The 2,000-Year History of GPS Tracking

| Tue Apr. 15, 2014 3:00 AM PDT
Egyptian geographer Claudius Ptolemy and Hiawatha Bray’s “You Are Here”

Boston Globe technology writer Hiawatha Bray recalls the moment that inspired him to write his new book, You Are Here: From the Compass to GPS, the History and Future of How We Find Ourselves. “I got a phone around 2003 or so,” he says. “And when you turned the phone on—it was a Verizon dumb phone, it wasn’t anything fancy—it said, ‘GPS’. And I said, ‘GPS? There’s GPS in my phone?’” He asked around and discovered that yes, there was GPS in his phone, due to a 1994 FCC ruling. At the time, cellphone usage was increasing rapidly, but 911 and other emergency responders could only accurately track the location of land line callers. So the FCC decided that cellphone providers like Verizon must be able to give emergency responders a more accurate location of cellphone users calling 911. After discovering this, “It hit me,” Bray says. “We were about to enter a world in which…everybody had a cellphone, and that would also mean that we would know where everybody was. Somebody ought to write about that!”

So he began researching transformative events that lead to our new ability to navigate (almost) anywhere. In addition, he discovered the military-led GPS and government-led mapping technologies that helped create new digital industries. The result of his curiosity is You Are Here, an entertaining, detailed history of how we evolved from primitive navigation tools to our current state of instant digital mapping—and, of course, governments’ subsequent ability to track us. The book was finished prior to the recent disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370, but Bray says gaps in navigation and communication like that are now “few and far between.”

Here are 13 pivotal moments in the history of GPS tracking and digital mapping that Bray points out in You Are Here:

1st century: The Chinese begin writing about mysterious ladles made of lodestone. The ladle handles always point south when used during future-telling rituals. In the following centuries, lodestone’s magnetic abilities lead to the development of the first compasses.

Image: ladle

Model of a Han Dynasty south-indicating ladle Wikimedia Commons

2nd century: Ptolemy’s Geography is published and sets the standard for maps that use latitude and longitude.

Image: Ptolemy map

Ptolemy’s 2nd-century world map (redrawn in the 15th century) Wikimedia Commons

1473: Abraham Zacuto begins working on solar declination tables. They take him five years, but once finished, the tables allow sailors to determine their latitude on any ocean.

Image: declination tables

The Great Composition by Abraham Zacuto. (A 17th-century copy of the manuscript originally written by Zacuto in 1491.) Courtesy of The Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary

1887: German physicist Heinrich Hertz creates electromagnetic waves, proof that electricity, magnetism, and light are related. His discovery inspires other inventors to experiment with radio and wireless transmissions.

Image: Hertz

The Hertz resonator John Jenkins. Sparkmuseum.com

1895: Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi, one of those inventors inspired by Hertz’s experiment, attaches his radio transmitter antennae to the earth and sends telegraph messages miles away. Bray notes that there were many people before Marconi who had developed means of wireless communication. “Saying that Marconi invented the radio is like saying that Columbus discovered America,” he writes. But sending messages over long distances was Marconi’s great breakthrough.

Image: Marconi

Inventor Guglielmo Marconi in 1901, operating an apparatus similar to the one he used to transmit the first wireless signal across Atlantic Wikimedia Commons

1958: Approximately six months after the Soviets launched Sputnik, Frank McLure, the research director at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, calls physicists William Guier and George Weiffenbach into his office. Guier and Weiffenbach used radio receivers to listen to Sputnik’s consistent electronic beeping and calculate the Soviet satellite’s location; McLure wants to know if the process could work in reverse, allowing a satellite to location their position on earth. The foundation for GPS tracking is born.

​1969: A pair of Bell Labs scientists named William Boyle and George Smith create a silicon chip that records light and coverts it into digital data. It is called a charge-coupled device, or CCD, and serves as the basis for digital photography used in spy and mapping satellites.

1976: The top-secret, school-bus-size KH-11 satellite is launched. It uses Boyle and Smith’s CCD technology to take the first digital spy photographs. Prior to this digital technology, actual film was used for making spy photographs. It was a risky and dangerous venture for pilots like Francis Gary Powers, who was shot down while flying a U-2 spy plane and taking film photographs over the Soviet Union in 1960.

Image: KH-11 image

KH-11 satellite photo showing construction of a Kiev-class aircraft carrier Wikimedia Commons

1983: Korean Air Lines flight 007 is shot down after leaving Anchorage, Alaska, and veering into Soviet airspace. All 269 passengers are killed, including Georgia Democratic Rep. Larry McDonald. Two weeks after the attack, President Ronald Reagan directs the military’s GPS technology to be made available for civilian use so that similar tragedies would not be repeated. Bray notes, however, that GPS technology had always been intended to be made public eventually. Here’s Reagan’s address to the nation following the attack:

1989: The US Census Bureau releases (PDF) TIGER (Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing) into the public domain. The digital map data allows any individual or company to create virtual maps.

1994: The FCC declares that wireless carriers must find ways for emergency services to locate mobile 911 callers. Cellphone companies choose to use their cellphone towers to comply. However, entrepreneurs begin to see the potential for GPS-integrated phones, as well. Bray highlights SnapTrack, a company that figures out early on how to squeeze GPS systems into phones—and is purchased by Qualcomm in 2000 for $1 billion.

1996: GeoSystems launches an internet-based mapping service called MapQuest, which uses the Census Bureau’s public-domain mapping data. It attracts hundreds of thousands of users and is purchased by AOL four years later for $1.1 billion.

2004: Google buys Australian mapping startup Where 2 Technologies and American satellite photography company Keyhole for undisclosed amounts. The next year, they launch Google Maps, which is now the most-used mobile app in the world.

2012: The Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Jones (PDF) restricts police usage of GPS to track suspected criminals. Bray tells the story of Antoine Jones, who was convicted of dealing cocaine after police placed a GPS device on his wife’s Jeep to track his movements. The court’s decision in his case is unanimous: The GPS device had been placed without a valid search warrant. Despite the unanimous decision, just five justices signed off on the majority opinion. Others wanted further privacy protections in such cases—a mixed decision that leaves future battles for privacy open to interpretation.

 

http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2014/04/you-are-here-book-hiawatha-bray-gps-navigation

Obama, Monopoly Capitalism, and Global Hegemony

Time for an Accounting
http://img2.timeinc.net/people/i/2013/news/130429/president-obama-600.jpg

by NORMAN POLLACK

We’ve seen enough to know that the US is on track to push structural-ideological tyranny to a new level, not so much the reproduction of 20th century fascism (although that historical experience has created an indelible mark on the mindset of present-day geopolitical strategists in defining what might be possible in violating international law without thoroughly antagonizing the world community) as, instead, using a cloak of liberal humanitarianism to assert military power in pursuit of traditional imperialism. The same goals, different label.

America transcends the recent past, including its share in constructing a system of power politics, in favor of more ambitious unilateral dominance which takes advantage of the increasing cultural pluralism arising from the fragmentation of the commercial-financial order. Counterterrorism is the fig leaf for achieving greater wealth-concentration at home, aided by massive surveillance to induce social control of the population (informal boundaries on permissible dissent) for purposes of creating on the base of formal democracy a national-security state, and for achieving in the world, a predator state charged with the mission of resisting the societal democratization of emerging and industrial economies alike. Both are necessary, compliancy here and abroad, a tightly-woven structure of wealth and power, if US capitalism, penetrating every nook and cranny of the globe, followed—or sometimes preceded—by military intervention, bases, naval power, hard-nosed diplomacy, paramilitary efforts at regime change, is to sustain acceptable rates of profits at acceptable levels of risk. American capitalist preeminence in a not-deviating capitalist world, firmly grounded in the dynamics of counterrevolution (the US as guardian of the global system) is at the crux of what others perceive as the Exceptionalist Nightmare or the divine right of hegemony.

The fig leaf of counterterrorism, which has supplanted anticommunism to the same end of habituating the American people to still more invidious extremes of wealth differentiation and resulting class power, is still, however, not sufficient for the stabilization of capitalism at this level of intense concentration; for needed as well is the popularization of Reaction and Repression. Obama is the man for the job. His race —thanks to liberal guilt and political correctness—alone saves him from critical scrutiny (neatly played out, as though making Reagan’s Teflon presidency amateurish by comparison), as he, like none before him, integrates capitalist, military, intelligence, and media resources, i.e., the communities represented by the elites of each, into a finely-honed authoritarian backdrop for manifesting and executing national power. And yet, liberals slobber at his feet, their moral bankruptcy and lack of political wisdom and will nowhere more evident.

The putsch has become outmoded; the bowdlerization of race and gender is a sufficient cause of false consciousness, of feel-good celebration of diversity, as the upper 0.1% tightened their hold on the levers of power. A black president? a woman president? What would Paul Robeson think—or Rosa Luxemburg! If a white president abused power, from Espionage Act prosecutions to the hit list of drone assassinations, in the way Obama has, one might hope to see street demonstrations—a hope perhaps futile given the decline of societal awareness already rife in the way war crimes, corporate giveaways, and the celebration of wealth pass unnoticed.

Time for an accounting, then, before it’s too late. From whence, though? It is important to recognize how much America has changed, since, say, the early 1950s. At least, then, anticommunism was met by (often painful and unsuccessful) resistance, for as repression mounted so also did the clarity of struggle and need to fight back. Taft-Hartley, Peekskill, legislation, events, large and small, the purging of “reds” from labor unions (and like UE, whole unions themselves)—a time to be alive, the very lies being met in response by forthright declarations of freedom.

Those who took the Fifth, and found themselves fired; those like Claude Pepper of Florida, who in the 1950 Senate race had been smeared by the Miami Herald with a faked composite showing him embracing Joe Stalin, and Pepper’s opponent, campaigning around the state hissing that his opponent’s sister was a—thespian. Even as late as 1956, I followed Adlai Stevenson for three days during the California Democratic primary, and while hardly a flaming radical, he had, as I recall, dead-tired, standing on the railroad tracks somewhere around San Jose, expressed a vision of social awareness seldom found since. With Kennedy, the fascistization of America had begun in earnest.

The process continues, now accelerated.

Norman Pollack has written on Populism. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at pollackn@msu.edu.

 

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/04/16/obama-monopoly-capitalism-and-global-hegemony/

 

 

The Attack on Russia is Mounting

Washington Drives the World Toward War
http://kielarowski.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/0e136-we-are-on-the-edge-of-world-war-iii.png?w=633&h=423

by PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS

The CIA director was sent to Kiev to launch a military suppression of the Russian separatists in the eastern and southern portions of Ukraine, former Russian territories for the most part that were foolishly attached to the Ukraine in the early years of Soviet rule.

Washington’s plan to grab Ukraine overlooked that the Russian and Russian-speaking parts of Ukraine were not likely to go along with their insertion into the EU and NATO while submitting to the persecution of Russian speaking peoples.  Washington has lost Crimea, from which Washington intended to eject Russia from its Black Sea naval base. Instead of admitting that its plan for grabbing Ukraine has gone amiss, Washington is unable to admit a mistake and, therefore, is pushing the crisis to more dangerous levels.

If Ukraine dissolves into secession with the former Russian territories reverting to Russia, Washington will be embarrassed that the result of its coup in Kiev was to restore the Russian provinces of Ukraine to Russia.  To avoid this embarrassment, Washington is pushing the crisis toward war.

The CIA director instructed Washington’s hand-picked stooge government in Kiev to apply to the United Nations for help in repelling “terrorists” who with alleged Russian help are allegedly attacking Ukraine. In Washington’s vocabulary, self-determination is a sign of Russian interference. As the UN is essentially a Washington-financed organization, Washington will get what it wants.

The Russian government has already made it completely clear some weeks ago that the use of violence against protesters in eastern and southern Ukraine would compel the Russian government to send in the Russian army to protect Russians, just as Russia had to do in South Ossetia when Washington instructed its Georgian puppet ruler to attack Russian peacekeeping troops and Russian residents of South Ossetia.

Washington knows that the Russian government cannot stand aside while one of Washington’s puppet states attacks Russians.  Yet, Washington is pushing the crisis to war.

The danger for Russia is that the Russian government will rely on diplomacy, international organizations, international cooperation, and on the common sense and self-interest of German politicians and politicians in other of Washington’s European puppet states.

For Russia this could be a fatal mistake. There is no good will in Washington, only mendacity. Russian delay provides Washington with time to build up forces on Russia’s borders and in the Black Sea and to demonize Russia with propaganda and whip up the US population into a war frenzy.  The latter is already occurring.

Kerry has made it clear to Lavrov that Washington is not listening to Russia. As Washington pays well, Washington’s European puppets are also not listening to Russia. Money is more important to European politicians than humanity’s survival.

In my opinion, Washington does not want the Ukraine matters settled in a diplomatic and reasonable way. It might be the case that Russia’s best move is immediately to occupy the Russian territories of Ukraine and re-absorb the territories into Russia from whence they came. This should be done before the US and its NATO puppets are prepared for war. It is more difficult for Washington to start a war when the objects of the war have already been lost. Russia will be demonized with endless propaganda from Washington whether or not Russia re-absorbs its traditional territories. If Russia allows these territories to be suppressed by Washington, the prestige and authority of the Russian government will collapse. Perhaps that is what Washington is counting on.

If Putin’s government stands aside while Russian Ukraine is suppressed, Putin’s prestige will plummet, and Washington will finish off the Russian government by putting into action its many hundreds of Washington-financed NGOs that the Russian government has so foolishly tolerated.  Russia is riven with Washington’s Fifth columns.

In my opinion, the Russian and Chinese governments have made serious strategic mistakes by remaining within the US dollar-based international payments system. The BRICS and any others with a brain should instantly desert the dollar system, which is a mechanism for US imperialism. The countries of the BRICS should immediately create their own separate payments system and their own exclusive communications/Internet system.

Russia and China have stupidly made these strategic mistakes, because reeling from communist failures and oppressions, they naively assumed that Washington was pure, that Washington was committed to its propagandistic self-description as the upholder of law, justice, mercy, and  human rights.

In fact, Washington, the “exceptional, indispensable country,” is committed to its hegemony over the world. Russia, China, and Iran are in the way of Washington’s hegemony and are targeted for attack.

The attack on Russia is mounting.

Paul Craig Roberts is a former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury and Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. Roberts’ How the Economy Was Lost is now available from CounterPunch in electronic format. His latest book is How America Was Lost.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/04/15/the-attack-on-russia-is-mounting/

 

America’s military-industrial complex is evolving

The next generation of shadow wars:

After a decade of failed nation-building in the Middle East, the U.S. military sets its sights on a new continent

, TomDispatch.com

The next generation of shadow wars: America's military-industrial complex is evolving
This piece originally appeared on TomDispatch.

What the military will say to a reporter and what is said behind closed doors are two very different things — especially when it comes to the U.S. military in Africa.  For years, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has maintained a veil of secrecy about much of the command’s activities and mission locations, consistently downplaying the size, scale, and scope of its efforts.   At a recent Pentagon press conference, AFRICOM Commander General David Rodriguez adhered to the typical mantra, assuring the assembled reporters that the United States “has little forward presence” on that continent.  Just days earlier, however, the men building the Pentagon’s presence there were telling a very different story — but they weren’t speaking with the media.  They were speaking to representatives of some of the biggest military engineering firms on the planet.  They were planning for the future and the talk was of war.

I recently experienced this phenomenon myself during a media roundtable with Lieutenant General Thomas Bostick, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  When I asked the general to tell me just what his people were building for U.S. forces in Africa, he paused and said in a low voice to the man next to him, “Can you help me out with that?”  Lloyd Caldwell, the Corps’s director of military programs, whispered back, “Some of that would be close hold” — in other words, information too sensitive to reveal.

The only thing Bostick seemed eager to tell me about were vague plans to someday test a prototype “structural insulated panel-hut,” a new energy-efficient type of barracks being developed by cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.  He also assured me that his people would get back to me with answers.  What I got instead was an “interview” with a spokesman for the Corps who offered little of substance when it came to construction on the African continent.  Not much information was available, he said, the projects were tiny, only small amounts of money had been spent so far this year, much of it funneled into humanitarian projects.  In short, it seemed as if Africa was a construction backwater, a sleepy place, a vast landmass on which little of interest was happening.



Fast forward a few weeks and Captain Rick Cook, the chief of U.S. Africa Command’s Engineer Division, was addressing an audience of more than 50 representatives of some of the largest military engineering firms on the planet — and this reporter.  The contractors were interested in jobs and he wasn’t pulling any punches.  “The eighteen months or so that I’ve been here, we’ve been at war the whole time,” Cook told them.  “We are trying to provide opportunities for the African people to fix their own African challenges.  Now, unfortunately, operations in Libya, South Sudan, and Mali, over the last two years, have proven there’s always something going on in Africa.”

Cook was one of three U.S. military construction officials who, earlier this month, spoke candidly about the Pentagon’s efforts in Africa to men and women from URS Corporation, AECOM, CH2M Hill, and other top firms.  During a paid-access web seminar, the three of them insisted that they were seeking industry “partners” because the military has “big plans” for the continent.  They foretold a future marked by expansion, including the building up of a “permanent footprint” in Djibouti for the next decade or more, a possible new compound in Niger, and a string of bases devoted to surveillance activities spreading across the northern tier of Africa.  They even let slip mention of a small, previously unacknowledged U.S. compound in Mali.

The Master Plan

After my brush off by General Bostick, I interviewed an Army Corps of Engineers Africa expert, Chris Gatz, about construction projects for Special Operations Command Africa in 2013.  “I’ll be totally frank with you,” he said, “as far as the scopes of these projects go, I don’t have good insights.”

What about two projects in Senegal I had stumbled across?  Well, yes, he did, in fact, have information about a firing range and a “shoot house” that happened to be under construction there.  When pressed, he also knew about plans I had noted in previously classified documents obtained by TomDispatch for the Corps to build a multipurpose facility in Cameroon.  And on we went.  “You’ve got better information than I do,” he said at one point, but it seemed like he had plenty of information, too.  He just wasn’t volunteering much of it to me.

Later, I asked if there were 2013 projects that had been funded with counter-narco-terrorism (CNT) money.  “No, actually there was not,” he told me.  So I specifically asked about Niger.

Last year, AFRICOM spokesman Benjamin Benson confirmed to TomDispatch that the U.S. was conducting intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, or ISR, drone operations from Base Aérienne 101 at Diori Hamani International Airport in Niamey, the capital of Niger.  In the months since, air operations there have only increased.  In addition, documents recently obtained by TomDispatch indicated that the Army Corps of Engineers has been working on two counter-narco-terrorism projects in Arlit and Tahoua, Niger.  So I told Gatz what I had uncovered.  Only then did he locate the right paperwork.  “Oh, okay, I’m sorry,” he replied.  “You’re right, we have two of them… Both were actually awarded to construction.”

Those two CNT construction projects have been undertaken on behalf of Niger’s security forces, but in his talk to construction industry representatives, AFRICOM’s Rick Cook spoke about another project there: a possible U.S. facility still to be built.  “Lately, one of our biggest focus areas is in the country of Niger.  We have gotten indications from the country of Niger that they are willing to be a partner of ours,” he said.  The country, he added, “is in a nice strategic location that allows us to get to many other places reasonably quickly, so we are working very hard with the Nigeriens to come up with, I wouldn’t necessarily call it a base, but a place we can operate out of on a frequent basis.”

Cook offered no information on the possible location of that facility, but recent contracting documents examined by TomDispatch indicate that the U.S. Air Force is seeking to purchase large quantities of jet fuel to be delivered to Niger’s Mano Dayak International Airport.

Multiple requests for further information sent to AFRICOM’s media chief Benjamin Benson went unanswered, as had prior queries about activities at Base Aérienne 101.  But Colonel Aaron Benson, Chief of the Readiness Division at Air Forces Africa, did offer further details about the Nigerien mini-base.  “There is the potential to construct MILCON aircraft parking aprons at the proposed future site in Niger,” he wrote, mentioning a specific type of military construction funding dedicated to use for “enduring” bases rather than transitory facilities.  In response to further questions, Cook referred to the possible site as a “base-like facility” that would be “semi-permanent” and “capable of air operations.”

Pay to Play

It turns out that, if you want to know what the U.S. military is doing in Africa, it’s advantageous to be connected to a large engineering or construction firm looking for business.  Then you’re privy to quite a different type of insider assessment of the future of the U.S. presence there, one far more detailed than the modest official pronouncements that U.S. Africa Command offers to journalists.  Asked at a recent Pentagon press briefing if there were plans for a West African analog to Djibouti’s Camp Lemonnier, the only “official” U.S. base on the continent, AFRICOM Commander General David Rodriguez was typically guarded.  Such a “forward-operating site” was just “one of the options” the command was mulling over, he said, before launching into the sort of fuzzy language typical of official answers.  “What we’re really looking at doing is putting contingency locating sites, which really have some just expeditionary infrastructure that can be expanded with tents,” was the way he put it.  He never once mentioned Niger, or airfield improvements, or the possibility of a semi-permanent “presence.”

Here, however, is the reality as we know it today.  Over the last several years, the U.S. has been building a constellation of drone bases across Africa, flyingintelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions out of not only Niger, but also Djibouti, Ethiopia, and the island nation of the Seychelles.  Meanwhile, an airbase in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, serves as the home of a Joint Special Operations Air Detachment, as well as of the Trans-Sahara Short Take-Off and Landing Airlift Support initiative.  According to military documents, that “initiative” supports “high-risk activities” carried out by elite forces from Joint Special Operations Task Force-Trans Sahara.  U.S. Army Africa documents obtained by TomDispatch also mention the deployment to Chad of an ISR liaison team.  And according to Sam Cooks, a liaison officer with the Defense Logistics Agency, the U.S. military has 29 agreements to use international airports in Africa as refueling centers.

U.S. Facility near Gao, Mali.  This austere compound is thought to have been overrun by Islamist forces in 2012.  Credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

As part of the webinar for industry representatives, Wayne Uhl, chief of the International Engineering Center for the Europe District of the Army Corps of Engineers, shed light on shadowy U.S. operations in Mali before (and possiblyafter) the elected government there was overthrown in a 2012 coup led by a U.S.-trained officer.  Documents prepared by Uhl reveal that an American compound was constructed near Gao, a major city in the north of Mali.  Gao is the site of multiple Malian military bases and a “strategic” airport captured by Islamist militants in 2012 and retaken by French and Malian troops early last year.

AFRICOM’s Benjamin Benson failed to respond to multiple requests for comment about the Gao compound, but Uhl offered additional details.  The project was completed before the 2012 uprising and “included a vehicle maintenance facility, a small admin building, toilet facilities with water tank, a diesel generator with a fuel storage tank, and a perimeter fence,” he told me in a written response to my questions. “I imagine the site was overrun during the coup and is no longer used by U.S. forces.”

America’s lone official base on the African continent, Camp Lemonnier, a former French Foreign Legion post in Djibouti, has been on a decade-plus growth spurt and serves a key role for the U.S. mission.  “Camp Lemonnier is the only permanent footprint that we have on the continent and until such time as AFRICOM may establish a headquarters location in Africa, Camp Lemonnier will be the center of their activities here,” Greg Wilderman, the Military Construction Program Manager for Naval Facilities Engineering Command, explained.

“In 2013, we had a big jump in the amount of program projects,” he noted, specifically mentioning a large “task force” construction effort, an oblique reference to a $220 million Special Operations compound at the base that TomDispatch first reported on in 2013.

According to documents provided by Wilderman, five contracts worth more than $322 million (to be paid via MILCON funds) were awarded for Camp Lemonnier in late 2013.  These included deals for a $25.5 million fitness center and a $41 million Joint Headquarters Facility in addition to the Special Operations Compound.  This year, Wilderman noted, there are two contracts — valued at $35 million — already slated to be awarded, and Captain Rick Cook specifically mentioned deals for an armory and new barracks in 2014.

Cook’s presentation also indicated that a number of long-running construction projects at Camp Lemonnier were set to be completed this year, including roads, a “fuel farm,” an aircraft logistics apron, and “taxiway enhancements,” while construction of a new aircraft maintenance hangar, a telecommunications facility, and a “combat aircraft loading area” are slated to be finished in 2015.  “There’s a tremendous amount of work going on,” Cook said, noting that there were 22 current projects underway there, more than at any other Navy base anywhere in the world.

And this, it turns out, is only the beginning.

“In the master plan,” Cook said, “there is close to three quarters of a billion dollars worth of construction projects that we still would like to do at Camp Lemonnier over the next 10 to 15 years.”  That base, in turn, would be just one of a constellation of camps and compounds used by the U.S. in Africa.  “Many of the places that we are trying to stand up or trying to get into are air missions.  A lot of ISR… is going on in different parts of the continent.  Generally speaking, the Air Force is probably going to be assigned to do much of that,” he told the contractors.  “The Air Force is going to be doing a great deal of work on these bases… that are going to be built across the northern tier of Africa.”

Hearts and Minds

When I spoke with Chris Gatz of the Army Corps of Engineers, the first projects he mentioned and the only ones he seemed eager to talk about were those for African nations.  This year, $6.5 million in projects had been funded when we spoke and of that, the majority were for “humanitarian assistance” or HA construction projects, mostly in Togo and Tunisia, and “peacekeeping” operations in Ghana and Djibouti.

Uhl talked about humanitarian projects, too.  “HA projects are small, difficult, challenging for the Corps of Engineers to accomplish at a low, in-house cost… but despite all this, HA projects are extremely rewarding,” he said.  “The appreciation expressed by the locals is fantastic.”  He then drew attention to another added benefit: “Each successful project is a photo opportunity.”

Uhl wasn’t the only official to touch on the importance of public perception in Africa or the need to curry favor with military “partners” on the continent.  Cook spoke to the contractors, for instance, about the challenges of work in austere locations, about how bureaucratic shakedowns by members of African governments could cause consternation and construction delays, about learning to work with the locals, and about how important such efforts were for “winning hearts and minds of folks in the area.”

The Naval Facilities Engineering Command’s Wildeman talked up the challenges of working in an environment in which the availability of resources was limited, the dangers of terrorism were real, and there was “competition for cooperation with [African] countries from some other world powers.”  This was no doubt a reference to increasing Chinese tradeaidinvestment, andeconomic ties across the continent.

He also left no doubt about U.S. plans.  “We will be in Africa for some time to come,” he told the contractors.  “There’s lots more to do there.”

Cook expanded on this theme. “It’s a big, big place,” he said.  “We know we can’t do it alone.  So we’re going to need partners in industry, we’re going to need… local nationals and even third country nationals.”

AFRICOM at War

For years, senior AFRICOM officers and spokesmen have downplayed the scope of U.S. operations on the continent, stressing that the command has only a single base and a very light footprint there.  At the same time, they have limited access to journalists and refused to disclose the number and tempo of the command’s operations, as well as the locations of its deployments and of bases that go by other names.  AFRICOM’S public persona remains one of humanitarian missions and benign-sounding support for local partners.

“Our core mission of assisting African states and regional organizations to strengthen their defense capabilities better enables Africans to address their security threats and reduces threats to U.S. interests,” says the command.  “We concentrate our efforts on contributing to the development of capable and professional militaries that respect human rights, adhere to the rule of law, and more effectively contribute to stability in Africa.”  Efforts like sniper training for proxy forces and black ops missions hardly come up.  Bases are mostly ignored.  The word “war” is rarely mentioned.

TomDispatch’s recent investigations have, however, revealed that the U.S. military is indeed pivoting to Africa.  It now averages far more than a mission a day on the continent, conducting operations with almost every African military force, in almost every African country, while building or building up camps, compounds, and “contingency security locations.”  The U.S. has taken an active role in wars from Libya to the Central African Republic, sent special ops forces into countries from Somalia to South Sudan, conducted airstrikes andabduction missions, even put boots on the ground in countries where it pledgedit would not.

“We have shifted from our original intent of being a more congenial combatant command to an actual war-fighting combatant command,” AFRICOM’s Rick Cook explained to the audience of big-money defense contractors.  He was unequivocal: the U.S. has been “at war” on the continent for the last two and half years.  It remains to be seen when AFRICOM will pass this news on to the American public.

Nick Turse is the managing editor of TomDispatch.com and a fellow at the Nation Institute.  An award-winning journalist, his work has appeared in theLos Angeles Timesthe Nation, and regularly at TomDispatch. He is the author/editor of several books, including the just published The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Spies, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare  (Haymarket Books). This piece is the final article in his serieson the changing face of American empire, which is being underwritten byLannan Foundation. You can follow him on Tumblr.

 

http://www.salon.com/2014/04/14/the_next_generation_of_shadow_wars_americas_military_industrial_complex_is_evolving_partner/?source=newsletter

Are Google and Facebook Just Pretending They Want Limits on NSA Surveillance?

By Elise Ackerman

Photo via Flickr user Ludovic Toinel

Revelations about the National Security Agency’s most controversial surveillance program, which centers on the bulk collection of hundreds of billions of records of Americans’ phone conversations, were quickly greeted with calls for reform by major internet powerhouses like Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo last year. But all four companies, along with dozens of other major tech firms, are actively opposing an initiative to prevent NSA spying known as the Fourth Amendment Protection Act, leaning on secretive industry lobbying groups while they profess outrage in official statements.

Virtually immediate public condemnation of government spying put the industry in an uncomfortable position when the Snowden leaks began pouring out in June 2013, and in carefully written responses to news reports claiming that they’d cooperated with the now notorious PRISM apparatus, these tech companies emphasized their compliance with existing laws that require them to hand over user data under certain conditions.

“When governments ask Facebook for data, we review each request carefully to make sure they always follow the correct processes and all applicable laws, and then only provide the information if [it] is required by law,” Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, wrote in a blog post last June. “We will continue fighting aggressively to keep your information safe and secure.”

Statements like this suggest Zuckerberg and his industry peers would support legislative efforts to rein in surveillance, and it’s true that they’ve called for reform in letters to the Senate Judiciary Committee applauding a bill known as the USA Freedom Act. Google, Facebook, and six other tech giants have even hired a firm that claims to fight NSA surveillance on their behalf.

The real action, however, has been much subtler, with the industry wielding its influence behind closed doors using two lobbying groups to oppose certain restrictions on internet surveillance: the IT Alliance for Public Sector (ITAPS) and the State Privacy and Security Coalition (SPSC). A look at the actions of these two groups suggests that the companies want reform, sure, but only on terms that don’t affect their day-to-day business.

In particular, VICE has uncovered that ITAPS and SPSC have sent letters to politicians lobbying against the Fourth Amendment Protection Act, a wide-sweeping bill that would limit the NSA’s ability to read private electronic communications without a warrant.

Anti-surveillance bills have been introduced over the past year in more than half the states in the union, ranging from narrow laws that would require warrants for location data and email to more sweeping efforts to fight back against federal intrusions by outlawing cooperation with government agencies that engage in electronic-data collection without a warrant. The Fourth Amendment Protection Act, which has been introduced in more than a dozen states, denies state resources to federal agencies that collect electronic data without a warrant, and to companies that do the agencies’ dirty work for them. Drafted last year by a small group of nonpartisan legal activists affiliated with the Tenth Amendment Center and the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, the bill is a grassroots attempt to force the NSA to change its data-collection practices—a position that has since been endorsed by the president and members of Congress, albeit in more limited form.

“I think this bill is in the finest traditions of state governments opposing federal encroachments,” said Bruce Fein, a former associate deputy attorney general and general counsel to the Federal Communications Commission at a March hearing in Maryland. “It’s important to remember that the Fourth Amendment right to privacy was the spark of the American revolution.”

State legislatures around the country have held a number of hearings on the bill, including one last month in Maryland. During these hearings, groups representing law enforcement and district attorneys have complained that the proposed legislation is too broad and would hamper criminal investigations and prosecutions. But corporate adversaries of the act have been conspicuously absent. They haven’t engaged in a public debate about the law, such as the one Google’s Larry Page called for during his appearance at the TED 2014 conference in Seattle.

In states such as California, Tennesse, and Missouri, state legislators aren’t required to discole their contacts with industry front groups under existing public records laws. When I tried to verify which government officials have been contacted by ITAPS and the SPSC, elected officials were naturally reluctant to acknowledge them. Two lawmakers—State Senator Stacey Campfield, a Republican from Tennessee, and State Senator Joel Anderson, a Republican from California—indicated they had not been contacted by the groups, though documents obtained by VICE confirmed that they had both received letters from ITAPS.

Only one lawmaker, State Senator Ted Lieu of California, voluntarily provided a copy of the letter he had received from ITAPS, a division of the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI). Founded in 1916, ITI claims to be the tech industry’s oldest trade association. It describes itself as the “premier advocacy and policy organization for the world’s leading innovation companies” and prides itself on providing “creative solutions and policy advocacy that advance the development and use of technology around the world.” In addition to the internet giants, the 56 members of ITI listed on its website include Apple, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, IBM, Oracle, and Samsung.

In a February 20 letter to State Senator Lieu, Carol Henton, a vice president of ITAPS, said that the anti-surveillance bill would have “negative implications for companies that are seeking to make manufacturing and business investments in the state of California.” Henton specifically objected to a provision of the bill that barred state agencies, employees, and contractors from using public funds to engage in any activity that aids the federal government from collecting any individual’s electronic data without a warrant. “Many California-based companies provide technology goods and analytic services which are important to the provision of national and homeland security for U.S. citizens and this would seem to unnecessarily jeopardize their ability to compete for business with the state or political subdivisions,” Henton wrote.

Henton met with Lieu’s office in the first week of April. In an interview responding to some questions I had about the meeting, Lieu said that Henton and others appeared to be misinterpreting the bill, but added that he has been contacted by multiple companies and stakeholders and that he was going to amend the bill to reflect their concerns.

James Halpert, general counsel for the SPSC, said in an interview that it wasn’t fair that companies that complied with requests from the NSA—as is required by existing law—would be barred from state contracts. “The bill would place many of our members in an impossible, Catch-22 situation—be held in contempt of court or be disqualified from contracts with the State of Arizona or any political subdivision,” he wrote in a February 10 letter to State Senator Kelli Ward of Arizona. Formed in 2008 with the goal of harmonizing state and federal legislation, the SPSC includes AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Cox Communications, and Time Warner Cable, along with Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo. Members discuss state legislation in a weekly call with Halpert.

In his letter, Halpert warned that the bill would have unintended consequences. “For example, if the Arizona state government or any locality uses Microsoft Outlook or Google email services, it would not be able to continue doing so under SB 1156 (Arizona’s version of the Fourth Amendment Protection Act) because both companies are legally required to provide evidence to the federal government. Instead, Arizona and its subdivisions would have to cease using those services and find new—potentially more expensive—providers,” he wrote.

Michael Maharrey, a spokesman for the Tenth Amendment Center, said Halpert’s concerns could be addressed relatively easily with an amendment that clarifies that the bill would not apply to companies that were forced to provide user data in response to a court order. But Henton’s letter indicates the tech companies’ objections run much deeper. “ITAPS is essentially opposed to the bill because it will do what the bill is intended to do,” Maharrey said in an interview. “The intent of that section is to stop the companies from cooperating with the NSA and violating our civil liberties. We want companies to make a choice.”

It’s not a choice the companies themselves care to make. Principles such as requiring the government to obtain a search warrant based on probable cause to access a person’s private communications or documents stored online sound great in the abstract, but not, apparently, at the expense of achieving traditional business goals.

http://www.vice.com/read/are-google-and-facebook-just-pretending-they-want-limits-on-nsa-surveillance?utm_source=vicenewsletter

America’s Coup Machine: Destroying Democracy Since 1953


U.S. efforts to overthrow foreign governments leave the world less peaceful, less just and less hopeful.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

Soon after the 2004 U.S. coup to depose President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti, I heard Aristide’s lawyer Ira Kurzban speaking in Miami.  He began his talk with a riddle: “Why has there never been a coup in Washington D.C.?”  The answer: “Because there is no U.S. Embassy in Washington D.C.”  This introduction was greeted with wild applause by a mostly Haitian-American audience who understood it only too well.

Ukraine’s former security chief, Aleksandr Yakimenko, has reported that the coup-plotters who overthrew the elected government in Ukraine, “basically lived in the (U.S.) Embassy.  They were there every day.”  We also know from a leaked Russian intercept that they were in close contact with Ambassador Pyatt and the senior U.S. official in charge of the coup, former Dick Cheney aide Victoria Nuland, officially the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.  And we can assume that many of their days in the Embassy were spent in strategy and training sessions with their individual CIA case officers.

To place the coup in Ukraine in historical context, this is at least the 80th time the United States has organized a coup or a failed coup in a foreign country since 1953.  That was when President Eisenhower discovered in Iran that the CIA could overthrow elected governments who refused to sacrifice the future of their people to Western commercial and geopolitical interests.  Most U.S. coups have led to severe repression, disappearances, extrajudicial executions, torture, corruption, extreme poverty and inequality, and prolonged setbacks for the democratic aspirations of people in the countries affected.  The plutocratic and ultra-conservative nature of the forces the U.S. has brought to power in Ukraine make it unlikely to be an exception.

Noam Chomsky calls William Blum’s classic, Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions since World War II, “Far and away the best book on the topic.”  If you’re looking for historical context for what you are reading or watching on TV about the coup in Ukraine, Killing Hope will provide it.  The title has never been more apt as we watch the hopes of people from all regions of Ukraine being sacrificed on the same altar as those of people in Iran (1953); Guatemala(1954); Thailand (1957); Laos (1958-60); the Congo (1960); Turkey (1960, 1971 & 1980); Ecuador (1961 & 1963); South Vietnam (1963); Brazil (1964); the Dominican Republic (1963); Argentina (1963); Honduras (1963 & 2009); Iraq (1963 & 2003); Bolivia (1964, 1971 & 1980); Indonesia (1965); Ghana (1966); Greece (1967); Panama (1968 & 1989); Cambodia (1970); Chile (1973); Bangladesh (1975); Pakistan (1977); Grenada (1983); Mauritania (1984); Guinea (1984); Burkina Faso (1987); Paraguay (1989); Haiti (1991 & 2004); Russia (1993); Uganda (1996);and Libya (2011).  This list does not include a roughly equal number of failed coups, nor coups in Africa and elsewhere in which a U.S. role is suspected but unproven.

The disquieting reality of the world we live in is that American efforts to destroy democracy, even as it pretends to champion it, have left the world less peaceful, less just and less hopeful.  When Harold Pinter won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005, at the height of the genocidal American war on Iraq, he devoted much of his acceptance speech to an analysis of this dichotomy.  He said of the U.S., “It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good.  It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis… Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be, but it is also very clever.”

The basic framework of U.S. coups has hardly evolved since 1953.  The main variables between coups in different places and times have been the scale and openness of the U.S. role and the level of violence used.  There is a strong correlation between the extent of U.S. involvement and the level of violence.  At one extreme, the U.S. war on Iraq was a form of regime change that involved hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops and killed hundreds of thousands of people.  On the other hand, the U.S. role in General Suharto’s coup in Indonesia in 1965 remained covert even as he killed almost as many people.  Only long after the fact didU.S. officials take credit for their role in Suharto’s campaign of mass murder, and it will be some time before they brag publicly about their roles in Ukraine.

But as Harold Pinter explained, the U.S. has always preferred “low-intensity conflict” to full-scale invasions and occupations.  The CIA and U.S. special forces use proxies and covert operations to overthrow governments and suppress movements that challenge America’s insatiable quest for global power.  A coup is the climax of such operations, and it is usually only when these “low-intensity” methods fail that a country becomes a target for direct U.S. military aggression.  Iraq only became a target for U.S. invasion and occupation after a failed CIA coup in June 1996.  The U.S. attacked Panama in 1989 only after five CIA coup attempts failed to remove General Noriega from power.  After long careers as CIA agents, both Hussein and Noriega had exceptional knowledge of U.S. operations and methods that enabled them to resist regime change by anything less than overwhelming U.S. military force.

But most U.S. coups follow a model that has hardly changed between 1953 and the latest coup in Ukraine in 2014.  This model has three stages:

1) Creating and strengthening opposition forces

In the early stages of a U.S. plan for regime change, there is little difference between the methods used to achieve it at the ballot box or by an anti-constitutional coup.  Many of these tools and methods were developed to install right-wing governments in occupied countries in Europe and Asia after World War II.  They include forming and funding conservative political parties, student groups, trade unions and media outlets, and running well-oiled propaganda campaigns both in the country being targeted and in regional, international and U.S. media.

Post-WWII Italy is a case in point.  At the end of the war, the U.S. used the American Federation of Labor’s agents in France and Italy to funnel money through non-communist trade unions to conservative candidates and political parties.  But socialists and communists won a plurality of votes in the 1946 election in Italy, and then joined forces to form the Popular Democratic Front for the next election in 1948.  The U.S. worked with the Catholic Church, conducted a massive propaganda campaign using Italian-American celebrities like Frank Sinatra, and printed 10 million letters for Italian-Americans to mail to their relatives in Italy.  The U.S. threatened a total cut-off of aid to the war-ravaged country, where allied bombing had killed 50,000 civilians and left much of the country in ruins.

The FDP was reduced from a combined 40% of the votes in 1946 to 31% in 1948, leaving Italy in the hands of increasingly corrupt U.S.-backed coalitions led by the Christian Democrats for the next 46 years.  Italy was saved from an imaginary communist dictatorship, but more importantly from an independent democratic socialist program committed to workers’ rights and to protecting small and medium-sized Italian businesses against competition from U.S. multinationals.

The U.S. employed similar tactics in Chile in the 1960s to prevent the election of Salvador Allende.  He came within 3% of winning the presidency in 1958, so the Kennedy administration sent a team of 100 State Department and CIA officers to Chile in what one of them later called a “blatant and almost obscene” effort to subvert the next election in 1964.  The CIA provided more than half the Christian Democrats’ campaign funds and launched a multimedia propaganda campaign on film, TV, radio, newspapers, posters and flyers.  This classic “red scare” campaign, dominated by images of firing squads and Soviet tanks, was designed mainly to terrify women.  The CIA produced 20 radio spots per day that were broadcast on at least 45 stations, as well as dozens of fabricated daily “news” broadcasts.  Thousands of posters depicted children with hammers and sickles stamped on their foreheads.  The Christian Democrat Eduardo Frei defeated Allende by 17%, with a huge majority among women.

But despite the U.S. propaganda campaign, Allende was finally elected in 1970.  When he consolidated his position in Congressional elections in 1973 despite a virtual U.S. economic embargo and an ever-escalating destabilization campaign, his fate was sealed, at the hands of the CIA and the U.S.-backed military, led by General Pinochet.

In Ukraine, the U.S. has worked since independence in 1991 to promote pro-Western parties and candidates, climaxing in the “Orange Revolution” in 2004.  But the Western-backed governments of Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko became just as corrupt and unpopular as previous ones, and former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich was elected President in 2010.

The U.S. employed all its traditional tactics leading up to the coup in 2014.  The U.S. National Endowment for Democracy (NED) has partially taken over the CIA’s role in grooming opposition candidates, parties and political movements, with an annual budget of $100 million to spend in countries around the world.  The NED made no secret of targeting Ukraine as a top priority, funding 65 projects there, more than in any other country.  The NED’s neoconservative president, Carl Gershman, called Ukraine “the biggest prize” in a Washington Post op-ed in September 2013, as the U.S. operation there prepared to move into its next phase.

2) Violent street demonstrations

In November 2013, the European Union presented President Yanukovich with a 1,500 page “free trade agreement,” similar to NAFTA or the TPP, but which withheld actual EU membership from Ukraine.  The agreement would have opened Ukraine’s borders to Western exports and investment without a reciprocal opening of the EU’s borders. Ukraine, a major producer of cheese and poultry, would have been allowed to export only 5% of its cheese and 1% of its poultry to the EU.  Meanwhile Western firms could have used Ukraine as a gateway to flood Russia with cheap products from Asia. This would have forced Russia to close its borders to Ukraine, shattering the industrial economy of Eastern Ukraine.

Understandably, and for perfectly sound reasons as a Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovich rejected the EU agreement.  This was the signal for pro-Western and right-wing groups in Kiev to take to the street.  In the West, we tend to interpret street demonstrations as representing surges of populism and democracy.  But we should distinguish left-wing demonstrations against right-wing governments from the kind of violent right-wing demonstrations that have always been part of U.S. regime change strategy.

In Tehran in 1953, the CIA spent a million dollars to hire gangsters and “extremely competent professional organizers”, as the CIA’s Kermit Roosevelt called them, to stage increasingly violent demonstrations, until loyal and rebel army units were fighting in the streets of Tehran and at least 300 people were killed.  The CIA spent millions more to bribe members of parliament and other influential Iranians.  Mossadegh was forced to resign, and the Shah restored Western ownership of the oil industry.  BP divided the spoils with American firms, until the Shah was overthrown 26 years later by the Iranian Revolution and the oil industry was re-nationalized.  This pattern of short-term success followed by eventual independence from U.S. interests is a common result of CIA coups, most notably in Latin America, where they have led many of our closest neighbors to become increasingly committed to political and economic independence from the United States.

In Haiti in 2004, 200 U.S. special forces trained 600 FRAPH militiamen and other anti-Lavalas forces at a training camp across the border in the Dominican Republic.  These forces then invaded northern Haiti and gradually spread violence and chaos across the country to set the stage for the overthrow of President Aristide.

In Ukraine, street protests turned violent in January 2014 as the neo-NaziSvoboda Party and the Right Sector militia took charge of the crowds in the streets.  The Right Sector militia only appeared in Ukraine in the past 6 months, although it incorporated existing extreme-right groups and gangs.  It is partly funded by Ukrainian exiles in the U.S. and Europe, and may be a creation of the CIA.  After Right Sector seized government buildings, parliament outlawed the protests and the police reoccupied part of Independence Square, killing two protesters.

On February 7th, the Russians published an intercepted phone call betweenAssistant Secretary of State Nuland and U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt.  The intercept revealed that U.S. officials were preparing to seize the moment for a coup in Ukraine.  The transcript reads like a page from a John Le Carre novel: “I think we’re in play… we could land jelly-side up on this one if we move fast.”  Their main concern was to marginalize heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, who had become the popular face of the “revolution” and was favored by the European Union, and to ensure that U.S. favorite Arseniy Yatsenyuk ended up in the Prime Minister’s office.

On the night of February 17th, Right Sector announced a march from Independence Square to the parliament building on the 18th.  This ignited several days of escalating violence in which the death toll rose to 110 people killed, including protesters, government supporters and 16 police officers.  More than a thousand people were wounded. Vyacheslav Veremyi, a well-known reporter for a pro-government newspaper, was dragged out of a taxi near Independence Square and shot to death in front of a crowd of onlookers.  Right Sector broke into an armory near Lviv and seized military weapons, and there is evidence of both sides using snipers to fire from buildings in Kiev at protesters and police in the streets and the square below.  Former security chief Yakimenko believes that snipers firing from the Philharmonic building were U.S.-paid foreign mercenaries, like the snipers from the former Yugoslavia who earn up to $2,000 per day shooting soldiers in Syria.

As violence raged in the streets, the government and opposition parties held emergency meetings and reached two truce agreements, one on the night of February 19th and another on the 21st, brokered by the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland.  But Right Sector rejected both truces and called for the “people’s revolution” to continue until Yanukovich resigned and the government was completely removed from power.

3) The coup d’etat.

The creation and grooming of opposition forces and the spread of violence in the streets are deliberate strategies to create a state of emergency as a pretext for removing an elected or constitutional government and seizing power.  Once the coup leaders have been trained and prepared by their CIA case officers, U.S. officials have laid their plans and street violence has broken down law and order and the functioning of state institutions, all that remains is to strike decisively at the right moment to remove the government and install the coup leaders in its place.  In Iran, faced with hundreds of people being killed in the streets, Mohammad Mosaddegh resigned to end the bloodshed. In Chile, General Pinochet launched air strikes on the presidential palace.  In Haiti in 2004, U.S. forces landed to remove President Aristide and occupy the country.

In Ukraine, Vitaly Klitschko announced that parliament would open impeachment proceedings against Yanukovich, but, later that day, lacking the 338 votes required for impeachment, a smaller number of members simply approved a declaration that Yanukovich “withdrew from his duties in an unconstitutional manner,” and appointed Oleksandr Turchynov of the opposition Fatherland Party as Acting President.  Right Sector seized control of government buildings and patrolled the streets.  Yanukovich refused to resign, calling this an illegal coup d’etat.  The coup leaders vowed to prosecute him for the deaths of protesters, but he escaped to Russia.  Arseniy Yatsenyuk was appointed Prime Minister on February 27th, exactly as Nuland and Pyatt had planned.

The main thing that distinguishes the U.S. coup in Ukraine from the majority of previous U.S. coups was the minimal role played by the Ukrainian military.  Since 1953, most U.S. coups have involved using local senior military officers to deliver the final blow to remove the elected or ruling leader.  The officers have then been rewarded with presidencies, dictatorships or other senior positions in new U.S.-backed regimes. The U.S. military cultivates military-to-military relationships to identify and groom future coup leaders, and President Obama’s expansion of U.S. special forces operations to 134 countries around the world suggests that this process is ongoing and expanding, not contracting.

But the neutral or pro-Russian position of the Ukrainian military since it was separated from the Soviet Red Army in 1991 made it an impractical tool for an anti-Russian coup. So Nuland and Pyatt’s signal innovation in Ukraine was to use the neo-Nazi Svoboda Party and Right Sector as a strike force to unleash escalating violence and seize power. This also required managing Svoboda and Right Sector’s uneasy alliance with Fatherland and UDAR, the two pro-Western opposition parties who won 40% between them in the 2012 parliamentary election.

Historically, about half of all U.S. coups have failed, and success is never guaranteed.  But few Americans have ended up dead or destitute in the wake of a failed coup.  It is always the people of the target country who pay the price in violence, chaos, poverty and instability, while U.S. coup leaders like Nuland and Pyatt often get a second – or 3rd or 4th or 5th – bite at the apple, and will keep rising through the ranks of the State Department and the CIA.  Direct U.S. military intervention in Ukraine was not an option before the coup, but now the coup itself may destabilize the country and plunge it into economic collapse, regional disintegration or conflict with Russia, creating new and unpredictable conditions in which NATO intervention could become feasible.

Russia has proposed a reasonable solution to the crisis. To resolve the tensions between Eastern and Western Ukraine over their respective political and economic links with Russia and the West, the Russians have proposed a federal system in which both Eastern and Western Ukraine would have much greater autonomy.  This would be more stable that the present system in which each tries to dominate the other with the support of their external allies, turning Ukraine and all its people into pawns of Western-NATO expansion and Russia’s efforts to limit it.  The Russian proposal includes a binding commitment that Ukraine would remain neutral and not join NATO.  A few weeks ago, Obama and Kerry seemed to be ready to take this off-ramp from the crisis.  The delay in agreeing to Russia’s seemingly reasonable proposal may be only an effort to save face, or it may mean that theneocons who engineered the coupare still dictating policy in Washington and that Obama and Kerry may be ready to risk a further escalation of the crisis.

The U.S. coup machine has also been at work in Venezuela, where it already failed once in 2002.  Raul Capote, a former Cuban double agent who worked with the CIA in Cuba and Venezuela, recently described its long-term project to build right-wing opposition movements among upper- and middle-class students in Venezuelan universities, which are now bearing fruit in increasingly violent street protests and vigilantism.  Thirty-six people have been killed, including six police officers and at least 5 opposition protesters.  The protests began exactly a month after municipal elections in December, in which the government won the popular vote by almost 10%, far more than the 1.5% margin in the presidential election last April.  As in Chile in 1973, electoral success by an elected government is often the cue for the CIA to step up its efforts, moving beyond propaganda and right-wing politics to violence in the streets, and the popularity of the Venezuelan government seems to have provoked precisely that reaction.

Another feature of U.S. coups is the role of the Western media in publicizing official cover stories and suppressing factual journalism.  This role has also been consistent since 1953, but it has evolved as corporate media have consolidated their monopoly power.  By their very nature, coups are secret operations and U.S. media are prohibited from revealing “national security” secrets about them, such as the names of CIA officers involved.  By only reporting official cover stories, they become unwitting co conspirators in the critical propaganda component of these operations.  But the U.S. corporate media have turned vice into virtue, relishing their role in the demonization of America’s chosen enemies and cheerleading U.S. efforts to do them in.  They brush U.S. responsibility for violence and chaos under the carpet, and sympathetically present U.S. policy as a well-meaning effort to respond to the irrational and dangerous behavior of others.

This is far more than is required by strict observance of secrecy laws, and it reveals a great deal about the nature of the media environment we live in.  The Western media as it exists today under near-monopoly corporate ownership is a more sophisticated and total propaganda system than early 20th century propagandists ever dreamed of.  As media corporations profit from Western geopolitical and commercial expansion, the propaganda function that supports that expansion is an integrated part of their business model, not something exceptional they do under duress from the state.  But to expect factual journalism about U.S. coups from such firms is to misunderstand who and what they are.

Recent studies have found that people gain a better grasp of current affairs from John Stewart’s Daily Show on Comedy Central than from watching “news” networks.  People who watch no “news” at all have more knowledge of international affairs than people who watch MSNBC or Fox News.  A previous survey conducted 3 months after the U.S. invasion of Iraq found that 52% of Americans believed that U.S. forces in Iraq had found clear evidence of links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda.  Among Republicans who said they were following “news on Iraq very closely”, the figure was 78%, compared with only 68% among Republicans at large.

If the role of the corporate media was to provide factual journalism, these studies would be a terrible indictment of their performance.  But once we acknowledge their actual role as the propaganda arm of an expansionist political and economic system, then we can understand that promoting the myths and misinformation that sustain it are a central part of what they do.  In that light, they are doing a brilliant job on Ukraine as they did on Iraq, suppressing any mention of the U.S. role in the coup and pivoting swiftly away from the unfolding crisis in post-coup Ukraine to focus entirely on attacking President Putin for reclaiming Crimea.  On the other hand, if you’re looking for factual journalism about the U.S. coup machine, you should probably turn off your TV and keep reading reliable sources like Alternet,Consortium News and Venezuela Analysis.

Nicolas J. S. Davies is the author of Blood On Our Hands: The American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq. He wrote the chapter on “Obama At War” for the book, Grading the 44th President: A Report Card on Barack Obama’s First Term as a Progressive Leader.

http://www.alternet.org/world/americas-coup-machine-destroying-democracy-1953?akid=11712.265072.kw8eCA&rd=1&src=newsletter981068&t=11&paging=off&current_page=1#bookmark

Civil war looms as pro-US regime threatens massacre of east Ukraine protesters

https://d2444os31gbwts.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/ukraine-militia.jpg

facist Right Sector militia

 

By Alex Lantier

11 April 2014

Ukraine stands on the brink of civil war, as the unelected pro-Western regime that seized power this February in Kiev threatens a bloody crackdown on protesters occupying local government offices in cities across traditionally pro-Russian sections of eastern Ukraine.

Protesters are demanding a referendum to federalize Ukraine and limit the authority of the new, far-right regime in Kiev. Some protesters have also called on their areas to vote to join Russia, as the former Ukrainian region of Crimea did last month, or declared independent “people’s republics” in Donetsk and Kharkiv.

Andrei Senchenko, the deputy head of the presidential administration in Kiev, said his regime’s security forces would “shoot to kill” if protesters did not abandon buildings in Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv by today.

Senchenko’s threats echoed those of Irina Farion, a legislator from the Fatherland Party of US-backed Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk. She demanded death for the protesters saying, “Today’s reaction is unacceptable. The measures should be much tougher. Our people laid down their lives. That’s why those creatures that arrive here deserve only death.”

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said that a “special police task force” had arrived from western Ukraine to Donetsk, Luhansk, and Kharkiv, after local police units refused to launch a crackdown. He was apparently referring to the deployment to eastern Ukraine of units of the Kiev regime’s new National Guard and of the fascist Right Sector militia, which led the February putsch in Kiev that toppled pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Kiev’s reckless and hysterical calls for a bloody crackdown on pro-Russian forces in regions of Ukraine with large Russian populations threaten not only to tip Ukraine into civil war, but to lead to a direct clash between Ukraine and Russia. Last month, describing precisely a scenario of a crackdown in eastern Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he reserved the right to intervene militarily to defend Russians in the region.

“If we see such uncontrolled crime spreading to the eastern regions of the country, and if the people ask us for help, while we already have the official request from the legitimate president [Yanukovych], we retain the right to use all available means to protect those people. We believe this would be absolutely legitimate,” he said.

Under these explosive conditions, the NATO powers are backing Kiev and signaling their own military escalation, directly posing the risk of war with Russia, a nuclear-armed power.

Yesterday, photos in the Russian media and videos posted to YouTube showed columns of Ukrainian military trucks and towed artillery on the roads of eastern Ukraine.

Inhabitants of nearby towns who tried to block the convoys in the streets were assaulted. One woman told Russia Today, “At about 2pm, we received information that military hardware had arrived at our local train station. We went there and saw armored personnel carriers, military vehicles and troops. The whole town gathered nearby.” When townspeople blocked the vehicles, “The soldiers twisted the arms of pensioners, there were two men standing there and [soldiers] drove over their feet. I was pulled back by local coal miners when I tried to stop the vehicles.”

The Kiev regime is preparing an armed clash with protest groups and militias that have emerged across eastern Ukraine. Protesters in Donetsk—including thousands of pensioners, workers, and defectors from the Ukrainian army and police forces—strengthened barricades around the occupied government building and prepared weapons, including Molotov cocktails.

“In Donetsk airport, about a hundred people from the National Guard have been housed. Around a hundred Right Sector thugs are also in the city, as well as a hundred employees from a private US military company operating under contract with the Kiev junta. In total, there are around 300 professionals or well-trained and motivated fanatics. This is a major force, but we are ready to fight,” Sergey Tsyplakov of the Donbas People’s Militia told RIA-Novosti.

In Lugansk, where protesters stormed the SBU intelligence service’s city headquarters and took over the arsenal there, a group calling itself the Southeast Command issued a statement pledging to defend itself militarily against Kiev’s security forces.

“We represent veterans of the [Soviet] Afghan war, former border guards, and other peaceful trades, and we have just a single legitimate demand: we want a referendum,” it declared. “If you go against us, welcome to hell. We’ll make a decent stand. Godspeed, officers!”

US and European officials’ dismissals of the east Ukraine protests as small, unpopular conspiracies orchestrated by Russia are flatly contradicted by reports on the ground, which suggest they enjoy broader support in the population, though not from the Kremlin.

Ukrainian officials traditionally aligned with Russia are denouncing the protests and trying to end them. This week, Nikolai Levchenko—a Donetsk officeholder of the Party of Regions, Yanukovych’s former ruling party—demanded that protesters abandon occupied buildings and return home. “Those who have occupied buildings, especially those with weapons, pose a danger to everyone in Donbas,” he said, referring to the mining basin around Donetsk and Lugansk.

The German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung remarked yesterday on the social gulf separating the eastern Ukraine protests from the Western-backed, middle-class protests in Kiev’s Independence Square (Maidan) that led to the fascist putsch in February.

It wrote, “In Kiev, on the Maidan, there were youth, students, pro-European businessmen, start-up entrepreneurs, the middle classes. But here in the east, it is not a pro-Russian uprising, but a social revolt, according to Donetsk journalist Dennis Kasansky. He seems to be right.” The paper said protesters in the east were “the underprivileged, those who are called the losers of modernization by contemporary research.”

Responsibility for the escalating risk of bloodshed lies squarely with the aggressive policies of the Obama administration and its European allies. They incited and backed a putsch by fascist, anti-Russian forces like Right Sector, aiming to geo-strategically cripple Russia by installing a pro-Western, anti-Russian regime in Kiev. Now, the NATO powers are backing Kiev’s hysterical threats of a crackdown and calling for escalating Western military intervention in Europe.

NATO’s top military commander in Europe, US Air Force General Philip Breedlove, said he was preparing plans for a military build-up to surround Russia with NATO troops. “Essentially what we are looking at is a package of land, air and maritime measures that would build assurance for our easternmost allies,” Breedlove said in an interview with the AP. “I’m tasked to deliver this by next week. I fully intend to deliver it early.”

Asked if US soldiers would be posted to “frontline” states bordering Russia, he said yes: “I would not write off contributions from any nation.”

Breedlove based his call for a NATO build-up on claims that Russia is mounting its own massive military build-up and preparing to invade Ukraine, for which NATO had presented no evidence. Yesterday, however, it released a handful of pictures showing Russian fighter jets and helicopters on a runway, a Russian artillery unit, and a Russian Special Forces unit.

Breedlove’s claims that these proved the existence of 40,000 Russian troops massing on the Ukrainian were contradicted by Anthony Cordesman, the military analyst at the Washington, DC-based Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank. AP cited him as saying “it’s unclear from the images how much of a buildup of Russian forces there has been in the border area.”

“They show there is a mixture of light and heavy forces and that they could go quickly … But that’s all they show,” Cordesman said.

CNN reporters traveling along the Russian-Ukrainian border earlier this week reported that they had seen no sign of the Russian army.

NSA Said to Exploit Heartbleed Bug for Intelligence for Years

Photographer: Brooks Kraft/Corbis

Security personnel outside the National Threat Operations Center at the National…

The U.S. National Security Agency knew for at least two years about a flaw in the way that many websites send sensitive information, now dubbed the Heartbleed bug, and regularly used it to gather critical intelligence, two people familiar with the matter said.

The NSA’s decision to keep the bug secret in pursuit of national security interests threatens to renew the rancorous debate over the role of the government’s top computer experts.

Heartbleed appears to be one of the biggest glitches in the Internet’s history, a flaw in the basic security of as many as two-thirds of the world’s websites. Its discovery and the creation of a fix by researchers five days ago prompted consumers to change their passwords, the Canadian government to suspend electronic tax filing and computer companies including Cisco Systems Inc. to Juniper Networks Inc. to provide patches for their systems.

Related:

Putting the Heartbleed bug in its arsenal, the NSA was able to obtain passwords and other basic data that are the building blocks of the sophisticated hacking operations at the core of its mission, but at a cost. Millions of ordinary users were left vulnerable to attack from other nations’ intelligence arms and criminal hackers.

Controversial Practice

“It flies in the face of the agency’s comments that defense comes first,” said Jason Healey, director of the cyber statecraft initiative at the Atlantic Council and a former Air Force cyber officer. “They are going to be completely shredded by the computer security community for this.”

Vanee Vines, an NSA spokeswoman, declined to comment on the agency’s knowledge or use of the bug. Experts say the search for flaws is central to NSA’s mission, though the practice is controversial. A presidential board reviewing the NSA’s activities after Edward Snowden’s leaks recommended the agency halt the stockpiling of software vulnerabilities.

The NSA and other elite intelligence agencies devote millions of dollars to hunt for common software flaws that are critical to stealing data from secure computers. Open-source protocols like OpenSSL, where the flaw was found, are primary targets.

The Heartbleed flaw, introduced in early 2012 in a minor adjustment to the OpenSSL protocol, highlights one of the failings of open source software development.

Free Code

While many Internet companies rely on the free code, its integrity depends on a small number of underfunded researchers who devote their energies to the projects.

In contrast, the NSA has more than 1,000 experts devoted to ferreting out such flaws using sophisticated analysis techniques, many of them classified. The agency found the Heartbleed glitch shortly after its introduction, according to one of the people familiar with the matter, and it became a basic part of the agency’s toolkit for stealing account passwords and other common tasks.

The NSA has faced nine months of withering criticism for the breadth of its spying, documented in a rolling series of leaks from Snowden, who was a former agency contractor.

The revelations have created a clearer picture of the two roles, sometimes contradictory, played by the U.S.’s largest spy agency. The NSA protects the computers of the government and critical industry from cyberattacks, while gathering troves of intelligence attacking the computers of others, including terrorist organizations, nuclear smugglers and other governments.

Serious Flaws

Ordinary Internet users are ill-served by the arrangement because serious flaws are not fixed, exposing their data to domestic and international spy organizations and criminals, said John Pescatore, director of emerging security trends at the SANS Institute, a Bethesda, Maryland-based cyber-security training organization.

“If you combine the two into one government agency, which mission wins?” asked Pescatore, who formerly worked in security for the NSA and the U.S. Secret Service. “Invariably when this has happened over time, the offensive mission wins.”

When researchers uncovered the Heartbleed bug hiding in plain sight and made it public on April 7, it underscored an uncomfortable truth: The public may be placing too much trust in software and hardware developers to insure the security of our most sensitive transactions.

“We’ve never seen any quite like this,” said Michael Sutton, vice president of security research at Zscaler, a San Jose, California-based security firm. “Not only is a huge portion of the Internet impacted, but the damage that can be done, and with relative ease, is immense.”

Flawed Protocol

The potential stems from a flaw in the protocol used to encrypt communications between users and websites protected by OpenSSL, making those supposedly secure sites an open book. The damage could be done with relatively simple scans, so that millions of machines could be hit by a single attacker.

Questions remain about whether anyone other than the U.S. government might have exploited the flaw before the public disclosure. Sophisticated intelligence agencies in other countries are one possibility.

If criminals found the flaw before a fix was published this week, they could have scooped up troves of passwords for online bank accounts, e-commerce sites, and e-mail accounts across the world.

Evidence of that is so far lacking, and it’s possible that cybercriminals missed the potential in the same way security professionals did, suggested Tal Klein, vice president of marketing at Adallom, in Menlo Park, California.

Ordinary Data

The fact that the vulnerability existed in the transmission of ordinary data — even if it’s the kind of data the vast majority of users are concerned about — may have been a factor in the decision by NSA officials to keep it a secret, said James Lewis, a cybersecurity senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“They actually have a process when they find this stuff that goes all the way up to the director” of the agency, Lewis said. “They look at how likely it is that other guys have found it and might be using it, and they look at what’s the risk to the country.”

Lewis said the NSA has a range of options, including exploiting the vulnerability to gain intelligence for a short period of time and then discreetly contacting software makers or open source researchers to fix it.

SSL Protocol

The SSL protocol has a history of security problems, Lewis said, and is not the primary form of protection governments and others use to transmit highly sensitive information.

“I knew hackers who could break it nearly 15 years ago,” Lewis said of the SSL protocol.

That may not soothe the millions of users who were left vulnerable for so long.

Following the leaks about NSA’s electronic spying, President Barack Obama convened a panel to review the country’s surveillance activities and suggest reforms. Among the dozens of changes put forward was a recommendation that the NSA quickly move to fix software flaws rather that exploit them, and that they be used only in “rare instances” and for short periods of time.

Currently, the NSA has a trove of thousands of such vulnerabilities that can be used to breach some of the world’s most sensitive computers, according to a person briefed on the matter. Intelligence chiefs have said the country’s ability to spot terrorist threats and understand the intent of hostile leaders would be vastly diminished if their use were prohibited.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael Riley in Washington at michaelriley@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Sara Forden at sforden@bloomberg.net Winnie O’Kelley

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-04-11/nsa-said-to-have-used-heartbleed-bug-exposing-consumers.html

U.S. Coup in Preparation in Venezuela?

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Alternative Visions Radio Show host, Green Shadow Cabinet Fed Reserve Chair, Dr. Jack Rasmus, and longtime union activist, Alan Benjamin, discuss the buildup toward a coup being prepared by US and its business-right wing friends in Venezuela today.

Listen to the show on Alternative Vision Radio – Here.

Alan Benjamin works in the International Labor Office in Geneva, Switzerland, and has access to information globally on the Venezuela situation. Benjamin provides an eye-witness view of contemporary events in Venezuela, based on his frequent direct contact with unionists on the ground in Venezuela in recent weeks and days. The discussion looks at current relationship of political forces today in Venezuela, including the various alignments of classes there, political parties, union organizations, students, US sponsored and funded NGOs, small business v. large businesses, small farmers and peasants, and splits within the military.

Benjamin explains the history of US coup attempts in Venezuela and Latin America in recent decades and parallels with recent events in the Ukraine coup. Who is behind the recent killings in the streets? What are the splits within the anti government right wing forces, as well as within the government itself? What are some of the USA’s current various plans (‘A, B, and C’) to destabilize Venezuela along multiple fronts? These and other related topics are addressed—in this ‘fact-based’ exploration of what’s happening in Venezuela today.

~ Jack Rasmus serves as Shadow Chair of the Federal Reserve on the Economy Branch of the Green Shadow Cabinet.

~ Alan Benjamin is a long time member of the Office & Professional Employees Union in the U.S. and its delegate for a number of years to the San Francisco Central Labor Council, AFLCIO. He is a member of the coordinating committee of the ‘Labor Fightback Network’ in the USA, and has been involved in numerous undocumented US workers’ organizations defending US immigrant workers rights, as well as active in organizations defending US students from government education spending cutbacks.

Snowden: NSA Spied On Human Rights Workers

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The Guardian reports that according to Edward Snowden, the NSA has spied on the staff of prominent human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. ‘The NSA has specifically targeted either leaders or staff members in a number of civil and non-governmental organizations including domestically within the borders of the United States.’ Snowden, addressing the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, said he did not believe the NSA was engaged in ‘nightmare scenarios,’ such as the active compilation of a list of homosexuals ‘to round them up and send them into camps.’ But he did say that the infrastructure allowing this to happen had been built.

Snowden made clear that he believed in legitimate intelligence operations but said the NSA should abandon its electronic surveillance of entire civilian populations. Instead, Snowden said, it should go back to the traditional model of eavesdropping against specific targets, such as ‘North Korea, terrorists, cyber-actors, or anyone else.’ Snowden also urged members of the Council of Europe to encrypt their personal communications and said that encryption, used properly, could still withstand ‘brute force attacks’ from powerful spy agencies and others. ‘Properly implemented algorithms backed up by truly random keys of significant length all require more energy to decrypt than exists in the universe.

~Slashdot~