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Official Global Police State Thread

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Beginning today with Oz.

We are not alone.


Australia’s Surveillance State: Metadata and the Derogation of Privacy Rights

By Binoy Kampmark
Global Research, August 09, 2014
Region: Oceania
Theme: Police State & Civil Rights

It is sometimes hard to know whether those in power adopt a policy of confusion purposely, or through grand design.  When it comes to the flawed policy of data retention on a mass scale, a burden that is bound to fall on telecommunications companies, the problem is most acute of all.  What is to be kept?  What falls within that broad term metadata?

The Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, a somewhat challenged individual in twenty first century politics, is one such example. Here, dinosaur meets politician, and the result is far from pretty.  It is less pretty for the fact that his Attorney-General, George Brandis, is talking another language on the same subject.

Neither seems entirely clear what the subject of metadata constitutes.  For Abbott, it is a matter of dealing with “the material on the front of the envelope” while leaving the contents of the letter untouched, a crudely inaccurate analogy if ever there was one.  On public channels, Brandis claims that the new proposals on mandatory data retention would require internet service providers (ISPs) to retain “metadata” for up to two years which would include “the web address” of each site visited by the individual user.

Within the Australian cabinet, some dissent has brewed over the subject.  The communications minister, Malcolm Turnbull[1], is irritated for good reason – he is the one left carrying the can and mollifying ISPs over their onerous duties.  He wasn’t even invited to Monday’s national security committee meeting.

Turnbull, in an attempt to clear the mud that had invariably slipped into the waters, suggested on Friday that metadata was a matter of difference.  In his postmodern retort, a user’s web browsing history would not be part of the captured mix.

     “There has been some concern expressed that the government was proposing that telcos should retain for two years a record of the websites that you visit when you’re online, whether that’s expressed in the form of the domain names or their IP [internet protocol] addresses – in other words, that there would be a requirement to keep a two-year record of your web browsing or web surfing history.”

Turnbull then brought in the traditional card of policing data, denying that the browsing history would be the subject of retention.  “What they are seeking is that the traditional phone records that are currently kept, and by some ISPs and telcos for more than two years, that is  the caller, the called party – you know, I called you, time of call, duration of call… they want them to be kept for two years.”

But of course, it does not stop there.  The IP address, or as Turnbull describes it, “the number that is assigned to your phone or your computer when you go online by your ISP” is to be retained.

Similar denials on the extent of data capture have also been issued by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) chief David Irvine, and the Australian federal police (AFP) deputy commissioner, Andrew Colvin.  While both were keen to dispel rumours that browsing histories would be captured, they dumped on the idea that warrants were required to access metadata.

As Irvine explained, metadata was already being accessed “for many years”, a process that was bound to continue.  Then there was the honourable, reliable office of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (not, of course, a judge or an expression of the law) keeping an eye on “the way we access [metadata].”

Colvin, in an unconvincing attempt to pacify critics, attempted to draw a distinction between metadata, which can be accessed as an “initial investigative tool” and actual content.  The latter required a warrant, with its judicial protections.

Australia remains virginal when it comes to matters associated with accessing metadata, with authorities totally oblivious to a scheme of rights and protections to prevent overstretch of power.  Even the independent national security legislation monitor, Bret Walker SC, has suggested a warrant system.[2]  By all means, store the data, but ensure some means of control when accessing it.  Traditionally conservative voices from such organisations as John Roskam of the IPA[3] have also warned that, “Once it happens there is no winding this back. It gives enormous power to the government over people’s privacy.  The material will leak. It will be used for purposes not related to anti-terrorism.”

The assumption here is that the authorities will stick to the straight and narrow, refusing to step into the realms of illegality.  Sticking to such protocols of propriety is, however, impossible in an age where metadata is the guiding principle of the information age.  All governments want to feast on it, and they get rather frustrated when the civil rights lobby remind them that information should not be there for the taking without just and probable cause.

The excuse, as it always tends to be, is also one of blunt pragmatism. Privacy rights, and correlative obligations to respect them, tend to be matters of nuisance to spy chiefs and figures behind the intelligence gathering apparatus.  For Irvine, having a warrant for each request for metadata would see “the whole system…grind to a halt.”  This is patent nonsense, seeing as an intelligence service operating within the boundaries of warrants and judicial oversight is bound to be better for it. More gaps does not necessarily imply more insecurity or less freedom. It does, in fact, suggest the reverse.

 Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email:





There is a LOT of rubbish talked about metadata.

Email service providers, like Gmail, YahooMail and most others, use encrypted connections when you send and receive emails. The only part not encrypted is the metadata. It consists of the client's IP address, the mail service's IP address and a timestamp. So the authorities cannot discover who was using the computer, what Gmail account was used, what was sent or what was received.  The weakness is not the metadata being kept, it is the mail service cooperating with authorities that is the danger.

Similarly, web sites can use encrypted connections (https:// ... ) so the metadata only tells them the IP address of the web host.  Facebook, Wordpress, Blogger, etc host millions of websites on the one system, so jihadist websites would be indistinguishable from your kids' pages.

Encrypted connections can be done for any type of communication - chat, VoIP, Skype, P2P.

If you are serious about privacy, $5 /month will get you a VPN service, which hides your IP from the website/mail-server,
and makes the traffic the ISP sees look VERY boring. 

If you want to get into internet secrecy, then there are a squillion ways of doing that if you know how to do computer programming.

So all this worry about metadata is silly - just get a VPN service. (hosted in Iceland) has a VPN service currently in beta testing that uses IPsec-L2TP which works OK for me.

Al Jazeera America Crew Says it was Fired Upon in Ferguson

A crew from Al Jazeera America was setting up for a live shot in Ferguson, MO, around 10:30 last night, when police tear gas canisters landed near them. The network also says police fired rubber bullets in their direction and continued to shoot after the crew “clearly and repeatedly shouted ‘press.’”

They were setting up for a live shot for the international channel covering the latest in the violence surrounding the police shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

“Al Jazeera America is stunned by this egregious assault on freedom of the press that was clearly intended to have a chilling effect on our ability to cover this important story,” AJAM spokesperson Jocelyn Austin says. “Thankfully all three crew members are physically fine.”

The network wants the incident investigated.

Two other reporters covering the chaos were arrested last night. Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery says he was slammed into a soda machine, handcuffed and arrested. He was released later on the order of Ferguson’s police chief. The Huffington Post’s Ryan J. Reilly says an officer arresting him slammed his head against the glass at a restaurant near the site of the Brown shooting.

“RTDNA condemns the physical violence and unjustified arrest of the journalists, and demands authorities respect the rights of reporters covering the unfolding situation in Missouri,” RTDNA Executive Director Mike Cavender wrote to the city’s police chief this morning. After the jump, Cavender’s letter, which also went to the governor and the attorneys general of Missouri and the U.S…

Mr. Thomas Jackson
Chief of Police
City of Ferguson, MO

Dear Chief Jackson:

The police actions demonstrated last night, which resulted in the arrest and detainment of reporters Wesley Lowrey of the Washington Post and Ryan Reilly of the Huffington Post, are unconscionable and must be stopped immediately.

Yesterday, the RTDNA, the nation’s largest professional association of electronic journalists, appealed to you for the cooperation of law enforcement as our members and other journalists perform their jobs to keep the public informed about the continuing volatile situation in Ferguson. Now, at least two of those same reporters have undergone police harassment and confinement while operating entirely lawfully. Prior to being taken into custody, Lowrey was illegally instructed to stop taking video of the situation and ordered to stop asking the officers questions about their actions.   In the process, he was slammed into a soda machine and handcuffed. This is outrageous conduct on the part of the officers.

When informed of the events by another reporter, you ordered the release of the two and are quoted in the Los Angeles Times as saying whoever arrested them was “probably somebody who didn’t know better.”

Frankly, they should know better. The journalistic community is demanding that you, other command officials and all law enforcement officers involved in this continuing situation respect the rights of reporters and others journalists to provide news coverage in Ferguson so long as they operate legally—which these two reporters were doing. Harassment and abuse of anyone in a similar situation cannot be accepted and must not be tolerated by you and others charged with maintaining the peace and security in Ferguson.


Mike Cavender

Cc: Governor Jay Nixon, State of Missouri
Attorney General Chris Koster, State of Missouri
Attorney General Eric Holder, U.S. Department of Justice
Col. Ronald Replogle, Missouri State Highway Patrol


A member of the St. Louis County Police Department points his weapon in the direction of a group of protesters in Ferguson, Mo., on Wednesday

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Ferguson is what happens when white suburban cops get weapons of war
Michael Brown’s shooting was one thing. The protests are another. But military might does not belong on Main Street

You tell us: What’s your Michael Brown story of racial profiling?
Latest from Ferguson: Police fire teargas and rubber bullets

You can argue about the looting and the brick-throwing. You can argue about what constitutes a race “riot” these days – and why the hell we are seeing teargas every other evening in the suburbs, or Jim Crow-reminiscent police dogs in the year 2014. There are a lot of things worth arguing about now that the world’s eyes are focused on Ferguson, Missouri, a town where two-thirds of the population is black and 50 of the 53 police offers are white, where one of those officers gunned down an unarmed black kid in broad daylight.

But here is something that makes no sense, that is inarguable: Ferguson (population: 21,135) has about 40 robberies per year, a couple of homicides, almost no arson cases and a crime rate only a bit higher than the national average. Indeed, the town’s crime rate was going down as of two years ago, when the last major data is available. Ditto in neighboring St Louis.

Now St Louis isn’t exactly the picture of safety, but two years ago the St Louis Police Department also acquired a Lenco BearCat armored military vehicle, a “tactical support vehicle” and a helicopter that’s popular with the Korean air force. Earlier this year, the US Department of Homeland Security donated a 22-ton Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle – the thing we used on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan – to the police department in nearby St Charles, Missouri (population: 66,463).

On Saturday night, as people took to the streets to protest the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, the Ferguson Police Department, the chief of which reportedly displays a confederate flag in his home, had this at his disposal:

Police have brought out the large gear in #Ferguson.

— Antonio French (@AntonioFrench) August 9, 2014
Sure, there may have been “unrest” that needed paying attention to, but why were there Iraq-grade trucks even at the ready in the police station of an American suburb in the first place? Since when do local cops need wooden bullets and AR-15s? What the hell is the point of cops looking like this?

America, 2014.

— Lydia Polgreen (@lpolgreen) August 12, 2014
What is happening in Ferguson is exactly what opponents of the rise in military-style policing across America have long feared: when the feds arm white local cops with weapons of war and their superiors encourage them not to just play dress-up but to use their new war toys, it is inevitable that ordinary citizens – especially citizens of color – will get treated as the enemy. As we’ve seen in Ferguson, when military might comes to Main Street, “hands-up, don’t shoot” quickly turns into a quasi-declaration of war on a grieving community.

Looks like an LRAD on that MRAP. Sonic weapon. Not making this sh*t up MT @PDPJ: #Ferguson

— Khaldoun Khelil (@kkhelil) August 13, 2014
How the hell do we stop equipping and training suburban cops as warriors? I’ve written about this for a long time, and I’m not sure another unarmed black kid getting shot is going to end what Radley Balko calls the Rise of the Warrior Cop – even now that military veterans themselves have had enough.

But this much we know:

Small-town America does not often contend with military uprisings or terrorist attacks, so the war machines tend to get used on, you know, pumpkin festivals.
Many small-town residents don’t like when federal grants put armored vehicles in their backyards, and even some local Republican lawmakers want to ban their acquisition without voter approval.
You would think that a police force sworn to protect us would make us more safe with tanks and assault rifles in waiting, but an ACLU report released this summer – examining just 800 incidents of the estimated 45,000 annual Swat team deployments in America – found the opposite: seven people were killed and dozens were injured, including a baby – and 61% of people impacted by drug-case Swat raids were minorities.
Kara Dansky, the chief author of the ACLU report, told me this week that “the unnecessary use of paramilitary policing tactics tends to escalate the risk of violence to both civilians and officers.” She said there is no central tracking system of the military equipment going out to local police departments – just as there is no oversight on how the equipment is used, or any reporting requirements other than hitting drug-enforcement numbers that bring in more cash to the local PD. One Georgia Congressman wants to introduce real federal oversight, but it’s currently very difficult to know exactly which police department has what, how much they paid for it or what they use it for.

We may never know whether Ferguson police chief Thomas Jackson – the one with the flag, apparently – ordered in the armored vehicles of war this weekend, because we don’t know very much about which paramilitary police force is in control on which night. (They are arresting reporters, after all.) But we know what Jackson said on Wednesday: “that the anarchists that are coming in, the people that don’t want healing, the people that just want to continue to fight” are the people he’s allegedly “concerned about”. We know that one cop in riot gear described Ferguson to the Guardian on Monday night as “a war zone”. And we know that cops who think they are fighting in a war zone like to use their MRAPs and their battlefield guns on the street corner. We know that this was the scene on Wednesday night, before the teargas came again:

I counted 70+ SWAT officers. Guns trained on crowds. Insanity.

— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) August 13, 2014
On Tuesday, hours after the teargas and the wooden bullets came out in Ferguson for the first time, Jay Caspian King at the New Yorker asked questions we shouldn’t have to:

[H]ave we ... become anesthetized to images of police in armored vehicles and full military gear? And has the proliferation of images on news and social-media sites made them seem any more normal?

The world is arguing about whether the US should be intervening in Iraq, whether we’ll have “boots on the ground” in Baghdad or Mosul. Meanwhile, we have boots on the ground in Ferguson, Missouri. There is nothing normal about that. Why are we even arguing and asking anymore? The toys of war do no belong in a town of 21,000 – not for protests peaceful or less so, not for looting or brick-throwing. Certainly not for the memory of Michael Brown, who was killed by a policeman with a gun in the year 2014.

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