Thursday, July 24, 2014

Executive Order 12333: The Root of All Evil


The cornerstone of the post-September 11, 2001 new order of unaccountable mass surveillance, data-mining and the transformation of the United States of America into a land of war and woe called The Homeland truly began on December 4, 1981 with then President Ronald Reagan's Executive Order 12333. Long before the USA PATRIOT Act was rammed through a cowardly Congress in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks with no legitimate debate there was 12333 or "twelve-triple-tree" as insiders refer to it. With the continuing unveiling of different aspects of what is now obviously a "turnkey totalitarian" fascist state lurking just below the surface of the increasingly thinner outer veil that is the public government by whistleblowers like Edward Snowden, William Binney and Thomas Drake - as well as others who are still working anonymously (according to recent stories on NSA documents not provided by Snowden) we are on the precipice of losing even the pretense of freedom and democracy.
Executive Order 12333, which gave the intelligence apparatus a blank check to operate with impunity, to the point where it is arguable that it essentially created a shadow government  has been getting some long-deserved attention as of late. A story in McClatchy last year entitled "Most of NSA’s data collection authorized by order Ronald Reagan" is where the highly secret circumvention of the US Constitution broke out of the darkness and a recent follow-up editorial was published in the Washington Post entitled "Meet Executive Order 12333: The Reagan rule that lets the NSA spy on Americans" further shedding light on this most anti-American of diktats.  That 12333 was unleashed by Reagan, whose administration served as an incubator for the neocons who would resurface during the Bush-Cheney years after 9/11 was used as both a political cudgel to batter critics of the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq as well as to implement new NSA domestic surveillance programs that far exceeded the legitimate governing principles of the US. Reagan's administration also spawned the Iran-Contra cowboys, in particular Lt. Colonel Oliver North who facilitated covert arms and drug sales to finance extremist right-wing militias in Nicaragua.
North also had a fetish for surveillance, notable a program called REX 84 that was a prototype for martial law in America and dabbled with the advanced PROMIS software to spy on political dissidents and under a vaguely defined "national emergency" would suspend the constitution and put the control of the government under FEMA. Several years back journalist Christopher Ketcham did an outstanding piece entitled "The Last Roundup" which addressed the metastasizing cancer of the authoritarian surveillance-police state and the lists that were then being compiled for potential internment when that "national emergency" was declared. I excerpt the following from Ketcham:
The overzealous compilation of a domestic watch list is not unique in post-war American history. In 1950, the FBI, under the notoriously paranoid J. Edgar Hoover, began to "accumulate the names, identities, and activities" of suspect American citizens in a rapidly expanding "security index," according to declassified documents. In a letter to the Truman White House, Hoover stated that in the event of certain emergency situations, suspect individuals would be held in detention camps overseen by "the National Military Establishment." By 1960, a congressional investigation later revealed, the FBI list of suspicious persons included "professors, teachers, and educators; labor-union organizers and leaders; writers, lecturers, newsmen, and others in the mass-media field; lawyers, doctors, and scientists; other potentially influential persons on a local or national level; [and] individuals who could potentially furnish financial or material aid" to unnamed "subversive elements." This same FBI "security index" was allegedly maintained and updated into the 1980s, when it was reportedly transferred to the control of none other than FEMA (though the FBI denied this at the time).
FEMA, however—then known as the Federal Preparedness Agency—already had its own domestic surveillance system in place, according to a 1975 investigation by Senator John V. Tunney of California. Tunney, the son of heavyweight boxing champion Gene Tunney and the inspiration for Robert Redford's character in the film The Candidate, found that the agency maintained electronic dossiers on at least 100,000 Americans, which contained information gleaned from wideranging computerized surveillance. The database was located in the agency's secret underground city at Mount Weather, near the town of Bluemont, Virginia. The senator's findings were confirmed in a 1976 investigation by the Progressive magazine, which found that the Mount Weather computers "can obtain millions of pieces [of] information on the personal lives of American citizens by tapping the data stored at any of the 96 Federal Relocation Centers"—a reference to other classified facilities. According to the Progressive, Mount Weather's databases were run "without any set of stated rules or regulations. Its surveillance program remains secret even from the leaders of the House and the Senate."
Ten years later, a new round of government martial law plans came to light. A report in the Miami Herald contended that Reagan loyalist and Iran-Contra conspirator Colonel Oliver North had spearheaded the development of a "secret contingency plan,"—code named REX 84—which called "for suspension of the Constitution, turning control of the United States over to FEMA, [and the] appointment of military commanders to run
state and local governments." The North plan also reportedly called for the detention of upwards of 400,000 illegal aliens and an undisclosed number of American citizens in at least 10 military facilities maintained as potential holding camps.
North's program was so sensitive in nature that when Texas Congressman Jack Brooks attempted to question North about it during the 1987 Iran-Contra hearings, he was rebuffed even by his fellow legislators. "I read in Miami papers and several others that there had been a plan by that same agency [FEMA] that would suspend the American Constitution," Brooks said. "I was deeply concerned about that and wondered if that was the area in which he [North] had worked." Senator Daniel Inouye, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Iran, immediately cut off his colleague, saying, "That question touches upon a highly sensitive and classified area, so may I request that you not touch upon that, sir." Though Brooks pushed for an answer, the line of questioning was not allowed to proceed.
Wired magazine turned up additional damaging information, revealing in 1993 that North, operating from a secure White House site, allegedly employed a software database program called PROMIS (ostensibly as part of the REX 84 plan). PROMIS, which has a strange and controversial history, was designed to track individuals—prisoners, for example—by pulling together information from disparate databases into a single record. According to Wired, "Using the computers in his command center, North tracked dissidents and potential troublemakers within the United States. Compared to PROMIS, Richard Nixon's enemies list or Senator Joe McCarthy's blacklist looks downright crude." Sources have suggested to Radar that government databases tracking Americans today, including Main Core, could still have PROMIS based legacy code from the days when North was running his programs.
In the wake of 9/11, domestic surveillance programs of all sorts expanded dramatically. As one well-placed source in the intelligence community puts it, "The gloves seemed to come off." What is not yet clear is what sort of still-undisclosed programs may have been authorized by the Bush White House. Marty Lederman, a high-level official at the Department of Justice under Clinton, writing on a law blog last year, wondered, "How extreme were the programs they implemented [after 9/11]? How egregious was the lawbreaking?" Congress has tried, and mostly failed, to find out.
12333 was very fortuitous for the opportunist North, a traitor if there ever were one and the rest of his Iran-Contra cabal who are to this day turning up in positions of influence as the Obama regime relentlessly targets that longtime neocon object of hatred Russia. Reagan's executive order is now even more dangerous given the ridiculous criteria that the US government is using to place law-abiding citizens on an ever expanding "terorist" watch list as was just documented in a huge story by Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux at The Intercept entitled  "Blacklisted: The Secret Government Rulebook for Labeling You a Terrorist" where the secret Obama administration enhanced rulebook was published. What we have here is absolute power with absolutely no accountability and with the courts and congress being weaponized against the people no realistic chance to effect any meaningful reform of these out of control agencies and programs.
While it is somewhat encouraging that "twelve-triple-three" is finally getting noticed and according to a story that was published yesterday in The Guardian entitled "US warned: surveillance reform hinges on change to Reagan executive order" the same former State Department official who wrote the Washington Post editorial on 12333 is pushing for awareness that any serious reform must start with the rollback of this crown jewel of the fascist state. I excerpt from The Guardian piece:
Like Snowden, Tye means to spark a debate on the proper boundaries of NSA authorities. His focus is on an obscure, Reagan-era executive order that serves as a foundational set of rules for the intelligence apparatus. The order, known as Executive Order 12333, renders the current surveillance debate hollow, he said, even as it shows signs of traction in the Senate.
"Without reform of activities under 12333, changes to the 215 program won't address the major challenges to Americans' privacy from the NSA," Tye, who until April worked on promoting internet freedom issues at Foggy Bottom, told the Guardian, using legal shorthand for the domestic phone data collection.
Without recourse to the trove of documentation Snowden disclosed to journalists – and speaking somewhat obliquely to underscore his stated refusal to discuss classified information – Tye said that 12333 provides NSA with a pathway to collect and retain Americans' data without a warrant, routing around laws intend to restrict and control both.
Tye is correct but the clock is ticking and time is rapidly running out. With half the world ablaze with war and social unrest - largely due to a deranged US foreign policy - and Obama and Kerry hellbent on starting World War III to avenge personal slights by Putin we very well are nearing that "national emergency" that Lt. Colonel North was setting up a response for. Any "terrorist" attack - either legitimate or that promised Dick Cheney special will firmly lockdown this country forever and all of that data that has been mined will be used to generate the pickup lists. If you are even reading this there is a damned good chance that you will be on one.