The Feds are Spying on Journalists Too

My latest column at LibertyNation looks at the new leaked information over at The Intercept.

The Intercept published their story in June of 2016 with heavily redacted information; even between the black bars of governmental secrecy, a picture emerged. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, using National Security Letters, spies on journalists in the United States – without a warrant, without probable cause, and without any constitutional backing. This week Intercept republished the story; this time, they offered the full, unredacted, still-classified documents, showing the entirety of the FBI’s program.

You’ll want to read the whole thing.

I know several folks who will shrug at this news. “So what,” they’ll say. “The government spies on everyone.” Others will say that after what Wikileaks exposed regarding our media, they should get spied on.

Both would be horribly wrong. Knowing it occurs as a rule doesn’t mean you look the other way, or somehow excuse it by virtue of its prevalence. Fight it. Help stop it. 

 

Regime-Speak and Narrative Control Terms Part I

One of the most critical parts of controlling a populace is controlling their information; ensuring that you control everything they see, hear and read. I’m sure you can think of several countries’ governments doing this, through blocking large portions of the internet or even criminalizing thoughts and writings that go outside of the allowed regime-speak.

If you can’t control what information the people have access to completely or nearly so, the next best thing is to ensure that you control the narrative, while minimizing any other influences as much as possible and still maintain a facade of free speech and liberty. This is done by engaging in massive info/disinfo operations using sock puppets, media, entertainment, education, and even product advertising. Meanwhile, you must also discredit or even simply delete information that threatens the narrative. It’s not criminal to disagree in this scenario–yet–but it’s getting there.

Ol’ Remus over at The Woodpile Report has an interesting list of words and phrases in his sidebar, titled “Regime-Speak.” If you haven’t made his reports a part of your reading routine, you need to–but when you go over there, take a look at the list. They’re words and phrases that are often used as part of the above mentioned efforts to control narrative and information flow.

Over the next few days, we’ll take a look at many of these and explain why they’re important to notice. As Remus says, if you see these terms, you’re about to be lied to (or steered/manipulated, etc.).

a new study shows — How many times have you heard this phrase? It’s often used to introduce the new planned direction for the populace in some area. “A new study shows that _______ can lead to _________.” The media trumpets the ‘new study,’ and while most Americans don’t go read the study–and wouldn’t know how to prove it wrong if they did–they do go out and purchase/do/get rid of whatever they’ve just been told is bad/good. Certain companies benefit, certain industries see a drop, and the puppetmasters continue doing their thing.

are speaking out — The verbiage here by default signifies that the people speaking are somehow being victimized. You will almost never see this phrase used to describe white, Christian, pro-life men, for example. You will see it constantly applied by the media, however, to LGBT groups, progressive causes, and anyone who’s been ‘oppressed’ by the white, Christian, pro-life men.

at-risk communities — At risk for what, exactly? And what constitutes an ‘at-risk’ community? The beauty of the term is that it takes multiple pages to define, and not all agencies, levels of government, or even industries define it the same way. That means it can be defined on the spot to mean whatever they want it to mean. Depending on the context, it could mean the elderly, but it could also mean gang members on the streets. Guess what it doesn’t mean?

best practices — this really means “the way we want you to do it right now.” It uses a superlative for positive spin but in reality it’s just another word for “the only real accepted way to do something.” Ask any member of the corporate jungle how many times they’ve heard the term applied to the new and improved way of doing things.

commonsense solutions –This one is fairly obvious. Used a great deal in discussions (I use the term loosely) on disarming the citizens, the insinuation is simple yet subtle. “If you do not agree with this, you have no common sense…so you are stupid…and should not have a say at all.” See how fast we got there?

denier — The word “denier” literally means “one who denies.” Innocent men are deniers. The connotation this word is always used with means “one who denies but is wrong for doing so, and guilty.”  They reserve that term for people who do not believe and parrot what they are told.

disproportionately — Always used to mean “unfairly.” If something is being characterized as unfair to key demographics, it will be called “disproportionate.” The insinuation, of course, is that it should be proportionate and everyone should have/get/be given the same amount of everything.

These are just the first few terms of Regime-speak in his list. We’ll go over more in Part II. In the meantime, what are some you’ve picked up on?

The FBI and (Another) Dirty Little Secret

The Federal Bureau of Investigation calls itself an “intelligence-driven and threat-focused national security organization.” In all its self-praising, it fails to mention the unconstitutional and even illegal acts that it is currently involved in—such as paying Best Buy employees working on the Geek Squad to dig through customers’ computers looking for things they can investigate.

In one recent case, a prominent physician and surgeon in Orange County took his computer to the local Best Buy and had one of the Geek Squad folks look at it since he was unable to boot it up. What the doctor didn’t know—what no one knew—was that “the company’s repair technicians routinely searched customers’ devices for files that could earn them $500 windfalls as FBI informants.”

The technician reported to his boss that he “accidentally” found child porn on the doctor’s computer. His boss was another informant, and he told both a third informant and the FBI, who seized the hard drive.

At this point, the average reader probably thinks that the nasty pervert got what he deserved and that the employees were ethically bound—if not legally so—to report finding such material on a customer’s computer. The truth, however, is not that simple. The FBI had already broken the law by using the Geek Squad technicians to perform what amount to illegal, warrantless searches of a private individual’s computer, over and above the scope of the repair work that the customer requested. The FBI was also offering monetary incentives to any of the employees who chose to dig around in customer files and found something the FBI would be interested in investigating.
To bring a case against the doctor, the FBI needed to find a way to reconstruct ‘finding’ the evidence to cover up their illegal search. The defense said agents “conducted two additional searches of the computer without obtaining necessary warrants, lied to trick a federal magistrate judge into authorizing a search warrant, then tried to cover up their misdeeds by initially hiding records.” Making the case even murkier was the fact that the images resided in a part of the hard drive that made it quite possible that the doctor did not even know they were there—hidden in unallocated space, possibly placed there by malware, and only accessible by forensic software.

The most important part of this story is not that a doctor may or may not have knowingly had child porn on his computer. It’s not even that Best Buy employees were overly nosy at best and planted filth on customer’s computers to get paid at worst. The problem is greater than that—and speaks to a dangerous culture within law enforcement agencies, who seem to grow ever more creative at finding ways to avoid adhering to the Constitutional protections of the Fourth Amendment. The issue is that they are not just conducting illegal searches of private files, but that they are paying employees of private companies to do it for them—and in doing so, they are encouraging citizens to spy on and report each other to the government for money.

Perhaps even more disturbing is that pedophiles and other predators against children serve as examples of situations where they claim illegal searches worked. The cases are held up as positive examples of law enforcement at work. It’s a very calculated effort to normalize the surveillance state and ensure that the public sees the violations as not just a good thing, but a necessary thing to keep our children safe. Those who prey on children are the lowest of the low even among fellow criminals; certainly, as the argument goes, no law-abiding American would stand in the way of law enforcement doing whatever is necessary to get them off the streets. Faced with the logical fallacy of ‘support law enforcement or support pedophiles,’ the public focuses on the result—never realizing that in doing so, they have tightened the noose around their own necks.

Sadly, the idea of government agencies and law enforcement paying employees at various businesses to spy on their customers is not a new one. Last July, a San Bernardino UPS employee was performing illegal searches on packages at the behest—and on the payroll—of the county sheriff’s department. The Postal Service is also scanning all mail and making that data available to any federal law enforcement agency that wants it, without a warrant ( a post-9/11 addition). The Drug Enforcement Agency even got caught by the Inspector General paying agents from the Transportation Security Administration to notify them if anyone was traveling with large sums of money—in return, they would get a cut of what they seized.

There is no proof that the doctor ever viewed the images on his computer, or even knew they were there; even the government had to stipulate that they could not prove the charges. There is, however, plenty of proof that federal law enforcement agencies are willing to do anything, including violate the Constitution and break the law, even if their target might be innocent. That isn’t something that Best Buy customers—or anyone else in America—should allow.