Saturday, November 10, 2007

If When They Did It...

And How! (Click on the pic to enlarge for extra added fun)

We've all got our bugaboos—our pet peeves.

I've got quite a few m'self.

I hate seeing expensive, professionally-done, misspelled signs on stores.

I cringe when I hear a song's producer name-check his “work” at the beginning of a song (Teddy, Diddy, Kanyé...please, shut the hell up).

Movies where I can sniff out the next plot turn three minutes away make me want to run down the aisle and hack at the screen with a dull linoleum knife.

I have another deep-in-my-soul pet peeve—one that I share with a great many Americans these days, and it's a lot more serious than the ones noted above because this one goes like a “Pulp Fiction” needle full of adrenaline to the heart of our rights as citizens.

That unauthorized government wiretapping.

As I said, it's practically in our water insofar as the breadth of its reaching into our lives...but for me, it resonates very, very deeply on a personal level.

Here and at the old News Blog I've commented on how the FBI's wiretapping of citizens allied with “radical” groups in the sixties and seventies touched my family and our friends:

Bluntly, no one in my family will hold public office for quite a few years due to the activity–and in some cases, hyperactivity of family members one generation older than mine–those aforementioned “DFHs” (”Dirty Fucking Hippies”). They marched. They protested. They organized. And yeah, some of ‘em were down with people who blew shit up. Two family members did time for their involvement in EXTREME shit back in the day. And that information was kept from us kids, that next generation, for years because they didn’t want any of us emulating them, and secondly, out of shame over the damage it wrought on our family.

Damage? We were placed under government surveillance. Phones bugged. My father hired a family friend to check our phones–a real Gene Hackman/”The Conversation”-type. And he hit a motherlode. Every phone at Dad’s restaurant–bugged. Our home phones–bugged. Pay phones outside the restaurant–bugged. IRS audits in consecutive years. Audits even involving me, a ten year old signpainter making a little money here and there doing signs for a few local shops. Two other family members who suddenly found themselves the victims of a vendetta by their bosses at the Government jobs they would soon be fired from. Mystery vandalism–low level (shop window breaking), and high (delivery trucks set ablaze). It got so that we had to very much lay low as far as any activism, and how we spoke about activism to people—even changed the magazines we subscribed to. Dad wouldn’t talk to certain people on the phone anymore–he’d go to the amusement park to meet ‘em. Open air, lotsa noise–that kinda shit.


I remember the day the Rodney King riots broke out. Folks all over the city were let go from work early as businesses closed in fear of riot-driven destruction. I got home just in time to receive a call from the radio station I worked for to come in for a special “let’s try to keep a lid on this town by putting some level-headed Black folks on the air” broadcast. I sat down to have a stiff drink when my phone rang.

“Hello?”, I said.

“Yeah, what’s up.”

“M_____? (My radio co-worker’s name)

“Yeah. Whasssup? You goin’ to the station?”


“So what’d you call me for?

“Um. You called me.”

“No I didn’t. My phone just rang. You called me.

“Uh…I was sittin’ here having a drink. I didn’t call you. I was thinking about it.”



“Ohhh-kay”, he said knowingly. “I’ll uh…talk to you at the station.”

When I got off the phone, I knew what’d happened. I was still under surveillance, and considering the station I was working for, I wasn’t surprised. But I was surprised by whoever was listening's screwing up so badly in their surveillance that they exposed it by connecting the two parties they were listening to—but had yet to actually speak. I found myself, a generation removed, contacting my own surveillance expert to check for bugging. Describing what happened, and with some cursory checking, he confirmed my suspicions, but of course, thanks to technological advances, could not remove said surveillance. The sins of the father shall be visited upon the son. Damn.

I wrote that in January of this year at the old place. We (my mom) still has some of the old equipment that old family friend got for us to check from time to time if we were being tapped. I look at it whenever I'm in the attic, nervously chuckling at the odd assemblage of what are now low-tech curios of a sinister time.

Nervously chuckling don'tchaknow. Because I know, just as my new family electronic surveillance friend told me—It's still happening, but the new technology makes it almost impossible to stop.

And then, then while gleefully pissing off Bill O'Reilly as I do every weeknight, I tuned into Keith Olbermann's “Countdown” on Wednesday night and saw...a report from a present day telecom worker who diagrammed EXACTLY HOW THE GOVERNMENT WAS ABUSING ITS POWER BY TAPPING INTO THE COMMUNICATIONS OF MILLIONS OF AMERICANS with help from those telecom companies. The fella broke it down into little nuts, bolts and chromed erector set pieces we could all understand.

And it was chilling.

OLBERMANN: In our third story tonight, an AT&T whistle-blower today told members of Congress much more than that is at stake with the secret crimes that took place at Room 641A of AT&T‘s Fulsome Street facility in San Francisco, and potentially at others throughout country.  Specifically, retired 22 year AT&T technician Mark Klein says that despite Mr. Bush‘s claims, the U.S. government used AT&T‘s cooperation to spy not only on overseas communications, but to vacuum up virtually all of America‘s use of the Internet for years, email, Googling, web surfing, you name it, thanks to AT&T‘s secure rooms, like 641A in San Francisco, accessible only to those cleared by the NSA.

Klein, obtaining AT&T schematics showing how the company used splitters to send secure room 641A a duplicate of every fiber-optic signal routed through its facilities. It involved not just AT&T customers, but virtually every Internet and telecommunications company, and virtually all email and web traffic in the country, without a warrant, without any mechanism for separating domestic from overseas, without separating suspect from citizen. 


OLBERMANN: We welcome now former AT&T technician Mark Klein, whose documentation and claims are now part of a class action lawsuit against AT&T, one of 38 telecom spy lawsuits.  AT&T so far declining to comment on the specifics of the allegations.  Mr. Klein, great thanks for speaking out tonight. 


OLBERMANN:  The Senate is considering granting the telecom executives immunity.  You lobbied Congress today not to do so.  How come? 

KLEIN:  Well, if they give them immunity, it would probably shut down the lawsuit that I‘m a witness for, and then the American people won‘t find out what‘s really going on.  And so that‘s why I‘m here to stop immunity.  Congress should let the judicial process go forward. 

OLBERMANN: Two parts here; first, can you explain to those of us that could use the Internet, but would not be able to tell the difference between its physical form and a box full of guitar strings, exactly what happened in that secure room or secret room 641A? 

KLEIN: I don‘t know what goes on in the secret room, because I didn‘t have security clearance. But I know what went on outside, because my job - - I worked in the Internet room.  My job was to connect circuits into the splitter device which was hard wired to the secret room.  And effectively the splitter copied the entire data stream of those Internet cables into the secret room. 

We are talking about phone conversations, email, web browsing, everything that goes across the Internet.  And that device, the splitters, is a dumb device. It doesn‘t do any selection at all.

OLBERMANN:  And the follow-up to that, as you mentioned, you didn‘t have the security, the NSA clearance. So give us an idea how you know all of this, in addition to your expertise as a technician. 

KLEIN:  As a technician, I had the engineering wiring documents, which told me how the splitter was wired to the secret room.  So I had to know that in order to do my job.  So I know that whatever went across those cables was copied.  The entire data stream was copied into the secret room.  The splitter device has no selective capability, just copies everything. 

We are talking about domestic traffic, as well as international traffic.
  And that‘s what got me upset to begin with. 

OLBERMANN: I was just going to say, Mr. Klein, this huge distinction the White House made when all of this was first revealed, what its defenders still say; we were just intercepting international communications; no domestic communications were affected.  I take it you don‘t buy that it in the slightest? 

KLEIN:  No. I know that wasn‘t true.  That‘s what got me going in December of 2005, when the “New York Times” revealed this, and then the administration came back, the president himself, and various cabinet people, trying to argue—and they still do—that it‘s just international communications.  It just affects a handful of people who were making phone calls to the Middle East. 

I know the physical equipment and I know that statement is not true.  It involves millions of communications, a lot of it domestic communications that they‘re copying wholesale, sweeping up into that secret room.

OLBERMANN:  When you saw this and realized what was going on, what was this like?  Was this like sitting there and finding yourself in a scene from the sci-fi flick “Invasion of The Body Snatchers?”  Did it have that sort of horror quality to it? 

KLEIN:  I‘m a little older, so my thought was George Orwell‘s 1984, and here I am being forced to connect the big brother machine.


The upper link is for the original transcript, and this one at Crooks and Liars features video of some of that exposé. Either way you choose to check on it, it's enough to get the hairs on the ol' neck all a' tingly with concern. What's maddening though, is how detailed the layout of the illegality is by Klein, and how it gives total lie to the “tinfoil hat” diss that we've had to live with when discussing this digital crotch-sniffing.

The tagline for the now-prophetic movie “Enemy Of The State” rings so true that it almost hurts: “It's not paranoia if they're really after you.”

And yes, they really are. Make no mistake about it. As my fellow “LM”—Logan Murphy over at Crooks & Liars said:

“If you have any reservations about Congress granting immunity to telecommunications companies like AT&T for illegally spying on Americans, this segment from last night’s Countdown should leave little room for doubt— they have, and continue to betray us and should be held accountable for their crimes.”

It's real. Klein spoke of a “Room 614A”. (which sounds like the title of some paranoia-centered cinematic thriller starring a twitchy Edward Norton) How many other “Room 614As” are there about the nation? With its every behind-the-door droning hum and buzz being sucked up an ATA cable and into dump-terminals? Drones and hums representing your phone calls, your e-mails, your Google-searches? The medical history you back-and-forth with your doctor about—the IMs with the chick/dude you met in that internet forum...yeah, it ain't Sulaiman, Mustafa and Walid getting their communications snagged in this dragnet. They're workin' around that bullshit.

It's me...and you.

And if you think it's all about 'em going after the powerful and connected, take a good, long look at how their flying monkey shock troops like Malkin and Limbaugh will with tacit approval (and yes, with legislative branch-supplied info) stalk, terrorize and rip apart the John, Jane and Junior Q. Publics who dare come out against government-pushed, wingnut policies.

The same nutbars who raged about the unfair government involvement at Ruby Ridge, and Waco, and celebrated as a hero and hid out a murderer like Eric Rudolph reveal themselves again as the ultimate ideological hypocrites when their Libertarian/Gitouttamahbidroomandgunrackdammit yowling gives way to Crypto-FascistGo, “Big Brother” bullshit as soon as its about somebody shaking a finger at the Right.

It's me...and you.

And they're getting more and more desperate about what you're reading, consuming, and doing these days. I'll elaborate on that in a post within the next 24 hours, but suffice it to say that this info being gathered in these various “Room 614As” isn't just being mined just to keep Unka Karl's wattle baby-soft. As they cannot compete presently in the electronic communication world—to mobiilize, amongst other things—they will subvert it to wreck the lives and livelihoods of the other side.

Me...and you...again.

Which is why this fight over the telecom immunity proposal is something that should NOT be given up on, even after it passes through the Senate like the corn-studded abomination we all know it to be. Yes, the “consideration” was ”delayed” a week as news like Klein's bombshell hit the bill's superstructure...and yes, our good friend, Dianne Feinstein—Cali's biggest whore since Mary Carey, is running a “Specter”—feigning concern now, so she can quietly relent on news-dump Friday next week as her check from her telecom masters clears. We—me, you—need to contunue to make this an issue all through the election season, and post-the 08's.

Because dammit, that's the last bastion, ya'll.

As communication becomes easier and more ubiquitous, so too do the abilities to intercept and corrupt it. As “people-power” begins to have an increased effect thanks to the new technology, the entrenched power structure who can't stomach it diminishing their hegemony will try to use it against us. That's why we have to fight this. We fight it the way the right has fought against abortion for the last 35 years—relentlessly, and on multiple fronts. Through the courts, through protest, through performance-theater if we have to—park a white van with a huge parabolic mic sticking off the roof in front of DiFi's house. Root through her garbage—and broadcast the contents thereof. Give the privacy deniers a taste of their own nasty fucking Fletcher's Castoria. Hoard every tidbit on 'em. Follow 'em every day “Macaca-style” for a month with a video camera as they rubber-chicken their way through “The Village”. Mother-fuck ‘Executive Privilege” and “collegiality”. We're not going to be reduced to hangin' 'round loud amusement parks to have in-depth talks like my dad did, or have to pull a “Pesci” like Joe's character did in “Casino”—mumbling out of doors away from the reach of planted mics to confound wiretap investigators—if you want to even question authority.

I read a book that came out about ten years ago that let me know just what we are dealing with here. It was titled The Messenger: The Rise and Fall of Elijah Muhammad

Now, I read this book because of personal interest. I grew up in for a time, and had family members and friends in the Nation Of Islam in its “heyday”, and I wanted to see just how much teh author got right. There were hits...and misses. But what unnerved me about the book was its chronicling of Malcolm X's time living in New York as Mr. Muhammad's top minister. Malcolm lived in East Elmhurst/Corona, Queens as my family did. As a lot of NY NOI muckety-mucks did, and as a lot of my family's friends did. This book nailed EVERYTHING factual about these people who dealt with Malcolm. Every address was right, every difficult Muslim name was spelled right, who was who, who was married to who, how many kids, what their jobs and businesses were. Bam! It was in there. It was kind of stunning seeing a Godmother to my sisters mentioned in there...our babysitter...people we shopped I went to school, played and grew up with. This author had done his research—seriously!

And then I went to the back of the book, to the page-after-page of copious footnoting...and I came across a section that shouldn't have made my blood run cold, but did for a good while. It was an entire section of the book composed of investigative dossiers obtained by the Church Commitee in 1976—investigative dossiers on all those people we knew who were mentioned in the book. My family ws not included in the book...but I know damned well we were surveilled just the same and put through our own little hells. Hells that did not compare to the mega-hells the people cited in those footnotes went through when I recalled them in my head. They suffered all kinds of mysterious, off-the-wall bullshit I began to remember. Businesses torched—followed here and there—one son going just about crazy because he swore up and down that people were trailing him everywhere—so much so that he just up and disappeared himself out of NY for two years with no contact to escape his harassers. And came back just fucking damaged—I remembered all of that.

I threw that book away after discussing it with my mom, and after she reminded me of how either dead, messed-up and just snake-bit those who were still around of that footnoted bunch were.

And look what I found in researching this:

The Ford administration and the Church Committee

On May 9th the Church Committee decided to call acting CIA director William Colby. That same day Ford's top advisers (Henry Kissinger, Donald Rumsfeld, Buchen, and John Marsh drafted a recommendation that Colby be authorized to brief only rather than testify, and that he would be told to discuss only the general subject, with details of specific covert actions to be avoided except for realistic hypotheticals.


The Ford administration, particularly Rumsfeld, was concerned about the effort by members of the Church Committee in the Senate and the Pike Committee in the House to curtail the power of U.S. intelligence agencies: “They were very specific about their effort to destroy American intelligence [capabilities],” remembers Robert Ellsworth, a U.S. diplomat. “It was Senator Church who said our intelligence agencies were 'rogue elephants.“ They were supposedly out there assassinating people and playing dirty tricks and so forth...Well, that just wasn't true."

Rumsfeld and Ellsworth prevented the committees from dismantling the CIA and other intelligence organizations.

Those familiar names. Those familiar fear games.

These people and practices are like a cancer, and we're the poor bastard fighting it off every time it recurs. The disease never is beaten...all we can do is keep it at bay deep within, and then fight it like all holy hell when it re-manifests itself obviously. It has done so.

Act accordingly...and that means do whatever you must.