Crystal-clear skies and a bit on the chilly side this fourth of July Thursday on California’s north coast — the sound of the Pacific Ocean a quiet moan from the west.
Life continues whether we want it to or not.
Despite other big shit happening — Egypt’s on another late-spring uprising, the Arizona wildfire that killed 19 firefighters isÂ still burning out of control, George ZimmermanÂ cracks a laugh in court, and Mexico continuesÂ its nasty war with the discovery of seven severed heads along a roadway, among other shitstorms hitting the wall — the big stink-news is still the continuing Ed Snowden saga in America’s insatiable hunger for any/all droppings off the eaves.
(Illustration found here).
And beyond the international dust-up over Snowden’s whereabouts and arrestable qualities, comes another revelation of going ‘postal‘ — intelligence-gatheringÂ with a stamp of approval.
From the New York Times:
Mr. Pickering was targeted by a longtime surveillance system called mail covers, but that is only a forerunner of a vastly more expansive effort, the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program, in which Postal Service computers photograph the exterior of every piece of paper mail that is processed in the United States — about 160 billion pieces last year.
It is not known how long the government saves the images.
Together, the two programs show that snail mail is subject to the same kind of scrutiny that the National Security Agency has given to telephone calls and e-mail.
The Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program was created after the anthrax attacks in late 2001 that killed five people, including two postal workers.
Highly secret, it seeped into public view last month when the F.B.I. cited it in its investigation of ricin-laced letters sent to President Obama and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.
It enables the Postal Service to retroactively track mail correspondence at the request of law enforcement.
No one disputes that it is sweeping.
â€œItâ€™s a treasure trove of information,â€ said James J. Wedick, a former F.B.I. agent who spent 34 years at the agency and who said he used mail covers in a number of investigations, including one that led to the prosecution of several elected officials in California on corruption charges.
â€œLooking at just the outside of letters and other mail, I can see who you bank with, who you communicate with â€” all kinds of useful information that gives investigators leads that they can then follow up on with a subpoena.â€
But, he said: â€œIt can be easily abused because itâ€™s so easy to use and you donâ€™t have to go through a judge to get the information.
You just fill out a form.â€
And the mail comes and goes.
Even with all the bullshit the last couple of weeks, James Clapper, the national intelligence director, has got to be theÂ biggest asshole liar yet:
The most senior intelligence officer in the country wants Americans to believe he suffered a memory lapse when he gave the answer to Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden. Wyden had asked Clapper, â€œDoes the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?â€
Clapper responded, â€œNo, sir â€¦ not wittingly.â€
Clapper wrote in letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee published Tuesday that he â€œsimply didnâ€™t thinkâ€ of the NSA programs of dragnet phone surveillance when he testified in March that the agency did â€œnot wittinglyâ€ spy on Americansâ€™ communications.
He said â€œhis staff acknowledged the error to Senator Wydenâ€™s staff soon after the hearing,â€ and that he â€œcan now openly correct it because the existenceâ€ of a portion of the governmentâ€™s surveillance program â€œhas been declassified.â€
And his woeful,Â â€œI apologize,â€ touches all when you understand national-security lying never means you have to say ‘I’m sorry.’
The problem might be incompetence. The shit-storm over the forced landing of Bolivian President Evo Moralesâ€™s aircraft in Vienna because of the fear Snowden might be on board (he wasn’t) has unsettled the entire planet — even beyond all the spying activities the NSA conducted against US allies and friends.
This is bullshit says the world:
The highly unusual detour of a head of stateâ€™s flight came just days after Obama seemed to signal that the United States would avoid extraordinary measures beyond seeking Snowdenâ€™s extradition.
â€œIâ€™m not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker,â€ Obama said during a visit to Senegal last week.
It also pointed to a possible intelligence blunder.
Still, former U.S. officials said that if the United States were involved, it may reflect a calculation by the Obama administration that the risk of embarrassment from an unsuccessful search was more than offset by a desire to avoid seeing Snowden arrive to a heroâ€™s welcome in La Paz.
This entire affair the last month would be embarassingly hilarious if it wasn’t so serious.
Speaking of serious, Tom EngelhardtÂ at Tomdispatch has a neat post up with a dictionary of national words gone bat-shit crazy with the way the US makes war nowadays.
A few samples:
Secret: Anything of yours the government takes possession of and classifies.
Surveillance: Hereâ€™s looking at you, kid.
Whistleblower: A homegrown terrorist.
Journalist: Someone who aids and abets terrorists, traitors, defectors, and betrayers hidden within our government as they work to accomplish their grand plan to undermine the security of the country.
Truth: The most important thing on Earth, hence generally classified.
It is something that cannot be spoken by national security officials in open session before Congress without putting the American people in danger.
As Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has made clear, however, any official offering such public testimony can at least endeavor to speak in â€œthe least untruthful mannerâ€ possible; that is, in the nearest approximation of truth that remains unclassified in the post-9/11 era.
U.S. Constitution: A revered piece of paper that no one pays much actual attention to any more, especially if it interferes with American safety from terrorism.
Read the whole list, straight-up, right on.
The drums beat and the fireworks call — off to work.