Underming the American People's Right to Privacy: The Secret State's Surveillance Machine. Following the Money Trail: Telecoms and ISPs
"Follow the money."
And why not. As the interface between state and private criminality, following the money trail is oxygen and combustible fuel for rooting out corruption in high places: indelible signs left behind like toxic tracks by our sociopathic masters.
After all, there's nothing quite like exposing an exchange of cold, hard cash from one greedy fist to another to focus one's attention on the business at hand.
And when that dirty business is the subversion of the American people's right to privacy, there's also nothing quite like economic self-interest for ensuring that a cone of silence descends over matters best left to the experts; a veritable army of specialists squeezing singular advantage out of any circumstance, regardless of how dire the implications for our democracy.
In light of this recommendation researcher Christopher Soghoian, deploying the tools of statistical analysis and a keen sense of outrage, reaffirmed that "Internet service providers and telecommunications companies play a significant, yet little known role in law enforcement and intelligence gathering."
That the American people have been kept in the dark when it comes to this and other affairs of state, remain among the most closely-guarded open secrets of what has euphemistically been called the "NSA spying scandal."
And when the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) posted thousands of pages of documents "detailing behind-the-scenes negotiations between government agencies and Congress about providing immunity for telecoms involved in illegal government surveillance" last month, they lifted the lid on what should be a major scandal, not that corporate media paid the least attention.
A lid that Obama's "change" regime hopes to slam back down as expeditiously as possible.
Hoping to forestall public suspicions of how things actually work in Washington, the administration has declared that "it will continue to block the release of additional documents, including communications within the Executive Branch and records reflecting the identities of telecoms involved in lobbying for immunity," according to EFF's Senior Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl.
No small matter, considering that should a court ever find avaricious telecoms and ISPs liable for violating the rights of their customers, fines could mount into the billions. Even in today's climate of corporate bailouts and "too big to fail" cash gifts to executive suite fraudsters, damages, both in monetary terms and adverse publicity, would hardly be chump change.
Hence, last year's mad scramble for the retroactive immunity avidly sought by these grifters and granted by congressional con men on both sides of the aisle when they passed the despicable FISA Amendments Act, hastily signed into law by our former "war president."
Without belaboring the point that corporate media largely failed to expose the extent of the dirty deals struck amongst these scofflaws, Soghoian, a graduate student no less, stepped into the breech and filled some necessary gaps in the surveillance story.
Believing, naïvely perhaps, that numbers don't lie and that laying out the facts might just wake us from our deadly slumber, Soghoian writes: "If you were to believe the public surveillance statistics, you might come away with the idea that government surveillance is exceedingly rare in the United States."
Indeed, "the vast majority of ... [court] intercept orders are for phone wiretaps. Thus, for example, of the 1891 intercept orders granted in 2008, all but 134 of them were issued for phone taps."
Which begs the question: "How often are Internet communications being monitored, and what kind of orders are required in order to do so."
Unsurprisingly, the threshold for obtaining personal records is exceedingly low and "very few of these methods require an intercept order."
All the government need do to obtain a pen register or trap and trace order, which examine to/from/subject lines of email messages, URLs of viewed web pages, search terms, telephone numbers dialed and the like, is to unilaterally declare that information obtained via this backdoor route is "relevant" to an ongoing criminal or counterterrorist investigation.
In other words, give us everything we want and move along!
The nation's telecoms and ISPs have been very accommodating in this regard. And, as with other recent historical examples that come to mind such as the rush by U.S. firms to "rebuild" Iraq, Afghanistan and other benighted nations "liberated" by that "shining city upon a hill" that bombs, maims and generally does what it pleases because it can, servicing the secret state's limitless appetite for "actionable intelligence" has proven to be a very lucrative cash cow indeed.
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