Apple vs. FBI — What This Case Means for YOU

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

and

Guest Author & Information Security professional Chris Magill

The FBI wants Apple to rewrite code for iPhones in order to break into a phone used by one of the San Bernardino terrorists. Apple said no. They are now embroiled in a lawsuit.

On March 1, the FBI admitted exactly WHY it needs Apple’s help. The FBI was in the phone, with access to everything it needed. Then someone at the FBI changed the phone’s password. They forgot the password. Now, the FBI can’t get back in the phone.

In other words, the FBI is asking that it be allowed to gut the constitutional rights of every American in perpetuity because it made a sophomoric boo-boo.

This begs some questions . . .

1)  Why doesn’t the FBI just ask the NSA for the information?

The cat got out of the Snowden bag a few years ago that the NSA collects and stores every electronic communication that takes place in America, including and especially phone communications. Investigating the San Bernardino jihadis and their play pals is EXACTLY why the NSA collects and stores these communications. If the NSA can’t give the information to the FBI, they need to give US citizens a refund of the untold fortunes they have wasted on this data collection. (See Spooks Without Boundaries by Piper Bayard.)

2)  If the NSA for any reason can’t give the FBI the information it needs, why doesn’t the FBI ask Israel or one of the Five Eyes nations?

Again, thanks to the Snowden cat, it is public knowledge that the White House allows Israel and the Five Eyes nations (Canada, UK, NZ, Australia) access to the raw data that the NSA collects on Americans. If the NSA can’t give the FBI the info, we’re sure that for a few shekels, Israel would be happy to find it for them.

3)  What does this lawsuit mean for the American citizen?

To give you the best information possible, we have invited Information Security professional and privacy advocate Chris Magill to answer that question for us . . .

Internet bugs Canstock

Apple vs. the FBI: What This Case Means for YOU

By Chris Magill

Apple and the FBI are currently locked in a struggle over your right to privacy. The Federal government has asked the courts to require Apple to change its code to allow FBI agents to read protected data on an iPhone believed to belong to one of the San Bernardino attackers. It also wants this capability to be applied to all iPhones, even yours.

So, the question becomes should private citizens be allowed communications capabilities which cannot be read by the government?

By law, there already are communications which are protected from government eyes. For example, attorney-client privilege prevents the government from listening in on private conversations when discussing legal strategies. As Americans, we also have the protections of the right to Freedom of Speech and the right to Freedom of Assembly. Allowing government access to our phones without a warrant destroys these rights.

What is cryptography?

Cryptography is a mathematical operation that replaces plain text with scrambled characters that can only be correctly interpreted by someone who holds the secret “key.”

Cryptography has existed for thousands of years. It was a vital means of protecting communications during the Revolutionary War. Thomas Jefferson greatly improved cryptography after the founding of our country when he developed the Wheel Cipher while serving as George Washington’s Secretary of State. Yes, the United States once had a Secretary of State who understood the importance of cryptography. In the iPhone, the iMessage feature encrypts instant messages between recent iPhone versions, making it very difficult to be read by anyone other than the intended recipient, even with access to the device.

What is a backdoor?

A backdoor is an easy-to-decrypt method for governments to read content on devices that would otherwise be very difficult to access.

Think of it as though the Federal Government sought to require you to leave your patio door unlocked in case a police officer needs to access your living room during an investigation. Obviously this would be ridiculous. Only a tiny fraction of homes would ever need to be entered by police, yet everyone would be at risk from criminals entering the unsecured door. Backdoors are a dangerous idea for two reasons. First, they require a known weakness, which can then be exploited by hackers or online thieves. And second, backdoors enable government to bypass the judicial branch to spy on citizens in violation of our rights.

Aren’t bad guys protected by cryptography?

Yes, in the same way that bad guys are protected by the Constitution.

We have constitutional protections against unlawful search and seizure. These protections should also apply to the communications we share and the contents of our devices we rely on in our daily lives. The iPhone isn’t the strongest available way to pass secret messages. A determined adversary will find communications methods that can only be countered by diligent, labor-intensive traditional law enforcement and counterintelligence methods.

I haven’t broken the law, so I have nothing to hide. How does this affect me?

By the 1980s, the Justice Department estimated there were approximately 3,000 criminal offenses spanning more than 23,000 pages of Federal law. Even if you are the best attorney in the world, it’s unlikely you could even know for sure whether you’ve never violated any of them.

If the government decides to prosecute you, they have a huge arsenal of regulations to select from which you will have to defend against. Skilled cyber criminals, spies, and terrorist organizations already have access to encryption that is theoretically unbreakable. The bad guys don’t rely on commercial encryption products in consumer devices.

A government backdoor does not make you any safer from terrorism.

It does make it easier for governments to find and target those who disagree with them. This is a concern in modern day America. Ask any conservative group targeted by Lois Lerner’s IRS. With government access to a backdoor to your phone, finding people who have a differing political view becomes as simple as a Google search.

What else can happen if cryptography is compromised?

This has happened in the recent past. In 2011, Comodo was compromised by a nation state-affiliated hacker group.

Comodo is a registration authority that creates cryptographic certificates which tell your web browser the web sites you visit are who they claim to be. Fake certificates were created that enabled the government of Iran to intercept and read the personal emails of citizens using Gmail and Hotmail. We will likely never know how many Iranian dissidents were rounded up and imprisoned (or worse) as a result of this compromise. Weak encryption makes it easier for oppressive governments to spy on their own citizens and crush dissent. Weak cryptography is also a factor in most, if not all, data breaches. If your identity was stolen in any of the countless data breaches, such as Target, Home Depot, Experian, or OPM, you probably have weak or compromised cryptography to thank.

What next?

Governments have an insatiable appetite to know everything about their citizen’s activities, acquaintances, political views, and beliefs. They also have a desire to prevent citizens from having capabilities that are difficult for them to counter.

The Apple vs FBI case is not about terrorism or crime. This case is about control of the transfer of ideas.

You are the government. You select your representatives. They work for you. They derive their authority from you. You have the power to demand that they stop. Tell your representatives to block efforts to weaken freedom of speech by banning civilian access to strong encryption. Tell them to prevent the government from requiring tech companies to enable spying through commercial products.

Allowing the government to secretly spy on all Americans is the digital equivalent of book burning. Ideas that are found distasteful to whichever administration holds power can be sought out and banned, and those citizens with undesirable views targeted for retaliation or punishment. Far from protecting us from terrorists, such actions only serve to weaken our democracy.

Sources:

TechTarget: “A breach at a registration authority caused Comodo to issue nine fraudulent certificates, enabling an attacker to impersonate some major websites and servers.”

http://searchsecurity.techtarget.com/news/1529110/Comodo-warns-of-serious-SSL-certificate-breach

CNet: “Apple’s iMessage encryption trips up feds’ surveillancehttp://www.cnet.com/news/apples-imessage-encryption-trips-up-feds-surveillance/

Chris Magill is an Information Security professional and privacy advocate. When he isn’t helping companies manage their cryptographic systems and hunting down hackers, Chris enjoys spending time on his small ranch with his family in the Pacific Northwest chasing horses around. His LinkedIn profile is https://www.linkedin.com/in/cmagill

A Real Terrorist Expert’s Take on ISIS

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

Given recent problems with several Western “expert” commentators in the fields of intelligence, counterterrorism, and asymmetric warfare, we know that many of our readers are anxious to find an authority they can trust. Rather than risk engaging with yet another bugus fly-by-night camera hound, we have recruited a genuine terror specialist.

 

Intelligence, Terrorism, and Asymmetric Warfare Expert Sheik Mullah Ali Baba Mohammed Faqwahdi al-Lansingi a.k.a. Sheik Mo

Intelligence, Terrorism, and Asymmetric Warfare Expert
Sheik Mullah Ali Baba Mohammed Faqwahdi al-Lansingi
a.k.a. Sheik Mo

 

We are proud to introduce our new intelligence, terrorism, and asymmetric warfare expert, Sheik Mullah Ali Baba Mohammed Fuqwahdi al-Lansingi, a.k.a. Sheik Mo.

After retiring to America from an exciting life of Mideast terror exploits, Mo has agreed to join our staff to help Westerners better understand the real world of terror and asymmetric warfare.

We’re here today in one of modern Islam’s cultural hotspots – downtown Lansing, Michigan – with Sheik Mullah Ali Baba Muhammad Fuqwahdi al Lansingi. In his first ever interview, Mo gives us an insider’s analysis of the ISIS phenomenon in Syria and Iraq.

Sheik Mo, thanks for joining us.

Hey, Jay and Piper, thanks for having me. It’s so nice to be seeing you again.

Sheik Mo, can you offer an expert analysis of the ISIS phenomenon in Syria and Iraq?

I am so glad you asked me this question. These so-called ISIS, IS, ISIL – whatever the daesh are calling themselves today – they are an embarrassment to honest, hardworking Mideast terrorists. Every time you turn on the TV, they are beheading more Muslims and burning more villages. Where did these idiots study terrorism? They don’t even know who to attack!

In my day, we knew who the enemy was . . . Well, at least we pretended to know, and we kept things straight from week to week. With a few AK’s and discount explosives from East Germany and Czechoslovakia, we got big results.

We were elite groups. We trained for years before going on our first missions. Now these ISIS types give any hash head that shows up a pair of black pajamas, and next thing you know they are parading in front of cameras, screaming like drunken English soccer fans. It’s embarrassing to the entire terrorist industry. They can’t even scream “allahu akbar” properly. Do you hear them? It’s terrible. I’ve seen better terrorists at the local preschool.

 

 

And these so called ISIS monkeys like all the publicity. In the old day, no self-respecting terrorist made videos. What’s next? ISIS book signings in London? Are they entering a float in the Rose Bowl parade?

Yet, they have captured a lot of territory, and they seem to keep recruiting more members. ISIS claims they are the new Islamic conquerors. They call themselves the “new caliphate” and the “new Islamic champions.” How should the West respond?

Well, of course, the West should oppose them. It’s always good to bomb people like that before they all get too comfortable. And anyway, with so many new models of drones competing for defense contract money all over the world, you have to test those drones somewhere. Nice videos of drones defeating a surplus Humvee on a test range is only going to sell so many. The West needs to use the advertising value from drone strikes on ISIS. A video of an ISIS convoy blowing up has sales power.

By the way, you need drones? Come see me. I have a brother-in-law that works for a defense contractor. I get you wholesale, even on small orders. No cheap Chinese junk. Only the latest drone fashions.

But please, “the new caliphate?” “The new Islamic champions?” No way. They only invade Muslim countries. It’s all a big fraud. You want a real Islamic conquest, you have to invade some high value real estate. When they capture Marbella and Manhattan, let me know, and I’ll buy some black pajamas.

For the West the answer is simple. More drones. And when they have nice big ISIS parades for the cameras, you drop lots of bombs. Remember, bombs have a shelf life. Why waste them dropping them in deserts in Nevada and New Mexico when you can drop them on ISIS?

What about the Kurdish fighters that are opposing ISIS?

Well those Kurds are serious fighters. You give them almost nothing and they show up and fight. When those ISIS clowns invaded the Kurdish region, a bunch of Kurdish farmers and girls beat the hell out of them. It was embarrassing! They call themselves big league terrorists? In my day we didn’t get beat up by girls!

 

Kurdish YPG fighters -- nobody's "girls." Image by About SLIMANY, wikimedia commons.

Kurdish YPG fighters — nobody’s “girls.”
Image by About SLIMANY, wikimedia commons.

 

But you know, many bigshots in the West don’t want to arm the Kurds because the Kurds will declare independence, and that Erdoğan guy in Turkey don’t like that. And if the Kurds declare independence in Iraq, what does that leave? That leaves you too many Iranian carpet merchants and amateur politicians in Iraq!

The Kurds don’t need Baghdad, but Baghdad needs the Kurds. Otherwise, you could send the Kurdish women’s soccer team to Syria with a few hand grenades, and they would take care of business.

Sheik Mo, thank you so much for joining us today. We look forward to our next interview with you concerning Afghanistan. In the meantime, we wish you the best of luck with your new defense contracting business.

Okay, Jay and Piper, and best wishes to your readers. Next time I’ll be contacting you from my new mobile communications and command center.

We look forward to it. Thanks again, Sheik Mo.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

And there you have it folks, a genuine insider’s view on ISIS.

 

5 Espionage Myths — The November Man

 

By Piper Bayard

 

The November Man movie poster

The November Man movie poster

 

The November Man is an espionage movie in which an ex-CIA operative is brought back by the Company for a personal mission in Moscow, only to find himself pitted against his protégé. It is a fast action thriller starring Pierce Brosnan and Luke Bracey that rockets viewers through the Russian and Serbian shadow world with everything from brutal assassins to rogue top-level operatives. It is also a comprehensive collection of espionage myths.

 

Myth One – CIA operatives are all ready and willing to off their own at any given moment just because a bureaucrat orders it.

Truth – US intelligence operatives are not murderous automatons who blindly kill whomever they are told to, up to and including their mentors and protégés.

 

It was common in Stalin’s KGB for Soviet operatives to kill each other. In fact, the KGB had a special branch for the express purpose of targeting fellow agents. However, such pointless slaughter has never been part of the US intelligence culture. Americans don’t put up with that crap. Presidents come and go with their various agendas, and long after they are booking their lecture tours and cutting ribbons on their presidential libraries, operatives are still on the job. Our intelligence community consists of flesh and blood human beings who would not live long if they didn’t question and comprehend their missions. They are not slovenly attack dogs to be released on any target that a transient bureaucratic overlord decides is inconvenient to their political goals, particularly when that target is one of their own.

 

Myth Two – Operatives think nothing of killing innocent people.

Truth – People who randomly kill innocents are serial killers and criminal psychopaths, not highly trained intelligence operatives.

 

Killing is serious business, and the intelligence community has had standing orders for decades to avoid civilian casualties as much as possible. An operative who randomly kills innocent people would be quickly weeded out. Such behavior is unacceptable in the intelligence community.

 

Myth Three – Operatives can’t have families.

Truth – Operatives, like anyone else, can have loved ones and families that they adore.

 

While it is true that many field operatives are either single or divorced, that is due to the nature of the job and not to any taboo about bonding with other humans. The fact is that few spouses are up for, “I need to go. Can’t say where. Can’t say when I’ll be home. Sorry, but I can’t leave you a number, either.” The lifestyle is very hard on relationships, and spouses must be as committed to leading the double life as the operative is. Not many are, and they are not to blame for that. However, as my writing partner proves, some do sustain marriages and family ties for decades.

 

Myth Four – People can be killers, or they can love, but they can’t do both.

Truth – Dedicated operatives often go into the field because they DO love.

 

The notion that someone who is trained to kill the likes of Bin Laden can’t love is patently absurd. Many operatives go into the field because they are unwilling to sit still and do nothing while brutal despots butcher innocent people.

 

Myth Five – Assassins look like assassins.

Truth – Assassins look like the school secretary, the grocery store manager, the bank teller, the janitor, or anyone else who can blend in with a crowd.

 

It is not required for operatives to speak in foreign accents and wear either tailored business suits or black leather.

 

Russian Assassin from The November Man

Russian Assassin from The November Man

 

 

While not a common myth, another notable fiction in The November Man is the notion that bullets from handguns travel at four times the speed of sound . . . Excuse me? A handgun? More like a hand held rocket launcher. Clearly, Hollywood is holding out on the Navy.

 

If you care nothing for accuracy about espionage or human nature in your spy thrillers, then go ahead and spend the $13 and enjoy Pierce Brosnan doing what he does best. However, if you do know anything at all about firearms, operatives, psychology, history, NATO, or intelligence work, this movie will make your head explode at a velocity of four times the speed of sound.

Syria and the Fading Dull Pink Smudge

By Jay Holmes

As of September 22, 2013, the civil war in Syria continues to generate more humanitarian disasters than the world’s observers can tolerate. Identifying Syria as a humanitarian crisis is simple enough. Refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey now house approximately two million Syrians. Various Syrian and non-Syrian visitors feed the media a constant stream of pictures and videos showing the daily casualties. People of all political flavors share revulsion for so many civilian deaths.

Za'atri Refugee Camp, image by US. Dept. of State

Za’atri Refugee Camp, image by US. Dept. of State

In particular, seeing the stark evidence of children killed by chemical weapons attacks or executed at point blank range by a variety of fighting groups has left most of the world with a feeling that something must be done in Syria. Only a ruthless psychopath, a.k.a. Vladimir Putin, could attempt to gloss over the humanitarian crisis. To that degree, the picture of events in Syria is quite clear. However, once we move beyond our widely-shared instinct to respond to the horrors of the Syrian civil war to the question of how to respond, the picture becomes murky.

So what should be done? As is often the case, the devil is in the details. Right now details and devils abound in Syria. When we begin to examine the question of what concrete actions should be undertaken, we find less agreement among sympathizers.

As often occurs during a major humanitarian crisis, many of the world’s ardent leftists are taking a break from their usual full-time occupation of condemning the US for its “interventionist bullying” and are now loudly proclaiming that the US’s failure to forcefully intervene in Syria is the principal cause of Syria’s problems. At the same time, many of the world’s members of the “I’m not a stinking leftist” political club are disgusted that the US has allowed Iran and its Hezbolalalala minions to use their manpower, weapons, and ruthlessness in Syria and Lebanon to suppress Syria’s indigenous Freedom fighters.

This past February, Anne-Marie Slaughter, the former Director of State Policy Planning under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, suggested that the US and any willing allies should create “no-kill zones” in Syria. These seemingly magical “no kill zones” would, in her view, expand over time and eventually isolate the Assad regime. If the allies in question would include Harry Potter and his band of merry magicians, then they might pull it off. If not, the plan needs more work.

Senator McCain, a man who is far more aware than most of us of the consequences of involving US forces in combat operations, has suggested that the US use some of its “stand off” cruise missiles to damage the Assad regime. The emphasis on “stand off” is Senator McCain’s. On the face of it, this seems like a comparatively low cost, low risk option. Depending on which particular model of cruise missile cruises into Syria, the “low cost” would be somewhere between $600,000 to $1,500,000 per missile. That would be a real bargain at today’s interventionist prices.

Senator McCain has been clear that he does not support large numbers of combat troops in Syria. However, it’s safe to say that a few sets of American boots must be on the ground there, gathering information about the dizzying array of foreign boots in Syria and trying to select out the “best boots” with which to share US-financed weapons and other supplies. With those Russian, American, British, French, and Turkish boots that are scampering about Syria trying to avoid stomping on the wrong Syrian feet, it’s difficult to generate a clear implementation of all the muddled policies being proposed by various nations.

The Gulf States are trying to support their favorite anti-Assad factions without accidentally helping all the al-Qaeda vermin that currently infest so many Syrian areas. As a result, confusion is the order of the day. The fact that the many al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda wannabes are happy to murder anyone not currently in their gangs brings even more instability and misery to Syrians. Shipping US military aid to Syria is easy enough. Finding someone likeable to hand it to is a bit more tricky.

When the Syrian civil war began two and a half years ago, members of the Western media managed to cobble together one of their exceedingly rare intelligent questions for President Obama. They asked him what the US should do about Assad’s chemical weapons inventory. The President demanded that we all let him be clear that the use of chemical weapons by Assad’s forces would cross a “clear red line.” Assad’s forces have since used chemical weapons and proven that President Obama’s “clear red line” was a completely meaningless, fading dull pink smudge.

"His Red Lines" by Ranan Lurie

“His Red Lines” by Ranan Lurie

From the American point of view, some interesting events have occurred since Assad’s forces urinated on Obama’s infamous red line. For starters, Vlady Putin claimed that he had proof that it was not Assad, but rather his opponents, that used chemical weapons on women and children in Syria. Those of us who are familiar with the workings of Putin and his old KGB machinery have no doubt that Putin can present “proof’ that Assad didn’t use chemical weapons. If Putin wanted, he could also provide proof that Afghanistan is in South America, and that the USSR invented ice cream. Thanks for all that Vlady.

Putin proposed that Assad send all of Syria’s chemical weapons to Russia for safe keeping. Finding himself on the wrong side of his imaginary red line, President Obama quickly agreed to a deal that will have all of Assad’s chemical weapons shipped to Russia by “mid 2014.” How many Syrian children will be murdered by chemical attacks until then was not discussed as part of the deal.

When the US led the Western world in escalating its Syrian response from frowning and grave concern to shock and dismay, the UK felt compelled to act. UK Prime Minister David Cameron clarified precisely what our “special friendship” partners in the UK would do if the US decided to directly attack the Assad regime. In response to the pressure and stress of the escalated finger waving, the UK parliament voted to surrender. The UK announced that it would not contribute to any military effort in Syria.

This declaration has farther reaching consequences than might be obvious to the casual observer. From my desk at home, I was able to imagine the cheers of joy emanating from La Casa Rosa as Argentina’s President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner celebrated her nation’s military victory in the Falklands. While the Falklands invasion 2.0 hasn’t occurred quite yet, Cristina is overjoyed that the Royal Navy That Has No Aircraft Carrier* will also have no support from the US should she convince Argentina’s military to conquer the oil deposits under the Falklands. We shall see.

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, a.k.a. la argentina feliz http://www.presidencia.gov.ar/

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, a.k.a. la argentina feliz http://www.presidencia.gov.ar/

Cameron would have been much wiser to simply do the usual “Proud Fearless Lion Foot Dragging” that has been the trademark of UK foreign policy since the Suez debacle in 1956. We in the West understand that Maggie is gone, and that the UK won’t even do much of anything about the UK in the near future, let alone Syria or any place further from London than Brighton Beach. Cameron gained nothing by publicly declaring that he would not help Obama and the US. In fact, in what is being celebrated by many in the UK as a landmark moment of British tenacity and independence in foreign policy, Cameron managed to suffer damage from the Syrian war without actually showing up in Syria. Slick move, Sherlock.

In response to Cameron’s stupidity, France’s President Françoise Hollande took the opportunity to announce that France would join in military intervention in Syria. In the US, it was announced as a “France backs the US” political victory for Obama. Take note, Cameron. If you are going to profit by vague promises, this is how you do it. The US is now considering officially changing back the name “Freedom Fries” to “French Fries.” Tears of joy are flowing in Paris, and a few folks in DC are willing to pretend that it’s something other than the usual over-imbibing of wine by Parisians.

Precisely how far the US or other Western nations will go in Syria is still unclear. What is more obvious is that creating a Syria run by Syrians will be far more difficult than toppling Assad. The world’s response to Syria has created much dark comedy and inspiration for journalists and other fiction writers, but the children of Syria have little reason to join in the laughter. Their predicament is yet another reminder of how far the world community remains from operating anything like a useful “United Nations.” The children of Syria have our prayers, but they’d likely prefer to have a real country to live in and a future to contemplate. Whatever action the US takes, we must be careful that it helps the Syrian people by damaging the Assad regime without accidentally helping al-Qaeda and Hezbollah.

Syrian refugee in Turkey, image from Voice of America

Syrian refugee in Turkey,
image from Voice of America

*The UK’s Royal Navy currently has no functioning aircraft carriers, and it is completely dependent on the US Navy for air support at sea. Perhaps someone should mention that to Prime Minister Cameron.

Why PRISM Matters

By Piper Bayard

I could list the civil liberties we have lost since 9/11, from security against unreasonable search and seizure to the officially sanctioned vilification of those who exercise their right to bear arms, but that would be a dissertation and not a blog. The sum total result, however, can be expressed in one sentence:  The balance of power has shifted.

PRISM protest at Checkpoint Charlie image by Digitale Gesellschaft

PRISM protest at Checkpoint Charlie
image by Digitale Gesellschaft

In a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, the government answers to the people. Its operations and the governing subset are subject to the scrutiny of the public. The people are secure from search and seizure—even in their communications—by the ruling subset of the population, and the people have the right and the ability to overthrow that subset by elections should the government grab too much power. The people are the masters, and the government is their servant.

When the government spies on us with everything from street corner cameras to DHS agents on our highways that perform warrantless searches of random individuals to collection and analysis of our every electronic transmission and phone communication, we are no longer the masters, and the government is no longer our servant. It is our ruler. It is a parent searching our rooms and opening our mail on the off chance that we MIGHT be doing something it doesn’t want us to do.

The difference between the government being the servant and the government being the master is a warrant. When an agency such as the NSA, FBI, DHS, etc., is required to obtain a warrant, an official paper trail is created by which the people can make the government answer for who and how it searches, why it searches, and what it obtains. It is a record by which citizens can hold the government accountable for its actions in a court of law.

With PRISM, every email, every phone communication, every bank transaction, every purchase involving a credit card, debit card, or check, and, once Obamacare is fully implemented, every health record is collected on all Americans. When trigger words* like “snow,” “bust,” or “sick” alert analysts, countless individuals who work for the government and in the private sector are free to peruse and interpret the threads of our lives at their personal discretion. Everything they do is off the record. No probable cause. No warrant. No accountability to the public. It is the act of a ruler, not the act of a servant.

Even with the evidence out about PRISM, our president claims that his administration is not spying on Americans. Yet he also states unapologetically that his administration will continue to collect and analyze all of our private communications with no probable cause or warrant to do so—in the name of “safety.” He is only admitting that much because of Snowden’s leaks. The true question lies in the things our president is not admitting.

Photo by Jeff Schuler wikimedia commons

Photo by Jeff Schuler
wikimedia commons

In 1972, America was shaken to its core by Nixon’s one warrantless wire tap. PRISM is a warrantless wire tap of every American and foreigner within our borders. Each and every one of us is now assumed guilty until proven innocent. Each and every one of us now answers to the government master that was once our servant. I’m not saying we shouldn’t spy on terrorists within or without our borders. I’m saying let there be warrants. Let there be public records. Let there be accountability. Do not allow the government to exercise such omnipotent power with impunity.

Prior to PRISM and to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, warrantless searches were allowed under urgent circumstances, but the after the search, the government agents involved still had to make a record and show probable cause retroactively. In most cases, terrorist investigators working in the US had plenty of time to take the few minutes needed to get a warrant from an on-call judge. There is no known history of any case in which the requirement for a warrant prevented investigators from acting in time.

Freedom is about dignity and responsibility—it is not about perfect security from cradle to grave. When we abdicate our responsibility for our freedom in favor of comfort and the illusion of safety, an illusion the Boston bombing should have shattered, we also surrender our dignity and our choices. We become wards of the state. What were once our rights as responsible adults are now merely our privileges as subjects, granted or withheld by our rulers at their whim and discretion. We must demand more of our leaders. Freedom can be won, and freedom can be surrendered, but Freedom will never be given back once successfully taken by the ruling class. PRISM is that taking.

*Department of Homeland Security Analyst’s Desktop Binder

PRISM Surveillance on Americans–What Price Convenience?

By Piper Bayard

Sure, I could be writing about my debut dystopian thriller, FIRELANDS, which was released last week by Stonehouse Ink. In fact, I planned to do that very thing. And while I certainly hope you’ll decide to check it out, there is something even more important happening that we need to discuss.

Last week, former National Security Agency (“NSA”) intelligence analyst and whistleblower Edward Snowden came forward and released training slides used to train operatives at the NSA in a surveillance program called PRISM. PRISM allows the NSA to collect data directly from the servers of Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, YouTube, Skype, AOL, and Apple and search for any information on anyone at all. It was begun under a previous administration for the purpose of collecting information on foreign terrorists. It was greatly expanded by President Obama to include data collection on all Americans. These are two of the slides.

PRISM - Providers & Dates when collection began

PRISM Collection details

Some of these companies cooperated without protest. Others required warrants issued under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (“FISA”). However, FISA does not grant authority to collect data on Americans or others within US borders, something which PRISM does. All of these companies are denying knowledge and participation at this point.

Not only does the NSA directly access these companies’ servers, which serve primarily Americans, they are sharing PRISM’s power of unbridled access into our internet usage with the UK government. That’s right. The GCHQ – that’s the UK’s NSA equivalent – has the same access to all of our information that our own Obama administration is enjoying.

As for President Obama, he and his administration are, of course, downplaying the whole PRISM-gate and denying that PRISM was ever used to collect data on Americans or on people living in the US. At the same time, he says this is a “modest encroachment” on privacy that is a worthy trade off for preventing terrorism. (Attorneys will recognize this as “arguing in the alternative.”) Groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union disagree with the inconsequential nature of these violations and are considering the legal options on behalf of the American people and others living within US borders.

As a recovering attorney, I could give you my take on the constitutionality and legal implications of this surveillance program. As a senior intelligence operative, Holmes could certainly enlighten us were he at liberty to do so. However, former intelligence analyst and whistleblower Edward Snowden says it best in his own words. Please take a few minutes to listen to this interview with him about PRISM, why he gave up the good life he led in Hawaii—he can never go home again—and what he hopes to accomplish with his revelations.

Programs like PRISM are extremely powerful and can reach into anyone’s email, internet records, and phone records. I am not suggesting that America should not track terrorists, but I see no sign from the Obama administration that any safeguards whatsoever are in place. Instead, the president suggests that we should take it all on good faith that his administration is not targeting Americans. Strong echoes of Richard Nixon’s infamous, “Trust me.”

In all of the stir this has created, we haven’t yet heard the deeper questions. Corporations sponsor and “own” politicians, so who in corporate America gets to benefit from this data collection? Do corporations who buy political figures get to use this technology to spy on their competitors? Do the IRS and other agencies get to use this information collected on us in the name of safety for their own purposes? After all, it’s much easier to target political opponents with such things as IRS scrutiny when their entire communication history is available for review.

Regardless of the answers to these questions, the most important point to remember is this:  the American government doesn’t do anything that the American people don’t let it get away with—yet. Where will we draw our line?

Related Links:

1)    Here’s the Law the Obama Administration is Using as Legal Justification for Broad Surveillance. Brett LoGiurato, Business Insider, June 7, 2013.

2)    Obama: No One is Listening to Your Calls. Michael Pearson, CNN Politics, June 9, 2013.

3)    Obama Blasts Media ‘Hype’ Over Secret Program, Calling Them ‘Modest Encroachments on Privacy’. Brett LoGiurato, Business Insider, June 7, 2013.

4)    Edward Snowden: The Whistleblower Behind the NSA Surveillance Revelations. Glenn Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill, and Lora Poitras, The Guardian, June 9, 2013.

5)    NSA PRISM Program Taps in to User Data of Apple, Google, and others. Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian, June 6, 2013.

6)    U.S., British Intelligence Mining Data from Nine U.S. Internet Companies in Broad Secret Program. Barton Gellman and Lora Poitras, The Washington Post, June 7, 2013.

The North Korean Sky is Falling

By Intelligence Operative Jay Holmes

On April 15, North Korea will celebrate its 68th anniversary of independence. While the Western world will barely notice the celebration, it will undoubtedly be a big occasion in North Korea. Unlike the 4th of July in the US, there will be no hot dogs or hamburgers on the grill. Maybe there will be one half of a hot dog per person at maximum, and no ketchup. Generally, celebrations in North Korea take the form of televised military and party cadre parades with a strong dose of religious worship for whichever unimaginative Kim happens to be in charge at the moment. Other than that, it will be just another miserable day in North Korea.

USGS info poster showing intensity of Feb. 12, 2013 North Korean nuclear test.

USGS info poster showing intensity of Feb. 12, 2013 North Korean nuclear test.

On February 12, 2013, North Korea conducted its third nuclear test, detonating a weapon with a seven kiloton yield. Fortunately, yields from nuclear detonations are easily measured by other nations, and we know that the explosion was one-third the size of the yield of the atomic bomb that the US dropped on Nagasaki in 1945.

It was hardly the massive Armageddon weapon that North Korean dictator Kim Un’s propaganda machinery described. However, it represents a technical leap forward from previous North Korean nuclear detonations, and it is sufficient yield to cause thousands of deaths in any South Korean city or US base.

This missile test was yet another predictable violation of the latest nuclear weapons agreement between North Korea and the rest of the world. Why anyone in the US government would ever believe that North Korea would hold to an agreement remains one of the more curious mysteries of US foreign policy. My suspicion is that diplomats are instructed to pretend to believe that they have some quiet agreement in place with the Kim dynasty for political value at home in the US.

Even Madeleine Albright had to know she was talking nonsense when she pretended to be giddy with the “successes” of her miserable diplomatic efforts with Kim Un’s father, Kim Jong Il, during the Clinton era. The upshot of Madeleine’s diplomatic “victory” was to exchange US aid for the assurance that North Korea would not pursue nuclear weapons. Only the staunchest of Clinton administration supporters were able to convince themselves that Madeleine’s diplomatic performance was anything more than self-delusion. Madeleine’s “work” with North Korea did, however, fulfill one critical purpose. It allowed President Clinton to pass the buck to the next administration.

No US president since Eisenhower has wanted to deal with North Korea. Bill Clinton was no exception. Every US president arrives to his first day of work with his heart and mind filled with optimistic projections of how he will build his particular version of the “great society.” These optimistic visions generally start with something like a beautiful No Child Left Behind butterfly. Those visions then end up devolving into some ugly No Corporate Donor Left Behind parasite, but that’s a topic for yet another day.

And therein lies the second motive for the North Korean Kim Machine. If the first urgent goal of the North Korean government is to convince North Koreans to remain obedient, then the second goal is to be noticed by the US White House.

North Korea desperately needs the West for two important reasons. It needs us and the rest of the world to feed them. Like any undeveloped infant, North Korea is not grown up enough to feed itself. It’s too busy playing with military toys to learn that basic survival technique. Also, the Kim Dynasty’s entire 68-year-old Kim Marketing Plan relies on the perceived great and urgent threat to North Korea from the outside world.

Any time the North Koreans can broadcast a genuine video clip of a US president uttering the words “North Korea” without having to rely on their unskilled photo-shoppers, it’s a propaganda victory. In North Korea, a day without “international tension” is like, . . . well, we can only imagine what that would be like. Who knows? It hasn’t happened yet.

North Korea has also been developing a missile that has the ability to reach Alaska. Kim claims that missile can hit Los Angeles and Austin. It can’t. In fact, it is highly unlikely that North Korean missiles could reach the US mainland as of yet. It’s also unlikely that North Korea could equip a long range missile with a light enough nuclear weapon in a reentry device that would enable delivery to US soil and detonation.

In spite of the lack of a real threat, the US Defense Department has reinforced missile defense systems on the US West Coast. That reinforcement was intended for psychological rather than tactical benefit. Precisely what, if anything, occurred as a result of the announced reinforcement is a matter that I will leave to the Defense Department to (not) talk about. That “(not) talk” session would likely consist of a terse statement that the precise details of military deployments are classified.

For folks living in South Korea and Japan, including the 63,000 US forces stationed in those two countries, the view is less comical. For one thing, North Korea has about sixty-five percent of its military at or near the border with South Korea. Thousands of artillery pieces with hundreds of thousands of shells are within range of the South Korean capital of Seoul. While some media pundits like to point out that the US and South Korea could easily wipe out that North Korean artillery, they are assuming a massive first strike by US and South Korean forces before North Korea could launch a barrage of missiles and artillery shells against Seoul and other targets. And a preemptive strike by South Korea and the US is highly unlikely.

To people living in South Korea and Japan, the clownish threats by Kim are not just rhetoric. North Korea does represent a real threat to its neighbors, and it has a long history of attacking South Korea. Remember that in March 2010, a North Korean submarine sank a South Korean Navy Corvette in South Korean waters, killing 46 South Korean sailors. The following November, North Korea shelled a South Korean island, killing three South Koreans. The South Korean island garrison responded with their artillery and killed about ten North Korean soldiers.

On March 26, 2013, after listening to a month long series of nuclear threats by North Korea, South Korean President Park Geun-Hye stated that North Korea’s only path to survival was through abandonment of its nuclear weapons program. North Korea responded by cutting its “hot-line” communications system with South Korea. Given that nobody in South Korea was ever going to believe anything that was spoken by a North Korean on that hot-line system, it hardly matters.

On March 29, Pyongyang announced, “The time has come to settle accounts with the US imperialists.” It then ordered North Korean missile teams to be prepared to fire on US bases in the South Pacific. We in the US could afford to laugh, but there was less laughter in South Korea and Japan.

On March 30, North Korea stopped pretending to be on the verge of all-out war with South Korea and the US and, instead, announced that it is in an actual state of war. Fortunately, Kim has remembered that he is only pretending to be at war, and no unusual troop movements or communications have been detected in North Korea. The US responded by moving high tech F-22 Raptor fighters from Japan to South Korea. Any changes in deployment of US ballistic missile submarines in the waters of East Asia would be classified, but we may reasonably assume that, in the event of a nuclear attack by North Korea, the US would respond with strikes by US submarine launched missiles.

This morning, North Korea did something interesting. It announced the appointment of Pak Pong-Ju as the new premier. The premier would not be in the top five of the power structure in North Korea, but he would formulate and present economic policies to Kim Un. Pak was fired from his post as prime minister in 2007 after proposing some very minor U.S.-style economic policies.

This appointment is seen by Western leaders as a rare, positive bit of news from North Korea. The appointment of a North Korean who has dared to utter a few non-hateful words about the US is interpreted by some as a signal from Kim Un that he would like us to remember that he knows that he cannot hope to survive any war with South Korea and the US. It is also good news because North Korea’s most serious threat to South Korea and to its ally China is the threat of the complete economic collapse of North Korea.

While an economic collapse in North Korea might seem like a welcome possibility to distant observers, it is far less appealing to South Korea, to China, and to half of the 25,000,000 North Korean people who suffer from chronic malnourishment. China and South Korea quietly agree about two things concerning North Korea. One is that Kim Jong Un is an annoying twerp. The other is that if North Korea collapses, both South Korea and China will be flooded with millions of hungry North Koreans. Neither country wants to deal with such a large humanitarian crisis or the chaos that it would introduce inside their borders.

So what does this mean to those of us fortunate enough to not live in North Korea? It means that the US and South Korea have no choice but to remain prepared for war with North Korea. To the White House, that means annoying distractions from urgent domestic economic issues. Even the most loyal Obama lovers do not believe the White House’s recent optimistic self-assessments concerning the US economy. While Los Angeles will not be destroyed by a nuclear device from North Korea any time soon, it and the rest of the nation remain under attack by a home grown economic weapon of mass destruction. With so many foreign policy challenges to deal with in the Middle East, and so many millions of Americans slipping into poverty, Obama and the rest of the nation would prefer to not have to spend time and money dealing with North Korea.

However, Iran would love a war between the US and North Korea or between the US and any nation not named “Iran.”  To the north, Russia seems confused about what it wants in Korea. It can’t tell if a war in Korea would represent a net gain or loss to the Russian economy or to Russian foreign policy goals. The rest of the world is either unaware of the situation in Korea or simply hopes that war does not erupt there.

The greatest danger in North Korea is the possibility that, based on North Korea’s complete lack of understanding of the world outside of its borders, Kim Jong Un and his hard line pals in the North Korean military might miscalculate and trigger an all-out war. This morning’s announcement of their selection of a new “pro-Western” premier may indicate that, in lieu of a reasonable diet, Kim urgently needs to keep feeding his own subjects a heavy diet of war propaganda, but that he hopes that the US continues to not take him too seriously.

Yet in his confusion about the world outside of North Korea, Kim apparently feels that the only way to be taken seriously is to remain a military threat. He wants to be taken seriously enough to rate bribes from the rest of the world in the form of desperately needed food and oil shipments. My estimate is that North Korea wishes to remain one inch from that threatened war, but wants the US and South Korea to remain able to accurately measure that ever important last inch. In an ironic twist of any intelligence service’s basic goal, North Korea desperately wants everyone outside of North Korea to know more about their intentions than their own people know at home.

So far, North Korea’s war rhetoric has not been matched by military moves. Let’s hope it remains that way.

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“Jay Holmes” is a man with experience in intelligence and covert operations who spent decades intimately involved in fighting the Soviets, the East Germans, and the various terrorist organizations they sponsored. Now, he is a Senior Mouseketeer in the intelligence community, and he writes spy thrillers with author Piper Bayard. Piper is the public face of their partnership. Their first spy thriller, APEX PREDATOR: THE LEOPARD OF CAIRO, is due out this fall through Stonehouse Ink Publishing.

For more about Jay Holmes, see No Room for Fragile Egos–A Spook’s World.

Why ARE We In Afghanistan?

By Intelligence Operative Jay Holmes*

As we approach 2013, several Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries seem to be undergoing changes, but there is no consensus on what those changes will mean. While a few are hopeful, many give cause for concern.

Obama and Karzai Pete Souza for Executive Office of the President of the US wikimedia

Barack Obama and Hamid Karzai

Image by Pete Souza for Executive Office of the President of the United States

Let’s first look to the north. In Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai and his Obama Echo continue to assure the world that “things are improving” in Afghanistan. If by “things” he is referring to his and his brothers’ foreign bank accounts, then he’s telling the truth. If he is talking about “things” in reference to those unfortunate 35.3 million Afghans who don’t share in the Karzai family profits, then “things” are not so good.

For starters, 1.6 million Afghans remain in refugee camps in Pakistan. Another 430,000 continue to live in makeshift huts and UN-supplied tents in refugee camps inside of Afghanistan. Apparently, those two million folks have not heard Karzai’s glowing reports about the improved security in the areas that the Taliban forced them to abandon, or they simply enjoy living in tents and not receiving the millions of dollars of aid that the US taxpayers are sending them.

The Afghan Peace Commission this week announced that Pakistan has agreed to cooperate in a peace plan. To put that in Western terms, that would be like the US Congress agreeing to term limits. Don’t hold your breath. Pakistan doesn’t even cooperate with Pakistan on peace initiatives so how would they cooperate with Afghanistan? If that peace commission gets something more than the usual comical Pakistani lip service out of Islamabad, they will deserve the Nobel Peace Prize.

According to the White House, US Forces will all be gone from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 . . . Oh, wait a sec. This just in from Pennsylvania Avenue . . . We might have to keep “about ten thousand troops” in Afghanistan after 2014 in a support role.

Let me translate that to reality. “About ten thousand troops” generally means around 16,000 troops. The White House is admitting that without around 16,000 crack US troops in Afghanistan to prop up the bogus Karzai government, a few thousand Taliban will ride their donkeys and mopeds into Kabul and take over the place. Let’s hope that 16,000 troops will be enough.

But why have any troops there at all? What’s in it for us? Regional stability perhaps? We don’t live in that region, and our oil fix doesn’t come from Afghanistan.

There are, in fact, some rare metals there that we could use but we’re not taking those. Karzai sold those to China. China is already increasing copper production at an Afghan copper mine and exploring for oil in the Amu Darya basin. And if there’s no oil there? No problem. There are enough natural gas reserves in Afghanistan to keep China happy for a decade or more. So again, why are we there? Why not let China bring “stability” to their neighbor?

Some would argue that the US wants to deny al-Qaeda a base of operations by forcing them out of Afghanistan. Let’s put that in perspective. Al-Qaeda being kicked out of Afghanistan and having to move to Africa, Pakistan, and the Gulf is like inmates being kicked out of Sing-Sing and having to move to Malibu. Al-Qaeda is hardly complaining. In any event, if al-Qaeda sets up a serious infrastructure in Afghanistan again, we can bomb them more easily there than we can bomb them in Pakistan. Pakistan is our “friend,” after all.

Others would argue that if the US “abandons” our “friends” in Afghanistan, that country might return to heroin production. (Insert gasps of shocked disbelief.) Forget it. Heroin production is so high right now in Afghanistan that Afghanis are currently stockpiling surpluses.

So let me see if I have the Obama Plan right. “About ten thousand” (around 16,000) US troops will remain indefinitely in Afghanistan to ensure that Afghanistan remains stable enough to export energy and metals to Communist China.

Yes, Virginia, there is indeed a Santa Claus, and he evidently loves China.

US Marines patrolling poppy fields in Helmand Province DOD

US Marines patrolling poppy fields in Helmand Province, image from Department of Defense

Now for the situations in the rest of the Middle East and Central Asia . . .

To the east, we still see the Pakistani government exhibiting the same lack of loyalty to the Pakistani people and nation that has plagued Pakistan since their independence. Every day, Pakistani leaders must wonder who their secret police and intelligence services might be serving, and whether they, themselves, will be the next targets of “unfortunate Pakistani accidents.” In the meantime, the education system and economy remain in a shambles that would almost make General Motors look like a viable economic enterprise. Okay, I exaggerate. GM isn’t that good, but you get my point.

Pakistan’s neighbor, Iran enjoys the regional upheaval and is using the distraction to press on with their atomic bomb program. Even the UN, try though it stridently might, isn’t fooled by Iran’s intentions, but the international buck passing continues.

Everyone outside of Iran urgently wants the US to step in and stop Iran’s bomb program. Just as urgently, those countries can’t wait for the US to step in so they can all rise up and sing a chorus of righteous indignation against “American war mongering.” If nothing else, it would be amusing to hear the predictable staff at NPR criticize their favorite president.

In the Gulf Region, recent Kuwaiti elections had dismally low participation levels, and a rebellion is slowly fomenting there.

Dubai, Bahrain and Qatar all appear to be fragile. All are employing increased police violence and rigged courts to keep their rulers in power.

The United Arab Emirates is looking less united than ever.

Although Yemen remains in a state of social and political upheaval, the Yemeni people have thus far successfully resisted attempted al-Qaeda takeovers.

To the west, Syria has grown tired of the Assad family gang, but it is unable to present an attractive alternative to the Westerners who might facilitate their revolutionary efforts.

Lebanon remains in the state of chaos that it has endured for forty years.

In Israel, we saw the Israeli Defense Force bomb Gaza, mobilize reserves, and move tanks to the Gaza border. Then, they suddenly halted their operations in exchange for a cease-fire agreement with Hamas. It took less than a day for Hamas to violate that agreement, and to no sane person’s surprise, Iran continues to ship missiles to Hamas.

While Egyptians managed to scare their old despot Mubarak off of his throne, they have yet to form a representative government. Educated Egyptians are watching the turmoil in Cairo and wondering if their country might be tumbling backwards into a Dark Age where civil rights and freedom are suppressed by a handful of self-proclaimed Islamic clerics.

We do have positive news out of Libya. Although Libyans have not yet formed strong, functioning governmental institutions, they have thus far avoided having their nation hijacked by Iran or any of the various al-Qaeda start up gangs that currently plague Islamic nations. Our respect and continued hope that the Libyans will succeed in making their nation a peaceful, viable, and productive home for their people.

In our next foreign policy article, we will look at more of the less absurd and/or depressing prospects in the Middle East and Central Asia. Any questions?

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*‘Jay Holmes’, is an intelligence veteran of the Cold War and remains an anonymous member of the intelligence community. His writing partner, Piper Bayard, is the public face of their partnership.

© 2012 Jay Holmes. All content on this page is protected by copyright. If you would like to use any part of this, please contact us at the above links to request permission.

How the Schooling Disaster in Detroit is a Win for Al-Qaeda

By Jay Holmes

United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently declared that the Detroit, Michigan school system is a national disgrace. He is right. Some politically sensitive types in Detroit were offended by this. They should, instead, be offended by their educational system.

When Duncan was selected as Secretary of Education, I wondered how qualified he was. After all, he had been a professional basketball player in Australia for ten years. He also has a sociology degree from Harvard. Red flag to me. Most of the sociologists who I have met in government are anxious to quote statistics and salivate at the possibility of discovering more statistics. When I ask them for an action plan, they give me a blank stare. In fact, they often act as though they have been shot by a poison dart whenever action is required.

Another red flag to me was the fact that Duncan came from the hideously corrupt political system in Chicago. After a closer look, though, it became evident that, as the CEO of the Chicago school system, Duncan had played a part in significantly increasing test results for students in Chicago. Obviously, the hard work of the kids, the parents, and the teachers made it happen, but until Duncan showed up, the Chicago schools were well on their way to hell with no redemption in sight.

The improvement in Chicago test scores was on both the national standard testing for all grades and on the ACT. Also, the number of Chicago youngsters graduating increased, as did the number of Chicago youngsters entering colleges. These were real results. Duncan obviously wasn’t the typical school superintendent claiming victory after leaving a school system in shambles.

Ok. So red flags aside, and without knowing about or giving a damn about his politics, the guy won a major battle in one of this nation’s most important wars, and he showed up sober to fight that battle where the enemy held the high ground and outnumbered him badly. I’ll give credit where it’s due. Given Secretary Duncan’s history of success and the pathetic results produced by the Detroit school system, I take his statement about Detroit seriously.

Now that we have identified a priority target, what shall our tactical plan be? I am a bit out of my league here. This is a battle that I am willing to fight passionately, but I lack the best weapons and training to ensure victory. I’m willing to listen and learn.

As someone who is not a trained teacher, though, even I can easily identify a few facets of the problem in Detroit. Some of the issues are external to the schools. Detroit is a failed, Rust Belt city with chronic, long-term high unemployment, high crime rates, and no signs of recovery. OK, we know the battleground now. Do we evacuate the children to refugee camps in Canada, or do we make a stand and fight? It looks like we are going to stay and fight.

We are dealing with children who live in fear of violence and economic uncertainty. Many of the children have no real parent, or an undereducated parent working overtime at a back-breaking job. Ok, that’s most of what we need to know about the innocent hostages in question. So we need a solution that can rescue the greatest number of kids. Is it “fair” that you and I need to rescue them instead of their parents doing it? Hell, no. But you don’t want to share your national budget, your health care system, your economy, or your streets with uneducated children. Even if you don’t care about them, if you care about you at all, take a look at what’s going on.

Who is the enemy? Who is the hostage taker? Is he from Yemen, Pakistan, or southern Egypt? No, he is from America. He/she is the heartless politico who makes millions of dollars vanish from the Detroit school system each year. He/she is the lazy, self-protecting, responsibility-avoiding slime bag who collects a salary and produces no work in his or her day.

You know what they look like. You have met a few of them in your child’s school or in the company or government agency where you work. They tend to be highly informed about the latest nuance in political correctness, and at the moment they are very busy explaining why everyone needs to join their new initiative on “Azerbaijani cultural sensitivity” or “preventing sexual harassment amongst preschoolers by dangerous four-year-old boys,” or they are busy organizing this year’s Save the Whales Day. At least the kids have fun at the Save the Whales Day, and the whales suffer no impact one way or the other. But this type of useless schmuck “administrator” is not only wasting a salary slot that could go to a live employee, they are preventing sentient beings from running the schools.

Now let’s see how education in Detroit matters to the big picture.

One of the few signs of hope in the stone-age environment in Afghanistan is that, in some locations, children are starting to attend something like real schools. Based on UNICEF numbers, 18% of reading-age girls in Afghanistan can now read. This heartbreaking number is actually good news. A few years ago, the number would have been about .5%. Approximately 49% of reading-age Afghani males can read. This number is also an improvement as compared to 10 years ago.

Literacy matters to national security in any nation, both internally and externally. Better education makes for a stronger economy and fewer criminals on the home front, and when countries become more educated, their citizens are less willing to join any jihad activities. In short, a well-informed nation is less likely to tolerate living under anything like Al-Qaeda or the Taliban.

Here’s a real shocker for you. Almost all mobsters and other types of gang members do poorly on any test that measures thinking skills, reading, math, or problem solving. You’re not really shocked at that, are you? Few people abandon real jobs to become foot soldiers for the mob or meth dealers for the local crack King/Queen. By having educated citizens, we have fewer criminals. When other nations have educated citizens, the risk of their citizens joining criminal enterprises like Al-Qaeda decreases. Education is obviously not the only factor in deciding an individual’s path or a nation’s path but it is one of the big ones.

The current estimate for functional literacy of adults in Detroit is 53%. Unlike in Afghanistan, the numbers are not improving. If Detroit does not change directions, we will soon end up searching for volunteer teachers from Afghanistan to teach kids and adults in Detroit to read. When you find yourself asking the question, “How can those people in Someplaceville elect that piece of garbage for a fill in the blank?” a large part of the answer is ignorance. Ignorance is a dangerous enemy of progress, justice, and democracy. Ignorance is the best friend of human suffering.

The anti-West factions in the Chinese oligarchy don’t care much about literacy in Afghanistan, but they and other enemies, such as Al-Qaeda, are happy to see decay in education in the United States. Al-Qaeda and other organized crime groups know that people who cannot read are more easily scammed into supporting their criminal agendas, and they are more easily victimized by those criminal agendas.

The combined adult literacy rate in Pakistan is 58%. People in Pakistan can read better than people in Detroit. Yes, Pakistan. That country in turmoil with no real education system where Al-Qaeda is trying to gain control of the government. The government that Al-Qaeda currently has to pay lease rates for. Perhaps Pakistani immigrant applicants should be required to teach reading in Detroit schools for six months before gaining full visas.

The battle in Detroit and in other school systems in Western civilization matters. I’m ready to put my boots on and go fight. I recognize some of the weapons available to us. There are some exceptional, highly motivated teachers. There are some passable teachers who aren’t going to join any “special ops” efforts, but they are fighting on our side, and they can contribute. There are some administrators who are not avoiding the fight, but not enough of them, and there are some parents who have the motive and means to help their children. We are not without resources.

So how do we win this battle? That’s a real question for you, readers. Tell me, because I am desperate for the answer, and because your future depends on it.

NATO is not the Neutral Atlantic Treaty Organization

By Jay Holmes

NATO, the dream child of Dwight D. Eisenhower and Winston Churchill, came into existence after WWII for the express purpose of forming an alliance for the mutual defense of its members. The original motive was to defend against any invasion from the USSR. After the fall of the USSR and its reorganization into the spookocracy that is modern Russia, NATO continues to defend the interests of its members. While in theory NATO performs a number of diplomatic services, it is, in reality, a military organization. NATO was never designed to be neutral. It exists on behalf of its members. NATO is the Department of Whoops! Neutrality Isn’t Working.

This week a very “special” person, Libya Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim has made the claim that NATO is “siding with the rebels”. (Please insert the sounds of a large, shocked theater audience here.) Apparently, Khaled Kaim, a.k.a. Stupid, thinks that dressing like a European or North American politician means there is actually a 30% chance that anyone outside of his mother’s knitting circle will take him seriously whenever he steps up to a microphone.

War is a sad business. Regardless of where they live on the Libyan map, it is a tragedy that children are suffering and dying in this conflict—a conflict that Khaled and his bloodsucking pals worked hard to help create. It takes a truly “special” individual to provide humor in the midst of the tragedy in Libya.

Congratulations Khaled, you have accomplished your purpose in life. You made me laugh. You may now die in peace at the time of your choosing or whenever you should decide to step into the kill zone of the next unfair and politically prejudiced NATO bomb. I’m sure that NATO would be willing to help you out by sending an extra one for you if you like. In response to your concerns, I will ask NATO to please print a warning label with an appropriate disclaimer of impartiality on each bomb just to clarify things for anyone not yet clear on the concept of “bomb.”

Apparently, NATO used some of its usual devious tactics to confuse poor Khaled. The US and UK must have equipped those 124 Tomahawk cruise missiles with special Hollywood Model Silencers on their 1000 pound warheads. I can only guess that those silencers looked like giant water bottles. What a dirty trick! Khaled and his pals never even heard the missiles explode. NATO is so sneaky sometimes. Who would have guessed that anyone in the world was taking the side of Saint Moammar Gadhafi’s opponents? I can’t quite get over the shock of this recently uncovered plot.

Thanks for helping us out Khaled. I am nominating you for an Honorary Doctorate in Philosophy from the International Academy for Antisocial Pathologies. If you are selected for the honor, your diploma will be delivered by our special Drone Delivery Service.