“They’re kind of pulling a Patriot Act.” When Obama signs the $1.1 trillion Spending Bill in a few hours, as he will, it will be official: the second Patriot Act will become the law, and with it what little online privacy US citizens may have had, will be gone.
Back in 2014, civil liberties and privacy advocates were up in arms when the government tried to quietly push through the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, or CISA, a law which would allow federal agencies – including the NSA – to share cybersecurity, and really any information with private corporations “notwithstanding any other provision of law.” The most vocal complaint involved CISA’s information-sharing channel, which was ostensibly created for responding quickly to hacks and breaches, and which provided a loophole in privacy laws that enabled intelligence and law enforcement surveillance without a warrant.
Ironically, in its earlier version, CISA had drawn the opposition of tech firms including Apple, Twitter, Reddit, as well as the Business Software Alliance, the Computer and Communications Industry Association. In April, a coalition of 55 civil liberties groups and security experts signed onto an open letter opposing it. In July, the Department of Homeland Security itself warned that the bill could overwhelm the agency with data of “dubious value” at the same time as it “sweep[s] away privacy protections.” Most notably, the biggest aggregator of online private content, Facebook, vehemently opposed the legislation however a month ago it was “surprisingly” revealed that Zuckerberg had been quietly on the side of the NSA all along as we reported in “Facebook Caught Secretly Lobbying For Privacy-Destroying “Cyber-Security” Bill.”
Following the blitz response, the push to pass CISA was tabled following a White House threat to veto similar legislation. Then, quietly, CISA reemerged after the same White House flip-flopped, expressed its support for precisely the same bill in August.
And then the masks fell off, when it became obvious that not only are corporations eager to pass CISA despite their previous outcry, but that they have both the White House and Congress in their pocket.
As Wired reminds us, when the Senate passed the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act by a vote of 74 to 21 in October, privacy advocates were again “aghast” that the key portions of the law were left intact which they said make it more amenable to surveillance than actual security, claiming that Congress has quietly stripped out “even more of its remaining privacy protections.”
“They took a bad bill, and they made it worse,” says Robyn Greene, policy counsel for the Open Technology Institute.
But while Congress was preparing a second assault on privacy, it needed a Trojan Horse with which to enact the proposed legislation into law without the public having the ability to reject it.
It found just that by attaching it to the Omnibus $1.1 trillion Spending Bill, which passed the House early this morning, passed the Senate moments ago and will be signed into law by the president in the coming hours.
In a late-night session of Congress, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced a new version of the “omnibus” bill, a massive piece of legislation that deals with much of the federal government’s funding. It now includes a version of CISA as well. Lumping CISA in with the omnibus bill further reduces any chance for debate over its surveillance-friendly provisions, or a White House veto. And the latest version actually chips away even further at the remaining personal information protections that privacy advocates had fought for in the version of the bill that passed the Senate.
It gets: it appears that while CISA was on hiatus, US lawmakers – working under the direction of corporations adnt the NSA – were seeking to weaponize the revised legislation, and as Wired says, the latest version of the bill appended to the omnibus legislation seems to exacerbate the problem of personal information protections.
It creates the ability for the president to set up “portals” for agencies like the FBI and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, so that companies hand information directly to law enforcement and intelligence agencies instead of to the Department of Homeland Security. And it also changes when information shared for cybersecurity reasons can be used for law enforcement investigations. The earlier bill had only allowed that backchannel use of the data for law enforcement in cases of “imminent threats,” while the new bill requires just a “specific threat,” potentially allowing the search of the data for any specific terms regardless of timeliness.
Some, like Senator Ron Wyden, spoke out out against the changes to the bill in a press statement, writing they’d worsened a bill he already opposed as a surveillance bill in the guise of cybersecurity protections.
Senator Richard Burr, who had introduced the earlier version of bill, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
“Americans deserve policies that protect both their security and their liberty,” he wrote. “This bill fails on both counts.”
Why was the CISA included in the omnibus package, which just passed both the House and the Senate? Because any “nay” votes – or an Obama – would also threaten the entire budget of the federal government. In other words, it was a question of either Americans keeping their privacy or halting the funding of the US government, in effect bankrupting the nation.
And best of all, the rushed bill means there will be no debate.
The bottom line as OTI’s Robyn Green said, “They’ve got this bill that’s kicked around for years and had been too controversial to pass, so they’ve seen an opportunity to push it through without debate. And they’re taking that opportunity.”
The punchline: “They’re kind of pulling a Patriot Act.”
And when Obama signs the $1.1 trillion Spending Bill in a few hours, as he will, it will be official: the second Patriot Act will be the law, and with it what little online privacy US citizens may have had, will be gone.
District Attorney Mike Ramsey quickly declared the shooting an “accidental discharge.” He said on Nov. 27 that the determination was made by examining the video frame by frame, KRCR reports. Ramsey said it was clear that Feaster was surprised by the gun firing. Feaster’s “reaction on the dash cam video and his statements to protocol investigators confirm an honest belief that he did not intentionally fire his pistol,” Ramsey said in a press release. Ramsey said on Thursday that Feaster didn’t mention the shooting until 11 minutes after backup and paramedics arrived. As the commanding officer suggested an investigator return to Canteena and try to find out if Thomas had been shot at the bar, Feaster revealed that he may have shot Thomas. Ramsey said nearly 11 minutes passed before any other officers, medics or firefighters learned Thomas had been shot.
On September 30, just hours after a three star Russian general strolled into the US embassy in Baghdad and told the staff to inform Washington that Moscow would begin airstrikes in Syria “in one hour”, the Western media was alive with accusations that The Kremlin wasn’t targeting ISIS, but rather other, US and Saudi-backed rebel groups fighting Assad’s depleted SAA. Here’s what WSJ said at the time:
“Among seven areas that Syrian state media listed as targets of Russian strikes, only one—an area east of the town of Salamiyah in Hama province—has a known presence of Islamic State fighters. The other areas listed are largely dominated by moderate rebel factions or Islamist groups, such as Ahrar al-Sham and the al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front.”
Yes, “moderate rebel factions such as the al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front.”
Put simply, the US had become so desperate to preserve whatever was left of the strategy to overthrow Assad, that Washington had the mainstream media floating trial balloons to see if the public would accept the characterization of al-Qaeda as “moderate.”
Generally speaking, most Americans didn’t notice, presumably because they were too busy ogling at Russian fighter jets and/or Islamic State’s latest Hollywood special (which at the time was a clip of an SAA fighter being run over by a tank), but for anyone who did pick up on the fact that the mainstream US media had just officially (and posthumously) labeled Osama Bin Laden a “moderate”, the farce was complete.
To anyone who frequents these pages – and to anyone who has endeavored to question the official narrative – the fact that the US now counts al-Nusra as a de facto ally came as no surprise. The Saudis and Qatar have backed al-Nusra virtually from the beginning, and the US is all for anything that destabilizes Assad, even if it means funneling guns and money to the very same group that flew passenger jets into skyscrapers on American soil. And let’s not forget that this wouldn’t be the first time Washington has backed al-Qaeda. The US has had lots of practice in getting arms to the Mujahideen – see the Soviet-Afghan war, for example.
None of this is a secret, which is what makes it so astonishing that the Western public is largely clueless despite the efforts of people like Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and Georgia Republican Austin Scott.
Of course Washington isn’t as vocal in its support of al-Nusra as it is in its enthusiasm for the “moderate” opposition group of choice, the Free Syrian Army. As we’ve documented extensively, the FSA has received anti-tank weapons from The Pentagon over the past two months so that they may counter the advance on Aleppo by Hezbollah and the IRGC. Given that the very same Iran-backed Shiite militias the FSA is fighting in Syria are also fighting ISIS in Iraq, the fact that the US is supplying the FSA with weapons to kill them is nothing short of ridiculous. Here’s how we described the situation last month:
The US is now supplying anti-tank weapons and other munitions to the rebels fighting in Aleppo and those weapons are being used to kill these very same Shiite militiamen who are driving US tanks, fighting alongside the Iraqi army, and indirectly receiving US assistance just across the border in Iraq.
So thanks to Washington’s twisted foreign policy, they are friends on one side of the Syria-Iraq border and mortal enemies on the other.
Well now, in what can only be described as an embarrassment of truly epic proportions, al-Qaeda has released a video thanking the FSA for supplying al-Nusra with American-made TOWs. Here’s Sputnik:
The Al-Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, has released a grateful video, where they openly thank the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which the US has touted as a “moderate opposition group”, for supplying them with US-made anti-tank TOW missiles (“Tube-launched, Optically tracked, Wire-guided”).
A recently released video shows an Al-Nusra Front field commander thanking the FSA commanders for giving his forces TOW missiles, according to a report released by the Iranian news agency FARS.
The agency reminds readers that the two groups, the Al-Nusra and the FSA, formed an alliance in March, the Army of Conquest, or Jaish al-Fatah in Arabic, to fight against the forces of President Assad.
Since then, they have fought together “at almost every single battle in Aleppo, Lattakia, Hama, and Idlib Governorates of Syria.”
Through this alliance several militant groups like the Al-Nusra Front and the Ahrar al-Sham movement have been given access to FSA’s US-made heavy weaponry, which has been supplied to the militant group by the US, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
According to the agency’s estimates, Saudi Arabia sent 500 TOW missiles to Al-Nusra directly last month.
Obviously, this is the very definition of absurdity. It would be bad enough if the US were supplying TOWs to anyone in Syria. But this is Washington and Riyadh handing anti-tank missiles to forces that are firing them at the Iranians who are operating under cover of Russian airstrikes. Just to drive that home: the US is waging war against Iran and Russia with but one degree of separation.
That’s the big picture.
But as mentioned above, this is also ridiculous because The Pentagon is killing the same people in Syria that the US-trained Iraqi army depends on to rout ISIS across the border in Iraq. And when we say “the same people”, we mean the exact same Shiite militias. Every Iran-backed militiaman that’s killed in Syria by a US-made weapon is one less militiaman that will return to Iraq to fight ISIS, which is of course fine with Saudi Arabia and Qatar because they’re opposed to Iranian influence in Baghdad in the first place.
Finally, the idea that the US is fighting al-Nusra in Syria is not only untrue, it’s actually the complete opposite of what’s really going on on the ground.
Hopefully no one from al-Qaeda ends up firing a TOW at a Paris cafe.