Spying through the Mail, How Last Century

full-mailboxNew Orleans      The US Postal Service admitted that it had complied already this year with 50,000 different requests from local law enforcement authorities and national security folks for permission to open the mail of US citizens in search of nefarious schemes and hanky-panky.  Perhaps unrelated, and perhaps not, within days the US Postal Service also said, “Yeah, you right,” mail delivery is getting slower.  Fewer workers and routes no doubt, and the added burden of rerouting the mail for those 50,000 as well.

There are a bunch of head scratching problems to contemplate here.

Can Clyde Cop, the local po-po, just give a call or, more appropriately I suppose, write a letter to the local postmaster and ask them to pop the seals on some mail or deliver it over?  Surely not?  But, reading more closely, it seems that is pretty darned close to what happens at the Post Office, though perhaps higher up.  There seem to be no real standards or stumbling blocks, just “open, sesame!”  We don’t even have to wonder whether or not your local cellphone company or internet provider revealed your stuff here, fought in a secret court, or rolled over.  With the post office it was all easy-peasy, what you want is what you get.

But, that intrigues me as well.  What in the world would they be getting?  This must be the most snoozing surveillance ever, despite its complete breach of citizen rights and privacy.  Does anyone really send confidential material through the mail anymore?  At home, its bills, magazines, political notices, and the usual credit card and real estate solicitations.  At the office it might be some books, but still mainly bills spiced up with the occasional tax notices or correspondence from attorneys about our union contracts or whatever.  Are there still people out there with a rich body of written mail correspondence?  Are there people who have secretaries?  From everything I read, this is so old school, they actually don’t even bother teaching it in school at all these days.  Must be one of those, “no stones unturned” strategies, because it’s hard to believe that there’s much “there there.”

Now the internet is another thing entirely, but we seem to come up short on the law enforcement side there with our misplaced priorities.  While NSA and the like are harvesting all of our messages, it turns out that big problems like the fact that 40 to 60000 websites are selling drugs online without prescriptions are pretty much beyond the pale.  Authorities have identified 4700 scam and illegal sites this year alone according to the Wall Street Journal, but even after reporting them, 4000 are still merrily going about their illicit business.

And, if they are spending so much time trying to get into our email, why can’t they also do something about the flood of spam that seems to be increasing exponentially on a daily basis.  You would think it would be in their interest to help us get rid of some of that garbage, so that they could get to the good stuff in our email, like messages from our children or reports from our organizers.

It won’t be long before some billionaire will bring back the Pony Express or its 21st century equivalent so we can get around all of that.  Oh, yeah, right, they already have haven’t they, and they are called United Parcel Service and Federal Express.   When will they announce the number of inquiries they receive from so-called law enforcement and security agencies for our stuff from them?

Something to think about as we wait for the next shoe to drop.

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All Demonstrations are Now Spying Opportunities All the Time

does-pay-per-click-keyword-spying-really-helpDallas   We condemn China’s regular crackdowns of dissidents and many countries offer them safe harbor.  We cheer the courageous members of Pussy Riot in Russia or Femen in the Ukraine who have stood up to governments for the freedom of speech and the rights of women.  We are outraged at the military coups that subvert democratic elections in Egypt and Thailand to restore “order,” and are repulsed at the death sentences meted out to opponents.  There is little pretense that these governments are democratic in anything but name only, if that.

We are also rightly horrified when we read, or watch, police violently busting up demonstrations in Istanbul in disagreement with the government there or in Brazil on the eve of the World Cup.  These are our more progressive allies on the world stage on various matters.  Freedom of association, the right to participate in the public forum as everyone’s equal space, and the right to speak even if ignored, are all fundamental principles of most political formations purporting to be free and democratic.  Right?  No, wrong!  Those are just old school, July 4th kind of sentiments repeated routinely, but having little meaning it seems even in the most ostensibly “democratic” countries.  Security, not freedom, is the overarching trump card from governments of all stripes and sizes these days.

In the United States thanks to all of the information leaked by Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency subcontractor, we now know that in the name of security the USA monitors everyone everywhere, and it takes almost a religious act of faith to not believe that Americans are not also monitored domestically, which few are capable of summoning.  Inarguably, we have lost even a smidgen of moral authority here.

Canada, our sometimes more transparent neighbor, has now stepped up and freely acknowledged through its Government Operations Centre that it monitors all demonstrations in Canada all the time.  In an email leaked to the Ottawa Citizen a bulletin was sent by the GOC to all federal agencies making their intentions and instructions crystal clear saying:

The Government Operations Centre is seeking your assistance in compiling a comprehensive listing of all known demonstrations which will occur either in your geographical area or that may touch on your mandate.  We will compile this information and make this information available to our partners unless of course, this information is not to be shared and not available on open sources. In the case of the latter, this information will only be used by the GOC for our Situational Awareness.

Of course ACORN Canada leaders and organizers were madly sharing this information because no doubt every one of their actions was caught in this net.  There was no happiness.

It seems the GOC had gotten a taste for this kind of activity by monitoring Aboriginal protests against fracking and other environmental developments.

…the Government Operations Centre was involved in coordinating a response to Aboriginal demonstrations against fracking. The GOC distributed a map of the area where the RCMP had conducted raids on protesters who had seized an oil company’s vehicles. It also produced a spreadsheet detailing 32 planned events in support of anti-fracking.  Those included a healing dance in Kenora, Ont., a prayer ceremony in Edmonton and an Idle No More “taco fundraiser, raffle and jam session” planned at the Native Friendship Centre in Barrie, Ont., according to documents obtained through the Access to Information Act by APTN National News.

Talk about leaving no stone unturned, eh?

And who is this Government Operations Centre anyway?  Well, once again according to the Ottawa Citizen:

The GOC was created in 2004 by Public Safety Canada. It is connected with the operations centres of 20 federal departments and agencies, as well as with those of the provinces and territories, and other countries, including the United States.

And, I’m not paranoid, but I can read and still connect the dots, when they mention the United States, that means the NSA again, and when they mention other countries certainly that means the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and likely Australia and others where we have all have buddy-buddy info-sharing arrangements.  If there’s anyone who believes that this is just good, ol’ friendly Canada sharing for the sake of sharing and that the other countries, where they are connected, aren’t giving as good as they’re getting, then I want to talk to you about buying a bridge from me that crosses over the Mississippi River or somewhere closer to your home.

So much for freedom of association.  Just sent your leaflets to the local police and save yourself the trouble of wondering who is watching and do what you have to do to make change happen.  And, as for all of those other countries, please do what we say, not what we do!

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