Staying Safe in Public Spaces

Bayard & Holmes

With the increasing number of terrorist attacks around the world, the public is becoming ever more aware that it’s wise to take precautions and think about safety measures. Today we welcome former CIA officer Doug Patteson of Inglorious Amateurs, who shares his insights and advice on precautions we should all take as a matter of habit.

 

Staying Safe in Public Spaces

~ Doug Patteson

Whether it is the recent suicide bomb in Manchester UK, or the 2003 The Station nightclub fire, or any number of other recent catastrophic events, we are reminded that we need to always be thinking about our security in public events and transitional spaces. Just because you are in an event or location with robust security, you should not ever take your safety for granted.

 

 

At events like the Manchester attack, we tend to think we are safe. The arena has security, no weapons are allowed, it’s a fun crowd out for a fun evening.

Attackers know these thing too and they tend to look for the weak points in security. In this case, the attacker chose a transitional space, a natural funnel between a primary exit from the arena, and the nearest public transport, the Manchester train station. He knew traffic flow from the concert would be heavy and concentrated. He knew the only likely security in the transitional space would be CCTV cameras (great for post mortem, not so hot for prevention). And he knew that by the nature of the transitional space, no one would think twice about someone loitering (waiting on friends? A train?) carrying luggage (it’s a train station entrance after all).

In 2003, The Station nightclub caught fire and was engulfed in smoke and flames in 5 ½ minutes. Of the 462 people in a club with capacity for only 404, 100 died and 230 were injured. When the fire began, people panicked and fled blindly, trying to exit through the one door they had entered, ignoring other potential exits.

A framework can be helpful in this process. Largely, the model below is familiar to most military or first responders as it is similar to the traditional OODA loop, or Observe, Orient, Decide, Act model of decision making. But, sometimes jargon gets in the way of understanding. So here is some simpler language.

Pay attention

For some reason, when we get around our friends, in a social situation, excited about our plans as they unfold, we stop paying attention to the world around us. When we are alone in public, we tend to pay far more attention to our surroundings. We feel alone, which often makes us feel insecure, less safe, but heightens our focus. Being in a group brings an often false sense of security, and a fair number of distractions.

Don’t let your guard down. Stay vigilant and pay attention to the world around your group. If something seems out of place, or makes you feel off, there is probably a good reason for it. Security professionals often call this situational awareness, which is a fancy way of saying understanding the environment and events you are in, in relation to time and meaning, what is normal and expected, and thus what is out of context and therefore noticeable. And if you notice something that looks out of place, or your spidey senses start tingling, an unattended bag or individual dressed inappropriately for the environment and looking uncomfortable, etc. let someone in authority know.

 

Know the layout

There is a reason flight attendants show passengers where the exits are. Statistics point to a significantly increased probability of surviving a plane crash if you know where the exits are. Virtually any public venue you go to will have multiple entrances/exits. Don’t just remember the one you went through to get there, learn where at least one of the others is.

In 2003, during The Station nightclub fire,  100 people died, 40 of them in the doorway they had entered through. There were three other exits in the building, and an entire front of windows that could have been broken to create egress points. People are creatures of habit, they like to go in the way they came.

Take a few minutes, look for the exits, talk it over with your group and have a plan in case you get separated or things go south.

Take a moment to assess what’s happening

If you are in situation where an event has happened (active shooter, plane disaster, ied), don’t panic. Stop, take a moment to assess the situation. Where is the threat? Is it ongoing? What are my escape options? Remember, you already learned where the various exits were. What is the crowd doing? Is there cover available to me? Or just concealment? Can I leave? Or is hiding my only option?

In the early days of active shooter training, the mantra was Run, Hide, Fight. Today that has been replaced with Avoid, Deny, Defend. In either case though, you need to take a little time to assess what is happening. Don’t freeze however, this is an active assessment informed by your previous knowledge of the area. You are making decisions about your next steps.

Take action

With your assessment in mind, action is now required. Can you safely and quickly leave the area? Which way? What is the crowd doing? There can be significant risk in following the crowd. Crowds can lead to deadly bottlenecks. In the case of a terrorist attack, one tactic we have seen applied is an initial attack designed to stun/assault a crowd, followed by a second, potentially larger attack, designed around a bottleneck of fleeing victims and/or first responders.

Are you responsible for others? Are they with you? Can you communicate with them? Did you set up a meeting place in case you got separated? Now is the time to execute on the plan you worked through earlier. For example, “We are going to head out that emergency exit on the north side of the stage. We will make our way back to our vehicle in section X of the parking lot.” Once you leave, get away from the threat zone. Remember, debris from an explosion can travel long distances. Don’t linger in the area.

Finally, what to do if you or a friend are injured?

Do you know CPR? ABCs (airway, breathing, circulation). Are they conscious? Talking? Take another moment now to assess their injuries. Have you taken any medical training or first aid courses? Do you know to apply pressure if they are bleeding? Do you have a med kit? I highly recommend you get one, get trained on using it, and carry it. Call 911 and, if necessary seek medical attention as soon as possible.

 

 

Look, I don’t want you to live your life in fear. That’s what the bad guys want, whether a bully, criminal or terrorist. Go out with friends. Attend concerts and movies. Travel. Live your life. I am only advocating that you go out in that life a little more prepared. A slightly harder target than the average person. Someone more likely to survive when faced with a deadly threat. Because you have taken the time to pay attention, assess, build a plan and be prepared to execute on it.

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

Doug is a former CIA officer with extensive overseas experience in Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. He is skilled in several foreign languages, personal security, tactical driving, counter terrorism tactics and small arms. He holds an MBA from Wharton and has worked in high tech, private equity and manufacturing. He regularly writes on business and intelligence topics for both web and print publications, serves as an on air SME for news and opinion shows, and consults/produces on film and television productions.

 

For more from Doug, please see his work at Inglorious Amateurs.

Turkey and The Little Coup That Couldn’t

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

One of the most pressing national security issues for the US and NATO is the recent coup disaster in Turkey. Along with the people of Turkey, Syria, and Iraq, NATO state citizens, Americans, and the Putin gang are all pondering the same questions. . . . What really happened in Turkey, and what does it mean for us?

 

Turkish No-Coup Protest Image by Pivox, wikimedia commons.

Turkish No-Coup Protest
Image by Pivox, wikimedia commons.

 

The coup attempt resembled another poorly directed episode from a comically bad Mexican telenovela. Much speculation and media frenzy has focused on the “who,” “what,” and “why” aspects of the coup.

The “who” depends on whom you ask.

Some Westerners are certain that Putin quietly sponsored the coup. I am always happy to blame dastardly schemes on Putin and his thugs. However, while in many cases “Putin” is the right answer, in this case I don’t think it is.

I have two reasons for not blaming Putin.

The first is that although the Erdogan government in Turkey is suspected of helping Islamic terrorists in Russia, and although Erdogan wants Syria for himself rather than for the Russians or Iranians, Putin does not take him very seriously as a threat.

Putin does not like the Erdogan Circus, and he sees Erdogan as an ineffective and inept clown. If Erdogan were to be replaced, then nearly any Turk would be a more formidable opponent. Erdogan is an effective conqueror, but he’s only effective at conquering Turkey. Beyond Turkish borders, Erdogan is a run-of-the-mill inept political hack. Putin would not wish to spin the dice for a new leader in Turkey. There are scenarios that we could imagine where Russia would hand pick a successor to Erdogan, but that would involve risky gambling that Putin does not find necessary.

The second reason for doubting that there are Russian weasels at the bottom of the Turkish coup disaster is that the Russians are better at running a coup than the coup organizers were in Turkey.

Other folks are certain that the CIA is behind the coup attempt.

It is not. Lots of folks are certain that the CIA gives orders to Obama. It doesn’t, and neither Obama nor the CIA would wish to throw Turkey into instability or civil war by instigating a coup.

Like the Putin gang, the US has enough reasons to be disgusted with Erdogan. He has stabbed the US in the back on more than one occasion, and he is a one way “ally” for NATO. Erdogan’s NATO motto is, “All for Erdogan, and to hell with you guys.” The US and NATO could easily conduct better relations with almost any randomly selected Turkish citizen over the age of twelve.

The problem is that the CIA and the State Department are very aware that Erdogan has spent over a decade crushing opposition and making himself coup-resistant by using the tried-and-true “Stalin purging” method of government. Any coup in Turkey could easily have ended up looking like another Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Lansing, etc. The US wants a Turkey that is stable enough to allow the US to operate from bases in that country. It’s easier and a little cheaper to bomb ISIS idiots from bases in Turkey rather than having to conduct all operations from further afield.

The second reason why you can be certain that the US did not organize a coup attempt in Turkey is that, like the Russians, the CIA is better at it.

The CIA is not big on the “find ten thousand co-conspirators” method of coup organizing. Any coup attempt involving so many conspirators will always have a security problem, and that makes success less likely.

Personally, I would never conduct a coup, but theoretically speaking, if my evil twin were to throw a coup, I am certain that he would use the “dispose to depose” method. I know. It’s so old fashioned and makes for dull reading, but it’s way more effective than the silly modern “tell him he’s deposed, and maybe he’ll let us depose him” method.

All in all, it’s sad that a nation like Turkey, with such a proud tradition of quick and effective military coups, ended up with such a half-assed coup. It’s damned embarrassing for the international coup fraternity.

As for the “who,” the Western media is fascinated with the question of how much Fethullah Gulen was involved in organizing the failed coup.

 

 

Gulen was Erdogan’s ally until he realized that Erdogan was perfectly capable of jumping in bed with jihadis – which Erdogan did. Since the two men parted ways, they have been opponents. Erdogan targeted and marginalized Gulen’s friends and supporters within Turkey, but Gulen remains popular with the people. In spite of that remaining popularity, the coup organizers did not need Gulen or his supporters to get the ball rolling because Erdogan has done such a good job inciting a coup against himself by just being Erdogan.

The remaining question of “who” is not all that important. The “what” ended up being damned sloppy, and the “why” is the easiest part of this shallow mystery.

Erdogan is a creep, and lots of folks in and out of Turkey wish that he would vanish. No news there. Hating Erdogan is more popular than playing Pokémon in Turkey.

This leaves us all with the more important question, “Now what?”

Unfortunately, the answers are as ugly as they usually are when one asks a Mid-Eastern region question.

I know that a lot of folks on the Middle Eastern teams at the CIA will be aghast at my willingness to simplify the Turkish picture. But let’s compare it for a moment to a Kandinsky painting. Is another gallon of spilled house paint or a gallon less of spilled house paint really going to improve the picture? It is ugly, and it will remain ugly. It hurts to look at it, and it will still hurt tomorrow. Just like a Kandinsky painting, if you think about it at night, you won’t sleep.

As we all know, and as any reasonable soul would predict, Erdogan is using the coup flop to conduct his biggest Stalinist purge ever.

He’s enjoying it. His poor wife is probably happy that he finally found something that helps his marital life better than all those blue pills that he tried. (Word on the street is that it’s been a long time since Erdogan has been able to bring this much enthusiasm to his home life.) Unfortunately, along with her husband, she and Erdogan’s unfortunate mistresses are the only ones seeing any “up tick” from this lousy coup.

Erdogan will continue to scream at the US and make all sorts of demands.

 

Recep Tayyip Erdogan & Barack Obama Image by State Dept., public domain.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan & Barack Obama
Image by State Dept., public domain.

 

Secretary of State John Kerry will continue to fuss over his hair and try to look like a male model when he gets off the plane in Turkey. Kerry will make his regular meaningless statements when dealing with Turkey. The President (this one or the next) will look “deeply concerned” and not do much.

Europe will continue to respond with another frightening “Euro-frown,” and Turkey will continue to not care.

The good news for the West is that even a dope like Erdogan knows that in the final analysis, since he lives next to Iraq, Syria and Russia, and we don’t, he can only push his snotty temper tantrums so far.

Erdogan has always wanted a bigger, more powerful military to make him more relevant. Despots hate being laughed at when they make threats. He has planned for and tried to finance that better military, and he fantasizes about an indigenous 5th generation fighter for Turkey. It won’t happen under an Erdogan government.

Unfortunately for Turkey, Erdogan has always been more effective at destroying his own military than destroying his foreign enemies. If Erdogan had a campaign slogan to share with the US audience, it would be “don’t hope for any change.” The future of Turkey, Turkish-NATO relations, and Turkish-US relations will continue to look a lot like the last ten years, just slightly worse.

2016 Predictions from Terrorism Expert Mohammed Faqwahdi

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

We wanted to get some eclectic input on the holiday season and what we might expect in 2016, so we consulted with our Bayard & Holmes intelligence, terrorism, and asymmetric warfare expert, retired terrorist Mohammed Faqwahdi Al-Lansingi, a.k.a. Mo. We found Mo’s mobile command center and falafel truck near the ice skating rink at Rockefeller Center.

 

Holidays at Rockefeller Center Image by Rob Young, wikimedia commons.

Holidays at Rockefeller Center
Image by Rob Young, wikimedia commons.

 

Hi, Mo. How’s business?

Hello, Jay and Piper. Business has been great! I’m pulling in more customers than Madam Flemstein’s whorehouse in Haifa. I can’t believe how much people tip at Christmas time. I wish we could have Christmas every month.

Sounds like you’re getting used to Christmas in America.

Well, it has taken a while. This Christmas thing, it’s so confusing. I want to be American, so I bought a Christmas tree. Then some Jews tell me you should only have a tree if you’re Christian, and the Christians tell me the tree has nothing to do with Christianity. I remember back in the old days, we only had six trees in all of Gaza.  So I’m always happy for any reason to have a tree, and I don’t care what religion it is.

Have you gotten used to Santa Claus coming around once a year?

It took a while. When I first heard some damn foreigner from the North Pole was going to break into my house, I thought he was a Mossad agent. Instead of leaving out cookies, I boobie trapped my doors with Semtex. Then I started seeing Santas everywhere. After a while I realized that Santa does not work for Mossad at all. I’m beginning to suspect that he works for a ruthless and cunning terrorist organization named WalMart.

Did you give your friends presents this year?

Oh, yes. I gave them all perimeter lights.

Perimeter lights?

Yes! Most of my neighbors use them, and they can get very fancy – red, green, blue, and some even look like icicles. I have them in three colors, myself. The HOA sends me a letter every year telling me to take them down. I don’t understand why. These Americans are so clueless with their security. Only my terrorist friends and rednecks and hippies understand that perimeter lights are for the whole year.

 

Actual photo of Mo's perimeter lights, taken on the 4th of July.

Actual photo of Mo’s perimeter lights,
taken on the 4th of July.

 

What did Santa bring you?

Santa? Santa doesn’t bring me anything. He just keeps trying to get me to sit on his lap when I go to the mall. I stay away from that guy.

But my neighbors – they gave me presents. The nice lady across the street gave me a fruitcake. In fact, I got seventeen fruitcakes this year. Like every other year, I glued them to the south side of my house. A few more Christmases like this, and my bulletproofing will be complete.

Do you have any plans for New Year’s Eve?

No. I stay home. Evading all the drunks on the road on New Year’s Eve here is more dangerous than trying to sneak over the fence into Israel from Gaza.

We stay home for the same reason. Do you have any New Year’s resolutions?

My New Year’s resolution is the same this year that it was last year and every year since I came to America. I’m resolving to not go back to the Middle East. I love America. Everyone has indoor plumbing, the government doesn’t throw people off of buildings, and the only people at risk of being stoned are the ones who smoke pot.

As our terrorist expert, do you have any predictions for 2016?

 

Bayard & Holmes Intelligence, Terrorism, and Asymmetric Warfare Expert Mohammed Faqwahdi Al-Lansingi, a.k.a. Mo

Bayard & Holmes Intelligence, Terrorism, and Asymmetric Warfare Expert
Mohammed Faqwahdi Al-Lansingi, a.k.a. Mo

 

I do have a few predictions about what we can expect from the War on Terror in 2016.

  • The start up cost for a terrorism business is very low, so we will continue to see plenty of Islamic terrorism in the West this year. How much of it your American newspapers will actually report is another matter. I can’t help you with that.
  • The Russians will continue to avoid hitting any terrorists while they are bombing innocent civilians in Syria.
  • With all the money that Iran is spending in Yemen, the terrorists there will continue running wild; however, they won’t defeat the Saudis. But the Saudis won’t defeat them, either.
  • In Turkey, Erdogan will continue to pretend that all Kurds are terrorists and will bomb them at every opportunity.
  • NATO will continue to ignore Erdogan’s bombing of the Kurds.
  • Libya will continue to struggle with Islamic terrorists, but neither ISIS nor any other terrorist group will solidify any gains in that country.
  • Any terrorism that occurs in any part of the world will be used as an excuse by defense contractors to continue to justify fantastically overpriced defense projects.
  • In broader terms, you have to understand that wherever you have ridiculously corrupt and thoroughly incompetent governments, high poverty, and a few AK-47s, you will continue to see new terrorist groups popping up. Therefore, I don’t expect to see an end to terrorism in third world regions such as Detroit or New Orleans any time soon.

Do you have any predictions about the upcoming presidential election?

Yes. I predict that all of your media outlets will make countless billions on this election, just like they did on the last one. I also predict that whomever is elected will be blamed for violence in the Middle East, starvation in Africa, and all of the failed states in Latin America. Those are the two results we can always predict for any American election.

Thank you for your time, Mo. We’ll let you get back to your customers. Enjoy that big Rockefeller Center tree.

 

Canstock 2015 Dec 2016 with popped cork

Happy New Year from Bayard & Holmes!

 

Vetting Syrian Refugees — The Practical Issues

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard and Jay Holmes

News and social media are awash with opinions and pseudo-facts about the Syrian refugees. One fact, though, is that hundreds of thousands of people are caught in a desperate situation between a Europe that is closing its doors and a country back home that is shattered into warring factions, some of which are sponsored by Titans with their own agendas.

As Westerners, we, as nations, strive for open hearts and open minds, and we want to help these desperate people. However, another fact we know is that thousands of jihadis are mingled among the desperate, exploiting this opportunity to position themselves in the West.

Therein lies the crux of the problem. How do we tell the difference? How is it possible to vet refugees with no recorded past?

 

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 decided to pose the refugee dilemma to our staff intelligence, terrorism, and asymmetric warfare specialist, Sheik Mullah Ali Baba Muhammad Faqwahdi al-Lansingi, a.k.a. Sheikh Mo. Mo, a retired terrorist himself, knows how to see things through the eyes of the enemy. Jay tracked him down to his new mobile communications and command center to question him about the Syrian refugee situation.

The following is Jay’s actual conversation with Sheik Mo . . .

Sheikh Mo, that’s quite the antenna array on the roof of that lovely catering van you have there.

You know, Jay, with this van, I can talk to people all the way in Pakistan or Gaza without paying for a phone call. And I get all my favorite football games. There’s a big game in Qatar this weekend.

Isn’t that the New York City FBI building behind you?

Yes, I sell to them all day. This is a great location. So many federal employees around here. They love my food. I have health food, too. Sugar free, fat free, gluten free, caffeine free, whatever free you want, I get for you. No problem.

Thank you. I’ll keep that in mind. I can’t help but wonder, don’t any of the FBI folks or the DHS people ask you about those antennas? I mean you’ve got that vast array right at Federal Plaza….

 

Sheik Mo's catering van at Federal Plaza, NYC

Sheik Mo’s catering van at Federal Plaza, NYC

 

Antennas? They ask me all the time, “Can you get the Jets games? Can you pick up the hockey games?” They all want to know the scores, so I give them the scores from all the games. It’s great for business. I can always tell which FBI agent has a gambling problem. When I tell them the score, they turn white and choke on the falafel. I like these FBI guys. They are great customers. And so polite. They always tip.

That’s very thoughtful of you . . . Our readers need your expert input. What do you think about the Paris attacks? Many in the West are pointing to them as a reason why Syrian refugees should be refused.

Wow, those attacks were so stupid! Those ISIS people are so yesterday, like thirteen centuries behind everybody else. In the PLO, we learned that random bombings are no good. You start bombing planes and cities, and you end up eating cruise missile for breakfast. ISIS looks like they are not happy until everyone hates them. Now they are not just losing ground in Syria, they are losing ground in Europe. The way they are going, they won’t even be able to sleep in the Libyan desert. I think they might be first Islamic terror group to have to move their headquarters to the South Pole.

What do you think about the President’s plan to bring more Syrian refugees to the US?

Well, you know, I like Obama. In the last elections, I voted for him twenty times back in Lansing.

I’m sure he appreciates your support, but you should only vote once in each election.

I’m sorry, but you know me. I love this whole democracy thing. I love voting. It’s like an addiction. I need a Voters Anonymous . . . But this Syrian refugee thing sounds a little strange to me.

It’s kind of funny, everything they are saying about “vetting.” They must not know what Syria looks like today. Are they going to call the Syrian police and ask what record the guy has? Who do they think is going to answer the phone? That’s so crazy.

And UN is supposed to interview the refugees first . . . Didn’t the UN just put Saudi Arabia on Human Rights Council? The same Saudi Arabia that funded those ISIS amateurs in the first place? That UN can’t tell a jihadi from a goat in a tutu.

Then the FBI and everybody else is going to interview each one? Like they say here in New York, “Forget about it.”

The government says it will take more than eighteen months. It takes eighteen months to get no reliable information from Syria? They should pay me to do it. For half price, I get them the same “no information” in five minutes. But you Americans think it’s good when the government is slow. It makes you think they are doing something. It makes you think they are so busy. It’s crazy.

I like these FBI people. I am making friends with lots of them. Very nice people, but what are they going to do in an interview? They ask the guy if he is terrorist, he says “No.” Big deal. Remember those kids from Chechnya, the ones that bombed Boston? Russia told the FBI they were terrorists. The FBI talks to them and says “No problem, nice guys.” But then you have big problem in Boston.

So, good luck with all this “vetting” business. I just don’t see how this is going to work. And anyway, there are already enough catering vans in the United States. We don’t need more!

Maybe I should add Mobile Vetting Service to my menu….

Mo, it’s always interesting getting your expert opinions on terrorist issues. Good luck with your lovely catering van, and please stop voting. You are not a US citizen.

Ok, ok. Just for you, my friend, no more voting. But ask your bigshot government friends if I can get in on this “vetting” business. Tell them I have friends in Syria. I give them half off just because they know you.

I’ll be sure to mention it to them, but I have no close friends at the FBI. I think you are closer to them than I am. Thanks for all your insight. I’ll talk to you again soon. Best of luck to you.

OK, Jay. Have a nice Thanksgiving.

You too, Mo.

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

And there are the issues. We encourage people to remember that compassion and caution are not listed as opposites in the dictionary. It is only by coming out of entrenched positions and facing reality that we will be able to handle this humanitarian crisis. The reality is that desperate people are in need, and that evil people, whose goal is to destroy us, are seeded among them. The reality is that there actually are no ways to verify the difference. What risk are we, as a nation, willing to take in our compassion?

America is Not a Location

By Piper Bayard

America is not a location. America is an ideal. It is the dream of a country in which freedom is paramount, and it is secure because the government is the servant of the people.

Because America is an ideal, Americans are not born. Rather, America, itself, must be born anew with each generation. Each generation has the choice of embracing the American ideal of a government that answers to the people, or of rejecting that ideal in favor of a more paternalistic system of government.

 

Actual photo of ideal elected American official at work.

Actual photo of ideal American government at work.

 

When the government spies on us with everything from street corner cameras to 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. That is exactly what is happening now.

The difference between the government being the servant and the government being the master can be boiled down to one thing:  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 force the government to 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.

Since Edward Snowden dropped his NSA whistleblower bomb, the White House has gone from denying that the U.S. spies on its own citizens to unashamedly stating that it will continue to collect and analyze data on American citizens in the name of “national security.”

 

meme by bizarrojerri.wordpress.com

meme by bizarrojerri.wordpress.com

 

At this point, numerous disturbing facts have become public information:

  • Through various means, our government is collecting and storing every digital transaction American citizens make – every email, every phone communication, every bank transaction, every credit and debit card transaction, every check remittance, and every online health and education record.
  • Our government allows the other Five Eyes countries – Canada, New Zealand, the U.K., Australia – as well as Israel and unnamed others access to this raw data on American citizens.
  • Our government has written agreements with these countries for their unlimited access to our raw data, with only smoke and mirror oversight of what data they collect or how they use it. It is an “honor among eavesdroppers” arrangement.
  • Our government trades information about American citizens and intelligence operations with corporations in exchange for their data on American citizens.
  • When trigger words* like “snow,” “bust,” or “sick” alert one of the countless analysts in both the government and the private sector who are tasked with pawing through this hoarder’s mountain of raw data, they are free to peruse and interpret the threads of our lives at their personal discretion.
  • Everything these analysts do is off the public record. No probable cause. No individual warrant. No accountability.

 

U.S. Government Serving Up Americans to the World

U.S. Government Serving Up Americans to the World

 

The administration rationalizes all of these acts with the all-encompassing buzzwords “national security” and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

Originally, FISA was enacted to allow data collection on foreign terrorists. Warrants were based on probable cause, and the judges of the FISA court approved them. These boundaries slipped substantially with the Patriot Act. Now, under the current administration, there are no meaningful boundaries at all, with the FISA court essentially rubberstamping every administrative request* to spy on American citizens that comes their way, issuing blanket orders that are nothing but fishing trips, subjecting Americans to data collection and retention with no probable cause.

One example of a typical FISA-approved blanket order is the Top Secret order to Verizon Wireless signed on April 25, 2013, which was published by The Guardian on June 6, 2013.

This order was requested by the FBI, which in turn receives its orders from the White House. It forces Verizon Wireless to give the NSA information on ALL telephone calls in its system on an “ongoing daily basis.” Telephone calls originating and terminating in foreign countries are specifically excluded—the height of irony considering the original purpose of FISA was solely to collect data on suspect foreigners. For full text of this order, see Verizon Forced to Hand Over Telephone Data–Full Court Ruling Dated April 25, 20143 (below).

At its core, our government has given itself authority and provision to maintain a wiretap on every American and foreigner within U.S. borders.

No probable cause. No discretion. No accountability to the public. 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, turning the American ideal on its ear.

 

Ideal photo of actual U.S. government at work.

Ideal photo of actual U.S. government at work.

 

Spy on suspected terrorists. Do it unapologetically. Do it inside or outside our borders. But let there be probable cause. Let there be warrants. Let there be public records. Let there be accountability. If we are to remain American, we must not allow the government to exercise such omnipotent power with impunity.

Freedom is the essence of the American ideal. It is about shouldering the responsibility for ourselves, for our safety, and for our governance. 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, 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. Unbridled surveillance of American citizens is that taking.

Like nuclear weapons, the surveillance train has left the station. But like nuclear weapons, we have the choice about how we will use that technology. America is at a crossroads. Will our generation shoulder the responsibility for our freedom and set firm boundaries on the actions of our government? Or will we devolve into a location on a map? The choice belongs to each of us.

 

This Means You

This Means You

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

Verizon Forced to Hand Over Telephone Data–Full Court Ruling Dated April 25, 2013. The Guardian, June 6, 2013.

NSA Collecting Phone Records of Millions of Verizon Customers Daily, Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian, June 6, 2013.

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

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

US, 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.

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

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

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

US Agencies Said to Swap Data with Thousands of Firms, Michael Riley, Bloomberg, June 14, 2013.

British Spy Agency Taps Cables, Shares with US NSA , Reuters, June 21, 2013. (Info on Five Eyes)

NSA Shares Raw Intelligence Including Americans’ Data with Israel, Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian, September 11, 2013.

NSA and Israeli Intelligence:  Memorandum of Understanding–Full Document, The Guardian, September 11, 2013.

What Makes US-Israeli Intelligence Co-operation ‘Exceptional’?, Matthew Brodsky, The Guardian, September 13, 2013.

Judge Upholds NSA’s Bulk Collection of Data on Calls, Adam Liptak and Michael S. Schmidt, New York Times, December 27, 2013.

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court Orders 1979 – 2014, Electronic Privacy Information Center, May 1, 2014.

 

 

 

UK Ueber Alles! — Reporting Terrorist Toddlers

By Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

Every now and then, we here at Bayard & Holmes are reassured that not all of the political crack heads in the democratic world reside in the US Congress or the White House.

As part of its counter-terrorism and security efforts, the UK has already enacted its “Prevent” program. Under the dictates of Prevent, 44,000 UK health care workers underwent one day of training to teach them to recognize potential terrorists. Now, patients from cradle to grave who enter UK health care facilities are having their terrorist potential evaluated. Fortunately for the Western world, a 9-yr-old extremist has already been identified and “deprogrammed,” thanks to this new human intelligence branch.

 

Armed and dangerous potential terrorist. Note the glee on this future terrorist's face as he contemplates his innocent target.

Armed and dangerous potential terrorist. Note the glee on this future terrorist’s face as he contemplates his innocent target.

 

In a follow up to this, the UK is currently considering a bill that would require all teachers to report children as young as toddlers as “potential terrorists.” One assumes the teachers would also be given one day of training to enable them to distinguish child terrors from child terrorists. (See UK Could Require Teachers to Report Would-Be Terrorists.)

Since both of us raised kids who periodically terrorized us during their adolescence years, we have a few suggestions for the UK to beef up their Counter-Toddler-Terrorist initiative:

 

  • Install CCTVs in each nursery school disposable diaper bin to monitor the true down and dirty activity of the UK’s Most Dangerous Babies. This is a critical task, which should only be trusted to the UK’s most prominent statesmen. Therefore, the top thousand Home Ministry officials will be vested with the duty of monitoring these CCTVs from their laptops 24/7.

 

  • Each toddler will be given an iPad and taught to Google search. GCHQ, the UK’s equivalent of the US’s NSA, will monitor the children and detain any of them who search on “Winnie the Pooh-Bomber” or “Blow Up Paddington Station Bear.”

 

  • All baby monitors will be tuned to the same channel and will be monitored at GCHQ 24/7. Any children babbling “Allahu Akbar” when they should be napping will be immediately detained.

 

  • Some suspiciously unpatriotic individuals in the UK are not taking the Home Office plans seriously, making comments like, “I knew those bastards were daffy!” To inspire those wafflers into the right attitude to maintain the UK’s safety from those who would overrun her and destroy her principles, “God save the Queen” will be replaced by the inspiring Nazi war hymn “Horst Wessel.” A few words of the lyrics will be changed to lend a uniquely British flavor to the song. Heil Home Minister! UK Ueber Alles!

 

 

 

Why Over is NOT Over — Afghanistan

By Jay Holmes

With the “ISIS crisis” occupying the headlines in Europe and North America, the US and NATO military operations in Afghanistan have been all but forgotten in the media.

 

US Marines patrolling poppy fields in Helmand Province Image by Dept. of Defense.

US Marines patrolling poppy fields in Helmand Province
Image by Dept. of Defense.

 

On December 28, 2014, US President Obama announced that after thirteen years of combat, the longest war in US history, the war in Afghanistan, was ending. However, the president pointed out in the same speech that US forces would, in fact, remain in combat in Afghanistan.

The war that is “over” is not over.

To most accurately represent the President’s words from his December 28 speech, it is best that we offer a direct quote. The following is the entire fourth paragraph of President Obama’s speech:

“Afghanistan remains a dangerous place, and the Afghan people and their security forces continue to make tremendous sacrifices in defense of their country. At the invitation of the Afghan government, and to preserve the gains we have made together, the United States—along with our allies and partners—will maintain a limited military presence in Afghanistan to train, advise, and assist Afghan forces and to conduct counterterrorism operations against the remnants of al-Qaeda. Our personnel will continue to face risks, but this reflects the enduring commitment of the United States to the Afghan people and to a united, secure, and sovereign Afghanistan that is never again used as a source of attacks against our nation.” [emphasis added]

In attempting to interpret and understand the President’s intent in Afghanistan, I am left in the precarious position of trying to extract facts from a political speech.

In the above paragraph, we see the source of the “war is over, but not over” dilemma that the president and our troops at risk face in Afghanistan.

Clearly, the president and most Americans would love for peace to reign in Afghanistan, or at the very least, for Americans to no longer suffer the consequences of the complete lack of anything like peace in Afghanistan. While President Obama mentioned the sticky detail of the “remnants of al-Qaeda,” he failed to mention the larger obstacle to peace—namely, the Taliban and its dozens of local “taliclones” opposing peace and civilization in Afghanistan.

President Obama’s commitment to a “united, secure, and sovereign Afghanistan” is in keeping with US political opinion, but is, unfortunately, not at all descriptive of the reality in Afghanistan as it was on December 28, 2014, nor as it is today.

We in the US find ourselves again in a dilemma that resembles President Lyndon Johnson’s view of the Viet Nam war. The war that Johnson saw, understood, and valiantly attempted to manage was not terribly similar to the war that actually occurred in Viet Nam. My guess is that in reality, President Obama understands Afghanistan better than his speech would indicate, so I assume that the speech was a political exercise rather than an expression of the president’s real view of Afghanistan.

He knows it’s not over.

While most of us in the US were glad to see the Afghan people conduct their first democratic election, that election, unfortunately, has not led to any sign of unity in the Afghan political system. Being ever the incurable optimist, I hasten to point out an interesting, though less noticed, phenomenon in Afghanistan. The young people of Afghanistan are learning to use social media, and judging from their correspondence, they are more practical, more civilized, more intelligent, and far more united than their elders. They have clearly expressed that they want a functioning democracy and won’t let tribal loyalties and factionalism get in their way.

In practical terms, it seems that we will have about 11,000 US forces in Afghanistan instead of the previously estimated 10,000. NATO will continue in its feeble efforts by maintaining 2,000 troops in Afghanistan to back up the usual idealistic and vague European political agenda.

Political speeches and media trends aside, what might we reasonably expect from Afghanistan?

My best guess is that any hope for civilization in Afghanistan resides with its not-yet-empowered youth. Too many of Afghanistan’s most educated people reside outside of Afghanistan, and most of them have no intention of returning home.

We have to consider that the ongoing national political schizophrenia in neighboring Pakistan will continue to allow various tali-brand bandits to wage war against the Afghan people.

The American public’s dwindling enthusiasm for paying the Afghan bills in blood and treasure, combined with the fact that most European nations have never been willing to contribute much more than rhetoric to the Afghan war, means that the US will remain in combat in Afghanistan as quietly as possible for another ten years. As the next generation of Afghan leaders gradually replaces the current gang of intellectually arthritic old men that currently fail to run their country, hope for a “united, secure, and sovereign Afghanistan” will finally become more than political dogma.