting but as an opportunity.

This year for the first time, the FBI, the DHS and the Defense Department are able to search each other's fingerprint databases, said Myra Gray, head of the Defense Department's Biometrics Identity Management Agency, speaking to an industry group recently. "Hopefully in the not-too-distant future," she said, "our relationship with these federal agencies - along with state and local agencies - will be completely symbiotic."


The FBI's 'suspicious' files

At the same time that the FBI is expanding its West Virginia database, it is building a vast repository controlled by people who work in a top-secret vault on the fourth floor of the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building in Washington. This one stores the profiles of tens of thousands of Americans and legal residents who are not accused of any crime. What they have done is appear to be acting suspiciously to a town sheriff, a traffic cop or even a neighbor.

If the new Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative, or SAR, works as intended, the Guardian database may someday hold files forwarded by all police departments across the country in America's continuing search for terrorists within its borders.

The effectiveness of this database depends, in fact, on collecting the identities of people who are not known criminals or terrorists - and on being able to quickly compile in-depth profiles of them.

"If we want to get to the point where we connect the dots, the dots have to be there," said Richard A. McFeely, special agent in charge of the FBI's Baltimore office.

In response to concerns that information in the database could be improperly used or released, FBI officials say anyone with access has been trained in privacy rules and the penalties for breaking them.

But not everyone is convinced. "It opens a door for all kinds of abuses," said Michael German, a former FBI agent who now leads the American Civil Liberties Union's campaign on national security and privacy matters. "How do we know there are enough controls?"

The government defines a suspicious activity as "observed behavior reasonably indicative of pre-operational planning related to terrorism or other criminal activity" related to terrorism.

State intelligence analysts and FBI investigators use the reports to determine whether a person is buying fertilizer to make a bomb or to plant tomatoes; whether she is plotting to poison a city's drinking water or studying for a metallurgy test; whether, as happened on a Sunday morning in late September, the man snapping a picture of a ferry in the Newport Beach harbor in Southern California simply liked the way it looked or was plotting to blow it up.

Suspicious Activity Report N03821 says a local law enforcement officer observed "a suspicious subject . . . taking photographs of the Orange County Sheriff Department Fire Boat and the Balboa Ferry with a cellular phone camera." The confidential report, marked "For Official Use Only," noted that the subject next made a phone call, walked to his car and returned five minutes later to take more pictures. He was then met by another person, both of whom stood and "observed the boat traffic in the harbor." Next another adult with two small children joined them, and then they all boarded the ferry and crossed the channel.

All of this information was forwarded to the Los Angeles fusion center for further investigation after the local officer ran information about the vehicle and its owner through several crime databases and found nothing.

Authorities would not say what happened to it from there, but there are several paths a suspicious activity report can take:

At the fusion center, an officer would decide to either dismiss the suspicious activity as harmless or forward the report to the nearest FBI terrorism unit for further investigation.

At that unit, it would immediately be entered into the Guardian database, at which point one of three things could happen:

The FBI could collect more information, find no connection to terrorism and mark the file closed, though leaving it in the database.

It could find a possible connection and turn it into a full-fledged case.

Or, as most often happens, it could make no specific determination, which would mean that Suspicious Activity Report N03821 would sit in limbo for as long as five years, during which time many other pieces of information about the man photographing a boat on a Sunday morning could be added to his file: employment, financial and residential histories; multiple phone numbers; audio files; video from the dashboard-mounted camera in the police cruiser at the harbor where he took pictures; and anything else in government or commercial databases "that adds value," as the FBI agent in charge of the database described it.

That could soon include biometric data, if it existed; the FBI is working on a way to attach such information to files. Meanwhile, the bureau will also soon have software that allows local agencies to map all suspicious incidents in their jurisdiction.

The Defense Department is also interested in the database. It recently transferred 100 reports of suspicious behavior into the Guardian system, and over time it expects to add thousands more as it connects 8,000 military law enforcement personnel to an FBI portal that will allow them to send and review reports about people suspected of casing U.S. bases or targeting American personnel.

And the DHS has created a separate way for state and local authorities, private citizens, and businesses to submit suspicious activity reports to the FBI and to the department for analysis.

As of December, there were 161,948 suspicious activity files in the classified Guardian database, mostly leads from FBI headquarters and state field offices. Two years ago, the bureau set up an unclassified section of the database so state and local agencies could send in suspicious incident reports and review those submitted by their counterparts in other states. Some 890 state and local agencies have sent in 7,197 reports so far.

Of those, 103 have become full investigations that have resulted in at least five arrests, the FBI said. There have been no convictions yet. An additional 365 reports have added information to ongoing cases.

But most remain in the uncertain middle, which is why within the FBI and other intelligence agencies there is much debate about the effectiveness of the bottom-up SAR approach, as well as concern over the privacy implications of retaining so much information on U.S. citizens and residents who have not been charged with anything.

The vast majority of terrorism leads in the United States originate from confidential FBI sources and from the bureau's collaboration with federal intelligence agencies, which mainly work overseas. Occasionally a stop by a local police officer has sparked an investigation. Evidence comes from targeted FBI surveillance and undercover operations, not from information and analysis generated by state fusion centers about people acting suspiciously.

"It's really resource-inefficient," said Philip Mudd, a 20-year CIA counterterrorism expert and a top FBI national security official until he retired nine months ago. "If I were to have a dialogue with the country about this . . . it would be about not only how we chase the unknowns, but do you want to do suspicious activity reports across the country? . . . Anyone who is not at least suspected of doing something criminal should not be in a database."

Charles Allen, a longtime senior CIA official who then led the DHS's intelligence office until 2009, said some senior people in the intelligence community are skeptical that SARs are an effective way to find terrorists. "It's more likely that other kinds of more focused efforts by local police will gain you the information that you need about extremist activities," he said.

The DHS can point to some successes: Last year the Colorado fusion center turned up information on Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan-born U.S. resident planning to bomb the New York subway system. In 2007, a Florida fusion center provided the vehicle ownership history used to identify and arrest an Egyptian student who later pleaded guilty to providing material support to terrorism, in this case transporting explosives.

"Ninety-nine percent doesn't pan out or lead to anything" said Richard Lambert Jr., the special agent in charge of the FBI's Knoxville office. "But we're happy to wade through these things."


Expert training?

Ramon Montijo has taught classes on terrorism and Islam to law enforcement officers all over the country.

"Alabama, Colorado, Vermont," said Montijo, a former Army Special Forces sergeant and Los Angeles Police Department investigator who is now a private security consultant. "California, Texas and Missouri," he continued.

What he tells them is always the same, he said: Most Muslims in the United States want to impose sharia law here.

"They want to make this world Islamic. The Islamic flag will fly over the White House - not on my watch!" he said. "My job is to wake up the public, and first, the first responders."

With so many local agencies around the country being asked to help catch terrorists, it often falls to sheriffs or state troopers to try to understand the world of terrorism. They aren't FBI agents, who have years of on-the-job and classroom training.

Instead, they are often people like Lacy Craig, who was a police dispatcher before she became an intelligence analyst at Idaho's fusion center, or the detectives in Minnesota, Michigan and Arkansas who can talk at length about the lineage of gangs or the signs of a crystal meth addict.

Now each of them is a go-to person on terrorism as well.

"The CIA used to train analysts forever before they graduated to be a real analyst," said Allen, the former top CIA and DHS official. "Today we take former law enforcement officers and we call them intelligence officers, and that's not right, because they have not received any training on intelligence analysis."

State fusion center officials say their analysts are getting better with time. "There was a time when law enforcement didn't know much about drugs. This is no different," said Steven W. Hewitt, who runs the Tennessee fusion center, considered one of the best in the country. "Are we experts at the level of [the National Counterterrorism Center]? No. Are we developing an expertise? Absolutely."

But how they do that is usually left up to the local police departments themselves. In their desire to learn more about terrorism, many departments are hiring their own trainers. Some are self-described experts whose extremist views are considered inaccurate and harmful by the FBI and others in the intelligence community

Like Montijo, Walid Shoebat, a onetime Muslim who converted to Christianity, also lectures to local police. He too believes that most Muslims seek to impose sharia law in the United States. To prevent this, he said in an interview, he warns officers that "you need to look at the entire pool of Muslims in a community."

When Shoebat spoke to the first annual South Dakota Fusion Center Conference in Sioux Falls this June, he told them to monitor Muslim student groups and local mosques and, if possible, tap their phones. "You can find out a lot of information that way," he said.

A book expanding on what Shoebat and Montijo believe has just been published by the Center for Security Policy, a Washington-based neoconservative think tank. "Shariah: The Threat to America" describes what its authors call a "stealth jihad" that must be thwarted before it's too late.

The book's co-authors include such notables as former CIA director R. James Woolsey and former deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, along with the center's director, a longtime activist. They write that most mosques in the United States already have been radicalized, that most Muslim social organizations are fronts for violent jihadists and that Muslims who practice sharia law seek to impose it in this country.

Frank Gaffney Jr., director of the center, said his team has spoken widely, including to many law enforcement forums.

"Members of our team have been involved in training programs for several years now, many of which have been focused on local law enforcement intelligence, homeland security, state police, National Guard units and the like," Gaffney said. "We're seeing a considerable ramping-up of interest in getting this kind of training."

Government terrorism experts call the views expressed in the center's book inaccurate and counterproductive. They say the DHS should increase its training of local police, using teachers who have evidence-based viewpoints.

DHS spokeswoman Amy Kudwa said the department does not maintain a list of terrorism experts but is working on guidelines for local authorities wrestling with the topic.

So far, the department has trained 1,391 local law enforcement officers in analyzing public information and 400 in analytic thinking and writing skills. Kudwa said the department also offers counterterrorism training through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which this year enrolled 94 people in a course called "Advanced Criminal Intelligence Analysis to Prevent Terrorism."


A lack of useful information

The DHS also provides local agencies a daily flow of information bulletins.

These reports are meant to inform agencies about possible terror threats. But some officials say they deliver a never-ending stream of information that is vague, alarmist and often useless. "It's like a garage in your house you keep throwing junk into until you can't park your car in it," says Michael Downing, deputy chief of counterterrorism and special operations for the Los Angeles Police Department.

A review of nearly 1,000 DHS reports dating back to 2003 and labeled "For Official Use Only" underscores Downing's description. Typical is one from May 24, 2010, titled "Infrastructure Protection Note: Evolving Threats to the Homeland."

It tells officials to operate "under the premise that other operatives are in the country and could advance plotting with little or no warning." Its list of vulnerable facilities seems to include just about everything: "Commercial Facilities, Government Facilities, Banking and Financial and Transportation . . ."

Bart R. Johnson, who heads the DHS's intelligence and analysis office, defended such reports, saying that threat reporting has "grown and matured and become more focused." The bulletins can't be more specific, he said, because they must be written at the unclassified level.

Recently, the International Association of Chiefs of Police agreed that the information they were receiving had become "more timely and relevant" over the past year.

Downing, however, said the reports would be more helpful if they at least assessed threats within a specific state's boundaries.

States have tried to do that on their own, but with mixed, and at times problematic, results.

In 2009, for instance, after the DHS and the FBI sent out several ambiguous reports about threats to mass-transit systems and sports and entertainment venues, the New Jersey Regional Operations Intelligence Center's Threat Analysis Program added its own information. "New Jersey has a large mass-transit infrastructure," its report warned, and "an NFL stadium and NHL/NBA arenas, a soccer stadium, and several concert venues that attract large crowds."

In Virginia, the state's fusion center published a terrorism threat assessment in 2009 naming historically black colleges as potential hubs for terrorism.

From 2005 to 2007, the Maryland State Police went even further, infiltrating and labeling as terrorists local groups devoted to human rights, antiwar causes and bike lanes.

And in Pennsylvania this year, a local contractor hired to write intelligence bulletins filled them with information about lawful meetings as varied as Pennsylvania Tea Party Patriots Coalition gatherings, antiwar protests and an event at which environmental activists dressed up as Santa Claus and handed out coal-filled stockings.


'We have our own terrorists'

Even if the information were better, it might not make a difference for the simplest of reasons: In many cities and towns across the country, there is just not enough terrorism-related work to do.

In Utah on one recent day, one of five intelligence analysts in the state's fusion center was writing a report about the rise in teenage overdoses of an over-the-counter drug. Another was making sure the visiting president of Senegal had a safe trip. Another had just helped a small town track down two people who were selling magazine subscriptions and pocketing the money themselves.

In the Colorado Information Analysis Center, some investigators were following terrorism leads. Others were looking into illegal Craigslist postings and online "World of Warcraft" gamers.

The vast majority of fusion centers across the country have transformed themselves into analytical hubs for all crimes and are using federal grants, handed out in the name of homeland security, to combat everyday offenses.

This is happening because, after 9/11, local law enforcement groups did what every agency and private company did in Top Secret America: They followed the money.

The DHS helped the Memphis Police Department, for example, purchase 90 surveillance cameras, including 13 that monitor bridges and a causeway. It helped buy the fancy screens on the walls of the Real Time Crime Center, as well as radios, robotic surveillance equipment, a mobile command center and three bomb-sniffing dogs. All came in the name of port security and protection to critical infrastructure.

Since there hasn't been a solid terrorism case in Memphis yet, the equipment's greatest value has been to help drive down city crime. Where the mobile surveillance cameras are set up, criminals scatter, said Lt. Mark Rewalt, who, on a recent Saturday night, scanned the city from an altitude of 1,000 feet.

Flying in a police helicopter, Rewalt pointed out some of the cameras the DHS has funded. They are all over the city, in mall parking lots, in housing projects, at popular street hang-outs. "Cameras are what's happening now," he marveled.

Meanwhile, another post-9/11 unit in Tennessee has had even less terrorism-related work to do.

The Tennessee National Guard 45th Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team, one of at least 50 such units around the country, was created to respond to what officials still believe is the inevitable release of chemical, biological or radiological material by terrorists.

The unit's 22 hazardous-materials personnel have the best emergency equipment in the state. A fleet of navy-blue vehicles - command, response, detection and tactical operations trucks - is kept polished and ready to roll in a garage at the armory in Smyrna.

The unit practices WMD scenarios constantly. But in real life, the crew uses the equipment very little: twice a year at NASCAR races in nearby Bristol to patrol for suspicious packages. Other than that, said Capt. Matt Hayes, several times a year they respond to hoaxes.

The fact that there has not been much terrorism to worry about is not evident on the Tennessee fusion center's Web site. Click on the incident map, and the state appears to be under attack.

Red icons of explosions dot Tennessee, along with blinking exclamation marks and flashing skulls. The map is labeled: "Terrorism Events and Other Suspicious Activity.

But if you roll over the icons, the explanations that pop up have nothing to do with major terrorist plots: "Johnson City police are investigating three 'bottle bombs' found at homes over the past three days," one description read recently. ". . . The explosives were made from plastic bottles with something inside that reacted chemically and caused the bottles to burst."

Another told a similar story: "The Scott County Courthouse is currently under evacuation after a bomb threat was called in Friday morning. Update: Authorities completed their sweep . . . and have called off the evacuation."

Nine years after 9/11, this map is part of the alternative geography that is Top Secret America, where millions of people are assigned to help stop terrorism. Memphis Police Director Godwin is one of them, and he has his own version of what that means in a city where there have been 86 murders so far this year.

"We have our own terrorists, and they are taking lives every day," Godwin said. "No, we don't have suicide bombers - not yet. But you need to remain vigilant and realize how vulnerable you can be if you let up."

Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this story.

© 2011 The Washington Post Company

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Re: Top Secret America

Postby JackRiddler » Mon Feb 14, 2011 2:37 pm


Cross-posting from "The Wikileaks Question" some thoughts from Jimmy Johnson who goes into a Trevor Paglen-type geography of the classified universe (our "dark matter") and the history of secrecy and "literacy" (meaning: the means of access). I also enjoy the insights into "derivative secrecy."

By translating the bible into the vernacular they declassified the bible, which had been effectively a state secret up to that point.

December 9, 2010
Of Wikileaks and Literacy
The Secret Secret


If you cannot decipher and interpret letters and symbols, you cannot read. If you cannot access letters and symbols, you also cannot read. This is a common understanding and in many ways, such as leaving out the capacity for critical analysis and the ability to write, is as reductive an understanding of the concept of literacy as exists. Public libraries are underfunded and many are cutting staff, services and hours which attacks our collective literacy. There is another, arguably greater, threat to our collective literacy, one that grossly restricts the amount of publicly available literature and serves severe imbalances of power: state secrecy. State secrecy is generally thought of as a matter of national security, or perhaps governmental transparency, but we should also view it as a matter of literacy. And we should consider Wikileaks to be a literacy organization.

This might initially sound a bit off. But as one of the fundamentals of literacy is access to literature, it is a serious problem for the scope of the classified universe is simply staggering yet, as begets secrecy, little known. "In fact," Harvard's Peter Galison wrote in 2004, "the classified universe as it is sometimes called is certainly not smaller, and very probably much larger than [the] unclassified one." He continued, "the U.S. added a net 250 million classified pages [in 2003]. By comparison, the entire system of Harvard libraries—over a hundred of them—added about 220,000 volumes (about sixty million pages, a number not far from the acquisition rate at other comparably massive universal depositories such as the Library of Congress, the British Museum, or the New York Public Library). Contemplate these numbers: about five times as many pages are being added to the classified universe than are being brought to the storehouses of human learning including all the books and journals on any subject in any language collected in the largest repositories on the planet." Using Galison's methodology, it would take the annual page count for all published titles (including new editions and reprints) in the U.S., United Kingdom, China, Russia and Germany - the nations with the five largest outputs of new titles totaling around 835,000 - to match that of the classified world in the U.S. alone.*

There are drastically conflicting sets of numbers from the Information Security Oversight Office, the U.S. government agency in charge of classification of documents and data, about the amount of material classified. Either, after an initial post-Cold War drop off, there was a slow rise in the amount of classified documents until a fairly drastic increase in 2000, or it has been increasing somewhat steadily during this entire period with a couple of small bumps in 2000 and 2005 (the discrepancies relate to numbers of 'derivative classifications', to which I'll return shortly). It is perhaps not surprising to find information about state secrecy to be somewhat unenlightening, but what all sets of such documents agree on is that the current levels are a very significant increase and that the short- and medium-term trends are for the growth of the 'dark world' to continue.

Part of the growth of the dark world is through derivative classification. The number of original classification actions taken in 2008 was 203,541. Derivative classifications are classifications of materials that make use of an originally classified document. In short, the classified document itself is secret, but also uses of and references to it can be secret. And uses of and references to the references can be secret. And so on. Thus the number of derivative classification actions in 2008 numbered over one hundred times the number of original classifications, at 23,217,557. Something secret has to develop more forms of secrecy in order to keep itself secret, thus the classified universe, in the words of geographer Trevor Paglen, "tends to sculpt the world around it in its own image." How, after all, can a secret be transparently discussed?

As alarming as it is that state secrecy easily snowballs, the power dynamic supporting those who hold secret clearances is equally disturbing. Only those with proper clearances can participate in discussions that affect significant aspects of our lives. Certain technological achievements, our collective ethical decisions (torture, secret prisons, air strikes, etc.), our collective behavior towards other nations and peoples (foreign policy discussions) and more are often obscured by state secrecy. Like the medieval clergy, those holding classified clearances are the sole legitimate interpreters of the 'really important' knowledge. In effect, they are a caste that guides our political and technological cosmologies despite the common view of the U.S. as a nation where ideas can be, and are, freely exchanged. As Galison wrote, "Our commonsense picture may well be far too sanguine, even inverted. The closed world is not a small strongbox in the corner of our collective house of codified and stored knowledge. It is we in the open world—we who study the world lodged in our libraries, from aardvarks to zymurgy, we who are living in a modest information booth facing outwards, our unseeing backs to a vast and classified empire we barely know.

In his recent The Art of Not Being Governed, James C. Scott notes, "[I]t should go without saying that until very recently the literate elite of the valley states were a tiny minority of the total subject population." He was referring specifically to Southeast Asia but the same is applicable, he notes, in "all premodern societies". Pre-modern literacy was overwhelmingly biased towards justifying state and clerical power or dictating its use. Military or labor conscription, holy texts governing the legitimate social and philosophical orders, descriptions of royal and clerical lineages, and census data and tax rolls dominated written texts until quite recently. The ability to develop, manipulate and interpret - and thus benefit from - these literate materials was in the hands of a tiny literate elite; "almost certainly less than 1 percent," according to Scott. For this reason attempts to expand literacy were attacked with the most severe punishments. Literacy had the potential to subvert such skewed power relationships by opening up the legitimate knowledge for public scrutiny.

The Roman Catholic Church in the 14th century held rigid control over the rituals designating legitimate pathways to salvation and the clergy had significant sway over secular officials, whose legitimacy was largely dependent upon clerical approval. The Church rituals - mass and communion - were conducted in Latin, a language in which almost all were illiterate, mitigating any challenge to Church authority. A key element leading to the Protestant Reformation and the subversion of Roman Catholic dominance was the efforts to translate the bible into the vernacular led by John Wycliffe, William Tyndale and others. By translating the bible into the vernacular they declassified the bible, which had been effectively a state secret up to that point. This did not mean that anyone and everyone could then read the bible, the question of mass literacy is still being addressed today. But it rendered it possible to anyone with the ability to read and the mysteries of god became accessible and clerical power began to wane.

The ability for laypersons to examine the claims of the Medieval and Renaissance clergy was necessary for the power relationship itself to be rethought. Those without access to the bible, without literacy, had no standing to challenge or dispute the authority and interpretations of the clergy such as the 1252 papal bull Ad extirpanda, the Inquisition's Torture Memos. This stigma - a delegitimization of nonliterate knowledge - of what is now termed illiteracy remains. Keeping with the analogy, the expression of opinion by illiterate (those without secret clearances) commentators is stigmatized when confronted with those holding classified clearances.

When Secretary of State Colin Powell made the case to the United Nations Security Council in February, 2003 for the U.S. invasion of Iraq, he invoked the power of access to the classified world. "I cannot tell you everything that we know," Powell stated, "but what I can share with you, when combined with what all of us have learned over the years, is deeply troubling." And despite his trust-me-I-have-the-goods declaration that "every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources," it has been definitively proven that the claims of Iraq's weapons programs and the Hussein regime's alliance with Al-Qaida were grossly exaggerated and falsified (here leaving aside the important question of whether such claims, if accurate, would then have justified war). As the other major agitator for the war, the United Kingdom offers analogous examples with Prime Minister Tony Blair pitching UK participation on the infamous September and Dodgy Dossiers.

Sec. Powell certainly had access to classified information that the public, dissidents and scholars did not. This did not lead him nor the U.S. political and military leadership, most of which also had access to classified intelligence, to make wise decisions or produce informed analysis any more than the Latin literacy of the Medieval clergy allowed a superior understanding of the mind of god (unless one hold a Pro-Inquisition stance...). In fact, the dissenting opinions of scholars and activists opposed to the war have proven far more accurate than the claims made by the Bush and Blair administrations. It was not insight from classified information that earned the public's trust of Sec. Powell, but the authority, power and legitimacy granted to holders of classified clearances.

That sound analysis can often be done without classified access is important and empowering, but it does not illuminate what is secret. Knowing today that there are secret prisons, military bases and drone attacks does not allow us to know what's going on with them, or often even what guides the policies. We might make semi-informed conclusions about parts but we cannot account for the phenomena because we are not allowed to count them in the first place. The literature is forbidden, and we are thus illiterate.

For his efforts Tyndale was strangled then burned as a heretic and the Church was so horrified about Wycliffe's radical legacy that his remains were dug up and he was burned at the stake posthumously. They saw, accurately, that the revealing of previously secret knowledge to the masses would make the clergy's social and political positions progressively less powerful. In exposing today's privileged knowledge, Wikileaks may indeed threaten the perpetuation of certain practices of the powerful. The reactions to Wikileaks, its editor-in-chief Julian Assange, and alleged source PFC Bradley Manning are certainly indicative of a perceived threat of that magnitude. Assange is facing public calls by prominent figures for his assassination. He risks having his passport stripped in Australia and there are police investigations into Wikileaks and Assange in numerous countries. Manning is already jailed and is awaiting trial on the charge he leaked a video showing a 2007 U.S. helicopter attack in Baghdad which killed several civilians, including media personnel.

Sec. of State Hillary Clinton has called the 29 November release of diplomatic cables "an attack on the international community." White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs said the leaks "risk our ability to do our foreign policy". Gen. David Petraeus called the July release of tens of thousands of Afghanistan War documents "reprehensible". Adm. Mike Mullen said Wikileaks "might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family". Sen. John Kerry called the release of diplomatic cables a "reckless action which jeopardizes lives" and Sen. Joe Lieberman called it "nothing less than an attack on the national security of the United States." New York Rep. Peter King went so far as to request the Obama administration "determine whether WikiLeaks could be designated a foreign terrorist organization" noting that it "presents a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States."

Michigan Rep. Peter Hoekstra called the Wikileaks release "a colossal failure by our intel community" and called for even more stringent and compartmentalized secrecy. Sec. Clinton "directed that specific actions be taken at the State Department, in addition to new security safeguards at the Department of Defense and elsewhere to protect State Department information so that this kind of breach cannot and does not ever happen again." In other words, the solution is a reaffirmation of state secrecy and its further entrenchment. State secrecy itself is not to be addressed. It is no exaggeration to parallel these reactions to the decisions to disinter Wycliffe's remains and burn them at the stake, especially since the accusations of Wikileaks and Assange having "blood on their hands" have been definitively refuted. The breaching of secrecy has not led to physical harm any more than translating the bible into English led to the killings of the clergy. Clerical power was subverted. And now U.S. policy is being subverted.

One last basic element about state secrecy must be brought into question. Nothing, not even nuclear weapons research which is known as being "born secret", is secret before it, in idea or form, exists. That would be actual nonexistence whereas secrecy purports really existing things to be nonexistent. For this reason Galison titled his article "Removing Knowledge". He wrote, "Epistemology asks how knowledge can be uncovered and secured. Anti-epistemology asks how knowledge can be covered and obscured. Classification, the anti-epistemology par excellence, is the art of nontransmission." By obscuring literature on the volume it does, state secrecy begins an "illiteracization" of the populace. Removing and restricting knowledge creates literate and illiterate castes.** Illiteracization from state secrecy has dramatic consequences for our understanding, and thus shaping, of our own history. As Paglen wrote, "In terms of numbers of pages, more of our own recent history is classified than is not. ... Our own history, in large part, has become a state secret."

It is common sense that some things must be kept secret for the greater good. Despite modern state secrecy being barely half a century old, this is deeply ingrained in the public mind. We accept it so unquestioningly that when Gibbs followed, "President Obama, as you know from the campaign, is a huge proponent of open and transparent government," with, "But clearly the revelation of 250,000 documents that are highly classified is dangerous and is a threat to our ability to conduct foreign policy," the obvious contradictions were not even jarring. So dominant is the positive narrative of state secrecy that such basic questions like, "If something is too dangerous or embarrassing to even talk about, perhaps we should not do that thing," seem starry-eyed and hopelessly naive. But that it is common sense does not mean it is good sense and when the volume of secret literature exceeds that of the transparent world it is a question that must be asked. This modern development of an exclusively literate caste holding 'legitimate knowledge' is, at best, a highly questionable outcome.

Jimmy Johnson is unemployed like half everyone else in Detroit. He can be reached at johnson [dot] jimmy [at] gmail [dot] com

* As Galison notes in his article, the proliferation of abbreviated communication forms such as text, chat, and instant messaging might radically change the estimated page counts of each classified document. This does not significantly change the thesis. Even a 70% reduction of the average page count per classified document would still match that of all the books annually published in the United States or obtained by the U.S. Library of Congress.

** I used the term 'illiterate' (and derivatives thereof) as opposed to 'nonliterate' to better reflect the stigmatization of those lacking the literacy and the power dynamic created between the groups. This stigmatization is real, the distinction in word selection might not be.


Johnson's terms:
- classification and "derivative" classification of more information each year than is actually published in books
- access as "literacy"
- the "cleared" as a caste or high priests
- the rest of us as not knowing the real map of our own world and history because we can't see the "dark matter"

I would add:
- the variable of disinformation and deception, and the ways that makes both the people and to an extent the "cleared" even dumber.

He touches on it in the section on Powell's 2003 case for war to the UN, noting that the information Powell was able to privilege by authority of his access clearance ("I know what I can't tell you, so believe me") was actually lies and distortions, and less accurate than the information available in the public domain showing there were no WMD or Iraqi links to 9/11.

Disinformation is a witting form of "derivative classification" complicating the big picture.

We meet at the borders of our being, we dream something of each others reality. - Harvey of R.I.

To Justice my maker from on high did incline:
I am by virtue of its might divine,
The highest Wisdom and the first Love.

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Re: Top Secret America

Postby JackRiddler » Mon Feb 14, 2011 2:47 pm


Anyone who hasn't should check out the old thread on Trevor Paglen and his book with pictures of mysterious (but philosophically revealing) patches from Top Secret military black budget programs:

Military patches from inside the black budget

And here is a bit on his latest book - has anyone here read it?


Blank Spots on the Map:
The Dark Geography of the Pentagon's Secret World

Just saw Paglen speaking on C-SPAN: ... ayMedia=No

About the Program

Trevor Paglen profiles secret U.S. government installations that range from a weapons laboratory in New Mexico to prisons in Kabul and air bases in Georgia and California. Mr. Paglen contends that these clandestine operations maintained by the U.S. government and private corporations operate on a $40 billion annual budget. This event was hosted by City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco.

His site:

New book: ... 0525951016
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Re: Top Secret America

Postby 82_28 » Mon Feb 14, 2011 4:05 pm

Thanks Jack. That was really good and will be sending it around. The wikileaks thread was making my eyes glaze over and I would have missed that otherwise.

I spent the day yesterday perusing and searching for this and that of the totality of the archives of the Seattle Times. There were little ads and announcements for Technocracy meetings held all over the city. I suppose technocracy's influence brought me this digitized time machine to look at. But fuck them anyways. I just like calling the numbers on the ads!

What I took from shit, was that not much has changed. Without the advent of the Internet though, op-ed columnists and reviewers wrote like full of themselves idiots. I was reading stuff aloud from the 70s to my girlfriend and we both kept saying "who the fuck writes like this?!?!" and "I bet this dude made a good living on writing this shit!" But to behold the propaganda and marketing in action over the course of a century is amazing. They were just making shit up as they went, doing what they were told. Who the fuck was telling them?
There is no me. There is no you. There is all. There is no you. There is no me. And that is all. A profound acceptance of an enormous pageantry. A haunting certainty that the unifying principle of this universe is love. -- Propagandhi
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Re: Top Secret America

Postby JackRiddler » Mon Feb 14, 2011 5:26 pm


Ran into this today via Counterpunch. Thought to post it here, because it illustrates one of the driving forces behind the development of deep states in the major powers since 1945. Or should it be its own thread?

World Nuclear War

A time-lapse world map of all engagements, 1945-1998.

Final Score, So Far:

(North Korean bombs and possible "bunker-buster" use in Afghanistan in the 2000s not included.)

We meet at the borders of our being, we dream something of each others reality. - Harvey of R.I.

To Justice my maker from on high did incline:
I am by virtue of its might divine,
The highest Wisdom and the first Love.

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Re: Top Secret America

Postby JackRiddler » Tue Feb 22, 2011 2:36 am


Hmm... PBS Frontline dedicated to "Top Secret America" with Priest and Arkin, scheduled for January 2011 (as the trailer still says) is now said to be coming "Fall 2011."

Watch informative 7-minute preview here: ... etamerica/


They do have this, which I plan to watch:

Spying on the Homefront (2007)

Full show is online...


Also found a Stasi documentary - annoyingly in Youtube 10-min slices: ... re=related
We meet at the borders of our being, we dream something of each others reality. - Harvey of R.I.

To Justice my maker from on high did incline:
I am by virtue of its might divine,
The highest Wisdom and the first Love.

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Re: Top Secret America

Postby JackRiddler » Tue Mar 01, 2011 1:04 am


Two articles posted in other threads really serve to illuminate aspects of what we're looking at in this one.

For the first, thanks goes to seemslikeadream in the Raymond Davis thread.
Page 4:

The article is about a US terror campaign that murdered tens of thousands of civilians in Vietnam, the Phoenix program, for which there has never been justice.

A key point for our topic in the following is how the institutions created by law, like State Department and even the official CIA itself, are colonized and hollowed out into covers for covert operations of the deep state policy. By lack of oversight and see-no-evil attitude, enormous leeway is allowed for rogue action, no questions asked, since that helps "get things done." If there's profiteering on the side, it was probably necessary, and what, is it more illegal than the operation itself?

I Had Ray Davis's Job, in Laos 30 Years Ago

Same Cover, Same Lies


The story of Raymond Allen Davis is one familiar to me and I wish our government would quit doing these things - they cost us credibility.

Davis is the American being held as a spy working under diplomatic cover out of our embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan. You can understand why foreign countries no longer trust us and people are rising up across the Middle East against the Great Satan.

In the Vietnam War the country of Laos held a geo-strategic position, as does Pakistan does to Afghanistan today. As in Pakistan, in Laos our country conducted covert military operations against a sovereign people, using the CIA.

I was a demolitions technician with the Air Force who was reassigned to work with the CIA’s Air America operation in Laos. We turned in our military IDs cards and uniforms and were issued a State Department ID card and dressed in blue jeans. We were told if captured we were to ask for diplomatic immunity, if alive. We carried out military missions on a daily basis all across the countries of Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.

We also knew that if killed or captured that we would probably not be searched for and our families back home in the U.S. would be told we had been killed in an auto accident of some kind back in Thailand and our bodies not recovered.

Our team knew when the UN inspectors and international media were scheduled to arrive - we controlled the airfields. We would disappear to our safe houses so we could not be asked questions. It was all a very well planned operation, 60 years ago, involving the military and diplomats out of the US Embassy. It had been going on a long time when I was there during the 1968 Tet Offensive. This continued for a long time, until we were routed and had to abandon the whole war as a failure.

In Laos the program I was attached to carried out a systematic assassination of people who were identified as not loyal to U.S. goals. It was called the Phoenix program and eliminated an estimated 60,000 people across Indochina. We did an amazing amount of damage to the civilian infrastructure of the country, and still lost the war. I saw one team of mercenaries I was training show us a bag of ears of dead civilians they had killed. This was how they verified their kills for us. The Green Berets that day were telling them to just take photos of the dead, leave the ears.

Mel Gibson made a movie about all this, called Air America. It included in the background the illegal drug operation the CIA ran to pay for their operations. Congress had not authorized funds for what we were doing. I saw the drug operation first hand too. This was all detailed in The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia by Alfred McCoy. I did not connect all this until the Iran-Contra hearings when Oliver North was testifying about it. Oliver North was a leader of the Laos operation I was assigned to work with.

Our country has a long history of these type programs going back to World War Two. We copied this from of warfare from the Nazis in WWII it seems. We justified it as necessary for the Cold War. One of the first operations was T.P. Ajax run by Kermit Roosevelt to overthrow the democratically elected government of Iran in 1953to take over their oil fields.

In that coup the CIA and the State Department under the Dulles Brothers first perfected these covert, illegal and immoral actions. Historians have suggested that Operation T.P. Ajax was the single event that set in motion the political force of Islamic fundamentalism we are still dealing with today.

Chalmers Johnson also a former CIA employee wrote a series of books too on these blowbacks that happen when the truth is held from the American public.

If we had taken a different approach to our problems in those days an approach that did not rely on lying to our own and the people of other countries and killing them indiscriminately our country would not be in the disaster it is abroad today..

I was young and foolish in those days of the Vietnam War, coveting my Top Secret security clearance, a big thing for an uneducated hillbilly from Appalachia. We saw ourselves much like James Bond characters, but now I am much wiser. These kinds of actions have immense and long reaching consequences and should be shut down.

But I see from the Ray Davis fiasco in Pakistan that our government is still up to its old way of denying to the people of the world what everyone knows is true.

When will this official hypocrisy end, when will our political
class speak out about this and quit going along with the lies and tricks? How many more of our people and others will die in these foolish programs?

Davis is in a bad situation now because most of the people of the world, as we see across the Middle East, are now aware of the lies and not going to turn their head anymore.

I say “most” everyone knows, because our own public, the ones suppose to be in control of the military and CIA, is constantly lied to. It is so sad to see President Obama repeating the big lie.


As for the Seymour Hersh article, posted here by yathrib...

The key aspect it illuminates is the role of networks in operating both secret policy and the additional rogue operations that inevitably arise from and attach to secret policy ops. Networks cut across agencies, facilitating access and combination. They generally initiate members in young adulthood so that they rise up as generations with shared loyalty and shared dirt. Key operators will be in multiple networks with alliances across networks and within networks, so it's always a mistake to read things as "The Maltese knights rule the world. Rather, the operators of the multi-layered deep state institutions and their privatized appendages and contractors are organized in such networks.

In the Maltese network we see secret unaccountable power, reinforcement through exclusive group membership and a feeling of self-entitlement in a life-or-death crusade against the Commies with the world thought to be at stake, plus the underlying sense of supremacy over foreigners and lower races. This brew facilitates endless corrupt side-lines for accessing cash and resources. Angleton, Casey (Iran-Contra again, a Rosetta Stone for understanding the workings), and DeMarenches are quite an influential set of characters. Note how the Safari Club worked: allied agencies trading off each others' dirty work across borders.

NOTE FOR THE TL-DR CROWD: Skim the part in red, which reviews a very typical media-gang attack on a reporter, in this case Sy Hersh, who talks about subjects considered too conspiratorial for polite company, even if supported by fact. The history of the Maltese group starts after that...

from ... whowhatwhy

Seymour Hersh and the men who want him committed

This article was produced by Matthew Phelan of in association with Salon.

It seems unusual for a staid, respected publication (one that has received three National Magazine Awards in just this past decade) to start treating a celebrated journalist (who himself has won two National Magazine Awards in just this past decade) as if he were nothing more than a paranoid crank.

It seems unusual, but it’s exactly what the staff of Foreign Policy has done to Seymour Hersh, following a lecture the venerated reporter gave at Georgetown University's campus in Doha, Qatar. You may know Hersh as the dogged investigator who exposed the My Lai Massacre during Vietnam. You may know him as the staff writer for the New Yorker who published some of the earliest pieces on Abu Ghraib in May 2004. You might even know him as the man derided and then vindicated for claiming that Dick Cheney was running a secret assassination squad right out of the Vice President’s office. (In truth, the squad was and is a bipartisan affair, initiated under Clinton and still operative under Obama.)

Yet, given the Foreign Policy staff’s derisive commentary on Seymour’s January 17th talk, you would think he was some credulous rube midway through his first Dan Brown novel.

Hersh "delivered a rambling, conspiracy-laden diatribe here Monday," Blake Hounshell reported on the magazine’s Passport blog. His delusional fantasia: The existence of ties between the U.S. Military’s Joint Special Operations Command and a secretive Catholic order called the Knights of Malta. As Hounshell elaborates:

[Hersh] charged that U.S. foreign policy had been hijacked by a cabal of neoconservative "crusaders" in the former vice president’s office and now in the special operations community:

"That’s the attitude," he continued. "We’re gonna change mosques into cathedrals. That’s an attitude that pervades, I’m here to say, a large percentage of the Joint Special Operations Command."

He then alleged that Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who headed JSOC before briefly becoming the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, and his successor, Vice Adm. William McRaven, as well as many within JSOC, "are all members of, or at least supporters of, Knights of Malta."

Hersh may have been referring to the Sovereign Order of Malta, a Roman Catholic organization commited [sic] to "defence [sic] of the Faith and assistance to the poor and the suffering," according to its website.

"They do see what they’re doing -- and this is not an atypical attitude among some military -- it’s a crusade, literally. They see themselves as the protectors of the Christians. They’re protecting them from the Muslims [as in] the 13th century. And this is their function."

"They have little insignias, these coins they pass among each other, which are crusader coins,” he continued. "They have insignia that reflect the whole notion that this is a culture war. … Right now, there’s a tremendous, tremendous amount of anti-Muslim feeling in the military community."

Hounshell, Foreign Policy’s web editor, has questioned Hersh’s reporting before, first speculating on the identity of a Hersh source, then on that hypothetical source’s credibility. However, this particular incident was unique in that it has yielded a small brushfire of attention, including three additional response pieces at, reblogging by angered Catholic groups and a write-up in the Washington Post.

The next day, the post was followed by an elaborately sarcastic "hot tip," written to Hersh open-letter style by Foreign Policy contributing editor and Washington Post special military correspondent Tom Ricks:

Hey Sy, a friend with good military connections tells me that U.S. special operations forces were covertly involved in the Knights of Malta’s stalwart defense of the island in 1565 against the Ottoman Turks. Lifting the siege was easy because the Turks turned tail when they saw those Ma Deuce .50 caliber machine guns.

This categorically high-handed snark came with the added force of Ricks being a Pulitzer Prize winner himself and the author of two blistering accounts of the Iraq war: "Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq" and its General Petraeus-centered sequel, "The Gamble." He has been covering the military beat for the Post since 2000, performing double duty there and at Foreign Policy after it was acquired by The Washington Post Company in 2008.

That same day, FP associate editor Joshua Keating provided an "FP Explainer" piece entitled "Who Are the Knights of Malta -- and What Do They Want?" dismissing Hersh’s claims with the conclusion that:

There's not much evidence to suggest that the Knights of Malta are the secretive cabal of anti-Muslim fundamentalists that Hersh described. (For the record, when contacted by Foreign Policy, McChrystal said that he is not a member.) But they are certainly an anomalous presence in international politics and have provoked their share of conspiracy theories over the years.

Then, two days later, Hounshell produced a supplemental post defending himself from a chorus of disgruntled commenters and’s Glenn Greenwald. "I thought it was self-evident that several points Hersh made were off-base and conspiratorial," Hounshell began, "but perhaps it’s worth spelling things out for everyone."

Let’s do the same.

Just how "off-base and conspiratorial" are Hersh’s claims? Who are the Knights of Malta, exactly, and what has been previously reported of their ‘special operations’ and government ties?

The Holy Ghosts

Known formally as the "Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta," the Knights of Malta is a Roman Catholic order founded in roughly 1048. Though the Knights operated as a military order during the First Crusade, today their approximately 12,500 members, 80,000 volunteers and 20,000 medical professionals work "in the field of medical and social care and humanitarian aid." According to their website:

The Order also runs hospitals, medical centres, day hospitals, nursing homes for the elderly and the disabled, and special centres for the terminally ill. In many countries the Order’s volunteer corps provide first aid, social services, emergency and humanitarian interventions.

Malteser International, the Order's worldwide relief service, works in the front line in natural disasters and armed conflicts.

So far, so good. In fact, Foreign Policy’s description of the Knights cribs heavily from the Order’s own benevolent self-description. Josh Keating’s "explainer" piece accounts for the litany of paranoid theories surrounding them as merely a by-product of the Knights' "secretive proceedings, unique political status, and association with the Crusades." Former CIA Directors William Casey and John McCone, Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca, and GOP fixture Pat Buchanan have all been "alleged members," he claims, "though none have ever acknowledged membership."

Keating’s use of "alleged" here is curious, given that the membership of Reagan-era CIA Director Bill Casey in the Knights of Malta has been a fact widely reported in the press and never denied by Casey himself. Historian Joseph E. Persico, a former Republican speechwriter for Vice President Nelson Rockefeller and the co-author of Colin Powell’s autobiography, includes Casey’s membership in a routine list of charitable accomplishments, in his sympathetic biography Casey: from the OSS to the CIA (Penguin 1990). (Casey’s membership is asserted on page 105 of the paperback.)

Years earlier, Casey was listed publicly as a member in both Mother Jones (07/1983) and The Washington Post (12/27/1984). The implications of Casey’s membership are even alluded to in Bob Woodward’s Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, 1981-1987, in which Casey’s deep Catholicism and the Catholic Church’s opposition to Nicaragua’s left-leaning Sandinista government are both recurring topics. In short: Casey’s membership has been undisputed for so long and across such a broad cross-section of the political spectrum that it raises serious questions about Foreign Policy’s standards for "facts" and "allegations."

(One might also reasonably ask Keating what difference it makes if an outed member of any secret society does not then publicly acknowledge membership. Isn’t that one of the major duties of being in a secret society?)

In addition to Casey and McCone, the Knights of Malta also counted among their members former CIA counterintelligence chief James Jesus Angleton -- a fortuitous alliance as Angleton led the postwar intelligence efforts to subvert Italy’s 1948 elections. His success partnering with organized crime, right-leaning former fascists and the Vatican not only marginalized Italy’s homegrown Communist Party, it also encouraged Congress in the creation of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Conservative luminary and National Review founder William F. Buckley -- who spent two years after college as a CIA "political action specialist" in Mexico City -- was also a Knight, as was none other than William "Wild Bill" Donovan, the head of the CIA’s precursor organization, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). From 1970 to 1981, France's intelligence agency was also headed by a member of the Order, Alexandre de Marenches. De Marenches would go on to be a co-founder of the Saudi-funded private intelligence group the Safari Club -- one of George H. W. Bush’s many end-runs around congressional oversight of the American intelligence establishment and the locus of many of the worst features of the mammoth BCCI scandal.

So, while crackpot speculations about this particular Catholic order are legion, its ties to intelligence organizations in the U.S. and Western Europe are well-documented. It's also perfectly understandable: with their unusual status as a recognized sovereign state without territory, the Knights of Malta enjoy full diplomatic rights in many countries -- including the ability to bypass customs inspectors by secreting items across borders via "diplomatic pouch." Sharing far right sympathies, the Roman Catholic Church and Cold War-era Western intelligence officials became natural allies, and the Knights of Malta became a natural conduit for their collaboration. With a lengthy, strategic partnership already forged in the name of anti-communism, a strengthening of this network in the name of the "War on Terror" ought to sound more predictable than paranoid to a student of U.S. foreign policy -- particularly given the current pope’s record on Islam.

You'd think the answer to that would be No Shit Sherlock, not cries of "conspiracy theory."

With "medical missions in more than 120 countries," as Keating points out, a teeming network of government spooks operating under the diplomatic protection afforded the Knights of Malta would certainly have plenty of breathing room to operate unnoticed. And yet, Keating instead positions the Order’s charitable work as evidence that the Knights have left their old military function behind—pointedly ignoring years of charitable work tied to U.S. strategic goals and covert activities during the heady days of the Reagan/Bush era.

AmeriCares In Its Own Way

Beginning in 1982, The Knights of Malta began an intensely collaborative partnership with the international aid organization AmeriCares -- a charity group unique in its selective disaster relief to countries friendly to both U.S. business investment and foreign policy objectives. Literally billing itself as "The humanitarian arm of corporate America," AmeriCares was founded and headed until 2002 by Robert Macauley: a college roommate of George H. W. Bush, a paper mill millionaire and a self-described (then self-denied) agent in the CIA’s WWII-era precursor, the OSS. Macauley was also the first non-Catholic to receive the coveted Cross of the Commander of the Order of Malta.

A look at AmeriCares activity during this period gives the unavoidable impression that Macauley was running the charity, first and foremost, as the velvet glove to Reagan and Bush’s radical hardline approach to communism and indigenous left-wing political movements across the globe. In January 1990, AmeriCares and the German and Hungarian Knights of Malta supplied $1.4 million in supplies to pro-Western factions immediately following the collapse of Romania’s communist regime -- proclaiming it "the first privately organized, large-scale relief effort following the revolution." The partnership frequently worked with the infamous CIA front company Southern Air Transport. And during the Soviet-Afghanistan conflict in 1984, AmeriCares brazenly took sides, evacuating wounded members of the mujahideen to Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington D.C. (One likely explanation: President Carter’s national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski -- the man responsible for pairing the CIA with these future leaders of Al Qaeda -- was an honorary chairman at AmeriCares.)

Nowhere was the alliance between the Knights of Malta, AmeriCares and U.S. Intelligence more pervasive and troubling than in Central America.

AmeriCares and the Order held off on relief to an economically crippled Panama in 1989 for six whole months, shuttling $2.5 million worth of medical supplies only after the conclusion of Bush Sr.'s lightning war against (former ally) Manuel Noriega.

AmeriCares and the Knights declined to participate with the Red Cross in a 1988 hurricane relief effort in left-leaning Nicaragua, only to change on a dime two years later, once the Sandinista government fell. (The group sent 23 tons of medical supplies just three days after the election.) Prior to regime change, AmeriCares also provided one-sided medical aid to the Sandinistas' bête noire, the right-wing, CIA-backed contras, through a program controlled by the Iran-Contra scandal's walking nerve center, Oliver North. They even attempted to fly in a planeload of newsprint to the anti-Sandinista newspaper La Prensa.

In Guatemala, AmeriCares and Knights of Malta joint activities were handled by the wealthy, right-wing paramilitary figure, Roberto Alejos Arzu, whose plantation had served as a training ground for the CIA’s bungled "Bay of Pigs" invasion of Cuba.

On occasion, AmeriCares and the Knights’ humanitarian work served not just as an adjunct to U.S. covert action but also as a welcome excuse for pharmaceutical companies to dump surplus product as charity, netting a high tax write-off. One massive AmeriCares vaccine shipment to the Philippines, where the Knights were supposed to handle distribution, was rejected by local governments as useless. AmeriCares' sloppily labeled and overwhelming bulk medical shipments to Armenia were roundly criticized by a leading British medical journal, The Lancet.

Overall, the group spent the 1980s and 90s in uncomfortable collaboration with the rest of the humanitarian aid community. Many relief groups expressed frustration with AmeriCares’ refusal to coordinate activities, so as to avoid squandered duplicated efforts. Many also expressed private fears of angering its powerful, Bush-connected founder. Doug Siglin, public policy director of the humanitarian community’s umbrella group, InterAction, cautiously summed up their unusual behavior this way: "[AmeriCares'] approach is not the same as other groups."

Seymour Hersh and the Silent Crusade

Seymour Hersh is in the middle of researching and writing a lengthy book on America's wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has something of a history of playing looser with his facts in speeches than in print—partially to preserve his scoops pre-publication -- and his speech in Doha hewed close to that tradition. In addition to the Knights, for example, he also made claims regarding Opus Dei, another secretive far right Catholic group steeped in just as much rumor and conspiracy theory. However, Hersh is a five-time Polk winner and recipient of the 2004 George Orwell Award -- a reporter with a record that is well-burnished and nearly sterling.

Given the late 20th Century history of the "Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta," how strange would it really be to find members of the Order, in and out of the military, collaborating on a new silent crusade with their old Cold War allies?

It would certainly complement the Christian fundamentalist version of the war, as prosecuted by Erik Prince, the former CEO of the military’s most notorious civilian contractor Xe (formerly Blackwater). His views -- as depicted in one affidavit from the court case against him -- certainly echo much of what Hersh ascribes to the JSOC and the Knights of Malta:

To that end, Mr. Prince intentionally deployed to Iraq certain men who shared his vision of Christian supremacy, knowing and wanting these men to take every available opportunity to murder Iraqis. Many of these men used call signs based on the Knights of the Templar, the warriors who fought the Crusades.

Mr. Prince operated his companies in a manner that encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life. For example, Mr. Prince’s executives would openly speak about going over to Iraq to "lay Hajiis out on cardboard." Going to Iraq to shoot and kill Iraqis was viewed as a sport or game. Mr. Prince’s employees openly and consistently used racist and derogatory terms for Iraqis and other Arabs, such as "ragheads" or "hajiis."

Hersh’s assertions would also add context to the curious case of former U.S. deputy undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, Gen. William Boykin, who drew fire during his tenure for calling the war against Islamic extremism a struggle against "a spiritual enemy called Satan."

You should remember this as the guy who was Pentagon undersecretary for intel under Bush, commanded operations in many wars, most famously the Battle of Mogadishu, and got in trouble for doing his own presentations on the end times to apocalypse Christians while in military uniform, telling them his god was bigger than the Muslim god, which was just an idol.

(In defending his original review of Hersh’s speech, FP's Blake Hounshell demotes both of these cases from "data" to mere "anecdote." The devaluation would appear to be premature in the case of Erik Prince, whose court case is still pending -- while related Xe cases are being mysteriously ignored by the same Eastern District of Virginia task force convened to prosecute them. And, given that Boykin was operating near the heart of exactly the institution Hersh is accusing, trivializing his statements comes across as extremely optimistic, if not downright naive.)

Until Hersh’s book-length treatment of the subject is published, at least we can all agree with Foreign Policy's Joshua Keating that the Knights of Malta have been "an anomalous presence in international politics and have provoked their share of conspiracy theories."

This time around, they’ve practically goaded us into it.


War on Terror tactics

News reports have also attempted to connect Boykin with controversial tactics. The New York Times reported on March 18, 2006 that, when asked by Undersecretary Cambone to "get to the bottom" of abuses committed by an elite counterinsurgency task force, Boykin found no pattern to them, despite ample evidence to the contrary.[27]

A December 9, 2003 item in The Guardian (UK) connected Boykin with secret Israeli counterinsurgency assistance in Iraq, allegedly including assassination squads.[28] In another Guardian article, Sidney Blumenthal, President Bill Clinton's former senior adviser and current Washington bureau chief for Salon (US), claimed that towards the end of 2003, it was Boykin who, under Donald Rumsfeld's orders, advised then Camp X-Ray head Major General Geoffrey Miller in Guantanamo to transfer the same Camp X-Ray methods to Abu Ghraib and the Iraqi prison system.[29]

In 2003, Seymour Hersh claimed in the New Yorker (US) that Boykin was a key planner, along with Stephen Cambone, behind Rumsfeld's Special Forces approach to fighting the War on Terror.[4] Furthermore, when Boykin was questioned in a congressional inquiry regarding similarities between current War on Terror special operations and USA's Phoenix Program during the Vietnam War, he said: "I think we’re running that kind of programme. We’re going after these people. Killing or capturing these people is a legitimate mission for the department. I think we’re doing what the Phoenix programme was designed to do, without all of the secrecy."[30][31]

In 2005, Hersh also claimed that the US had begun to undertake secret, off-the-books, covert missions in Iran to identify key targets for possible strikes in destabilizing their nuclear facilities, and against the larger War on Terror, with the chain of command for the commando operations falling to Rumsfeld, Cambone and Boykin.[32] Hersh claimed these allegations came from "very, very senior" sources, but the Pentagon sharply criticized the article stating that "Mr. Hersh's article is so riddled with errors of fundamental fact that the credibility of his entire piece is destroyed."[33]

We meet at the borders of our being, we dream something of each others reality. - Harvey of R.I.

To Justice my maker from on high did incline:
I am by virtue of its might divine,
The highest Wisdom and the first Love.

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Re: Top Secret America

Postby JackRiddler » Sat Mar 26, 2011 1:21 am


Found a post from Jan 2010, in the thread titled "Ron Paul: CIA runs the US government," that fits here well.

Page 1 viewtopic.php?f=8&t=26767
Page 8 viewtopic.php?f=8&t=26767&p=314901


We begin at a point when exojuridik drew a distinction between private power, with its relative lack of limits, and the limits we usually associate with public power:

exojuridik wrote:My point is that the degree to which these outside influences use the CIA, they are actually inhibited by its governmental status. Yes, any political agency is a tool for those that wield actual power - however, all public institutions demand certain protocols to be observed and appearences to be maintained. Any abuse of authority becomes an ultra vires act which creates the very liability, government bureaucrats seek to minimize. This acts as a least a little buffer to what an agency might try to get away with - not that there aren't many skeletons to hide or that in 1963 certain elements within the CIA might have engaged in a little domestic coup d'etat.

My point is that inte(ra)gency divisions within any institution serve to act as a natural limitation to its ultra vires activities. afterall, you always risk a Decembrist uprising if your actions step on the wrong toes and shock the conscience of the rank and file members.

Private, non-governmental actors have no such limitations and are therefore, in my mind, the true source our our current nightmare. They are greed unbound by decency or shame or nominal oversight. They can operate behind corporate shields and have access to every (extra)legal weapon at their disposal.

JackRiddler wrote:You know, I think we agree on most everything you've written with regard to private as opposed to public power in the present system. I think of it like this:

1. Capital is the State.

Corporations govern their own fiefdoms and operations. Banks and investors move money at will. To the ones who control the biggest pools of capital, the only "free market" competition is that between the national and local governments competing for their favor.

However, the US Government in a sense represents the largest single pool of capital, amassed from taxation and unlimited credit (ultimately backed by its ability to print more money and/or blow up shit around the world). Of course, it also writes and enforces law. Thus it is very powerful.

Beyond the imperial core of the Pentagon/Intel (a.k.a. the national security state) and the automatic expenditures of Social Security, government capital is also available on a self-service basis to the private interests best-positioned to gain access by buying the lawmakers and bureaucrats (or capturing them, in the modern terminology).

Laws are almost entirely written by corporate lobbies, or else by the national security state.

Public budgets do attend to certain voting clienteles, but almost always through the filter of first assuring private profit for the far more important campaign-financing clienteles. Examples: Some hungry district gets jobs, thanks to a dam project. Funds for the poor go through corrupt front groups. Most of the uninsured may happen to get medical coverage in a package that is actually corporate welfare for insurance companies. Etc. etc.

2. The Intel Realm is Not a Public Institution, But It Is a Realm of Government

Here is where I differ with you, exojuridik:

"The CIA" (as a shorthand for the "intelligence community" and especially its black-budget universe) is not a "public institution." Its budgets are hidden. Its associations are hidden. Its agents may pose as employees of any other government agency (most often the State Department or the Pentagon), or of private companies and front groups. Its front groups and contractors can and do operate as independent businesses with their own, independent, off-budget revenue streams (in drugs, transport, arms dealing, or anything else). Some of these private budget streams are fully legal.

Intel officials can and regularly do turn away investigations of their operations by the "real" law enforcement agencies on all levels. Their agencies are known to have committed countless crimes here and around the world, and almost none of the organizers have ever been prosecuted. Very few even met career setbacks (unless you think losing your "CIA" job and then getting 20 times the money at a private intel "contractor" is a setback).

The lack of accountability and justice guarantees a culture of impunity. The intel community is not even an "it," but a very large hidden industry harboring many actors. They conduct both officially sanctioned (but secret) operations as well as side operations via private contractors, satellites, front groups, and foreign intel allies (arrangements like the "Safari Group," "Operation Condor" and Echelon). Units and operations are compartmentalized and largely unaware of what others are doing. All identify themselves with national security and thus feel complete sanction to do whatever they happen to consider necessary in the nation's defense. Resources and actions are unaccountable and easily elude government oversight.

This area of our society's power structures has all of the advantages of private secret organizations AND of being the state, without the disadvantages of either. They can completely make up their account books (unlike most private businesses) and they can appear to be unrelated to the government and therefore immune to public control (unlike other government agencies).

This set-up generates power. We are even regularly reminded that the job of the CIA necessarily IS to commit crimes - in other countries - and to associate with criminals or, as the common phrase goes, "unsavory characters."

Naturally this set-up also attracts already powerful interests. who want to make use of these tools - hence the long-running associations of Wall Street and CIA, narcotics trade and CIA, organized crime and CIA, arms dealing and CIA, war plotters and CIA, all the world's kleptocracies and dictatorships and CIA.

That's why the nexus of power is there (as Ron Paul implies) and always will be as long as we tolerate a permanent secret branch, or realm, of government.

23 meanwhile had made what I consider a facile observation that "left and right" is solely about divide and conquer.

23 wrote:Ever wonder who the real beneficiaries are from keeping the chasm between left and right nice and wide?

Political tribalism rarely serves the tribes.

But the chieftains, now there's another story.

But I consider what's termed "right" to be the essential ideology that legitimates secret power.

JackRiddler wrote:3. The Special Importance of the 'Conservative' Ideology

How we define terms like left and right is all the difference. To me the "left" starts with an analysis based in the actual structure of the political economy and the material interests of the existing classes, before moving on to ideology and future visions. Anything else isn't actually leftist, even if labeled as such.

Given that, my answer to your question is that the chasm between "left" and "right" has benefited the right, above all. The "chieftains" (the ruling classes) have overwhelmingly been of those movements known as right and supported the right. I don't want to hear exaggerations about a George Soros or two, and I'm not impressed with the occasional financing of a liberal-seeming project by a Rockefeller Foundation, because the majority of super-rich fuckers stand and have always stood with the likes of Murdoch, Scaife, the Kochs, Milton Friedman, the Christian Zionists, the hardline Cold Warriors, et al.

For the most part in this country, the ideology of the "right" is a collection of manufactured fears based in neuroses about threats to one's perceived identities (like being "white" or "American" or "male" or "Christian" or "pro-life" or, for a good laugh, an "individualist" against the "collectivists" or "unionists"). Conflicts are synthesized out of these partial identities (in many cases patently false identities) in an effort to divide and conquer the laboring classes and the dispossessed.

Often these conflicts are absurdly abstracted from anything real.

You can see where the immigration question relates to petty, small-minded competition for economic rewards. That's an example where the players hate other players instead of the game, but the game actually exists.

But what difference would it make to the brainwashed anti-abortion fanatics if they left women to rule over their own bodily processes? They are no different than the Taliban in their permanent uproar about naked women in other countries, or about Buddha statues from thousands of years ago.

The same applies to a host of other complete bullshit "issues" like flag burning, "War on Christmas," the totalitarian Pledge of Allegiance, the existence of a few black men in the corridors of power, etc. etc.

Meanwhile, most of the apparently apolitical media hysterias also come out of right-wing and/or puritan neuroses (despite the enormous doses of hypocrisy involved). Thus issues like the choices of consenting adults to fuck (or the accidental exposure of a female nipple on television), or the existence of individual murderers seem to matter a lot more than the choice of other adults to rob trillions of dollars from millions of people, or the daily murder of countless individuals through the routine functioning of war and the present economic system. At least, based on the proportion of media blather devoted to each of these.

Without the right-wing nonsense of people identifying with imperialist action as something "we" do ("we" went into Vietnam, "we" are having troubles in Pakistan, "our" armed forces, "our" flag, blah blah) and without the patently insane tendencies that see an enemy in groups like Mexican workers or over-educated "elite" academics, the vast majority of people in this country would long ago have come together in a "leftist" popular front (based on their real material interests and in solidarity with the people like them around the world).

Now you may point to some "leftists" who also find reasons to support empire, a strong military and state secrecy, and that's the real fakery. Some of the right-wingers are currently identified as such, while others are called Democrats, liberals, even socialists and Marxists. There's your top-level divide-and-conquer scam, right there.

The ambient politics in this country is overwhelmingly, transparently right-wing. That's why it's so important to keep up mythologies about the "liberal media" or the hidden power of an "internationalist" global elite.

If you're apolitical and not actively seeking your education outside the bounds of what's automatically offered up to you, you are absorbing enormous amounts of right-wing dogshit sprinkled with copious but mostly bogus doses of "tolerance," "diversity" and "political correctness" largely designed to create Pavlovian reactions among right-wing dittoheads.

I consider this ideology indispensable and instrumental to the power of Top Secret America, which makes an essential enemy image of "the left" even as some of TSA's agencies are ascribed as "liberal."

Last edited by JackRiddler on Sat Mar 26, 2011 10:05 pm, edited 2 times in total.
We meet at the borders of our being, we dream something of each others reality. - Harvey of R.I.

To Justice my maker from on high did incline:
I am by virtue of its might divine,
The highest Wisdom and the first Love.

TopSecret WallSt. Iraq & more
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Re: Top Secret America

Postby StarmanSkye » Sat Mar 26, 2011 3:22 pm

Jack -- Absolutely brilliant post, really shining even more than you often do.
Can't think of anything I can add to some damn fine sharp distilled thinking there. A delight to read it, even tho or even especially because the topic of ubiquitous super-official perversion of power is so distressingly awful -- the monstrous 'secret' at the core of Empire's totalitarian reach. At least the numerous contradictions, hypocricies and inconsistencies of the System are slowly causing people to Wake The Fuck uP.
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