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Friday, 31 July 2015

TSA’s Behavior Detection Program Has a Newsletter, and It’s Ridiculous

The Transportation Security Administration’s embattled behavior detection program has not identified a single terrorist, but it has produced glossy bimonthly newsletters poking fun at the traveling public.

In these employee newsletters — six of which were obtained by The Intercept — behavior detection officers, who are supposed to help spot possible terrorists, sometimes make fun of inexperienced or nervous travelers, including one “sweet little old lady” who thought the bowl for metallic objects was a tip jar.

On their own, the newsletters could be regarded as light-hearted workplace fun, but they are also part of a controversial billion-dollar program, known as Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques, or SPOT, which employs specially trained officers, known as behavior detection officers, to rate passengers going through screening for signs of deception. Those alleged signs of deception, which the The Intercept revealed earlier this year, include “excessive yawning” and “wringing of hands,” and have been widely criticized for lacking any basis in science, or even common sense.

The Intercept also reported on the program’s flawed design that targets undocumented immigrants not potential terrorists.

The newsletter issues range from seven to nine pages and provide a forum for behavior detection officers to share stories about confiscated wine, showcase original poetry (an ode to Alaska, for example), and in one case, promote an officer’s dog-breeding business (the officer says her TSA training to spot deception helps her “read” potential dog buyers).

A section called “BDO Funnies” highlights na├»ve or nervous passengers, including an example of an officer successfully convincing one woman going through security that a swab used to detect explosives was instead testing for DNA. At other times, the newsletters praise behavior detection officers for providing “customer service” to the traveling public, by explaining security procedures or helping passengers. There are also mentions of various pilot program tests or attempts to test out metrics to track and evaluate the program overall.

Some offices detail their goals for the year. “This year’s goal is to visit the Botanical Garden which is adjacent to the beautiful and newly re-modeled airport and learn more about the indigenous plants and species that share in improving our air quality!” reads one item.

Others  highlight past memorable moments or achievements.  One team, for example, wrote about a botched attempt to reheat a chicken sandwich in the airport’s break room microwave. (Someone forgot to remove the foil wrapper, and the sandwich became engulfed in flames, then exploded.)

Much of the newsletter space is devoted to very lengthy regional articles about the weather, with headlines like, “Surviving the Snow in Bangor, Maine!” “Beating the Summer Heat in Milwaulkee!” and “Yes it Snows in Arizona!”

The newsletters also offer insights into the background of some behavior detection officers, who are supposed to be able to spot potential terrorists just by looking at them. “How many of us can look back about 20 years at the Susan Smith case, specifically at that famous news conference where she insisted there had been a carjacking and her children were in the car?” wrote one officer. “I know I turned to my husband and said, ‘She’s lying.’ I knew nothing about BDOs at that time; I just knew that her behaviors contradicted her words.”

Consumers Finally “Getting on with Their Lives” as Credit-Card Debt Slaves: Equifax

Equifax, which profits from the process when more people apply for credit and load up on debt, sees the miracles of the current economy this way: “American consumers continue to show signs they are recovering from the Great Recession by steadily increasing their credit card debt….”

In its report on credit card debt, Equifax raved about these newly empowered American consumers that are once again buying things they can’t afford and charging these purchases to their credit cards because they didn’t have enough money to pay for them otherwise, given their stagnating salaries. It shows up in the numbers:

Total credit card debt rose to $634 billion at the end of the second quarter, a 5% jump compared to $604 billion a year ago.

That’s nationwide. And 5% is a big gain, given that there was supposedly zero inflation over these 12 months, and that the economy over the last four quarters has grown at the blinding speed, based on the newly re-rejiggered methods of figuring GDP, by a whopping 1.8%.

But in a number of cities, credit card debt soared far beyond the national average. And in a few, the rate of growth is not only accelerating, it’s going through the roof. Equifax was practically giddy:

The rate of growth in credit card debt more than doubled year over year in many of the metro areas hit hardest by the housing market crash, and more than tripled in other cities less affected by the crash.

Even the credit-card-debt laggards among the metro areas are finally getting into the mood: in Detroit, the rate of growth of credit card debt – not total credit card debt – soared by 222% from a year ago, in Phoenix by 308%, and in St. Louis by 317%. These folks are really making an effort.

This is what we’ve all be waiting for, finally, the true recovery of the American economy when people once again borrow to the hilt to buy imported gadgets or clothes, when they charge even food to their credit cards, and rent payments, and certainly healthcare expenses, and when they charge down payments on their cars to their credit cards… in short, when they try to make up with debt what their stagnating salaries cannot deliver.

It’s once again the era when American consumers live beyond their means, slither ever deeper into the glorious condition of debt slaves, all in order to crank up the economy and make it grow at, well, that measly 1.8%.

“This suggests that consumer confidence in the American economy is growing across the board,” Equifax sums it up – even as consumer confidence is plunging – aptly equating “consumer confidence” with sinking ever deeper into credit card debt. So it may not be confidence that’s driving this, but desperation or necessity.

At any rate, the credit-card debt binge is picking up speed:

“Every major market has seen increases in credit card debt, even those cities where the housing market issues are not completely resolved,” the report said, given that Housing Bubble 2 is now even more magnificent on a national basis than the prior one that turned into such splendid debt-fueled fireworks, though there’s a bitterly ironic twist this time [read… What’s Left of the American Dream Withers at Record Pace].

The importance to the economy of this consumer binge on expensive credit card debt cannot be underestimated. Equifax:

This shows that American consumers are more confident about their financial futures, and that means the U.S. economy has entered an expansion mode.

Consumers are doing the greatest job in Miami, where total credit-card debt soared 9.5% from a year ago, in Las Vegas (9.4%), in Orlando (9.3%), in Houston (9.1%). These are the cities where consumers have been most actively engaged in cranking up the economy by buying things they can’t afford. Here is the growth of total credit card debt in the largest 25 metro areas:

US-credit-card-debt-growth-by-city-Q2-2015-v-Q2-2014

This is the final effort in the debt-fueled “recovery” of the US economy. Companies have gorged on debt. The federal government has piled on the most debt at the fastest rate ever. State and local governments, despite any balanced budget requirements, and even public pension funds have loaded up on debt. And consumers have been binging on debt to buy cars and get an education and buy homes at a feverish pace. Outstanding auto loans now amount to over $1 trillion. Payments are routinely extended over 72 months. Loan-to-value ratios have jumped. And automakers have become outright ecstatic.

What had been missing? Consumers charging up their credit cards. Now finally, the US economy has jumped over that hurdle too. Equifax explained in its eloquent manner, “These trends suggest that American consumers are getting on with their lives.”

The lives as debt slaves. Because they can’t maintain their standards of living with their stagnating household incomes. This too was part of the movie we’ve seen before.

But not everything may be this rosy. At first, it’s a sampling error, a statistical fluke, or the weather, but suddenly it’s serious. Read… Americans’ Economic Confidence Gets Mauled

Feds: 664,607 illegals granted amnesty, some linked to terrorism, gangs

The administration’s program to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program has given the green light to 664,607 since 2012, including several linked to fraud, terrorism and gangs, according to the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services agency.

What’s more, applications for permanent residence have surged from 3,000 to 7,500 a month, far above projections, according to agency answers provided to Senate Judiciary Immigration and the National Interest Subcommittee Republicans and obtained by Secrets.

USCIS said it is also producing 144,275 “employment authorization documents” each month, and has the capability to approve 400,000 work permits a month.

President Obama proposed DACA in 2012. It allows younger illegals who entered prior to June 2007 to get a renewable work permit and exemption from deportation. Since then, 243,872 renewals have been granted.

DARPA’s Plan X to bring ‘military mindset’ to cyber-war

Army DARPA Plan X

Ask most “real” computer security experts, the guys and gals who have been cracking and/or protecting networks since before Windows were NT, and they’ll tell you the best way to protect a network is simply to know everything about it. They take pride in being able to quickly navigate arcade database structures and monitor access using only a text-based interface — but with virtually every organization of any real size now turning to computer security experts to protect their business, these sorts of security hardcores are getting washed out by snot-nosed millennials who think Unix is how you used to play Ubisoft games online.

That’s especially true in the military, which misses a good portion of the libertarian-minded hacking set right off the bat. What is the biggest military in the world to do, when one of the most important upcoming industries simply can’t provide the volume of talent they require to keep their operations safe? DARPA’s Plan X is an attempt to answer that question.

Plan X takes a very simple approach to solving the talent crisis: Rather than increasing the amount of talent being produced (this has been tried for several years), instead try simply lowering the amount of talent needed to do the job. The goal is to make basic monitoring of network security a whole lot more approachable, using an intuitive user interface and easily digested symbology to make it easy — and, more importantly, quick — to keep tabs on the source and type of any access to a particular network.

World Bank Peddling Private, For-Profit Schools In Africa, Disguised As Aid

Young students in a Bridge International Academy school in Nairobi, in September. (Frederic Courbet/NPR)

EDINBURGH — Private, for-profit schools in Africa funded by the World Bank and U.S. venture capitalists have been criticized by more than 100 organizations who’ve signed a petition opposing the controversial educational venture.

A May statement addressed to Jim Kim, president of the World Bank, expressed deep concern over the global financial institution’s investment in a chain of private primary schools targeting poor families in Kenya and Uganda and called on the institution to support free universal education instead.

The schools project is called Bridge International Academies and 100,000 pupils have enrolled in 412 schools across the two nations. BIA is supported by the World Bank, which has given $10 million to the project, and a number of donors, including U.S. venture capitalists NEA and Learn Capital. Other notable investors include Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Pierre Omidyar and Pearson, a multinational publishing company.

In a speech delivered in April, Kim praised BIA as a means to alleviate poverty in Kenya and Uganda. Critics responded that many Kenyans and Ugandans cannot afford private education, further arguing that this type of investment merely supports Western businesses at the expense of local public services.

A section of the letter addressed to Kim asserts:

“We, civil society organisations and citizens of Kenya and Uganda, are appalled that an organisation whose mandate is supposed to be to lift people out of poverty shows such a profound misunderstanding and disconnect from the lives and rights of poor people in Kenya and Uganda. If the World Bank is serious about improving education in Kenya and Uganda, it should support our governments to expand and improve our public education systems, provide quality education to all children free of charge, and address other financial barriers to access.”

Opposition to educational neocolonialism

The statement reflects a growing global movement questioning Western policies pushing private education in developing countries. It was written and signed by 30 organizations in Uganda and Kenya and supported by 116 organizations around the world, including Global Justice Now and ActionAid. They claim BIA uses highly standardized teaching methods, untrained low-paid teachers, and aggressive marketing strategies targeted at poor households.

In his speech supporting BIA, Kim said that “average scores for reading and math have risen high above their public school peers.” Opponents questioned these figures, noting that they appear to have been taken directly from a study conducted by BIA itself.

Bridge co-founder Shannon May on a video monitor in the company's Nairobi headquarters. (Frederic Courbet/NPR)

Bridge co-founder Shannon May on a video monitor in the company’s Nairobi headquarters. (Frederic Courbet/NPR)

Global Justice Now added that the World Bank president’s assertion that the “the cost per student at Bridge Academies is just $6 dollars a month” was misleading.

“This suggestion that $6 is an acceptable amount of money for poor households to pay reveals a profound lack of understanding of the reality of the lives of the poorest,” Global Justice Now, a London-based organization promoting social justice, wrote on its website in May.

A spokesperson added that Kenyan and Ugandan organizations calculated that for half their populations, the $6 per month per child it would cost to send three primary school age children to a Bridge Academy, is equal to at least a quarter of their monthly income. Many families are already struggling to provide three meals a day to their children.

Moreover, Global Justice Now claimed that the real total cost of sending one child to a Bridge school is between $9 and $13 a month, and up to $20 when including school meals. “Based on these figures, sending three children to BIA would represent 68% (in Kenya) to 75% (in Uganda) of the monthly income of half the population in these countries,” the organization stated.

Another signatory to the letter was Salima Namusobya, director of the Initiative for Socio-Economic Rights in Uganda, who said:

“If the World Bank is genuine about fulfilling its mission to provide every child with the chance to have a high-quality primary education regardless of their family’s income, they should be campaigning for a no-fee system in particular contexts like that of Uganda.”

However, the World Bank insists that it remains a strong supporter of free public education and that the vast majority of its funding was directed to support this sector.

“We at the World Bank Group believe that no child should be out of school because of an inability to pay fees and that all children have a right not just to be in school but also to be learning basic skills for life while they are there,” a spokesperson for the World Bank told MintPress News in an email.

“While our investment in Bridge Academies is US$10 million, our current education portfolio exceeds US$14 billion, of which 95% is support for public education. Of our relatively small support for private education, the majority is for higher levels of education.”

Pointing out that the World Bank is working closely with the governments of Kenya and Uganda to help strengthen their respective public education systems, the spokesperson added that BIA were “complementary” to ensure that parents who invest in private schooling were getting the best possible education for their children.

“Surveys show that in these countries—as in many developing countries—the average quality of education is low across both public and private schools, making it an urgent priority to gather evidence on what works and ensure that all children are not only in school but also actually learning,” the World Bank spokesperson said.

Moving forward, more evidence is required to determine which programs work best and the World Bank is to embark on a rigorous evaluation of the BIA program in Kenya, the first large-scale trial of fee-paying schools in sub-Saharan Africa. According to the World Bank, measuring effectiveness of these schools will help governments, policymakers and parents determine how to ensure that all children can access a good education.

 

Concern over upsurge of private education in developing nations

The speech from Kim, president of the World Bank, came shortly after representatives of civil society from several countries, including Uganda, met with education officials of the World Bank to discuss its support for BIA and fee-charging primary schools. The subsequent statement of opposition from NGOs follows an upsurge in the financing of private education across the world, especially in Africa, often with the support of foreign investors.

These investments have attracted growing condemnation, including criticism from Kishore Singh, the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to education, who argues that private schools must be resisted because they aggravate inequality.

Writing for The Guardian on April 23, Singh cited a study on private education by the U.K.’s Department for International Development that said a large number of low-fee private schools targeting poorer families in developing countries were unregistered.

Every lesson is tightly scripted. The teachers deliver lessons by scrolling through the scripts on a tablet. Even small details such as praising students are listed in the class instructions. (Frederic Courbet/NPR)

Every lesson is tightly scripted. The teachers deliver lessons by scrolling through the scripts on a tablet. Even small details such as praising students are listed in the class instructions. (Frederic Courbet/NPR)

“These schools save costs by hiring ill-trained teachers and running large classes in substandard school buildings,” Singh wrote, adding: “Such ‘edu-businesses’, as they have come to be known, are an unsatisfactory replacement for the good public education governments should be providing.”

Despite these findings, DFiD has also invested in BIA, prompting criticism from Global Justice Now. A spokesperson for the social justice organization told MintPress News: “British taxpayers are forcing private education systems on countries like Uganda and Kenya through schemes like this backed by DfID and the World Bank.”

Aid is being used as a tool, Global Justice Now added, to compel the majority of the world to undertake policies which help Western business while undermining public services in emerging nations.

The spokesperson added:

“The introduction of universal education, the increasing length of compulsory education, the creation of comprehensive schools — these are some of the greatest social achievements we have ever made in the U.K., and we remain rightly proud of them. The U.K. aid budget and World Bank development policies could and should be used to help others to achieve these vital components of a decent society.”

MintPress contacted DFiD for comment but no response had been received at time of writing.

However, BIA did respond to the offer of right to reply and said the above statement released by the NGOs included numerous “inaccurate” and “misleading” statements. The BIA spokesperson told MintPress:

Bridge International Academies exists for one purpose: to ensure that every child, regardless of the location of her birth or income of her parents, receives an education

that engages her mind and heart, and enables her to succeed academically, socially, and professionally in her country.”

Earlier this month, United Nations Human Rights Council urged states in a resolution to regulate and monitor private education providers for the first time. The resolution demands that states implement regulatory framework that establishes minimum norms and standards for private education providers, as well as “monitor private education providers.”

The HRC resolution also calls on states to ensure that “education is consistent with human rights standards and principles.”

Following the announcement of the resolution, Katie Malouf Bous, of Oxfam International, is quoted by Action Aid as saying:

“Too many governments have neglected their duty to adequately finance education, leading to weakened public schools and increased privatization as the inevitable result. Serious and substantial investments to provide good quality public education must be the antidote to privatization.”

Facebook’s Solar-Powered Internet Plane Looks Like a Stealth Bomber

Facebook’s plans to become a flying internet service provider for the developing world are coming to fruition. The company today introduced Aquila, a high-flying, long-endurance plane that will bring basic internet access to the developing world. A working model of the plane is now ready for testing, Facebook said.

Facebook’s shallow, V-shaped plane has the wingspan of a Boeing 737. But even fully loaded down with communications gear, Aquila only weighs between 880 to 1,000 lbs — about a third the weight of a Prius. “When deployed, it will be able to circle a remote region for up to 90 days, beaming connectivity down to people from an altitude of 60,000 to 90,000 [feet],” the company said in a blog post. This means the planes will be flying at an altitude above commercial aircraft, and even above the weather.

This is how it will work: Facebook will have lasers on the ground that can locate the dome-shaped optical head, located on the bottom of the plane, in the air — basically shooting a laser at a dime-sized target that is more than 10 miles away. The plane will first hone in on the general location of the laser on the ground, proceeding to target it further and lock onto the location so that it can start beaming down the internet. Because the plane requires a connection with the lasers on the ground though, you might experience a slower connection when it’s raining or cloudy.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Credit card companies are forcing everyone to use "smart" credit cards in their war against cash



image credit: trusted traveler

Payment-processing giants like MasterCard and Visa insist that you and your financial data will be safer once you move to "smart" credit cards that contain a computer chip. And like it or not, credit card companies are forcing merchants to make the change.

After an Oct. 1, 2015, deadline created by major U.S. credit card issuers MasterCard, Visa, Discover and American Express, the liability for card-present fraud will shift to whichever party is the least EMV-compliant in a fraudulent transaction. 

In other words credit card companies are FORCING merchants to make the change or they'll have to pay for every fraudulent purchase!

The new "smart" credit card rules are forcing banks to also hold you accountable for any fraudulent purchases! You read that right, 

banks can blame the customer if they feel you might have been negligent

.

EMV stands for Europay, MasterCard, and Visa, which is shorthand for bank owned digital currency.

"Approximately 120 million Americans have already received an EMV chip card and that number is projected to reach nearly 600 million by the end of 2015, according to Smart Card Alliance estimates." 

A Fortune magazine interview with Carolyn Balfany MasterCard's SVP of U.S. product delivery for EMV's revealed this bombshell:

The ultimate would be no card at all, right? Where I just use my phone for everything. 

"But is every demographic, is every person, ready for that? When we think about acceptance, we wouldn’t ever want to take a step back on acceptance. We want to make sure we are adding acceptance constantly to further our war on cash Carolyn Balfany said."

Not to be outdone, Citigroup claims only criminals use cash:

Citigroup’s Chief Economist Willem Buiter claims ..."even though hard evidence is hard to come by, it is very likely that the underground economy and the criminal community are among the heaviest users of currency."

Evidence is hard to come by? In other words there is none and he's full of s***!

Chris Skinner, author of The 

Future of Banking

 and 

Digital Bank

 wants to do away with currency:

 

There it is in black and white, THE WAR ON CASH IS REAL and credit card companies are hard at work trying to destroy currency!

Back to EMV's; just how secure are "smart" credit cards? According to recent studies EVM "smart" cards are vulnerable to hacking.

Norton Security says that this year 70% of credit cards will be vulnerable to digital pick pocketing.

Researchers have proven "smart" cards are more vulnerable to hacking than banks want you to know:

 

‘The technology is high-frequency RFID,’ Mr Bryan said.

 

 

Researchers at a recent "

blackhat conference

" revealed more vulnerabilities:

“With just a mobile phone we created a POS terminal that could read a card through a wallet,” Martin Emms, lead researcher of the project said.

“All the checks are carried out on the card rather than the terminal so at the point of transaction, there is nothing to raise suspicions. By pre-setting the amount you want to transfer, you can bump your mobile against someone’s pocket or swipe your phone over a wallet left on a table and approve a transaction."

Transactions took less than a second to be approved.

“This lends itself to multiple attackers across the world collecting small transactions of perhaps €200 at a time for a central rogue merchant who could be located anywhere in the world,” Emms notes. “This previously undocumented flaw around foreign currency, combined with the lack of POS terminal authentication and the ease of skimming contactless credit cards, makes the system more vulnerable to high-value attacks.”

Click 

here

 to read the "

Chip and Skim: cloning EMV cards with the pre-play attack

" report.

EMV credit card terminals are also vulnerable to being hacked:

Two security researchers showed how easily criminals could take control of a shop owner's credit card terminals -- even if the shop uses the latest chip-and-PIN machines. 

Those terminals are supposed to be safe, because they encrypt your PIN as you type it and don't store your credit card's data. But 

MWR Labs

 researchers found that a hacker could easily tell the machines to do the opposite. 

Hacking the terminals is virtually undetectable. Turning the machine off erases all evidence that the hack ever even happened.

Keep this in mind when banks have FORCED everyone to use EMV "smart" credit cards.

How UBS Sent Millions to the Clintons After Hillary Saved the Mega Bank While Secretary of State

Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 1.54.30 PM

A few weeks after Hillary Clinton was sworn in as secretary of state in early 2009, she was summoned to Geneva by her Swiss counterpart to discuss an urgent matter. The Internal Revenue Service was suing UBS AG to get the identities of Americans with secret accounts.

If the case proceeded, Switzerland’s largest bank would face an impossible choice: Violate Swiss secrecy laws by handing over the names, or refuse and face criminal charges in U.S. federal court.

Within months, Mrs. Clinton announced a tentative legal settlement—an unusual intervention by the top U.S. diplomat. UBS ultimately turned over information on 4,450 accounts, a fraction of the 52,000 sought by the IRS, an outcome that drew criticism from some lawmakers who wanted a more extensive crackdown.

From that point on, UBS’s engagement with the Clinton family’s charitable organization increased. Total donations by UBS to the Clinton Foundation grew from less than $60,000 through 2008 to a cumulative total of about $600,000 by the end of 2014, according the foundation and the bank. 

The bank also joined the Clinton Foundation to launch entrepreneurship and inner-city loan programs, through which it lent $32 million. And it paid former president Bill Clinton $1.5 million to participate in a series of question-and-answer sessions with UBS Wealth Management Chief Executive Bob McCann, making UBS his biggest single corporate source of speech income disclosed since he left the White House.

– From today’s Wall Street Journal article: UBS Deal Shows Clinton’s Complicated Ties

The best part about Hillary Clinton’s run for the Presidency, is the endless series of scandals and shadiness that inevitably comes along with being part of an entrenched status quo family that prioritizes the accumulation of wealth and power above all else. The reason Barack Obama was able to generate so much genuine “hope” prior to his election is 2008, is because he was a complete unknown. He could say all the right things, and it was easy for people to believe the hype.

The exact oppositie is true of Hillary. No one believes anything that comes out of her mouth. Everyone knows she is dishonest, shady, and as Camille Paglia perfectly summarized in her Salon article today:

Hillary has accomplished nothing substantial in her life. She’s been pushed along, coasting on her husband’s coattails, and every job she’s been given fizzled out into time-serving or overt disaster.  Hillary constantly strikes attitudes and claims she’s “passionate” about this or that, but there’s never any sustained follow-through.  She’s just a classic, corporate exec or bureaucrat type who would prefer to be at her desk behind closed doors, imposing her power schemes on the proletariat.  She has no discernible political skills of any kind, which is why she needs a big, shifting army of consultants, advisors, and toadies to whisper in her ear and write her policy statements.  There’s this ridiculous new theme in the media about people needing to learn who the “real” Hillary Clinton is.  What? Everything they’re saying about what a wonderful person Hillary is in private tells us that she’s not competent or credible as a public figure! A politician, particularly a president, must have a distinct skill or expertise in communicating with the masses.  It’s the absolutely basic requirement for any career in politics.

Now, let’s take a look at the pantsuit revolutionary’s latest scandal, outlined in today’s Wall Street Journal:

A few weeks after Hillary Clinton was sworn in as secretary of state in early 2009, she was summoned to Geneva by her Swiss counterpart to discuss an urgent matter. The Internal Revenue Service was suing UBS AG to get the identities of Americans with secret accounts.

If the case proceeded, Switzerland’s largest bank would face an impossible choice: Violate Swiss secrecy laws by handing over the names, or refuse and face criminal charges in U.S. federal court.

Within months, Mrs. Clinton announced a tentative legal settlement—an unusual intervention by the top U.S. diplomat. UBS ultimately turned over information on 4,450 accounts, a fraction of the 52,000 sought by the IRS, an outcome that drew criticism from some lawmakers who wanted a more extensive crackdown.

From that point on, UBS’s engagement with the Clinton family’s charitable organization increased. Total donations by UBS to the Clinton Foundation grew from less than $60,000 through 2008 to a cumulative total of about $600,000 by the end of 2014, according the foundation and the bank. 

The bank also joined the Clinton Foundation to launch entrepreneurship and inner-city loan programs, through which it lent $32 million. And it paid former president Bill Clinton $1.5 million to participate in a series of question-and-answer sessions with UBS Wealth Management Chief Executive Bob McCann, making UBS his biggest single corporate source of speech income disclosed since he left the White House.

The UBS matter involved her helping solve a problem for a foreign bank—not a popular constituency among Democrats—and stepping into an area where government prosecutors had been taking the lead.

Banks are not a “popular constituent among Democrats.” What planet are you living on?

UBS officials deny any connection between the legal case and the foundation donations. “Any insinuation that any of our philanthropic or business initiatives stems from support received from any current or former government official is ludicrous and without merit,” a bank spokeswoman said. UBS said the speeches by Mr. Clinton and the donations were part of a program to respond to the 2008 economic downturn.

UBS’s troubles began in 2007 when an American banker working in Switzerland told the U.S. Justice Department that UBS had recruited thousands of U.S. customers seeking to avoid U.S. taxes. The disclosure led UBS to enter into a deferred-prosecution agreement with the Justice Department in 2009. The bank admitted to helping set up sham companies, creating phony paperwork and deceiving customs officials. It paid a $780 million fine and turned over the names of 250 account holders.

If you or I were caught doing 0.5% of what UBS did we would be thrown in the gulag for life.

On July 31, Ms. Calmy-Rey appeared with Mrs. Clinton at the State Department to announce a deal in principle. The Justice Department and IRS agreed to dismiss the lawsuit and settle the disagreement under a U.S.-Swiss tax treaty, as Ms. Calmy-Rey had sought. UBS would turn over information on about 4,450 accounts, not 52,000.

“Our governments have worked very hard to reach this point,” Mrs. Clinton said.

Ms. Calmy-Rey called the agreement a “Peace Treaty” and UBS praised it.

Mr. DiCicco, the senior Justice Department tax lawyer on the case who has since retired, said the State Department didn’t get involved in details of the settlement, but did warn about the ramifications of taking a tough line.

“There is a risk that if a large bank is indicted it would lose its ability to do business in the U.S.,” he said. “That was a consideration.” He said there was no “pressure” from the State Department on that issue.

Now you see what happens when banks become too big and too powerful to be indicted: Oligarchy. Rampant elite criminality. Unimaginable corruption.

Mr. Clinton earned $1.5 million for 11 appearances in New York, Dallas, Miami, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Nashville and other cities. Mr. McCann, the UBS Wealth Management executive, conducted the panel discussions with Messrs. Clinton and Bush. Spokesmen for Mr. Bush and UBS declined to comment on how much Mr. Bush was paid.

But hey,

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 12.09.13 PM

For related articles, see:

How Progressive – Private Prison Company Lobbyists are Raising Funds for Hillary

How Lobbyists for Monsanto, Exxon Mobil, Microsoft and the Telecom Industry are Bundling Funds for Hillary

Hillary Clinton Blasts High Frequency Trading Ahead of Fundraiser with High Frequency Trader

Where Does Hillary Stand on the TPP? 45 Public Statements Tell You Everything You Need to Know

Cartoons Mocking “Goldman Rats” and Hillary Clinton Appear All Over NYC

Conversations with Everyday Americans – Hillary Launches $2,700 per Person “Grassroots” Fundraiser in Boston

How UCLA Tried to Negotiate a Lower Speaking Fee, but Hillary Clinton Refused and Demanded $300,000

All Hail Hillary – Iowa Students Locked in Classrooms as Clinton Arrives at College to Visit “Everyday Iowans”

More Clinton Foundation Cronyism – The Deal to Sell Uranium Interests to Russia While Hillary was Secretary of State

More Hillary Cronyism Revealed – How Cisco Used Clinton Foundation Donations to Cover-up Human Rights Abuse in China

In Liberty,
Michael Krieger

Police state America invades movie theaters

The American police state has invaded our movie theaters! Movie theaters are doing their part keeping Americans in fear! 

AMC Theaters

 has begun running a "safety" message that says: "If you happen to see any suspiciously strange characters or bad agendas, report them to our crew." 

Click 

here

 to see the AMC "safety" message.

AMC's "safety" message is really DHS's "

See Something Say Something

" spying program that's turned our neighbors into spies! 

Watch out, that kid stuffing his face with popcorn and candy is suspicious! That kid who keeps fidgeting and leaving their seat every 20 minutes might be a terrorist! This is the absurd reality of living in Police State America!

Leave it to the mass media to find a person that believes DHS's "safety" message that terrorists could

be watching movies, Lenore McHugh had this to say...

"I think it's good to make people aware because some people just go in the theater, sit down and they are not aware of what's going on around them because they're just looking forward," said McHugh.

Have we become so "terrorized" by the media that we believe it's forward-looking of DHS and movie theaters to post B.S. warnings that would make the Nazi's and the KGB jealous? By terrorized I mean the media sensationalizes the threat of terror to make a profit. Click here to read "

Terrorism and the Media: A Dangerous Symbiosis

."

At least one moviegoer voiced his disdain over increased security at movie theaters:

“What are you going to do? Put security guards with guns everywhere,” Steve Cooper threw out the idea but was not for it. He added, “I don’t want that.”

Back in 2014 I reported how "

Movie Theaters & Doorman Are Spying On Americans

. Don't forget the

Motion Picture Association of America works closely with DHS

, click 

here

 to read more.

AMC Theaters is not the only theater to jump on the everyone's a potential terrorist bandwagon. "

Studio Movie Grill

"(SMG) which is rapidly expanding across the country is doing its part to feed the flames.

Why should anyone care about SMG's expansion, after all isn't that democracy?

"With the help of our partner, Goldman Sachs, Studio Movie Grill is excited and grateful to have the opportunity to further establish our brand across the country," said Founder and CEO Brian Schultz."Studio Movie Grill announced it is expanding on both coasts once more with new locations announced in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Simi Valley, California as well as two new Texastheaters in North Dallas and Houston. Since its founding in 2000, Studio Movie Grill (SMG) has grown steadily from its Texas roots to what will soon be 24 locations in ten states by year's end. With the remodel and addition of 4 screens at its Plano, TX theater, 34 new screens will be in place by Q4 and 231 in total nationwide."Goldman Sachs one of the most corrupt companies

 in America is helping SMG expand!

If you guessed Goldman Sachs has a close relationship with DHS give yourself a gold star. In fact former Goldman Sachs VP 

Chad Sweet was chief of staff at DHS and was Director of Operations for the CIA

!

Steven A. Kerr

, Chief Learning Officer at Goldman Sachs is on DHS's 

Homeland Security Advisory Council

 and as if that wasn't enough proof, Goldman Sachs is also a charter member of DHS's

Financial Services Sector

.

Back to SMG..

Brian Schultz the founder/owner and CEO of SMG, used to work as an 

aide to former senator Arlen Specter

FYI, Senators Joe Lieberman and Arlen Specter 

introduced legislation

 to create the Department of Homeland Security in 2001!

Shultz is also one of the founding members of the Young Entrepreneurs Organization now known as "

Entrepreneurs Organization

" which has close ties to the 

TSA and DHS

.

Dr. Lance Larson, PH.D. helped 

coordinate DHS and the Entrepreneurs Organization

!

What does all this mean to the average moviegoer? It means DHS wants TSA like security in EVERY movie theater in America!

"Beefing up security at the nation's 5,000 theaters would be expensive, says the Los Angeles Times. Walk-through metal detectors cost about $5,000. In addition to the price of such devices, security systems require training personnel and paying their wages.""Maintaining a strong security installation at a multiplex could cost between $250,000 and $1 million annually, says security consultant Michael Dorn. Such a system would include metal detectors, X-ray machines, workers to operate those devices and additional armed security.""There's a difference between having a metal detector at the door and actually having effective screening," said Dorn, director of Safe Havens International. "My fear is that we may see theaters throw in metal detectors without proper utilization." Any changes that threaten to make the moviegoing experience less smooth would probably meet industry resistance.

If history is any indicator, it won't meet any "industry resistance" once DHS gives security grants that will put metal detectors in every movie theater across the country! How long before this becomes reality a year maybe two?

Senator Tony Avella has announced he's working on legislation for metal detectors at theaters, stadiums and malls!

"Avella is developing legislation that would require theater, indoor mall and stadium owners to provide enhanced security.""Avella said he knows it will cost money, so he plans to include as part of the legislation a public/private partnership “where the state will pick up half the cost.”'As for the potential inconvenience of metal detectors, Avella said it would be worth it if it saves just one life."

So, who are SMG security personnel? SMG has what the company calls “

highly trained officers” at each theater

! SMG also makes it a point to hire military vets and ex- cops:

"SMG is extremely proud to announce that all security officers assigned to any SMG present and future will be military veterans. The company specifically chose to work with G4S for its security services because of their initiative regarding the hiring of returning military veterans as part of the White House's Joining Forces campaign. G4S continues to be a destination employer for veterans and according to Civilian Jobs News is one of the best places for veterans to work."

  Click 

here

 to find out more about the Joining Forces campaign.

G4S

 is a British-Danish private security company that operates in over 120 countries; it is the largest security company in the world. G4S is notorious for operating private prisons and providing deportation services internationally. G4S has such a close relationship with DHS one wonders if they're not just a front company posing as security professionals.

In the United States, G4S operates privatized 

juvenile detention facilities

. G4S works alongside Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection to detain and deport people across the U.S./Mexico border and transport ICE detainees to ICE detention facilities throughout the country.

Schultz went on to brag about his choice of using G4S: 

"Making a difference starts with being a good neighbor. We understand that our theater teams, vendor-partners, investors, community and guests are all inter-related. For SMG, conscious business not only benefits our guests and our communities, but also enriches the lives of our team members, vendor-partners, and investors. It's truly a win-win-win-win-win proposition for everyone and the type of purpose-work SMG takes very seriously."

What it all comes down to is DHS, sorry I mean SMG turning a profit for its vendors (G4S) while keeping the public in a CONSTANT state of fear!

It's gotten so out of control DHS is even promoting their B.S. spy program during Earth Day festivals and at our National Parks:

"If You See Something, Say Something" Campaign continues its partnership with the USPP on the National Mall this spring and summer supporting such events as Earth Day, July 4th, and the World Police & Fire Games."

Our Park Police even have an intelligence division that reports directly to DHS:

"The Intelligence/Counter-Terrorism Unit is responsible for collecting, analyzing, and disseminating all forms of domestic and foreign information and intelligence that may impact the mission of the United States Park Police. The Branch also monitors First Amendment activities to include demonstrations, protests, marches, and gatherings on National Park Service property.""The Branch is also active in several intelligence working groups that provide networking capabilities with virtually every Federal, State, and local law enforcement agency in the region."

The next time you take a picture in a national park and a Park Ranger approaches you, its because they think taking pictures is suspicious! Last year the Park Service wanted to 

fine anyone taking pictures in their parks $1,000

!

The future of moviegoing in America is frightening. Within the next few years we can expect to go to gov't. run movie theaters and watch only gov't. approved movies while gov't. officials (law enforcement) subject you and your family to TSA searches.

70% Of Americans See Economy Worsening, Consumer Comfort Collapses By Most In 10 Month

With stocks just 1-2% from record highs, because China is fixed, oil is recovering, Europe is awesome, and gas prices are low? it appears the talking heads forgot to tell the 'people' how great things are. Bloomberg's Consumer Comfort index plunged (by the most since Sept 2014) to hover at 18 month lows...

 

As 70% of Americans see the state of the economy as negative.

Rather amusingly an intriguing 1% of Americans see the state of the economy as 'excellent' - wonder which 1% that is...

Charts: Bloomberg

The Private Sector Is Cashing In On The Pentagon’s ‘Insatiable Demand’ For Drone War Intelligence

Military personnel in Air Force Distributed Common Ground System.

Military personnel in Air Force Distributed Common Ground System.

Some months ago, an imagery analyst was sitting in his curtained cubicle at Hurlburt Field airbase in Florida watching footage transmitted from a drone above one of the battlefields in the War on Terror. If he thought the images showed someone doing anything suspicious, or holding a weapon, he had to type it in to a chat channel seen by the pilots controlling the drone’s missiles.

Once an observation has been fed in to the chat, he later explained, it’s hard to revise it – it influences the whole mindset of the people with their hands on the triggers.

“As a screener anything you say is going to be interpreted in the most hostile way,” he said, speaking with the careful deliberation of someone used to their words carrying consequences.

He and the other imagery analysts in the airbase were working gruelling 12-hour shifts: even to take a bathroom break they had to persuade a colleague to step in and watch the computer screen for them. They couldn’t let their concentration or judgement lapse for a second. If a spade was misidentified as a weapon, an innocent man could get killed.

“The position I took is that every call I make is a gamble, and I’m betting their life,” he said. “That is a motivation to play as safely as I can, because I don’t want someone who wasn’t a bad guy to get killed.”

In spite of his vital role in military operations, the analyst wasn’t wearing a uniform. In fact, he wasn’t working for the Department of Defense, or indeed any branch of the US government.

He was working for one of a cluster of companies that have made money supplying imagery analysts to the US military’s war on terror.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s award-winning drones team has spent six months exploring this intersection of corporate interests and global surveillance systems. Drawing on interviews with a dozen military insiders (including former generals, drone operators and imagery analysts), contracts obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, scores of contractor CVs publicly available on everyday job sites such as LinkedIn, and the analysis of millions of federal procurement records, the Bureau has identified ten private sector companies operating at the heart of the US’s surveillance and targeting networks.

The private sector’s involvement could grow: an Air Force official confirmed they are considering bringing in more contractors as it struggles to process the nearly half million hours of video footage filmed each year by drones and other aircraft.

Analysing this video can be a highly sensitive role. As one contractor analyst told the Bureau, “when you mess up, people die”.

While the military’s use of boots-on-the-ground contractors has prompted numerous congressional responses and tightened procurement protocol, among the general public few are even aware of the private sector’s role behind the scenes processing military surveillance video.

“I think they’ve fallen under the radar to some degree,” said Laura Dickinson (pictured), a specialist in military contracting at George Washington University Law School and author of ‘Outsourcing War and Peace’. “It’s not that these contractors are necessarily doing a bad job, it’s that our legal system of oversight isn’t necessarily well equipped to deal with this fragmented workforce where you have contractors working alongside uniformed troops.”

In theory, these contractors aren’t decision-makers. Military officials and project managers are there to ensure they perform effectively, and according to the terms of their contracts.

But past experience in Iraq and Afghanistan suggests that management of military contractors does not always work perfectly in practice, especially when demand for the services they provide is surging.

As one commander told the Bureau, demand for Air Force intelligence against threats such as Islamic State is currently “insatiable”.

The ISR revolution

Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, or ISR as it is known in military jargon, has become central to American warfare in recent years.

The Air Force’s Distributed Common Ground Station (DCGS) is a 120,000 square foot facility being built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Norfolk District and their contractors. The building will serve as a collection and processing point for intelligence and imagery to be used by units all around the world.

The Air Force’s Distributed Common Ground Station (DCGS) is a 120,000 square foot facility being built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Norfolk District and their contractors. The building will serve as a collection and processing point for intelligence and imagery to be used by units all around the world.

US counterterrorism operations such as the May 16 special forces raid on Islamic State commander Abu Sayyaf are critically dependent on the video captured by drones and other aircraft.

Analysts sitting thousands of miles away can tell a team on the ground the exact height of ladder they need to scale a building, or alert them to approaching militants. They can also establish a ‘pattern of life’, and what constitutes unusual movement in a particular place.

The aircraft are flown by pilots and operators from bases in the US, whilst the imagery analysts poring through the video they transmit are mostly housed in clusters of analysis centres – part of a warfighting structure spreading from Virginia to Germany known as the ‘Distributed Common Ground System’.

Remotely Piloted Aircraft, as the US military prefers to call drones, are more often associated with firing missiles at the tribal areas of Pakistan and Yemen than with gathering intelligence.

But it is their intelligence capabilities – particularly the ability to collect and transmit video footage in close to real time – that have revolutionised warfare.

“In Kosovo the intelligence we would get was typically a photo, normally black and white, often from a plane that took it the day before,” Lt Colonel David Haworth, director of combat operations at the US’s Combined Air Operations Center in Qatar told the Bureau.

“It’s like being able to talk on a can and a string before, and now I have a smartphone.”

The number of daily drone combat air patrols (CAPs) – that is, the ability to observe a particular spot for 24 hours – went up from five in 2004 to 65 in 2014 as demand for the intelligence they offered soared in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Colonel Jim Cluff, the commander of the drone squadrons at Nevada’s Creech Air Force Base, said the recent campaign against Islamic State has fuelled a new surge in demand.

“We’re seeing just an insatiable demand signal,” he said. “You cannot get enough ISR capability to meet all the warfighters’ needs.”

Meeting this demand is not simply a question of having enough aircraft. By 2010, according to a presentation by David Deptula, a now retired three star general who was asked to oversee the Air Force’s rapidly evolving ISR expansion in 2006, the average Predator or Reaper CAP required 10 pilots and 30 video analysts.

“We’re drowning in data,” he told the Bureau.

‘Growth industry’

The military has always used the private sector to help operate its drone programmes; according to defence writer Richard Whittle, General Atomics, the manufacturer of the Predator, even supplied some of the pilots for the aircraft’s first sorties.

The defence industry’s supply of equipment to drone operations is well known, but the private sector’s role in providing a workforce has been harder to pin down. Through extensive research, the Bureau has traced the contracting histories of eight companies which have provided the Pentagon with imagery analysts in the past five years (the CIA’s transactions remain classified). Two more companies have been linked to the imagery analysis effort.

In 2007, defence industry behemoth SAIC – later rebranded Leidos – was contracted to provide services including imagery analysis to the Air Force Special Operations Command (Afsoc). A contracting document described SAIC’s involvement as “intelligence support to direct combat operations”. Its 202 contractors embedded in Afsoc were providing “direct support to targeting” among other functions (in military-speak, targeting can refer to surveillance of people and objects as well as lethal strikes).

In a bidding war to renew the deal in 2011, SAIC lost out to a smaller defence firm, MacAulay-Brown. 

According to a copy of the contract obtained by the Bureau under a Freedom of Information Act request, MacAulay-Brown was tasked to “support targeting, information operations, deliberate and crisis action planning, and 24/7/365 operations.” The company asked for $60 million to perform these functions over three years.

Afsoc required MacAulay-Brown to provide a total of 187 analysts, some of whom were sourced through partnership with another company, Advanced Concepts Enterprises.

A portion of this work was to be carried out outside the US, according to the contract. The Bureau found two CVs posted online by people who had worked for MacAulay-Brown in Afghanistan. Both were embedded with special operations forces supporting targeting.

In January this year the latest award for Afsoc intelligence support went to another company, Zel Technologies. According to a document describing the scope of the contract, Zel was set to provide fewer overall analysts than MacAulay-Brown, but more imagery experts. Zel was also required to offer subject matter experts “in the areas of the Horn of Africa, Arabian Peninsula, Somalia, Syria, Iran, North Africa, Trans Sahel region, Levant region, Gulf States and territorial waters”. Afsoc has paid out $12 million for the first year, with options on the contract due to last until January 2018.

Although Zel Technologies is now the prime contractor, MacAulay-Brown is providing some of the intelligence specialists the contract demands. Indeed, it is not unusual for analysts to simply move from company to company as contracts for the same set of services change hands. They market themselves on recruitment sites with a surreal blend of corporate and military jargon.

An MQ 9 Reaper drone. A new poll shows most Americans support U.S. drone strikes on American citizens. (Photo: USAF)

An MQ 9 Reaper drone. (Photo: USAF)

One boasts of having supported the “kill / capture” of “High Value Targets”. Others go in to detail about their expertise in things like establishing a pattern of life and following vehicles.

The Air Force is not the only agency that employs contractor imagery analysts. Intrepid Solutions, a small business based in Reston, Virginia, received an intelligence support contract with the Army’s Intelligence and Security Command in 2012, scheduled to run until 2017.

In 2012 TransVoyant LLC, a leading player in real-time intelligence and analysis of big data based in Alexandria, Virginia, was awarded a contract with a maximum value set at $49 million to provide full motion video analysts for a US Marine Corps “exploitation cell” deployed in Afghanistan. Transvoyant had taken over this role from the huge Virginia-based defence company General Dynamics.

In 2010, the Army gave a million-dollar contract to a translation company, Worldwide Language Resources, to provide US forces in Afghanistan with “intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance collection management and imagery analysis support”.

In the same year, the Special Operations Command awarded an imagery analyst services contract to the firmL-3 Communications, which was to net the company $155 million over five years.

Defence industry giants BAE Systems and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s former employer Booz Allen Hamilton are also involved in the US’s ISR effort.

BAE Systems describes itself as “the leading provider of full-motion video analytic services to the intelligence community with more than 370 personnel working 24 hours a day”. The Bureau has traced some of the activities it carried out through social media profiles of company employees. People identifying themselves as video and imagery analysts for BAE state that they have used real-time and geo-spatial data to support tracking and targeting.

A job advert posted on June 10 by BAE gave further insight into the services provided. The posting sought a “Full Motion Video (FMV) Analyst providing direct intelligence support to Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO)” to be “part of a high ops tempo team, embedded in a multi-intelligence fusion watch floor environment”.

Booz Allen Hamilton has also aided the intelligence exploitation effort for special operations command at Hurlburt Field. Its role included “ongoing and expanding full motion video PED operational intelligence mission”, according to transaction records. A recent job ad shows the company is looking for video analysts to join its team “providing direct intelligence support to the Global War on Terror”.

The hundreds of millions of dollars paid to these companies for imagery analysis represent just a fraction of the private sector’s stake in America’s global surveillance effort. The Bureau has found billions of dollars of contracts for a range of ISR services. These include the provision of smaller drones, the supply and maintenance of data collection systems, and the communications infrastructure to fly the drones and connect their sensors with analysts across the other side of the world. These contracts have gone to companies including General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, Ball Aerospace, Boeing, Textron and ITT Corporation.

General Deptula believes military demand for ISR will continue to grow.  As he puts it, “Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance is a growth industry.”

Private eyes

In the Air Force at least, contractor imagery analysts are still in the minority of the work force. Around one in 10 of the people working in the processing, exploitation and dissemination (PED) of intelligence is estimated to be either a government civilian or a contractor. The Hurlburt Field analyst, who is here referred to as John (like other analysts interviewed, he didn’t want his real name to be published because of the sensitivity of the subject matter) estimates that they represent around an eighth of the analysts working there in support of Special Operations.

John argues that taking on even a small number of contractors helps ease the strain on the uniformed force without incurring the expense of pensioned, trained, health-insured employees.

“Contractors are used to fill the gap to give enough manpower to provide flexibility necessary for military to do things like take leave,” he said.

Contractor imagery analysts are invariably ex-military, but the framework of their employment and their incentives are differently aligned once they join the private sector.

“In the military no-one’s obligated to respect your time,” explained John. “There were months you’d never get off days – If they need you to clean the bathroom on your off day that’s what you’ve got to do.”

“As a contractor you’re not as invested in the unit…your motivations are going to be more selfish.”

John and other analysts stressed however that contractors were highly professional, and able to provide a concentration of expertise.

“By the time an airman has built up enough experience to be competent at the job it’s usually time to change their duty location. Age also has a lot to do with the professionalism of contractors. Most contractors are at the youngest mid to late 20s, whereas Airmen are fresh out of high school,” said one analyst. “As an FMV (analyst), you cannot identify something unless you’ve seen it before.”

Screening for trouble

According to John the PED units at Hurlburt Field were much smaller than those of regular Air Force crews, consisting of only about three or four people.

As well as an analyst to watch the video in near real-time, and one to make the call on whether to type an observation in to the chat channel (often described as a ‘screener’), units typically also need a geospatial analyst to cross-reference the images brought up on the screen with other data. 

Sitting there watching a video screen sounds simple, but the herculean amount of concentration involved requires real discipline and commitment. According to analysts interviewed, between 80 and 85% of the time is spent on long-term surveillance, when very little is happening. “You can go days and weeks watching people do nothing,” said John.

Another contractor interviewed said that because of the “long durations of monotonous and low activity levels”, a good analyst needs “attention to detail and a vested interest in the mission.”

Analysts assigned to the 11th Intelligence Squadron review mission data

Analysts assigned to the 11th Intelligence Squadron review mission data on Hurlburt Field, Fla., June 11, 2015. The 11th IS executes procession, exploitation and dissemination of day and night imagery intelligence, from manned and unmanned aerial systems. (Portions of this image were blurred for security or privacy concerns)

“Many of the younger analysts view the job as a game,” he said. “It is critical to understand everything that happens, happens in real life. When you mess up, people die. In fact, the main role of the FMV analyst is to ensure that does not happen.”

The screeners type their observations in to a chat channel called mIRC, which is seen by the drone pilot and sensor operator, who are usually sitting in a different base. The Mission Coordinator, or Mission Intelligence Coordinator, typically sitting on the same base as the pilot and operator and communicating with them through a headset, helps ensure they don’t miss anything important in the mIRC.

Sometimes, John said, the analysts and the Mission Coordinator will communicate directly with each other in what is known as a “Whisper chat”.

“It gives you a way to say ‘this is what we think we saw’,” he explained, adding dryly, “a large part of the job is an exercise in trying not to kick the hornets’ nest.” According to John, once you’ve influenced the mentality of the pilot and operator by typing something which could signal hostility in to the chat, it’s hard to retract it.

He likens his role to that of a citizen tipping off armed police about criminals.

“As a civilian I don’t have authority to arrest someone, but if I call the police and say ‘this person’s doing something’, and say ‘I think that guy’s dangerous’…the police are going to turn up primed to respond to the threat, they’ll turn up trusting my statement,” he said. “It could be argued that I was responsible, but I’m not the one shooting.”

John said that in his unit, imagery analysts usually took a back seat once the use of force had been authorised.

Because there is usually a slight delay between the drone crew receiving the feed and the analysis crew seeing it, John said, “in a situation where it gets high-paced they (military personnel)’ll cut the screener out entirely”.

The other analyst however said that in his experience the PED unit still maintained its function for “identifying and confirming IMINT (imagery intelligence) lock on the target” once force is authorised. Video analysts, he said, had the capability to tell other crew members to abort a strike under some circumstances, and the analyst could receive “blowback” when things went wrong. The video analyst is the “subject matter expert,” he explained. “As such you have an important role in all the events that have led up to the determination for using force on the target. While you are not the one firing the missile, a misidentification of an enemy combatant with a weapon and a female carrying a broom can have dire consequences.”

Inherently governmental?

Given the Air Force’s efforts to keep contractors out of sensitive, decision-making positions, the contractors’ role in supporting targeting seems surprising, at first glance.

Charles Blanchard was the Air Force’s chief lawyer between 2009 and 2013 when he advised the officials spearheading these efforts.

He describes himself as a “purist” when it comes to contractors flying armed drones. But for a function like imagery analysis, his view is more flexible. “I’d be comfortable with some contractors sprinkled in to this framework because you have so many eyes on one target usually,” he said.

“I’d be uncomfortable with contractors advising the commander ‘here’s where the target is’, unless the data collected and analysed was so clear that the Commander could confirm this for themselves, as often happens.”

The constraints on using contractors are often more to do with command culture than the “mushy” legal framework surrounding inherently governmental functions, Blanchard explained.

“A commander in the military justice system has a lot more authority to take action where mistakes are made. Someone in blue uniform – or green or white – is someone they feel they have authority over.”

The consensus seems to be that contractors effectively taking targeting decisions is undesirable.

MacAulay-Brown’s contract with Afsoc stipulated that the contractors were not to be “placed in a position of command, supervision, administration of control” over military or civilian personnel.

There are concerns that such safeguards may be diluted in practice if contractor use goes up.

One of the analysts interviewed said that contractors were already relied on for their greater expertise and experience, effectively placing them in the chain of command.

“It will always be military bodies or civilian government bodies as the overall in charge of the missions…however you will have experienced contractors act as a ‘right-hand man’ many times because typically contractors are the ones with subject matter expertise, so the military/government leadership lean on those people to make better mission related decisions,” he said.

The profit motive

Although it is hard for the military to discipline contractors, people are keeping tabs on them and providing them with an incentive to do their jobs well.

John noted that the knowledge that “you can get fired” is a motivational factor for contractors.

In theory, the possibility of losing the contract should also incentivise the contractors’ bosses to field the best possible staff and manage them closely.

Jerome Traughber of the Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy is a former program manager for airborne reconnaissance acquisitions in the Air Force. He said that in his experience of intelligence support services, a company’s bid and performance would be scrutinised closely, with incentive fees built in.

“If a contractor wasn’t measuring up we’d make a change very quickly,” he said.

A large part of the monitoring is done through contracting officers, who liaise with other personnel inside the warfighting unit to evaluate the performance of the contractors embedded there.

Traughber acknowledged, however, that during the surge in Afghanistan, when thousands of contracts needed to be overseen, contracting officers and their counterparts inside military units were overwhelmed by their work load.

Nor is it clear that poor performance would necessarily prevent a company getting another contract. Daniel Gordon, a retired law professor and previous Administrator of Federal Procurement Policy, argues that the past performance criteria that contracting officers are supposed to take in to account when awarding bids might not always be rigorously assessed.

“As soon as you start saying the contractor didn’t do a good job you risk having litigation, lawyers are going to get involved, it’s just not worth it, so… everyone’s ok, no-one’s outstanding, which makes the rating system completely meaningless,” he said.

Another potential problem with the profit motive as a way of delivering good performance is that contractor pay has reportedly gone down.

Mary Blackwell, the president of Advanced Concepts Enterprises, one of the subcontractors who provided analysts in Hurlburt Field, said that since mandatory defence budget caps took effect in 2013, the value of contracts has decreased.

Imagery analysts, along with everyone else, have seen their pay cut by between 15 and 20%, she said.

“The military people – their pay is set. The only place where there’s any room is the contracts.”

This could drive down quality in the long term, contractors say. “It is running good analysts off,” said one. “The quality of force is suffering.”

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism contacted all of the contractors named in this story with a series of questions. None provided a statement, though several directed queries towards the US military. The Pentagon and the US Air Force were contacted for comment with a series of questions about transparency and oversight for contractors involved in ISR.

A spokeswoman for the Air Force said ISR was “vital to the national security of the United States and its allies”, and there was an “insatiable demand” for it from combatant commanders. She said this demand was the reason for increasing use of contractors, which she said was a “normal process within military operations”.

On the issue of whether private contractors’ assessments risk pre-empting the military’s official decisions, she said the service had thorough oversight and followed all appropriate rules.

“Current AF Judge Advocate rulings define the approved roles for contractors in the AF IRS’s processing, exploitation and dissemination capability,” she said.

“Air Force DCGS [Distributed Common Ground System] works closely with the Judge Advocate’s office to ensure a full, complete, and accurate understanding and implementation of those roles.  Oversight is accomplished by Air Force active duty and civilian personnel in real time and on continual basis with personnel trained on the implementation of procedural checks and balances.

Transparency gap

Contractors such as John pride themselves on their professionalism and skill. But as ISR demand continues to rise, robust oversight is needed – in particular to ensure contractors do not creep into decision-making roles.

“There are tremendous pressures for that ratio of contractors to governmental personnel to swell,” she argued.

“If that ratio balloons, oversight could easily break down, and the current prohibition on contractors making targeting decisions could become meaningless.

Laura Dickinson argues the lack of information about drone operations makes such oversight much harder.  “We urgently need more transparency,” she said.

The Department of Defense now publishes a quarterly report on the number of contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, with a breakdown of their functions, but Dickinson said she was not aware of any such information being released on contractors in drone operations.

“There are tremendous pressures for that ratio of contractors to governmental personnel to swell,” she argued.

“If that ratio balloons, oversight could easily break down, and the current prohibition on contractors making targeting decisions could become meaningless.” 

Least Transparent Ever – IRS Used “Wholly Separate” Instant Messaging System to Hide Communications

Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 2.53.22 PM

Barack Obama promised to have the “most transparent administration ever,” but as with pretty much every other promise he’s made over the years, the exact opposite is what has occurred.

From Hillary Clinton using her own private email server while Secretary of State, to the latest revelations that the IRS (whichintentionally targeted American citizens based on their political views), used a “wholly separate” instant messaging system in order to conceal their internal communications. Of course, not only is there no transparency, but as is the case with all shady and undemocratic “elite” behavior, there is no accountability.

In the latest bit of information to emerge, we learn from Americans for Tax Reform that:

The IRS used a “wholly separate” instant messaging system that automatically deleted office communications, according to documentation released by the House Oversight Committee on Monday. The system appears to have been purposefully used by agency officials responsible for the targeting of conservative non-profits, in order to evade public scrutiny.

The system, known as “Office Communication Server” or OCS was used by IRS officials, including many in the Exempt Organizations (EO) Unit, which was headed by Lois Lerner.

As the Oversight Committee report states, the instant messaging system did not archive any communications, so it is not possible to know what employees of the EO unit discussed on it.

However, in an email uncovered by the Committee Lerner warns her colleagues about evading Congressional oversight:

“I was cautioning folks about email and how we have had several occasions where Congress has asked for emails and there has been an electronic search for responsive emails – so we need to be cautious about what we say in emails.”

Lerner then asks whether OCS is automatically archived. When informed it was not, Lerner responded “Perfect.”

While it is possible to set the instant messaging system to automatically archive messages, the IRS chose not to do so,according to one employee interviewed by the Committee.

This is not what freedom looks like.

For more examples of Obama non-transparency, see:

Least Transparent Ever – Obama Administration Fighting to Prevent Release of C.I.A. Torture Report

Most Transparent President? Obama Cabinet Refuses to Release Info on Cost of Travel

Obama Administration Sets New Record for Censoring and Denying Access to Government Documents

In Liberty, 
Michael Krieger

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

ISIS "Ally" Turkey Seeks NATO Support As Two-Front "War" Escalates

NATO representatives met in Brussels on Tuesday after Turkey made a rare Article 4 request which compels treaty parties to convene in the event a member state is of the opinion that its "territorial integrity, political independence or security" is being threatened. 

That’s the case in Turkey, where the security situation has rapidly deteriorated over the past two weeks following a suicide bombing in Suruc (claimed by Islamic State) and the murder of two Turkish policemen in the town of Ceylanpinar (at the hands of the PKK, which claims the officers were cooperating with ISIS). Ankara responded by launching airstrikes against both Islamic State and PKK. 

In many ways, the suicide bombing and retaliatory action by the Kurdistan Workers' Party - which both Ankara and the West have designated as a terrorist group - is representative of the complex web of alliances that makes understanding the conflict in Syria so difficult. As The Economist notes, the PKK "have been fighting an on-and-off guerrilla war against the Turkish government for decades," but the group’s Syrian Kurdish militia arm (YPG) has helped the US coordinate airstrikes against ISIS targets near the border town of Kobani. 

Complicating the issue further are long standing accusations that Turkey actively cooperates with ISIS. "ISIS commanders told us to fear nothing at all because there was full cooperation with the Turks," one former ISIS commander said late last year, in an interview with Newsweek, which also noted that "Turkey had blocked Kurdish fighters from crossing the border into Syria to aid their Syrian counterparts in defending the border town of Kobani." 

More recently, The Guardian reported that information obtained when a raid by US commandos killed ISIS’ purported "oil minister" in May provided "undeniable" evidence of "direct dealings between Turkish officials and ranking Isis members." And let's not forget that US Vice President Joe Biden admitted last year that Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and Turkey had funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to Islamist rebels in Syria that metamorphosed into ISIS.


Note that all of this comes from mainstream media sources, so there’s really no way to decipher the truth about Turkey’s alleged cooperation with Islamic State militants and of course there are very real questions as to what role the US played in facilitating the rise of ISIS in the first place, but what the situation in Turkey boils down to is that although NATO is of course fine with throwing its public support behind Ankara’s military action against ISIS, the US is cautious when it comes to the PKK because after all, they too are fighting ISIS via their Syrian affiliate.

Here’s WSJ with some commentary that underscores the characteristically absurd foreign policy stance that Washington is all too often forced to adopt when the Pentagon can no longer keep track of who is friend and who is foe and, perhaps more importantly, what the public narrative is supposed to be:

 

 

In Brussels, a NATO official said several allies used the meeting to urge the Turkish government to continue the peace process with the PKK. But there were signs of different views between Washington and its European allies. U.S. officials have gently urged Turkey to be careful in hitting the PKK, but stood by Ankara’s right to launch the strikes.

 

"We call on the PKK not to continue these attacks which are provoking the Turkish retaliation," one senior U.S. administration official said on Tuesday. "And we’re also calling on the Turks to be judicious in the operations that they’re taking."

 

U.S. officials put most of the blame for the expanding new confrontation with the PKK, which has taken responsibility for killing several Turkish security officials. After an escalation of violence in Turkey’s southeast last week, Turkish warplanes began airstrikes on the PKK’s mountain base in northern Iraq for the first time in four years.

 

"If the PKK did not launch a series of attacks in Turkey, Turkey would not be launching these attacks in northern Iraq," said a second senior U.S. administration official.

Of course the PKK would say that if Turkey had not been cooperating with ISIS in the first place, the suicide bombing which killed 32 people in Suruc might have been avoided, and ultimately, the two Turkish police officers would still be alive.

Indeed, to let the PKK tell it, Ankara is simply using the strikes against ISIS as an excuse to renew its crackdown on the Kurds which, you’re reminded, comes as HDP won a stunning victory at the polls early last month when the pro-Kurdish opposition party garnered enough votes to enter Parliament for the first time. Here’s Reuters on the connection between the renewed military effort and the political situation in Turkey: 

 

 

The pro-Kurdish HDP party won 13 percent of the vote in a June 7 poll, helping to deprive the AKP Erdogan founded of a majority in parliament for the first time since 2002.

 

Many Kurds believe that by reviving conflict with the PKK, Erdogan seeks to undermine support for the HDP ahead of a possible early election. That poll - so runs the argument - could then provide him with the majority he seeks to change the constitution and increase his powers.

 

"He is trying to achieve the result he failed to in the June 7 election in a political coup. That's the real aim of the steps taken now," the PKK said in an e-mailed statement.

 

It accused Erdogan of trying to "crush" the Kurdish political movement "to create an authoritarian, hegemonic system", but it did not directly address his latest comments.

 

Turkey has shut down almost all Kurdish political parties over the years. Erdogan, who has accused the HDP of links to the PKK, said he opposed party closures but urged parliament to lift the immunity of politicians with links to "terrorist groups".

Through it all, the US has adopted the only position it can under the circumstances: publicly, Washington will simply defend Turkey’s right to combat both "terror" groups (the PKK and ISIS) and hope that on balance, the Kurds come out better than Islamic State. To wit, from WSJ: "U.S. officials are hoping the damage done to Islamic State will outweigh the damage done to the YPG," a US official said. 

For anyone who is now thoroughly confused, here are two visuals which should help to clarify exactly what’s going on. The first is a simple map which shows ISIS positions along the border with Turkey and the second is a graphic which diagrams the three-way battle between Ankara, the Kurds (who are spread across three countries), and ISIS (who may be colluding with Turkey, even as Turkey bombs its positions).

Finally, here's more color from BBC which sheds still more light on the conflict:

 

 

Some say Turkey will help the Americans hammer IS, while striking the PKK as a warning - no more. Others say it will go after the Kurds hardest, while doing the bare minimum against IS.

 

Turkish policy is "to pretend that it is waging a war against IS, while at the same time following up on another goal, which is to destroy the PKK," says Kerem Oktem, a professor at the Centre for Southeast European Studies at the University of Graz in Austria.

 

For the underlying narrative behind Turkey's intervention, look to its troubled history with the Kurds.

 

United by ethnicity and divided by modern borders, the Kurds are a sizeable minority within Turkey, as well as within the neighbouring states of Syria, Iraq and Iran. In each of these countries, the Kurds have agitated against governments, sometimes for greater rights, sometimes for outright independence.

 

An armed struggle in Turkey was led for many years by the PKK, until it signed up to a ceasefire in 2013.

 

That truce has been strained by the civil war in Syria, which has strengthened the PKK's armed offshoot there, known as the YPG.

 

Like its allies in the Gulf, Turkey wants the overthrow of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. It too has been accused of supporting many of the rebel groups fighting him - though not the YPG.

 

Turkey has looked on, worried, as the YPG has carved out a proto-state across its southern border - an unwanted beneficiary, in its view, of the fragmentation of Syria.

 

The other big beneficiary has been IS, whose Syrian territory roughly encircles the areas held by the YPG. Turkey denies the accusation, levelled by many Kurds, that it is using IS to check Kurdish influence.

 

 

In an attempt to crystallize all of the above, here is the situation laid bare with no pretensions to politeness.

Turkey is facing both a political and a security crisis, with the latter being perhaps partly attributable to the country's tolerance of ISIS elements on or around the Turkish border. 

A tragic suicide bombing (conveniently pinned on ISIS) led to retaliatory violence by the PKK which gave Ankara an excuse to break a fragile ceasfire with the Kurds. The government is now free to crack down on the PKK with virtual impunity under the guise of stepping up its efforts against ISIS (now with NATO's blessing). 

 In an incredibly convenient "coincidence," this all comes just as opposition parties won landmark victories at the ballot box, sweeping the Kurds into parliament for the first time and threatening Erdogan's push to consolidate power.

Meanwhile, Turkey and the US share one real geopolitical aim (ousting Assad) and one ancillary, publicity-friendly sideshow (destroying ISIS), which should by all rights clear the way for Washington's complete support of Turkey's recent military actions, were it not for the fact that they may be but a thinly veiled attempt on Ankara's part to eradicate the Kurds, who the US is obligated to support (at least publicly) because they too are ostensibly fighting ISIS, a group which was perhaps created by the US in the first place. 

This, ladies and gentlemen, is geopolitics under US hegemony and given the above, is it any wonder that some commentators are looking forward to the return of bipolarity?