New US Outreach Program — Spooks without Boundaries

By Piper Bayard

First it was the NSA peeking up our digital skirts, illegally collecting and storing raw intelligence on Americans to paw through at will. Then the other four of the Five Eyes—Australia, the UK, New Zealand, and Canada—crowded up for a glimpse. Now I find out that Israel has its cameras under our hemlines, as well. When I consider how many other as-yet-to-be-revealed countries must be signed up for the Big NSA Raw Giveaway, I wonder if America unwittingly wandered onto the set of “Criminal Minds” during Rampant Voyeurs Week.  But as our government so glibly tells us, if we wear our Sponge Bob undies like a good little girls and boys, we have nothing to worry about.

Internet bugs Canstock

I know what you’re thinking—those World Order Conspiracy theorists just might be onto something, after all. Why else would our American government ditch the warrant system to illegally collect our own citizens’ electronic transmissions and share them with all of their corporate and political friends—none of whom loves us enough to help us hide the bodies? That’s the behavior of a bad boyfriend with a revenge porn account.

I don’t blame you one bit for that train of thought. But rest assured! You’ll be glad to know I did some checking with non-existent sources and found out nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, I’m betting you’ll feel as pleased with our government as I am when you hear the details.

Our government leaders, in their infinite wisdom and compassion, noticed that giving out candy bars in war zones somehow didn’t win America the Miss Congeniality prize they so coveted in the World Image Competition. They hired three out-of-work Carnival cruise directors, a retired circus clown, and the hostess from the local Hooters to get together and figure out what would make us more popular on the world stage. Their innovative solution is already rocking the planet.

These brilliant out-of-the-box thinkers looked to Doctors Without Borders and No Child Left Behind as guidelines and developed a new, all-inclusive friendship outreach program that proves America is now willing to put out for anyone who gives her an “I love you” and a promise of respect in the morning. The folks in D.C. and in the NSA have proudly dubbed it “Spooks Without Boundaries.” Their motto? No Country Left Behind!

The new program is rooted in the same fundamental progressive notion that makes Obamacare so successful—the conviction that candidates win votes with overblown promises of physical comfort and security. And why shouldn’t every government have the same illegal access to our phone calls and electronic transactions that our own government has? After all, if all of this intimate surveillance of Americans is keeping us safe—except from a couple of deadbeat potheads with a hotline to Chechnya Jihad Central—isn’t it only compassionate that we share this universal safety with those electronically less fortunate? Why should outdated Cold War ethnocentrism, phobia of al-Qaeda and its wannabes, or the rogue Israeli faction attack on the USS Liberty* affect our foreign policy decisions? With Spooks Without Boundaries, everyone, citizen or not, will be safe, because every government will have access to the personal transactions and communications of Americans.

World Hug Canstock

With all of this free love going around, it has me wondering how long it will be before the NSA starts to share a little of it with America. After all, if Americans are so willing to toss off their privacy rights in the name of safety, why not give state and local police access to the benefits of PRISM and the other NSA toys? It would be nothing to track down meth labs, underage drinkers, and deadbeat dads, not to mention felons and bail jumpers. Why should Israel, the Five Eyes, and untold others enjoy that level of knowledge about us when we don’t?

And why stop there? The NSA is already swapping info with their BFFs, the international corporations. Why not small businesses, too? Just think how useful PRISM would be to collection agents, private eyes hired to track cheating spouses, or marketing firms sending targeted ads just for you. If we’ve already decimated American privacy in the name of homeland security, how long will it be before we enjoy the safety inherent in giving all of our information to our local police and small businesses?

Spooks Without Boundaries—it’s not just for foreign terrorists anymore! Write to your congressmen today and tell them you want Americans to enjoy the same free love we give to Israel, our allies, and others. After all, if we’re going to pass out tickets to foreign countries to peep at our privates, shouldn’t we see them ourselves?

* Recently declassified documents indicate that a rogue element of the Israeli government orchestrated the 1967 attack on the USS Liberty.

Related Articles:

British Spy Agency Taps Cables, Shares with US NSA (Info on Five Eyes)

U.S. Agencies Said to Swap Data with Thousands of Firms

NSA Shares Raw Intelligence Including Americans’ Data with Israel

NSA and Israeli Intelligence: Memorandum of Understanding—Full Document

What Makes US-Israeli Intelligence Co-operation “Exceptional”?

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.

Chasing the Hill: Not Just Fake Politics

Review, Chasing the Hill

By Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

 

Emmy nominee Brent Roske, Creator and Executive Producer of the new internet TV show, “Chasing the Hill,” has done the impossible. He has created a show about politics during campaign season that not only didn’t have us shoving our heads in a wood chipper, it had us watching it a second time.

In “Chasing the Hill,” California Representative Kristina Ryan is attempting to win re-election for a third term. Normally, as a Democratic Party incumbent in southern California, her election would be a slam-dunk affair. Unfortunately for her campaign, she was recently involved in a nasty scandal and she is now behind in the polls. The pilot shows her campaign team as they do their best to overcome her recent scandal and get her re-elected.

Non-partisan interviews with actual elected officials are included before the episode and after the show in a segment called “Chasing Chasing the Hill.”

The cast includes Robin Weigert of “Deadwood” fame as well as “West Wing” alums Matthew Del Negro, Joshua Malina, and Melissa Fitzgerald.

Now for our individual comments.

Bayard:

I didn’t just enjoy “Chasing the Hill,” I enjoyed it even more the second time I watched it. The dialogue is clever and often humorous, and the acting is excellent. I almost felt like I was eavesdropping rather than watching a performance.

As a hard core moderate, the thing I appreciate most about “Chasing the Hill” is that it is a realistic political drama that is non-partisan. Although Rep. Ryan is a democrat, the show does not beat me about the head and shoulders with left-wing dogma. The pilot focuses on the behind-the-scenes action of politics and not on the politics themselves. In today’s election atmosphere of heightened partisanship, which is always detrimental to our country, it’s refreshing to see a show that so far makes every attempt to be politically objective.

Holmes:

I watched the pilot for “Chasing the Hill” twice this morning. I enjoyed it. So far, the characters are interesting enough to hold my attention. The filming and editing utilize the youthful production style of a docudrama, and at times they lend the feel of a documentary to the show. Also, the very sudden and pronounced delivery of some of the actors’ lines adds an interesting touch of 1890s stage production to the digital gestalt.

I enjoyed the non-traditional combination of editing, production, and directing styles for two reasons. For one thing, it was entertaining enough to justify my time. For another, I was happy to see an internet show that has thus far been well enough written, acted, and produced to survive in what remains a difficult internet market.

I am hoping that this show will be successful, and that more writers and producers will use the cost effective internet production method to highlight a wider variety of writers and ideas than what we find in more traditional TV fare.

The bottom line for me, though, is that I don’t regret spending my time and my $1.99 to watch it. Particularly during a campaign season, paying to watch a more interesting fake campaign in exchange for avoiding the plethora of nauseating political ads that plague the air waves made the price tag seem like a bargain.

If you have the time, go ahead and watch “Chasing the Hill.” I think there’s a good chance that you will enjoy it. If you are in a mood for serious commentary, you should also watch the “Chasing Chasing the Hill” segment that airs after the show.

The first season will have six episodes, which you can download at Chasing the Hill.

Together, Holmes and I give “Chasing the Hill” five stars. While it won’t make fake promises about world peace, your medical bills, or your outsourced job like a real political campaign does, this fake political campaign is real entertainment and absolutely worth your time and dime.

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