Just a Note: Nothing Surprising Here

The surveillance state has done a great job of conditioning our social response to what amounts to a massive violation of the constitution. Of course nobody cares. The information has been dropped in a way that nobody really understands it, and that is quite deliberate.

Step 1: That thing I did is illegal, sure, but ${incomprehensible whagarbl} it might not be and besides there isn’t anyone who can be pointed out as “responsible” for it.

Step 2: Besides, there isn’t anything that can be done about it.

Step 3: Oh, by the way, now that you’ve implicitly accepted Step 1 and Step 2, I’m going to mention that it’s way worse than we told you in the first place.

It ought not to shock anyone that both the New York Times and Wall St Journal are suddenly mining the same story, somewhere down in the books below Kanye West’s latest provocation. And, besides, did you notice how successive administrations that have lost control of US foreign policy are in the middle of trying to start World War III over NATO’s expansion into Ukraine? Oh, did I phrase that wrong? It’s about Russian Aggression. Because Russians are inherently aggressive. It’s a bit weird to me that the news is full of this “imminent Ukraine invasion” propaganda at the same time that the US / Israeli invasion of Syria and Lebanon has been carrying on openly. Because of the way the US fights wars, we can be absolutely sure that there are secret bases all over the place, down there, i.e.: “boots on the ground.” But keep an eye on Ukraine. The Russians are gonna invade that place like we did Iraq. Afghanistan. Sudan. Syria. Libya. Yemen. Oh, fuck. But unlike those Russians we are really into sovereignty.

Do you remember the Obama administration’s “pivot to the East”? Or the “Asia Pivot” or whatever they called it, variously, at the time? The fact that it was a “pivot” was loudly muttered about, and the fact that the word “pivot” appeared in so many US media outlets ought to tell you that someone, somewhere, handed the NYT their “talking points” memo about the pivot. And it was duly reported. If you’re like me and you’re concerned that the dipshits in Washington appear to be interested in starting an economic or military war (or one, then the other) with Russia – the same dipshits, from the Asia Branch are doing the same dipshittery in China. That’s what all the “let’s get Australia some nuclear submarines that are compatible with US cruise missiles!” and “let’s station more NATO nuke-compatible F-${whatever} in Taiwan” – because, don’t you know, China must be contained. Nobody’s talking about containing the US, which would be an actual good idea (though Putin appears to be rumbling in that direction in Ukraine) but it’s pretty clear that the dipshits in Washington have decided to increase pressure in the long-neglected diplomatic front in China containment. Put differently: “maybe the taxpayers have forgotten that whole ‘domino theory’ thing and we can try it again.” Seriously, though, there are rumbles of fear that Taiwan and Vietnam might be threatened by free market capitalism from China, and god damn, something must be done. Let’s do some brinkmanship and maybe start World War III over there? Look at this shit, people, our freedom-loving masters in Washington are doing the Big Fight for liberty around the world; it’s not “hegemony” it’s ${I don’t know what else it might be} but the US must hold back everyone else in order to make sure we retain our place at the top of the heap because that’s how free markets work.

So, we know the FBI has massive domestic surveillance programs, and the “fusion centers” etc are where the FBI can selectively ingest data from NSA that they’d otherwise not be supposed to have. The result of that bureaucratic brilliance is parallel surveillance stacks: the FBI has theirs and the NSA has theirs. And of course the CIA has theirs. Because spooks don’t share information readily with other spooks. In case you’re not aware of the history, there, the NSA and NRO exist because satellite and communications intelligence collection are really plummy delicious surveillance stuff and Truman didn’t want the military, CIA, and FBI each developing their own capabilities for surveilling the population so it was decided to create “independent” agencies to implement surveillance, thereby causing the agencies that felt left out to supplement the shared capabilities with their own in-house systems. So there’s the NSA, but there’s also the FBI’s surveillance grid, and oh yeah the NYT just got around to mentioning (carefully positioning the information far enough ahead of the mid-terms) that the CIA has been building their own surveillance grid.


WASHINGTON — The Central Intelligence Agency has for years been collecting in bulk, without a warrant, some kind of data that can affect Americans’ privacy, according to a newly declassified letter by two senators.

The C.I.A. kept censored the nature of the data when it declassified the letter. At the same time, it declared that a report about the same topic, which had prompted the letter, must remain fully classified, except for some heavily redacted recommendations.

That report, called “Deep Dive II,” was part of a set of studies by a watchdog board scrutinizing intelligence community operations under Executive Order 12333, rules for intelligence activities that Congress has left unregulated by statute. The watchdog, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, and its staff members have access to classified information.

See what I mean? “OH we did some crimy stuff but you can’t do anything about it because we leaked enough that you can’t do anything about it, except now you know so you have time to get used to the idea.” Did you catch the “for years” part they threw in there? This is a great example of the way NYT texturizes the pablum we are fed. How long did the NYT sit on this one? Oh, sure there’s some newly declassified stuff from some senators but the way the NYT and WSJ both popped the information out sure makes me suspect there was going to be some disclosure and they figured that doing it now instead of waiting for the midterms was a good idea. My guess is it wouldn’t move the needle much because it’s probably one of those Bush-era programs that Obama enlarged upon and Trump outsourced to the lowest bidder – therefore making it impossible for the Washington establishment to decide whose ugly baby it is. Of course the taxpayers know whose ugly baby it is: it’s the Republicrats. Or the Demicans. Who gives a shit? It’s the government’s ugly baby. Cue media hand-wringing about how the right-wing gun nuts are suspicious of government and that’s really a bad thing. Then cue more media hand-writing about how the left, who tried to get some social programs moving, and maybe defund the police just a little are suspicious of government because somehow progressive programs turn into “we feel your pain” sessions and budget cuts. And of course we’ll talk about those nasty republican “tax cuts for the rich” but not “defense spending for the rich” or “more money for the police to take ‘how to kick hippies’ asses’ class.”

Complaining that the C.I.A. had not told the Intelligence Committee about the activity before, the senators suggested that its hidden existence cut against Americans’ understanding that various pieces of legislation enacted in recent years “limit and, in some cases, prohibit the warrantless collection of Americans’ records.”

I have mentioned this before, but the Washington “warrantless collection” game has to be parsed very carefully. When NSA talks about warrantless ${whatever} they are careful to phrase it with Clintonesque precision: “sometimes’ Americans’ data may be viewed unintentionally.” I.e.: fuck you, it’s all collected but sometimes someone actually looks at it without following our own shoddy-ass procedures. “Our own shoddy-ass procedures” is code for “what a warrant would do, if we had warrants, but we don’t because this is all unconstitutional as fuck.” But, because nobody authorized it and nobody put it in place nobody is going to step up and turn it off, either. And, besides, the last time an executive order went to NSA telling them to stop collecting data, they changed the name of the program under which the collection was performed and said, “we stopped OK boss!”

However, an intelligence official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive matter, said that the Intelligence Committee did already know about the agency’s classified collection of the data itself.

Which means, of course, that the NYT and WSJ and the baristas at every Starbucks in Washington have known about the program, too. They’ve only just now decided to break it to us, in a way that will be election-neutral. In a rational/just world, the peasants would storm the Pentagon, like the modern Bastille, and congress would all get in their planes and run back to their districts while screaming “NOT ME!” Except after Jan 6 congress has learned they don’t need to run, they can just stand there laughing, giving the finger, and saying, “fuck you, jack” in a bored tone of voice.

Bored tone of voice: so now I have to drone my usual drone, namely, “hey how’s all that surveillance working out for ya?” Because the FBI’s fusion centers didn’t do jack shit about the incipient coup attempt that was evolving rather openly and incompetently. The FBI was nowhere to be seen on Jan 6. Except for the FBI agents in the riot crowd. Some of them were there undercover, no doubt, and some of them were there because they’re right wing nutjobs. The FBI has not progressed, intellectually, from being the organization that had one of its undercover agents help plan the Birmingham, AL church bombing. [stderr] These are the hateful goons our masters set over us.

And the CIA goons are worse, of course. If they’re doing domestic surveillance and activities, it means they’re probably going to be spiriting US citizens off to “black houses’ probably in some money-loving NATO subordinate. Hey, Ukraine!? Want some money?

The Deep Dive II report, the official said, instead focused on repository and analysis tools for storing and querying that data after its collection – systems the committee may not previously have been told about.

See what I mean? Now they get around to mentioning that the CIA is collecting all kinds of stuff. But let’s argue about the analysis tools for querying because, I don’t know. The program is never going to get shut down, so the CIA is going to use a page out of NSA’s playbook and say “there are good controls on the query tools that will keep Nancy Pelosi’s stock trading information from cropping up in a query, by accident.” [See what I did there? I left it for the smart reader to connect the dots and realize that the CIA, like the FBI and NSA, has all of the evidence regarding certain congresspeople who are doing insider trading: all those communications are sitting right there, any time someone wants to knock one of the shitbags down a peg.]

Amazingly, the WSJ article uses the same stock photo as the NYT does. I wonder if the administration’s “talking points memo” included a suggested JPEG? [wsj]

All the news they tell us to print, we print.

WASHINGTON – A secret program at the Central Intelligence Agency relied on a form of mass surveillance activity that involved the collection of an unknown data set and included the gathering of some records belonging to Americans, according to a newly declassified letter from two Democratic senators.

Yadda yadda yadda. The thing is that those senators would have been told that information as part of their “oversight” role, which they rather clearly are not doing. Remember: warrantless wiretapping or communications collection is a crime. It’s just a crime being done so bigly that gosh damn we tortured some folks but that’s not who we are. Besides, we have to move forward, not back. Besides, it’s got carbon offsets and we promised we’d clean this stuff up. Except Joe Manchin, haha! Gotcha! But Joe Biden’s pretty cool for what you get when you boil a turnip and cover it with the skin of a flayed corpse that has been preserved in vaseline.

You know what we will not see coming out of Washington? How about “given all this surveillance stuff, why do we have to pretend to be trying to figure out who Trump called on Jan 6? Just give us the MP3s, already, and we can start arresting conspirators.” Well, that’s not gonna happen. How about “With all this stuff you’ve got, why didn’t we get a better warning that, you know, our constituents were coming to hang us?

Admittedly, I’m starting to come around to that idea. Calling this shit “Kabuki theater” would be an insult to an art form.

Did you know that the evil Putin actually changed Russia’s national anthem back to the Imperial Death March from Star Wars? Well, not exactly, but: something elegant and thumping badass. That’s what we need in the Ukraine: Biden needs to change our national anthem. That would show those Russians and Chinese that we’re serious.


  1. Bruce says

    We need to pay for unconstitutional spying on ourselves so that we can justify sending our tax dollars to defense contractors to make toys and send them to new hot spots. It’s been almost a year since we could pay for toys to send to Kabul, so we need a new excuse to keep sending money to the contractors. That’s what the USA is all about: tax and spy to send money to the contractors’ international shareholders. All hail our glorious capitalist overlords. Who WOULDN’T want to be spied on and taxed for this glorious self-abuse?

  2. outis says

    Well, concerning surveillance, the US has fifteen or so different agencies: espionage, image capture, wetworks galore. Nothing strange that with so many spooks around, everyone and their uncle is going to get “espionaged” to the gills.
    If I remember correctly, a few years ago NASA was gifted two surplus telescope satellites (of the KH-11 series, I think?) ’cause that particular agency had no use for them. Those dinguses are as large as the Hubble, there’s many orbiting around, and there were people complaining about the “huge, extravagant costs” of the HST…
    As for Russia: yes they are frustrated and justifiably wary of the casual western way of waging war at the drop of a hat.
    But: they themselves are not innocent regarding espionage and various hanky-pankying, and this mucho-macho army posturing helps exactly no-one. What they need is to remeber the thirty-six stratagems,
    (in particular number ten, “hide a knife behind a smile”). Banging on the drum ain’t never smart, especially when it’s filled with nitroglycerine.

  3. theflyingchipmunk says

    “Just give us the MP3s, already, and we can start arresting conspirators”

    Ain’t gonna happen. We now have the guy in the basement from Office Space as the AG. The ventriloquist’s dummy just happens to be his boss. What a coincidence. How perfect.

  4. StevoR says

    … keep an eye on Ukraine. The Russians are gonna invade that place like we did.

    Except it looks now increasingly like maybe they won’t :


    Though not for certain yet.

    There’s also this article on the various possibilities :


    Plus an Al Jazeera one making the case that Putin won’t invade :


    For whatever those are all worth..

  5. StevoR says

    @ 5. theflyingchipmunk :

    We now have the guy in the basement from Office Space as the AG. The ventriloquist’s dummy just happens to be his boss. What a coincidence. How perfect.


    I don’t get your refereneces here at all sorry. Please can you put that in a clearer more comprehensible form because afraid I cannot make head nor tail of it. Well AG = Attornery general I guess? Aussie typing here FWIW.

  6. theflyingchipmunk says

    @ 7 StevoR: AG – You got that right. Office Space is a movie reference (Genre: Comedy, released 1999). In summary, I was commenting about the utterly ineffectual AG we have and how he’s yet to take any serious measures against those who were operating at the upper levels of the insurrection on Jan 6, including of course, the King Rat. The AG wields immense power but he appears to not know about that. As for his boss, I’ll go with what Marcus said: “.. pretty cool for what you get when you boil a turnip and cover it with the skin of a flayed corpse that has been preserved in vaseline”. I don’t think I could beat that visual imagery.

    The previous occupant proved that when a clown takes up residence in a palace, he does not become the king. The palace turns into a circus instead. At least we don’t have a criminally incompetent clown now but that’s a low bar.

  7. StevoR says

    @ ^ theflyingchipmunk : Okay, thanks. That makes more sense now. 3rd and penultimate last lines are a Turkish (?) proverb if a recently seen meme is right.

    Inicdentally I don’t think Putin will invade now because if Putin does invade now he’s lost the element of surprise & any plausible claim that Ukraine somehow started or provoked it. That doesn’t seem smart & whatever his many other flaws, Putin seems pretty intelligent.

  8. lorn says

    I’m old enough to remember TIA (Total Information Awareness) back in 2003 when it hit the news. It disappeared pretty quick after it was broadly denounced and de-funded. Anyone claiming it went away should get an award for gratuitous naivete. Or acting.

    Of course there were previous research programs by various and sundry governments and academics dating back to the last years of WWI. These were the start of signals intelligence. Physics points out that radio waves, and indeed all EM emissions propagate out in a dimensionless field. In other words the signal gets weaker with range (thanks inverse square) but doesn’t go away. Ever. In WW2 we could triangulate radio transmitters and RADAR fairly efficiently.

    More recently it has been shown that a well placed antenna can pick up emissions from most computer monitors and when processed one could look at everything that shows on said monitor. Used to be the antenna was obvious and specialized and the processing was very complicated and required a lot of computer power. Weeelll … the antennas are now common, more powerful, selective and software to undertake this is now user friendly while computers capable of the task are available to anyone willing to spend the money.

    It is the same story across the board. Landlines can be tapped without making any physical connection. Lines with thousands of channels can have each and every channel monitored. Optical lines are not immune.

    Of course there is encryption to cover things but most of it is corrupted early in the design process. Sometimes by government/s, often by commercial entities, most have one or more back doors built in by the people who designed and wrote the code.

    Bottom line here is that everything you say over a phone, landline or cell; everything that shows up on an electronic device; everything you type or read on a screen or any description is pretty much guaranteed to be monitored by someone. I should say by something. Almost all the watching and listening and recording is done by computer that then sends it to an actual human on request or from a particularly juicy source as determined by an algorithm.

    Government surveillance doesn’t bother me as much as the commercial stuff. Fact being that governments, particularly police agencies, have found it is easier, and usually more comprehensive, and certainly less regulated, to simply buy surveillance. Decryption and analysis is just a few dollars more.

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