Categories
News-esque politics

FBI behind mysterious surveillance flights over U.S. cities

 

Eye see u Willis
Eye see U. All of you!

A police state? Whoever could imagine such a thing in the United States of America? Civil liberties? Ha! The Bill of Rights is no longer required because the War on Terra has usurped them.

This is the real legacy of disgraced former Congressman Dennis Hastert: willingly gutting the Constitution to please the Neo Cons and Dick Cheney, and his little puppy GWB.

Scores of low-flying planes circling American cities are part of a civilian air force operated by the FBI and obscured behind fictitious companies.

The Associated Press traced at least 50 aircraft back to the FBI, and identified more than 100 flights in 11 states over a 30-day period since late April, orbiting both major cities and rural areas. At least 115 planes, including 90 Cessna aircraft, were mentioned in a federal budget document from 2009.

For decades, the planes have provided support to FBI surveillance operations on the ground. But now the aircraft are equipped with high-tech cameras, and in rare circumstances, technology capable of tracking thousands of cellphones, raising questions about how these surveillance flights affect Americans’ privacy.

The Drug Enforcement Administration has its own planes, also registered to fake companies, according to a 2011 Justice Department inspector general report. At the time, the DEA had 92 aircraft in its fleet. And since 2007, the U.S. Marshals Service has operated an aerial surveillance program with its own fleet equipped with technology that can capture data from thousands of cellphones, the Wall Street Journal reported last year.

 …

Some of the aircraft can also be equipped with technology that can identify thousands of people below through the cellphones they carry, even if they’re not making a call or in public.

(click here to continue reading FBI behind mysterious surveillance flights over Chicago, other U.S. cities – Chicago Tribune.)

You Are Being Film
You Are Being Film

In other words, we are all assumed to be guilty of something, and thus can be monitored and spied upon without need for quaint antiques like warrants or probable cause.

Evolving technology can record higher-quality video from long distances, even at night, and can capture certain identifying information from cellphones using a device known as a “cell-site simulator” — or Stingray, to use one of the product’s brand names. These can trick pinpointed cellphones into revealing identification numbers of subscribers, including those not suspected of a crime.

The FBI has recently begun obtaining court orders to use this technology. Previously, the Obama administration had been directing local authorities through secret agreements not to reveal their own use of the devices, even encouraging prosecutors to drop cases rather than disclose the technology’s use in open court.

Do All Photographers Need a Warrant?
Do All Photographers Need a Warrant?

Up in the sky! Look! It’s a bird! A plane! It’s the FBI!

Another Crappy Photo of a Prop Plane
Another Crappy Photo of a Prop Plane

From Wall Street Journal reporter Devlin Barrett last year:

The Justice Department is scooping up data from thousands of mobile phones through devices deployed on airplanes that mimic cellphone towers, a high-tech hunt for criminal suspects that is snagging a large number of innocent Americans, according to people familiar with the operations.

The U.S. Marshals Service program, which became fully functional around 2007, operates Cessna aircraft from at least five metropolitan-area airports, with a flying range covering most of the U.S. population, according to people familiar with the program.

Planes are equipped with devices—some known as “dirtboxes” to law-enforcement officials because of the initials of the Boeing Co. unit that produces them—which mimic cell towers of large telecommunications firms and trick cellphones into reporting their unique registration information.

Even having encryption on a phone, such as the kind included on Apple Inc.’s iPhone 6, doesn’t prevent this process.

 …

Also unknown are the steps taken to ensure data collected on innocent people isn’t kept for future examination by investigators. A federal appeals court ruled earlier this year that over-collection of data by investigators, and stockpiling of such data, was a violation of the Constitution.

The dirtbox and Stingray are both types of what tech experts call “IMSI catchers,’’ named for the identification system used by networks to identify individual cellphones.

The name “dirtbox’’ came from the acronym of the company making the device, DRT, for Digital Receiver Technology Inc., people said. DRT is now a subsidiary of Boeing. A Boeing spokeswoman declined to comment.

“DRT has developed a device that emulates a cellular base station to attract cellphones for a registration process even when they are not in use,’’ according to a 2010 regulatory filing Boeing made with the U.S. Commerce Department, which touted the device’s success in finding contraband cellphones smuggled in to prison inmates.

 

(click here to continue reading Americans’ Cellphones Targeted in Secret U.S. Spy Program – WSJ.)

Continuous Video Recording in Progress
Continuous Video Recording in Progress

and a follow up by the same reporter:

The Central Intelligence Agency played a crucial role in helping the Justice Department develop technology that scans data from thousands of U.S. cellphones at a time, part of a secret high-tech alliance between the spy agency and domestic law enforcement, according to people familiar with the work.

The CIA and the U.S. Marshals Service, an agency of the Justice Department, developed technology to locate specific cellphones in the U.S. through an airborne device that mimics a cellphone tower, these people said.

Today, the Justice Department program, whose existence was reported by The Wall Street Journal last year, is used to hunt criminal suspects. The same technology is used to track terror suspects and intelligence targets overseas, the people said.

The surveillance system briefly identifies large numbers of cellphones belonging to citizens unrelated to the search. The practice can also briefly interfere with the ability to make calls, these people said.

Some law-enforcement officials are concerned the aerial surveillance of cellphone signals inappropriately mixes traditional police work with the tactics and technology of overseas spy work that is constrained by fewer rules. Civil-liberties groups say the technique amounts to a digital dragnet of innocent Americans’ phones.

(click here to continue reading CIA Aided Justice Department Secret Program to Spy on U.S. Cellphones – WSJ.)

City of Chicago Emergency Management Surveillance Vehicle
City of Chicago Emergency Management Surveillance Vehicle

Remember when the CIA was banned on spying on Americans, and from conducting operations on American soil? Ah, those were the days…

To civil libertarians, the close involvement of America’s premier international spy agency with a domestic law-enforcement arm shows how military and espionage techniques are now being used on U.S. citizens.

“There’s a lot of privacy concerns in something this widespread, and those concerns only increase if we have an intelligence agency coordinating with them,” said Andrew Crocker of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has filed a lawsuit seeking more details about the program and its origins.

The Truth Is Not So Comfortable
The Truth Is Not So Comfortable

Categories
News-esque religion

Psychedelic Tea Brewing In Santa Fe

Oh come on, I wonder how many opponents of this church’s sacrament know anything at all about hoasca? If their only information comes from the DEA, no wonder they are worried. They needn’t be.

A secretive religious group that fought a long legal battle for the right to drink hallucinogenic tea in pursuit of spiritual growth now plans to build a temple and greenhouse in a wealthy community here — to the dismay of local residents.

The church was founded in Brazil in 1961 and remains most popular there, but about 150 people in the U.S., including about 60 in Santa Fe, practice the faith, which goes by the Portuguese name Centro Espírita Beneficente União do Vegetal, or UDV. Members say the church is based on Christian theology but also borrows from other faiths and finds spirituality in nature.

Since the U.S. branch of the religion emerged in the late 1980s, practitioners have imported from Brazil their sacramental tea, known as hoasca, which is brewed from two Amazonian plants and contains the psychedelic compound dimethyltryptamine, or DMT. The U.S. government classifies DMT as a Schedule I controlled substance, the same designation given to heroin and marijuana. But in a unanimous ruling in 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the UDV had the right to use hoasca in its ceremonies.

Now, the Santa Fe branch has drawn up plans to build a greenhouse for growing their own sacred plants, a ceremonial kitchen for brewing the tea and a 7,100-square-foot temple, complete with a children’s nursery and foot-thick walls to ensure privacy.

[Click to continue reading Psychedelic Tea Brews Unease – WSJ.com]

Plants are not demons, treating farmers like they are the enemy of civilization is not a helpful attitude. Since eating the flesh and blood of your god is ok, why not a tea that opens up your consciousness?

[Aya-preparation, via Wikimedia Commons]

Hoasca, or as it is more frequently referred to, Ayahuasca is not a party drug, despite the morons in the DEA classifying it as a Schedule 1 controlled substance.

Ayahuasca (ayawaska pronounced [ajaˈwaska] in the Quechua language) is any of various psychoactive infusions or decoctions prepared from the Banisteriopsis spp. vine, usually mixed with the leaves of dimethyltryptamine-containing species of shrubs from the Psychotria genus. It was first described academically in the early 1950s by Harvard ethnobotanist Richard Evans Schultes who found it employed for divinatory and healing purposes by Amerindians of Amazonian Colombia.

Sections of B. cap vine are macerated and boiled alone or with leaves from any of a number of other plants, including Psychotria viridian (chacruna) or Diplopterys cabrerana (also known as chaliponga). The resulting brew contains the powerful hallucinogenic alkaloid N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), and MAO inhibiting harmala alkaloids, which are necessary to make the DMT orally active. Though B. cap is a central ingredient in traditional ayahuasca brews, harmala-containing plants from other plant-medicine cultures, such as Syrian Rue, can be used instead of the vine to make an ayahuasca analogue, yet it isn’t considered ayahuasca, as Caapi vine is considered the main plant in the brew.

Brews can also be made with no DMT-containing plants; Psychotria viridian being substituted by plants such as Justicia pectorals, Brugmansia, or sacred tobacco, also known as Mapacho (Nicotiana rustic), or sometimes left out with no replacement. The potency of this brew varies radically from one batch to the next, both in strength[clarification needed] and psychoactive effect, based mainly on the skill of the shaman or brewer, as well as other admixtures sometimes added and the intent of the ceremony.[citation needed] Natural variations in plant alkaloid content and profiles also affect the final concentration of alkaloids in the brew, and the physical act of cooking may also serve to modify the alkaloid profile of harmala alkaloids

[Click to continue reading Ayahuasca – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]

Categories
politics

These are The Liars On Drugs

In a manner of speaking

Cut Rate Liquors and Real Drugs
[Rothschild’s Cut Rate Liquors and Real Drugs, on Chicago and Ashland, or nearby]

AMONG OUR LEADERS in Washington, who’s been the biggest liar? There are all too many contenders, yet one is so floridly surreal that he deserves special attention. Nope, it’s not Dick Cheney or Alberto Gonzales or John Yoo. It’s a trusted authority figure who’s lied for 11 years now, no matter which party held sway. (Nope, it’s not Alan Greenspan.) This liar didn’t end-run Congress, or bully it, or have its surreptitious blessing at the time only to face its indignation later. No, this liar was ordered by Congress to lie—as a prerequisite for holding the job.

Give up? It’s the head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), a.k.a. the drug czar, who in 1998 was mandated by Congress to oppose legislation that would legalize, decriminalize, or medicalize marijuana, or redirect anti-trafficking funding into treatment. And the drug czar has also—here’s where the lying comes in—been prohibited from funding research that might give credence to any of the above. These provisions were crafted by Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and Bob Barr (R-Ga.) and pushed for by then-czar Barry McCaffrey, best remembered for being somewhat comically obsessed with the evils of medical marijuana. A few Dems complained that the bill, which set “hard targets” of an 80 percent drop in the availability of drugs, a 60 percent decrease in street purity, and a 50 percent reduction in drug-related crime and ER visits, all by 2004—whoops!—was “simplistic” and “designed to achieve political advantage.” Though the vote count was not recorded for history, it got enough bipartisan support to be signed into law by Bill “Didn’t Inhale” Clinton.

If this tale strikes you as the kind of paranoid fantasy you’d expect from someone who’s taken one too many hits off the joint, consider that it isn’t the most bizarre, hypocritical, counterproductive moment in our nation’s history with drugs. Not by a long shot. Consider that Prohibition came about when progressives got into bed with the Ku Klux Klan, but was rolled back once they’d had enough of the Mob. Or that the precursor to today’s drug czar supplied morphine to Sen. Joe McCarthy because he worried about the national security consequences—not of the red-baiter’s habit, but of its potential exposure. Or that drug war progenitor Richard Nixon ordered a comprehensive study on the perils of marijuana, and then ignored the study once he learned it recommended decriminalization.

[Click to continue reading This Is Your War on Drugs | Mother Jones]

Any legislation that bears the imprint of the three stooges, Hastert, Barr and McCaffrey is bound to be ridiculous and objectionable. Drug policy in the United States is in serious need of reform, and that’s no joke. Will it happen in our lifetime? The jury is still loaded up in chambers…

Categories
government

Successful Pot Smokers: a BIG List

The Office of National Drug Control Policy is by far one of the most ridiculous wastes of taxpayer money in our nation. Their mandate is to convince young folks that marijuana is a demon weed, and that one toke will corrupt young minds forever, and ever, amen. A current ad asserts that if you partake of cannabis, the only career options left for you will be comical dead-end jobs like “Burrito Taster” and “Couch Security Guard” and so on.

Pulaski_park

Here’s my challenge to Agitator readers, bloggers, and others: In this comments thread, let’s compile a master list of admitted pot smokers—current or former—who not only haven’t ended up as heroin junkies or burnouts, but have gone on to lead successful lives. If the person is famous, include a link. But feel free to add yourselves and what you do now, too, if you fit the criteria. School teacher? Cop? Stay at home mom? Grad student? Count yourself in. You can leave out your name if you like. Or include it. Either way.

I’ll get it started:

Barack Obama, president-elect. Bill Clinton, 42nd president of the U.S. John Kerry, U.S. Senator and 2004 Democratic nominee for president. John Edwards, multi-millionaire, former U.S. Senator, and 2004 Democratic nominee for vice president. Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska, 2008 Republican nominee for vice president. British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly, and and Chancellor Alistair Darling. Josh Howard, NBA all-star. New York Governor David Paterson. Former Vice President, Nobel Peace Prize winner, and Oscar winner Al Gore. Former Sen. Bill Bradley, who smoked while playing professional basketball. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, and former New York Governor George Pataki. Billionaire and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

That’s the result of a five-minute Google search. The presence of so many high-ranking politicians so early in the search results puts the lie to the ONDCP’s ridiculous ad campaign, and shows that to the extent that marijuana is harmful, the harm lies mostly in what the government will do to you to you if it catches you

[From The Agitator » Blog Archive » Successful Pot Smokers: Let’s Make a List]

I don’t want to name any names, but in my own experience, I know pot smokers who are: condominium developers, police, teachers, lawyers, real estate agents, restaurant moguls, stock traders, and so on and so on.

Our tax money funds crappy logic like this? We need a change. The list of famously successful pot-smokers being built at The Agitator is extensive, and amusing.

Categories
politics

McCain and his little drug problem

John McCain and his little drug problem called Cindy McCain are back in the news. Matt Stoller has unearthed a potentially explosive story concerning John McCain, Cindy McCain, the DEA, and obstruction of justice. Ru-oh, if this story ever leaks out into the broader corporate media, McCain will have a lot of ‘splainin’ to do. He might want to hide out in one of his houses for a while.

A whistleblower is coming forth against John and Cindy McCain, and the picture he is painting is not a pretty one. You’ve probably heard about Cindy McCain stealing prescription drugs from her charity in the 1990s. Today, Tom Gosinski, her former employee and a close friend of the McCain’s, came out on the record about the entire sordid episode. And it appears that McCain used his Senate staff and resources to cover up Cindy’s drug use, and potentially to prevent the Drug Enforcement Agency from investigating his wife’s theft of illegal prescription drugs. John McCain certainly used his political connections to begin a campaign of intimidation against Gosinski, because at the time – this was after the Keating 5 scandal – another major scandal would have derailed his career. Gosinski stayed quiet out of fear until today; a recent fight with cancer has strengthened his resolve. As he told me today, if he can beat cancer, he can go on the record regarding how the McCain’s do business.

[From Open Left:: Did McCain Tamper with the Drug Enforcement Agency to Protect His Career?]

Cut Rate Liquors and Real Drugs

and

The charity was supposed to conduct medical missions abroad, but Cindy was also stealing from the charity’s supply of drugs for her own personal use. In August of 1994, the story was going to come out, and so John McCain came out with his side of the story. He claimed he didn’t know that Cindy McCain was using drugs until 1994, a clear lie. Cindy McCain overdosed in 1991, and John McCain went to the hospital in Sedona and told the hospital staff not to make the information about Cindy public. Gosinski heard about the overdose in 1992, after he began work for Cindy McCain.

There are lots of unanswered questions, but the basic contours of the story are clear. John McCain used his position as a Senator to help his wife abuse illegal drugs and avoid being searched by customs, and somehow his wife managed to avoid any charges by the DEA or the state (which has mandatory minimums in cases like this) on drug charges despite ample evidence. Did the DEA or the state not file charges against her because of political pressure? Did they keep this on the Federal level to avoid mandatory minimums for Cindy McCain because of political pressure from McCain? Did John McCain and/or his Senate staff tamper with a criminal investigation of his wife and her conspiracy to fraudulently obtain illegal drugs?

Whether illegal or not, and an investigation by Congress should happen, this is clearly a massive and overreaching case of both corruption on a personal sordid level and an abuse of power.

Plenty more details, and some YouTube interview footage, here Silly kids, drug busts only happen to those earning under $5,000,000 a year.

via – Pam Spaulding, who writes:

And there’s much more, so click over. So how is the McCain campaign going to try to weasel out from under this? There are too many landmines in this story that will result in questions Straight Talk McCain will have to answer. There should be a Congressional investigation into this, given the gravity of the situation and the questions raised about the abuse of power. What does this thuggery say about how McCain will behave in the White House? How many other people may be persecuted with our taxpayer dollars under his orders?

If there’s one thing that the McCain camp wants to avoid is anything that deviates from the milked-to-death image of John McCain as the “Maverick” and patriotic POW, and neither of those labels applies to the insider, backstabbing, petty man using his power to destroy someone to protect his reputation and image because of his drug-addled wife’s “little problem” that was about to break wide open. This is The Real McCain, and it’s time for voters to see this image before they go to the polls.

This story needs to be driven hard – is this the kind of change McCain/Palin plan to bring to Washington? He looks an awful lot like the long list of corrupt GOP officials we’ve been dealing with since Cindy was popping pills back in the day.

Categories
politics

Drug Legalization 1970

Was reading a Gore Vidal polemic (Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace), and ran across a mention of a published New York Times op-ed piece from September 26, 1970. With some trepidation, but a belly full of wine and thus courage in the realm of copyright matters, I reproduce the article in full. 1970 was thirty-eight years ago after all. Please forgive any typos: the New York Times digital archive only goes back as far as the 1980s, previous articles are available only as image scans, and the OCR contained in my copy of Adobe Acrobat is somewhat anemic. Better than typing it myself, but not perfect.

It is possible to stop most drug addiction in the United States within a very short time. Simply make all drugs available and sell them at cost. Label each drug with a precise description of what effect-good and bad-the drug will have on whoever takes it. This will require heroic honesty. Don’t say that marijuana is addictive or dangerous when it is neither, as millions of people know-unlike “speed,” which kills most unpleasantly, or heroin, which is addictive and difficult to kick.

For the record, I have tried-once-most every drug and liked none, disproving the popular Fu Manchu theory that a single whiff of opium will enslave the mind. Nevertheless many drugs are bad for certain people to take and they should be told about them in a sensible way.

Along with exhortation and warning, it might be good for our citizens to recall (or learn for the first time) that the United States was the creation of men who believed that each man has the right to do what he wants with his own life as long as he does not interfere with his neighbor’s pursuit of happiness (that his neighbor’s idea of happiness is persecuting others does confuse matters a bit).

This is a startling notion to the current generation of Americans who reflect on our system of public education which has made the Bill of Rights, literally, unacceptable to a majority of high school graduates (see the annual Purdue reports) who now form the Unsilent majority”-a phrase which that underestimated wit Richard Nixon took from Homer, who used it to describe the dead.

Now one can hear the warning rumble begin: if everyone is allowed to take drugs everyone will and the GNP will decrease, the Commies will stop us from making everyone free, and we shall end up a race of Zombies, passively murmuring “groovie1 to one another. Alarming thought. Yet it seems most unlikely that any reasonably sane person will become a drug addict if he knows in advance what addiction is going to be like.

Is everyone reasonably sane? No. Some people will always become drug addicts Just as some people will always become alcoholics, and it is just too bad. Every man, however, has the power (and should have the right) to kill himself if he chooses. But since most men don’t, they won’t be mainliners either. Nevertheless, forbidding people things they like or think they might enjoy only makes them want those things all the more. This psychological insight is, for some mysterious reason, perennially denied our governors.

It is a lucky thing for the American moralist that our country has always existed in a kind of time-vacuum: we have no public memory of anything that happened before last Tuesday. No one in Washington today recalls what happened during the years alcohol was forbidden to the people by a Congress that thought it had a divine mission to stamp out Demon Rum and so launched the greatest crime wave in the country’s history, caused thousands of deaths from bad alcohol, and created a general (and persisting) contempt for the laws of the United States.

The same thing is happening today. But the government has learned nothing from past attempts at prohibition, not to mention repression.

Last year when the supply of Mexican marijuana was slightly curtailed by the Feds, the pushers got the kids hooked on heroin and deaths increased dramatically, particularly in New York. Whose fault? Evil men like the Mafiosi? Permissive Dr. Spock? Wild eyed Dr. Leary? No.

The Government of the United States was responsible for those deaths. The bureaucratic machine has a vested interest in playing cops and robbers. Both the Bureau of Narcotics and the Mafia want strong laws against the sale and use of drugs because if drugs are sold at cost there would be no money in it for anyone. If there was no money in it for the Mafia, there would be no friendly playground pushers, and addicts would not commit crimes to pay for the next fix. Finally, if there was no money in it, the Bureau of Narcotics would wither away, something they’re not about to do without a struggle.

Will anything sensible be done? Of course not. The American people are as devoted to the idea of sin and its punishment as they are to making money-and fighting drugs is nearly as big a business as pushing them. Since the combination of sin and money is irresistible (particularly to the professional politician), the situation will only grow worse.

Gore Vidal, playwright and novelist, is the author of the newly published “Two Sisters.”


“Two Sisters” (Gore Vidal)

The more things change…

Actually, some things have changed, mostly the names of the drugs in question, and the repressiveness of the federal government. Hundreds of thousands of people are still in jail for the crime of using or selling a weed, and the word “groovie” is only used ironically2.

Footnotes:
  1. sic – I’ve never seen the word spelled this way, but hey, it was published in the New York Times, so maybe a variant spelling? []
  2. even when spelled groovy, it still is only used ironically []
Categories
politics

Cindy McCain

Neon - NH Ballin Drugs Prescriptions
[NH Ballin Drugs Prescriptions, click image for full view]

Strange that Cindy McCain would be chosen as the messenger to attack Michelle Obama. Ms. McCain has a few decaying bones in her closet to. According to Snopes:

In 1989, following two back surgeries, Cindy McCain became addicted to the painkillers Vicodin and Percocet. To keep up with her daily need of 10 to 15 pills, she used other people’s names for prescriptions and stole drugs from the American Voluntary Medical Team, a mobile surgical unit she’d begun in 1988 to provide emergency medical services around the world. A 1993 DEA audit of the amount of painkillers her charity had obtained quickly uncovered her thefts. She avoided prosecution for those crimes through an agreement with the Justice Department in which she submitted to drug testing, paid a fine, performed community service in a soup kitchen, and joined Narcotics Anonymous. She also closed her medical charity.

Cindy McCain is Senator McCain’s second wife. His infidelities put strain on his first marriage, and he was divorced from Carol McCain, his wife of 15 years, in 1980. (Carol McCain not only waited for five and a half years for her husband to return from Vietnam, but she also endured a horrific automobile accident during that period which broke both her legs and one arm and ruptured her spleen. She nearly lost her left leg, and surgeries left her four inches shorter than she was before her accident. The woman John McCain returned to was far different in appearance from the beautiful former model he’d left behind.)

Cindy Lou Hensley and John McCain began dating in 1979. While the Wall Street Journal article used as the source for the e-mail’s information states “At the time, Sen. McCain was separated from his first wife,” numerous other sources assert he was still living with Carol McCain when he began seeing his future wife, Cindy. John and Cindy wed in 1980, one month after his divorce from Carol became final.

[From snopes.com: Cindy McCain]

But hey, what’s a little drug theft for an heiress? I’m sure if you or I stole narcotics from a charity, the DEA would laughingly slap our wrists too. As far as screwing around with a man still married to another woman? Who really cares, besides the evangelical Republicans, and apparently they don’t care too much since McCain won the nomination anyway.