prism (przm) n.

1. A solid figure whose bases or ends have the same size and shape and are parallel to one another, and each of whose sides is a parallelogram.
2. A transparent body of this form, often of glass and usually with triangular ends, used for separating white light passed through it into a spectrum or for reflecting beams of light.
3. A cut-glass object, such as a pendant of a chandelier.
4. A crystal form consisting of three or more similar faces parallel to a single axis.
5. A medium that misrepresents whatever is seen through it.

[Alternatively...]

prism noun ˈpri-zəm

[...]

4. a medium that distorts, slants, or colors whatever is viewed through it
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The ongoing 'NSA surveillance scandal' has many parallels, and some direct links, with the disclosures made by WikiLeaks, the organisation its leader Julian Assange described as the "the intelligence agency of the people".

While we took satisfaction in seeing government and corporate crimes come back to haunt their perpetrators, SOTT.net remained cautious about lauding Assange or the WikiLeaks organisation as heroic. What did any of the 'Iraq War Logs' or U.S. State Department 'diplomatic cables' reveal that was not already publicly available information? Obviously some details were new, but they didn't change the fact that the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq was illegal under international law and that everyone involved had either committed or were ancillary to war crimes. Nor did anything so damaging come out to bring the perpetrators to justice or to catalyse real political change that would actually improve ordinary people's welfare.

Things, as you may have noticed in recent years, have only gotten worse for the masses.

So is Edward Snowden, the U.S. National Security Agency whistleblower currently 'on the run' after disclosing 'top secret documents' to major media outlets, a hero or traitor? Is he neither? We discussed this and more in last Sunday's SOTT Talk Radio show on the NSA leaks. Have a listen:


The Backstory

The NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is catapulted into the limelight by an interview he gives to The Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald. The interview is filmed by Oscar Academy Award-nominated documentary film-maker Laura Poitras in a Hong Kong hotel room prior to the initial leaks appearing simultaneously in Greenwald's reports in The Guardian and Poitras and Bart Gellman's report in The Washington Post.

In 'How we broke the NSA story', Poitras recounts to Salon.com (Greenwald's former employer) how "someone" initially reached out to her, via email, in January this year. It's worth reading at length so I'm going to reproduce most of it here:
Salon: So how did this all begin?

Poitras: I was originally contacted in January, anonymously.

Salon: By Edward Snowden?

Poitras: Well, I didn't know who it was.

Salon: What was the format?

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Poitras: Via email. It said, 'I want to get your encryption key and let's get on a secure channel.'

Salon: And he didn't say what it was about?

Poitras: He just said - that was the first, and the second was, 'I have some information in the intelligence community, and it won't be a waste of your time.'

Salon: Did you immediately know what was the best, most secure protocol to go about it?

Poitras: I actually did. I have a lot of experience because I've been working with [...] WikiLeaks, I know Jacob Appelbaum. I already had encryption keys but what he was asking for was beyond what I was using in terms of security and anonymity.

Salon: How did it proceed from there?

Poitras: So that's where I'm not going into a lot of details, but sort of ongoing correspondence. I didn't know, I didn't have any biographical details or where he worked, had no idea. He made claims and said he had documentation. At that point it was all completely theoretical, but I had a feeling it was legit.

Salon: Why do you think he contacted you? Were you the first person he contacted?

Poitras: I can't speak for him. Glenn and I just touched base about, what was your story, because we connected later in the spring. He, I think, got an email in February. But I didn't know he'd gotten an email.

He told me he'd contacted me because my border harassment meant that I'd been a person who had been selected. To be selected - and he went through a whole litany of things - means that everything you do, every friend you have, every purchase you make, every street you cross means you're being watched. "You probably don't like how this system works, I think you can tell the story." ... Of course I was suspicious, I worried that it was entrapment, it's crazy, all the normal responses you have to someone reaching out making, claims. He said he'd seen a piece that I'd done on Bill Binney in the Times.

I can say from conversations I had with him after that, I think he had a suspicion of mainstream media. And particularly what happened with the New York Times and the warrantless wiretapping story, which as we know was shelved for a year. So he expressed that to me but I think also in his choices of who he contacted. I didn't know he was reaching out to Glenn at that point.

Salon: And you and Glenn were already colleagues, right, you sit on a board together?

Poitras: At that point the foundation had just opened. So we knew each other and we were colleagues and friends.

Salon: How did it get to the point where you knew it was going to be a story, and how did you decide where it was going to be published?

Poitras: Those are the details I'm not going to go into. What I can say is that once I had a few pieces of correspondence, I said, let me ask a couple of people about this, people who have experience, and I sat down with a couple of people, one of whom was Bart Gellman ... and he said, it looks like this person could be legit. And that was probably February.

Salon: So you ended up getting in touch with Bart and Glenn because you wanted their help to vet the claims in documents?

Poitras: There weren't documents yet ... I wanted to know if this correspondent - it was possible something else would be entrapment or just crazy, that's always an option. I had an instinct that it was legit. I wanted to talk to people who knew.

Salon: So then they said, my paper would be happy to publish it?

Poitras: No, it was just colleagues saying, this was happening, what do you think. There was nothing to - it was just somebody wanting to start a conversation and claiming to have information ... There was no material at that point.

Salon: So how did it then become two separate stories in the Washington Post and the Guardian?

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Poitras: The source also has a relationship with Glenn. Which I can't speak to.

Salon: I know that Glenn said he had more stories to come. Do you have more footage you're planning on using in your documentary?

Poitras: Of course. I'm here working.

[...]

Salon: Did he [Snowden] always plan to reveal his identity?

Poitras: I don't know. At some point I became aware of that but I don't know what his intention was.

It's this complicated situation because we have a source who decided to reveal himself. I still feel like I have journalistic obligations to the source even though they've made that choice ... There's something that Glenn said that I actually want to contradict. He said we began "working with" him. There was no working with. We were contacted. It was totally cold contact.

Salon: Since he contacted you before he started working at Booz Allen, the implication people were drawing was that he went to Booz Allen with the express intention of leaking this.

Poitras: That's completely absurd. I had no dialogue about what the information was - there were claims, that's all I received.

Salon: So the implication that you sent him into Booz Allen to spy was incorrect.

Poitras: Are you kidding? I didn't know where he worked, I didn't know he was NSA, I didn't know how - nothing. There was no like, Oh do you think you ..., no nudging. It's like the crazy correlations that the NSA does. There's no connection here. We were contacted, we didn't know what he was up to, and at some point he came forward with documents
The board of directors Poitras refers to is the Freedom of the Press Foundation, co-founded by John Perry Barlow, a former band member of The Grateful Dead and now a 'cyberlibertarian' and founding member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Daniel Ellsberg, the 1971 Pentagon Papers whistleblower.

A number of things concern me about the Poitras account. The timeframe she provides for opening contact with Snowden runs up against the fact that Edward Snowden only began working for Booz Allen Hamilton, the NSA contractor, in March this year, something Snowden's former employer confirmed in a June 11 press release.

When questioned on this, Greenwald tweeted that Snowden was working as an NSA contractor with Dell Computers prior to joining Booz Allen, but he doesn't seem to know how far back Snowden was with Dell, just that he has been working through 'multiple' contractors to the NSA since 2009. This IBTimes article asks some interesting questions, the most pertinent of which is:
If Snowden was already planning to leak classified information to journalists before he began working for Booz Allen, why did he take a job there at all?
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I'm sure we'll hear more details in the days and weeks ahead, but in the meantime I'm wondering how all this back and forth correspondence was going on between Snowden, Poitras, Greenwald, other journalists, members of the WikiLeaks organisation and other internet and press freedom activists, over the course of six months, without the NSA or anyone else in the intelligence community ever noticing this plan in the making?

As was discussed on our radio show Sunday, the open nature of the Internet and the vast resources and advanced technologies available to intelligence agencies means that 'encryption keys' and 'secure channels' are no hindrance to state intelligence agencies (particularly to one dedicated to code-breaking like the NSA) and even to many corporate entities whose budgets are larger than those of whole countries. Someone or some group beating them at their own game would have to be really good at what they do and have access to similar - if not identical - tools and resources.

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Glenn Greenwald at The Hotel in Hong Kong
We know the CIA is able to abduct and 'extraordinarily render' people all over the world through a complex web of facilities and inter-agency partnerships. Assuming that the NSA, whose size, budget and influence apparently dwarfs the CIA's, is really capable of all the things Snowden's leaked documents are telling us it's capable of, how then did it fail to pick up chatter between people who must rank pretty high on the U.S. government's Terror Watch and No-Fly Lists?

Glenn Greenwald is one of only a handful of journalists left in the mainstream who pretty much tells it like it is, while Poitras has been stopped and harassed 40 times by U.S. immigration because of her hard-hitting documentaries.

It rather looks to me like a number has been done on both Poitras and Greenwald. Possibly Snowden too. I can't shake the feeling that someone or some group wanted this story to break, then run and run. We're now being told that the 'Feds hunted for Snowden for days before he went public with top secret files', and yet, as The Guardian made clear in its initial report on the FISA court order requesting that Verizon hand over all phone records of its 150 million U.S. customers,
The Guardian approached the National Security Agency, the White House and the Department of Justice for comment in advance of publication on Wednesday. All declined. The agencies were also offered the opportunity to raise specific security concerns regarding the publication of the court order.
That was 24 hours before the Verizon story first broke. But the dog, apparently, did not bark. What, if anything, has the power to prevent Team Obama from intervening?

That Verizon FISA request, by the way, was approved by Judge Roger Vinson, the Tea Party hero who struck down the so-called 'Obamacare act' in 2011 by ruling that a key portion of it was unconstitutional. And yet here he is acting in flagrant disregard for the 4th Amendment of that same constitution.

Who is Edward Snowden?


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NSA HQ in Maryland
Then there's Edward Snowden's story, which largely comes from himself. As he's allegedly a career spook, we ought to take everything he says, and everything that's put into his mouth, with a handful of salt.

Snowden apparently dropped out of high school and enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2004. He told The Guardian that he "signed up for an Army Reserve Special Forces training program, 'to fight in the Iraq war because I felt like I had an obligation as a human being to help free people from oppression'," but was discharged just four months later on September 28th 2004 because he "broke both of his legs in a training accident." Snowden next pops up as a 'security guard' at the NSA's 'Center for Advanced Study of Language', part of the University of Maryland.

Then he moves on to join the CIA - something about working in "IT security" - in 2006, when, at the age of 23, he is given top-secret clearance and is stationed "with diplomatic cover" in Geneva, Switzerland (presumably at the U.S. embassy there), and "becomes responsible for maintaining computer network security."

Snowden told The Guardian he left the CIA in 2009 to join "a private contractor" inside an NSA facility on a U.S. military base in Japan. From there he rotates from one contractor to another until he winds up in Hawaii as an employee on a "$200,000" salary with Booz Allen.

Snowden has no high school diploma or degree, but we're led to believe that because he was such a talented "computer wizard", he had employers "fight over me" and allegedly posted somewhere at age 20 that, "Great minds do not need a university to make them any more credible: they get what they need and quietly blaze their trails into history."

At some point Snowden decides that he doesn't like what he sees passing through NSA servers, reaches out to people who can help him blow the whistle, ditches his pole-dancing girlfriend, and flies to Hong Kong with copies of 'The Secret Files'.

WkiLeaks Redux

It's interesting that Ecuador's foreign minister recently arrived in London to meet with WikiLeaks' Assange and then discuss his situation with his British counterpart William Hague.

Assange, a 'wanted man in the U.S.', also appeared last week on mainstream TV (CNN and CBS), as well as BSkyB, where he described Snowden as 'a hero'. Seated next to Assange was John Perry Barlow, co-founder with Daniel Ellsberg of the foundation that put Greenwald and Poitras in contact on the eve of "someone" secretly contacting them.

Take a look at this screenshot of The Guardian's homepage on Monday this week:
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That's not actually the whole page; I snipped it at the point where an offset 'themed' box ends at the top of their page, a common website feature when media outlets are covering large-scale events with ongoing updates, commentary and so on. In this case - what shall we call it... NSA-gate? NSA-Leaks? - 'revelations' are continuing to 'pour out' as NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, from his secret location on the run somewhere in China, unveils more top secret documents to his contacts at The Guardian and The Washington Post.

The NSA is apparently powerless to stop it.

As we see from the above Guardian headlines, today we're 'discovering' that
  • The British government took the opportunity of hosting a G20 summit to listen in on its allies' phone calls and read their emails, to the extent of setting up a purpose-built fake internet café to route all summit attendees' emails through its servers.
  • The U.S. government was listening in on then Russian President Medvedev when he met President Obama for the first time.
The themed package is complete with an Editorial about how this whole affair apparently caught the Anglo-American leadership off-guard, some content providing selected historical and current context, links to 'full coverage of the NSA Files', and a 'meet the Reporting Team' section.

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A NSA powerpoint slide we weren't supposed to see. 'Top Secret', really?
For those of you who remember, it's pretty much the same round-the-clock banner headline coverage the Iraq War Logs and U.S. diplomatic cables received in The Guardian, New York Times and Der Spiegel throughout October and November 2010, and which set the parameters of public debate on numerous issues, both local and global, from then to the present day.

In yesterday's round of revelations we learned that the British Ministry of Defence has issued the BBC and other media groups with DA-Notices ('Defence Advisory Notices'), non-compulsory requests made by the British government to the British press asking that they limit their publication of information that could 'jeopardise national security'.

I guess The Guardian, by reporting this, is returning notice that it isn't playing ball.

How ballsy!

Now if it just showed a little more balls when it comes to parroting British war propaganda, I might even be tempted to say that The Guardian is finally holding the government accountable...

Historical Context

The belief that mass surveillance grew out of the need to respond to the threat of Muslim terrorism is laid bare by the fact that it began before the 9/11 attacks. In fact, mass surveillance had no 'beginning'. James Bamford's historical account of the NSA, The Puzzle Palace, traces the organisation's origins and its predecessors. No matter the laws preventing government or private institutions from spying on people, and no matter the moral conventions governing normal society, there have always been those who infringe on others' privacy because they believe themselves to be above the law:
Such meshing of the physical and the digital through the medium of sentient communicators is what is foreseen here as steering towards a digitally-rendered global system vulnerable to control via a technical-military elite. This scenario is exactly that as envisioned by ex-US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski. Brzezinski, in his Between Two Ages: America's Role in the Technetronic Era (1970), put forward the concept of a future 'technotronic era' whereby a more controlled society would gradually emerge, dominated by an elite unrestrained by traditional values. Brzezinski wrote that 'Power will gravitate into the hands of those who control information' (Brzezinski, 1970: 1), adding that surveillance and data mining will encourage 'tendencies through the next several decades toward a technocratic era, a dictatorship leaving even less room for political procedures as we know them' (Brzezinski, 1970: 12). By gaining control over informational technological communications Brzezinski outlined how this could help achieve control and order over the public:
"Unhindered by the restraints of traditional liberal values, this elite would not hesitate to achieve its political ends by the latest modern techniques for influencing public behavior and keeping society under close surveillance and control." (Brzezinski, 1970: 252)
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The actual IAO logo
In 1997 the Chief of Staff of the US Air Force, General Fogelman, speaking to the House of Representatives, predicted that by the year 2000, "We shall be capable of finding, tracking, and targeting virtually in real time any significant element moving on the face of the earth."

When the Bush administration announced the creation of an Information Awareness Office in January 2002, led by John Poindexter of Iran-Contra infamy, its function was to do precisely what the world has been 'shocked' to discover that the NSA has been doing; achieve 'Total Information Awareness' by gathering and storing the personal information of everyone in the U.S., including personal e-mails, social networks, credit card records, phone calls, medical records, you name it, without any requirement for a search warrant. The program formally closed the following year, but the concept has clearly continued to thrive in other venues.

A number of the Pentagon's own publicly available documents expressly state this. A document entitled Information Operation Roadmap was declassified by the Pentagon and made public by the National Security Archive on January 26, 2006. According to this document, the term 'information operations' includes
the integrated employment of the core capabilities of Electronic Warfare, Computer Network Operations, Psychological Operations, Military Deception and Operations Security, in concert with specified supporting and related capabilities, to influence, disrupt, corrupt or usurp adversarial human and automated decisions-making while protecting our own. (Dept. of Defense, 2003: 22)
The Roadmap outlines how the U.S. military is seeking a surveillance and cyberwarfare infrastructure that is "sufficient to provide maximum control of the entire electromagnetic spectrum, denying, degrading, disrupting, or destroying the full spectrum of globally emerging communication systems, sensors, and weapons systems dependant on the electromagnetic spectrum" (Dept. of Defense, 2003: 61).

With the historical constant of such megalomaniacal ambitions in mind, it becomes apparent that a global police state is the inevitable result of technological progress in a world dominated by a minority of psychopaths. As another Guardian writer pointed out recently, they have been telling us for decades that they can watch our every move. Remember the 1998 movie, Enemy of the State?


This movie didn't predict what would come to pass; it reflected the facts on the ground as they already were back then.

So what does Snowden really reveal to us now, after at least three other NSA whistleblowers came before him post-9/11 to say essentially the same thing?

The value of his information isn't in the documents themselves, but in the decision that was taken to give the 'leaks' widespread coverage.

Cui Bono?

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Who benefits from this scandal breaking open on the eve of Obama going to meet his Chinese counterpart to berate 'the other superpower' for spying on its citizens and hacking into American networks?

Who benefits from this breaking out while Bilderbergers are discussing 'Big Data' in their annual not-so-secret conference, held this year near London?

Who benefits from this story breaking just as WikiLeaks fall-guy Bradley Manning's trial for treason opens?

Who benefits from publicising the British government's spying on all attendees at the 2009 G20 summit at a time when it is hosting the G8 summit?

Who benefits from this at a time when the U.S. and U.K. are on the verge of intervening directly in Syria?

Lastly, who has the means to checkmate the NSA and its British equivalent, GCHQ?

On September 10, 2001, the Army School of Advanced Military Studies issued a report written by elite US army officers. The report gave the following description for the Mossad:
Wildcard. Ruthless and cunning. Has capability to target U.S. forces and make it look like a Palestinian/Arab act.
Two years ago Joe Quinn concluded in 'WikiLeaks and the War for your Mind':
When viewed from a broad perspective, the Wikileaks organisation fits the profile of an Israeli operation designed to manipulate both the global public and the US government. After all, Israel excels at manipulating the world's only super-power and has done so very effectively for many decades via its firmly entrenched US spy network. In truth, the Wikileaks operation affords the Israelis a wonderful new tool with which to subtly pressure and threaten US officials into playing the game the way Israel wants. If Obama comes on a little too strong in his condemnation of Israeli expropriation of Palestinian land, there are undoubtedly as yet unreleased documents that would make US spying at the UN look like a misdemeanor offense. [...]

I should make it clear that, when I speak of 'Israel', I am not simply referring to the public face of the Israeli government but more specifically to a small group of global 'financiers' who have adopted the Israeli national and Jewish religious ideology. To these individuals, both the geographic position of the gerrymandered state of Israel (a wedge and source of division between East and West, old and new), and the religious position of Judaism (a wedge and source of division between Christianity and Islam) is essential to achieving their aims of complete control of the global population.

In summation: based on the available data (past and present) we can reasonably conclude that, through the media hype afforded to the Wikileaks documents and the side show of Assange's alleged rape charges, a concerted effort is being made to distract public attention from the efforts of genuine anti-war and truth-teller bloggers and web sites to expose the true crimes of the US government and the hidden hand behind global affairs [...]
So far it appears that the U.S. (NSA) and U.K. (GCHQ) are the primary targets of this 'data-dump'. Taking into account the heavily privatised nature of surveillance by and for intelligence agencies, all it would take is one or two private military contractors 'gone rogue' (or otherwise compromised) to 'open backdoors' into the NSA. Perhaps one or both of Narus and Verint? These two Israeli companies have strong ties to both U.S. and Israeli intelligence and have integral roles in building the global mass surveillance infrastructure. The U.S. government certainly suspects that the Israelis have been behind other leaks, so I'm pretty sure they know who's pulling the strings behind this one.
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Allies... foes... allies... foes... It's not all plain sailing at the top!
Become Your Own Intelligence Agency

Let us assume that they can know everything there is to know about you. Let us assume they use this data to target individuals. Let us assume they use this data to acquire a virtual, real-time overview of how the mass unconscious is perceiving reality. Let us assume they use this 'dynamic information map' to insert disinformation here, arrange a false-flag attack there, as and when the need arises, in an effort to corral the mass mind in the direction they want people to go and to herd us into a finer and finer order of control.

Being incapable of empathy, psychopaths make up for this deficit by acquiring information about their mark that they can use to manipulate and control them. Obviously, the more information they have, the more success they will have at doing this. Those who are 'not quite conspecific' with the rest of the human race naturally make maximum use of the available technology to bring them the greatest possible advantage against their adversaries.

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This, I think, is at the root of their pathological drive to know everything about everyone.

In the final analysis, it all comes to naught when you realise that the wide open backdoor of the Powers That Be is their psychopathic nature. Let these bio-robots have all the money in the world, all the sensors in the world, all the data in the world; information transcends matter into and out of realms that psychopaths are biologically incapable of accessing. More and more information enters the system, while technology remains functionally limited by its inability to accurately process it all and intelligently read the signal from the noise.

No matter what you hear about artificial intelligence one day catching up with human intelligence, realise that there isn't a supercomputer on the planet that is a match for the latent capabilities of the human mind to objectively read its environment and the greater cosmic reality.

That is why all this technology is ranged against us. We the people are the targets of cyberwarfare, not 'the Chinese' or 'the U.S.' The psychopaths in power have enlisted the help of technology in a desperate attempt to corrupt our pattern-recognition software because we are their food source, and in these uncertain and increasingly volatile times, they would sooner destroy the world than lose us to the creative forces of evolution.