You say the government is tracking everyone's online sex habits? Of course it is.
And why are they doing it? For the usual reasons: defamation and blackmail. Here's the latest from Greenwald, teaming up this time with Grim and Gallagher at the Huffington Post:
The National Security Agency has been gathering records of online sexual activity and evidence of visits to pornographic websites as part of a proposed plan to harm the reputations of those whom the agency believes are radicalizing others through incendiary speeches, according to a top-secret NSA document. The document, provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, identifies six targets, all Muslims, as “exemplars” of how “personal vulnerabilities” can be learned through electronic surveillance, and then exploited to undermine a target's credibility, reputation and authority.
Perhaps the most concerning part of this revelation is the part about tracking "radicalization." I'm quite sure that any American Muslim should assume they are being watched now, if they haven't already. Because it's clearly not even enough to be someone who has never been involved in political activities. You could say something some day that could be a sign that you are being "radicalized." Like, I don't know, you could write in an email that you think the American government shouldn't kill innocent Pakistani people in drone attacks, for instance. I'm going to guess that could make some analyst decide you need to be on a list someplace.
The NSA document, dated Oct. 3, 2012, repeatedly refers to the power of charges of hypocrisy to undermine such a messenger. “A previous SIGINT" -- or signals intelligence, the interception of communications -- "assessment report on radicalization indicated that radicalizers appear to be particularly vulnerable in the area of authority when their private and public behaviors are not consistent,” the document argues.
Among the vulnerabilities listed by the NSA that can be effectively exploited are “viewing sexually explicit material online” and “using sexually explicit persuasive language when communicating with inexperienced young girls.”
The Director of the National Security Agency -- described as "DIRNSA" -- is listed as the "originator" of the document. Beyond the NSA itself, the listed recipients include officials with the Departments of Justice and Commerce and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
"Without discussing specific individuals, it should not be surprising that the US Government uses all of the lawful tools at our disposal to impede the efforts of valid terrorist targets who seek to harm the nation and radicalize others to violence," Shawn Turner, director of public affairs for National Intelligence, told The Huffington Post in an email Tuesday.
And let's be honest."Radicalization" is a very elastic term, isn't it? It's not going to just be Muslims, although they are certainly at the leading edge of government paranoia. This is exactly the sort of thing that's routinely used against political dissidents in times of crisis. We know this because it's happened. We don't even have to go back to hoary old 1960s COINTELPRO stuff. Recall that after 9/11 they did stuff like this:
The demonstration seemed harmless enough. Late on a June afternoon in 2004, a motley group of about 10 peace activists showed up outside the Houston headquarters of Halliburton, the giant military contractor once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney. They were there to protest the corporation's supposed "war profiteering." The demonstrators wore papier-mache masks and handed out free peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches to Halliburton employees as they left work. The idea, according to organizer Scott Parkin, was to call attention to allegations that the company was overcharging on a food contract for troops in Iraq. "It was tongue-in-street political theater," Parkin says.
That's not all, though. One of the things we must understand about all this is the fact that if any part of the US Government dragnet turns up what they think is evidence of a crime, they can pass it on to other agencies. So basically, if they are monitoring all of us,which they are, that means all of our private information can theoretically be used by the government if they can find some connection to a potential crime. All police agencies, whether it's the DEA or the FBI or Homeland Security (or the Commerce department!) can use such evidence to squeeze possible witnesses, set up stings, infiltrate what they believe to be criminal associations, create informants and otherwise use people who they believe might have something to hide in order to make a case. It's done all the time. But until now there was no central database available to go fishing in for blackmail material. (And keep in mind that we now know they routinely go back and dummy up the paper trail so the court and the suspect never knows where the original "tip" came from, a practice that might be understandable if it only pertained to confidential informants, but apparently is also used to cover up government surveillance.)
But that's not how the Pentagon saw it. To U.S. Army analysts at the top-secret Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA), the peanut-butter protest was regarded as a potential threat to national security. Created three years ago by the Defense Department, CIFA's role is "force protection"—tracking threats and terrorist plots against military installations and personnel inside the United States. In May 2003, Paul Wolfowitz, then deputy Defense secretary, authorized a fact-gathering operation code-named TALON—short for Threat and Local Observation Notice—that would collect "raw information" about "suspicious incidents." The data would be fed to CIFA to help the Pentagon's "terrorism threat warning process," according to an internal Pentagon memo.
These programs create a huge, global matrix of associations (and associations of associations) and a massive record of information about individuals, all of which could be accessed to provide the government with private and intimate details that people might not want the world to see and which could be used to discredit them or get them to cooperate. I think we know where this sort of thing can easily lead. It's not just "terrorism" at stake here. We have an entire police state apparatus that could use this information and no way of knowing how or why they might be allowed to do it.
Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said these revelations give rise to serious concerns about abuse. "It's important to remember that the NSA’s surveillance activities are anything but narrowly focused -- the agency is collecting massive amounts of sensitive information about virtually everyone," he said.
Finally, in this report we find that they are using private sexual information to discredit their targets. I wonder if they've had any successes?
"Wherever you are, the NSA's databases store information about your political views, your medical history, your intimate relationships and your activities online," he added. "The NSA says this personal information won't be abused, but these documents show that the NSA probably defines 'abuse' very narrowly."
Update: Here's what the ACLU has to say about "radicalization":
Counterterrorism policies based on flawed models of so-called terrorist radicalization are ineffective and undermine constitutional rights. Despite substantial empirical evidence to the contrary, the government continues to embrace a theory that argues that adopting radical ideas is a first step toward terrorist violence. Based on this discredited model, intelligence and law enforcement agencies are increasingly implementing flawed and wasteful “preventive” policies that result in discrimination, suspicionless surveillance of entire communities, and selective law enforcement against belief communities and political activists.