tisdag 27 augusti 2013

Snowden revisited

Jorge Capelán, RLP/TcS.

Three months after their publication, the revelations of US National Security Agency functionary Edward Snowden leave a series of unanswered questions. The version that presents Snowden as a solitary hero confronting the imperialist espionage apparatus needs to be reconsidered.

In many ways the positive role of revelations like those of Snowden, Wikileaks and Bradley Manning is undeniable in uncovering imperialist crimes and presenting to the general public the truly totalitarian nature of US global power. However, it is also undeniable that these revelations are filtered through various powerful military, financial ,media and political interests. The revelations not only express a citizens' revolt against imperial violations of basic freedoms but they also, perhaps above all, express contradictions at the very heart of the Western élites.

One example of the romanticizing propaganda of what has been discovered in recent years is an article by Julian Assange published by the Australian web site The Stringer on August 24th this year,i which shows the role of the Google company executives as global flunkeys of the US State Department and NSA.

Assange concludes, “That Google was taking NSA money in exchange for handing over people’s data comes as no surprise. When Google encountered the big bad world, Google itself got big and bad.”

What Assange fails to mention is that among the sectors supporting Snowden and Wikileaks itself are other powerful interests equally “big and bad”

Snowden and the CIA

According to the official version that can be more or less reconstructed from reports on the matter,ii , Snowden was talented in computer skills and also in his knowledge of Japanese and Chinese. He has no university degree, hardly even a high school qualification. As an adolescent, Snowden ““He was a geek like the rest of us,......We played video games, watched animations. It was before geek was cool.” according to an anonymous acquaintance of Snowden's quoted by the New York Times.iii

In May 2004, Snowden enlisted in the Reserve of the US Army as a Special Forces recruit but never finished his training after breaking both legs. The following year he found work as a security guardiv in the University of Maryland Center for Advanced Study of Language, an institution regarded as having close links to the National Security Agency. In very little time, Snowden then began a contract with the CIA working on information security.

Despite his lack of formal qualifications, Snowden received Top Secret security clearancev and in 2007 was assigned to the US embassy in Geneva, as a specialist in network security. Over time, Snowden underwent a crisis of conscience as a result of his work with the agency some of which he considered ethically objectionablevi and in 2009 he quit.....moving to a job in the National Security Agency.

Is that not strange? How can it be that a CIA functionary with high level security clearance just quits their job and in no time at all turns up working as a private contractor for another US espionage agency? After all, over several years, the CIA invested considerable resources in Snowden, as well as paying him extremely well. For example he says he took a 6 month course in information security at that time.vii If Snowden had a crisis of conscience that motivated him to leave the CIA, how did he manage to conceal that from his superiors during the rigorous debriefing process that takes place whenever someone with high level security clearance ends their assignment.

It hardly seems credible that Snowden simply said one day “I don't want to work for the CIA any more....” and his controllers replied “Ok, kid, we wish you well with your next career move....” More unbelievable still is that he was allowed to continue with his high level security clearance privileges.

In interviews, Snowden has said that he earned around US$200,000 as an NSA contractor. Others have said it was more likely US$120,000. Whatever the exact amount, that is certainly more or less the salary level of an employee with the Top Secret/SCI security clearance which Snowden seems to have had.

When Snowden in 2013 told his boss in the Booz Allen Hamilton agency that he wanted some time off to treat a recently diagnosed epileptic condition, surely that might have caught somone's attention? Epilepsy is not a mental illness, but medical opinion agrees that it does increase the risk of mental illness, which would be grounds for immediately suspending an individual's security clearance.

In any case, after Snowden's initial revelations, a Homeland Security sub-committeeviii undertook to find out how it was that Snowden managed to receive that Top Secret security clearance. The Inspector General of the federal government's Office of Personnel Management, Patrick McFarland, has said he has information on Snowden but could not reveal it, self-evidently, since Snowden had been a CIA employee. However, what did emerge from that meeting was a series of very disturbing data on the level of mismanagement in relation to access to classified information in the US.

It transpires that 87% of investigations into candidates for such access are never finished. The Top Secret classification can mean different things for different agencies. One single contractor, the US Information Service, does 65% of the investigations. Over US$1 billion paid by the federal Office of Personnel Management for those investigations has never been audited. At least eighteen OPM investigators have been found to have falsified their investigation results.

To all this, one can add that the USIS agency that investigated Snowden is itself under federal investigation for not having done that work “in an appropriate and detailed way”.ix Corruption and mismanagement are no surprise to anyone critical of the United States government. Even so, nor should one forget that the US intelligence agencies are experts at disinformation exercises.

With all that said, even if this kind of institutional mismanagement were the case, that does not explain how an individual like Edward Snowden can move from a highly paid job in the public sector to a highly paid job in the private sector with no questions asked. It simply does not add up that Snowden fooled, first, the CIA, then his private employers, Dell and Booz Allen, and finally the NSA. The chances are nil of the CIA letting Snowden move on with his Top Secret security clearance with no control of any kind either by them or his private sector employers or the NSA.

On June 10th this year in an interview with the Guardian, Snowden said that from his office he was able to intercept any communication, including those of federal judges or even the US President so long as he had the relevant e-mail address. Despite that, the NSA was unable to locate him in his Hong Kong hotel, even when registered under his real name, just as they were unable to check out the investigation awarding him Top Secret security clearance.

Frankly, the only reasonable explanation that Snowden could travel to Hong Kong and then make it to Moscow is that he was able to count on the complicity of the CIA to change his job and subsequently desert. At least, that is the view of journalist Jon Rappoport.x

According to Rappoport, the CIA is in conflict with the NSA. Currently, the NSA is a giant organization managing immense resources and information while the CIA sees its power and influence in decline. Rappoport cites a report in Wired Magazinexi of June this year according to which the Pentagon sought US$4.7 billion for the NSA in the 2014 budget while the amounts for the CIA and other US espionage agencies were cut to US$4.4 billion.

Rappoport thinks the CIA fed Snowden the information that he in turn has fed to the Western media. That in itself by no means suggests Snowden was not genuine in his actions and may very well be sincerely convinced of the danger the NSA's global spying capability represents for civil liberties.

George Soros

One thing definitely stands out in the coverage given to Edward Snowden by left wing and progressive media both in the imperialist countries and in our own. Namely, almost no one mentions the role of Wall Street financier George Soros. In general, it is an interesting question why almost no one discusses the role played in the funding of the so-called alternative media by corporate interests represented by the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations and any other similar institutions.

For decades, private foundations linked to big groups of US capitalxii, usually closely linked to the US government apparatus, to the CIA and to the Council for Foreign Relations, distribute millions of dollars in their effort to control and guide public opinion.

One of the thirty most wealthy people in the world and number fifteen in the Forbes list of US millionaires,xiii Soros funds the greater part of the progressive and even radical networks in North America that focus on defending rights to privacy and freedom of information. But hardly anyone seems to be interested in drawing the relevant conclusions in relation to that fact, given that Soros' ideology is by no means progressive.

By contrast, the connections of George Soros to the networks of imperial power are well known.xiv For example, the writer Eva Golingerxv notes that “parallel to his activities as a financial speculator, George Soros, along with the Bush and Bin Laden families, is part of the Carlyle Group led by Frank Carlucci, He is also a member of the Bilderberg group, the Council for Foreign Relations, the International Crisis Group and Human Rights Watch.” In 1993 Soros founded the Open Society Institute which has participated actively in joint operations with the CIA in former Yugoslavia, Ukraine, Georgia and Tibet. Likewise, the misnamed philanthropic organizations funded by Soros were active all through 2011 in their attempts to help the Muslim Brotherhood take power in Egypt.xvi

Soros funded groups, like Human Rights Watch and Freedom House, take the lead in all the US government psychological warfare campaigns against foreign governments perceived as requiring destabilization so as to advance US interests. Along with Soros, the International Crisis Group (ICS), includes senior US foreign policy figures like Zbigniew Brzezinski, Richard Armitage and Kenneth Aldelman. Armitage y Adelman are both signatories of the Project for a New American Century which laid the doctrinal basis for the “war on terror” of George W. Bush.

Together with Snowden during the first press conference he gave after arriving at Moscow airport on July 12th was Tatyana Lokshina,xvii representative in Russia of the Soros-funded Human Rights Watch. Coordinating Snowden's legal defence in the US one finds another Soros funded organization, the American Civil Liberties Union xviii involved in public disagreements with the lawyers of Snowden's father, Lon, and Lon Snowden's Russian lawyer.xix

A declaration by the Soros-funded Open Society Foundation xx on July 12th this year criticised the administration of President Obama for excessive use of the archaic Espionage Act to punish various whistle blowers who in recent years have revealed information affecting imperial interests, among them Bradley Manning and Snowden himself.

The declaration by OSF legal adviser, Morton Halperin, asserts that President Obama's use of the legislation creates a serious threat to the public right to know and to the process by which Americans are informed about US government activities in matters of National Security.

It is a well established fact that Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald who took the lead in reporting Edward Snowden's revelations is someone closely connected with the Soros networks. In 2008, Greenwald and writer Jane Hamsher founded the political pressure group Accountability Nowxxi aiming to “move the Democrat Party to the Left”. The most importnt members of Accountability now are almost all members of the Soros network.xxii

Laura Poitras was the first person contacted by Snowden when he sought to publish his information in the New York Times. Laura Poitras also filmed the interview with Snowden conducted in his hotel in Hong Kong. Both Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald are board members of the Freedom of the Press Foundation xxiii, funded by the Foundation for National Progress which publishes the investigative journalism magazine Mother Jones.

As a documentary maker, Poitras' career is characterized by critical political and social reporting especially after the September 11th 2001 attacks on the US. Her film “My country, my country” on the effects of the US occupation of Iraq was nominated for an Oscar. Poitras believes that this film got her placed on “the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) watch list" with the highest threat rate the Department of Homeland Security assigns.xxiv

As it happens, in 2012 Poitras received a prestigious fellowship from the MacArthur Foundation,xxv of US$500,000 on the basis that her “elegant and illuminating documentaries capture the lives and intimate experiences of families and communities largely inaccessible to the American media.”

The MacArthur Foundationxxvi helps organizations and individuals committed to “building a more just, verdant and peaceful world”. Among the groups receiving help from the MacArthur Foundation is the Center for Global Development, among the first 150 of the hundreds of groups receiving help from the Open Society Institute of George Soros.xxvii

Robert L. Galluccixxviii, current president of the MacArthur Foundation has a long record of service in the US State Department where he worked among other assignments in the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and much later as Special Envoy to deal with the threat posed by the proliferation of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction. Gallucci is also currently a member of the US State Department Advisory Board of International Security Advisors and, superfluous to say, a member of the Council for Foreign Relations.

With those antecedents one can well ask how it comes about that an institution whose president is a key imperialist strategic adviser can stand over an award of half a million dollars to a documentary maker who in her own words is considered by the Department of Homeland Security to represent the highest level of threat to the United States of America. And it may be worth remembering a detail of that MacArthur Foundation fellowship. The foundation explains on its web site xxix that “Although nominees are reviewed for their achievements, the fellowship is not a reward for past accomplishment, but rather an investment in a person's originality, insight, and potential” (italics added)

On its web site, the Freedom of the Press Foundation states it “is dedicated to helping defend and support aggressive, public-interest journalism focused on exposing mismanagement, corruption, and law-breaking in government.” xxx To fund this the organization uses a strategy known as “crowd-sourcing funding” by which the public can donate to one or several alternative media among a group proposed on a bi-monthy basis by the FPF on its web page. The FPF explains, “Our goal is to broaden the financial base of these types of institutions—both start-ups and established non-profit organizations — by crowd-sourcing funding and making it easy for people to support the best journalism from an array of organizations all in one place.”

In a Huffington Post interview of December 16th 2012xxxi, Trevor Timm, co funder and executive director of the FPF, explains that the original idea for the FPF came out of conversations with both Daniel Ellsberg, the whistle blower who published the Pentagon Papers and John Perry Barlow of the Grateful Dead rock group who co-founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation, promoting free software and Internet privacy.

The next day, December 17th 2012, the EFF announced on its web page it had decided to become a legal adviser to the FPF. As well as Barlow, Rainey Reitman, EFF's head of activism is also a co-founder of the FPF and works as a member of the of the EFF's technology team. xxxii A footnote to that December 17th news item states that although one of the EFF directors and some of its employees were active in the FPF, the EFF as such was not a member of the Freedom of the Press Foundation but merely its legal adviser.

In fact, what is certain is that the EFF is a regular recipient of funding from the Open Society Institute of George Soros.xxxiii The links between Soros and another of the EFF directors, Brian Behlendorf, developer of the Apache web server software, go back at least as far as 1998 when both participated in the political lobbying group MoveOn.org, in response to the indignation caused by President Bill Clinton's affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Back then the group urged congress to censure the President and “move on”.xxxiv

One example of how this kind of arrangement works is the support the FPF has given WikiLeaks since December 2012. "Since WikiLeaks became a front-page news story, secrecy has gotten worse in the U.S," as Trevor Timm declared to the Huffington Post.xxxv

Behind the Snowden scandal lies a struggle for power in the heart of the dominant Western élites. There is a possible link between the CIA's interest in making problems for the NSA and the interests of big finance, namely the massive ability of electronic spying to monitor not only the various terrorist threats but also the activities of the big banks.

Writer Jon Rappoportxxxvi takes up the inference made by novelist Brad Thor in his novel Black List,xxxvii in which he suggests the existence of a super-espionage agency which imagines a super-espionage agency which “for years ….has used its technological superiority to carry out massive business transactions based on privileged information”. One may well ask whether global mega-banks like JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs or the Quantum Group of George Soros would take with equanimity the existence of an espionage agency with the ability to know more about them than they know themselves.

The revelations in perspective

Putting things in perspective, one has to ask what the revelations of Edward Snowden really mean.

Without disparaging their value, it is hard to believe that the intelligence services of US target countries like Russia or China would have been ignorant of :

- The existence of the ECHELON global telecommunications spying system and the so called FUKUSA network composed of the USA, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand which has been active since the 1970s. New Zealand journalist Nicky Hager revealed this information in considerable detail in 1996:xxxviii

- The existence of an army of US analysts controlling all Internet traffic using tools like the HKEYSCORE program. One has only to look at the structure of global fibre optic communications to ee that the majority of these pass through the United States and are easy for the US authorities to intercept. Long before the revelations of Edward Snowden the symbiosis was clear between big companies like Google or Microsoft and the imperial war and espionage apparatus. (Try searching duckduckgo.com using the term In-Q-Tel).xxxix

Obviously other data in Snowden's power like the instruction manual on the workings of the NSA or the complete list of its analysts are important information. But it would not be the first time this kind of information has ended up in the hands of foreign intelligence services. Many cases of high level infiltration in intelligence services have taken place without causing the kind debacle of which Edwards Snowden's enemies are accusing him of having provoked.

The fundamental importance of Snowden's revelations is political. They show in an irrefutable way in front of worldwide public opinion the complete contempt of the imperial powers for individual rights to privacy. One is no longer dealing with target categories like “terrorists” or “criminals” but absolutely anyone.

On the other hand, the Russian and Chinese intelligence services must have been well aware from the start of the powerful networks supporting Snowden which is why they treated his request for asylum with such circumspection. With hindsight it has been fortunate that Snowden did not end up in Latin America.

Snowden's revelations are playing an important role in the awakening of awareness among large sections of the world population of the totalitarian Western system dominating most of the contemporary world. But people around the globe will be unable to use that information to defeat the designs of the imperial powers unless they understand clearly the true nature of the powerful Western elite interests attempting to manipulate that information for their own ends.


i"Google and the NSA: Who’s holding the ‘shit-bag’ now?”, Julian Assange.
iiiNew York Times, 16 de junio de 2013 http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/16/us/for-snowden-a-life-of-ambition-despite-the-drifting.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1& En el artículo original se usa la palabra “geek”, que en inglés tiene un significado bastante más amplio que en español, donde solo se usa para designar a alguien con intereses muy estrechos, especialmente tecnológicos. Por eso la tradujimos como “friki”, es decir, “una persona cuyas aficiones, comportamiento o vestuario son inusuales”. http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friki
ivSnowden, para conseguir ese trabajo como guardia de seguridad en una instalación de la NSA ya debe haber tenido algún tipo de autorización de seguridad – algo que lleva tiempo conseguir. Según este artículo del Washington Post, desde el 11 de septiembre de 2001, ha habido un gran aumento en la cantidad de puestos de contratistas y empleados del sector público a los que se requiere presenten una autorización de seguridad, desde personal de mantenimiento en agencias de espionaje hasta técnicos y desarrolladores de software. En 2010, el número de estos trabajadores se calculaba en unos 854,000 en todos los EE.UU.
vBásicamente, en los EE.UU. hay tres niveles de acceso a información clasificada: CONFIDENTIAL, SECRET y TOP SECRET. Para lograr una autorización al nivel más bajo, CONFIDENTIAL, se requiere pasar por una investigación de entre unas semanas y unos meses, que cubre los últimos 7 años de la vida del sujeto. Para obtener una autorización en el siguiente nivel, SECRET, el período de la investigación va de algunos meses hasta un año, siendo un pobre historial financiero la causa más común de descalificación del sujeto. Este tipo de autorización es la más común a nivel de contratistas civiles trabajando para el Estado de EE.UU. Para obtener una autorización TOP SECTRET (TS), que da acceso a información sobre seguridad nacional, antiterrorismo y contrainteligencia, los requerimientos del estudio del sujeto son mucho más estrictos. Se debe pasar por una investigación SSBI que debe ser hecha de nuevo cada 5 años. Se investigan los últimos 10 años de vida del sujeto (o, en su defecto, a partir de los 18 años). También se investiga a su familia y al registro del aplicante en otras agencias federales del gobierno de los EE.UU. Esta investigación incluye entrevistas con familiares, antiguos empleadores, conocidos, y con el sujeto mismo. Sujetos que han recibido una autorización de acceso a información clasificada de esta categoría pueden además acceder a una autorización de acceso a Información Sensible Compartimentada (SCI), ya sea para Inteligencia de las Comunicaciones (SIGINT), para información sobre armas nucleares, para blancos de armas nucleares, etcétera. El requisito indispensable para acceder a una autorización SCI es haber pasado por una investigación SSBI. En el caso de Snowden, lo más probable es que tuviera una autorización de acceso a información clasificada TS/SCI.
viCuenta la historia que Snowden se sintió defraudado cuando en Ginebra, la CIA deliberadamente emborrachó a un banquero con el fin de chantajearlo y lograr reclutarlo para la agencia y así tener acceso a información secreta sobre la banca del país helvético, que en ese momento se encontraba una legislación para aumentar la transparencia bancaria.
xiiPara una discusión del papel jugado por la Fundación Ford en apoyo a la Guerra Fría Cultural llevada adelante por la CIA en Europa Occidental en los años 50 y 60 del siglo pasado, ver “La CIA y la Guerra Fría Cultural”, de Stonor Saunders. Sobre el papel de fachada de la CIA que juegan las principales fundaciones filantrópicas en los EE.UU., ver “The Ford Foundation and the CIA: A documented case of philanthropic collaboration with the Secret Police”, de James Petras http://www.rebelion.org/hemeroteca/petras/english/ford010102.htm y para una discusión algo más actualizada del tema, ver “Ford Foundation, The CIA and U.S. Establishment Conspiracy” (I y II) de Bob Feldman. http://wherechangeobama.blogspot.com/2012/07/ford-foundation-cia-and-us.html http://wherechangeobama.blogspot.com/2012/08/ford-foundation-cia-and-us_1971.html
xiiiSoros según la revista Forbes
xivHeather Coffin: “George Soros, Imperial Wizard”, Cover Action Quarterly, fall 2002.
xvEva Golinger y Romain Migus: “La Telaraña Imperial, enciclopedia de injerencia y subversión”, Centro Internacional Miranda, 2008, pp 209-210.
El 15 de agosto, el diario Wall Street Journal informó que una sesión de chat que tuvieron Edward Snowden y su padre, Lon, se realizó contra la voluntad de los abogados que asesoran a éste último. El chat de dos horas entre padre e hijo se llevó a cabo con la ayuda de Ben Wizner, abogado de la ACLU. Wizner pertenece al equipo de abogados defensores de Edward Snowden en los EE.UU. Según el diario estadounidense, el contacto entre padre e hijo se realizó contra la recomendación del abogado de Lon Snowden, Bruce Fein. Al ser informado de la conversación el abogado ruso de Edwad Snowden, Anatoly Kucherena, dijo que le había urgido a su cliente que no hablase con su padre ni por medios electrónicos ni por teléfono, y les pidió a ambos no tener contacto hasta que pudiesen encontrarse en persona.
Una nota de febrero de 2009 señala que los miembros de AccountabilityNow entonces eran los grupos: "Daily Kos, MoveOn, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), ColorofChange.org, Democracy for America, 21st Century Democrats" y "BlogPAC".
xxviiEn 2011, esta fundación se encontraba en el puesto 115 entre los receptores de ayuda de Soros, de acuerdo al sitio sorosfiles.com
xxxviiiDescargar el libro “Secret Power” en http://www.nickyhager.info/ebook-of-secret-power/

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