Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Pentagon Ends "TALON" Program: So What?

Washington D.C.--I cannot imagine why Congress's approval ratings are at an historical-low, not-at-all. No, it wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that the majority spoke in November of 2006 that: they wanted the war ended, that they (we) wanted/want an end to the corruption in Congress and within the Bush administration (meaning an end to the Bush administration entirely), the pork, the run-away spending on illegal wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, an end to warrantless surveillance, and so much more. We didn't vote for this, we voted to end it, but Congress seems intent to self-destruct in every respect. In 2008, it's going to be time to begin obliging them.

But there are other ways: scandals like "Hookergate" can accelerate the demise of the majority of these crooks who currently occupy our government. 30-years-ago, a story like TALON or all the other warrantless surveillance programs under the umbrella-termed "war on terrorism" would have been sufficient in toppling any presidential administration. Because of this, it's time to start grooming those replacement candidates with no connection whatsoever to the political and economic establishment in America. We know who they are--our soldiers, our veterans of this unholy war in the Middle East. They are virtually unassailable, and attacks on their credibility as veterans can be turned-around on the pundits and political provocateurs who have used 9/11 for political capital for too-long.

Into this fray comes the announcement of the ending of the Pentagon's domestic surveillance program TALON ("Threat and Local Observation Notices") on September 16th of this year. The announcement has little significance. Congress just passed legislation that will allow the Bush administration to continue the same activities at the Justice Department under another name. This was done against the will of the public on almost every front, through the "Protect America Act of 2007"--and its supporters must be punished for it politically.

A Pentagon review found that it had included reports on peaceful protesters and anti-war demonstrations which should have been deleted. However, the report by the defence department's inspector general said the Pentagon had acted legally in collecting information on US citizens because the reports were gathered for law enforcement rather than intelligence purposes. Military and defence personnel will still report suspicious activities around military bases, but that information will go onto an FBI database, the Pentagon said. (BBC, 08.22.2007)

You read it right--they never deleted martials they promised to in 2005 when the program (created in 2002) was exposed in a Washington Post blog on December 14th of that year. What's sad is that the bill that could end American democracy doesn't even have a good name. It's dopey, but like the man said, the world will likely end with a whimper, not a bang (the same could be said for our political system and our liberties). The time to make the lives of incumbents a living hell has come, and we might even be forced to call early elections if events in the intervening-months force us to. These people must be confronted and made to explain their votes on such legislation, but within the law. Some have remarked that the GOP is praying for another attack like 9/11--I strongly disagree. It will have been the second time they failed to protect us, and nobody knows what the reaction from the public would be exactly.

Some would think (incorrectly) that TALON was ended thanks to public outrage (where was it?) and criticism. But that's not why, it just couldn't be justified anymore, and the Protect America Act of 2007 effectively renders it obsolete anyway. Congress actually gave the Bush administration wider domestic spying-powers than any other Executive, not even FDR under the genuine wartime conditions of WWII. Reuters had this to say this week:

Pentagon ditches controversial security database

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon said on Tuesday it would close a controversial database tracking suspicious activity around U.S. military bases that critics complained had been used to spy on peaceful antiwar activists. Officials decided the TALON program would end on September 17 not in response to public criticism but because the amount and quality of information being gathered had declined, the Pentagon said. (Reuters, 08.22.2007)

Now, break-ins can be done legally by the White House, an administration that has shown nothing but contempt for the rule of law and the constitutional firewalls that have truly protected the rights of the public from their government--at least in-theory. Again, this is thanks to the Protect America Act. The closing of TALON can be viewed as a distraction, another psy-ops program. What all of this means is that programs like the FBI's COINTELPRO (1956-1972) have now become legal and above-ground. Would Nixon have wanted this? You bet, it was his dream.

By now, it should be obvious that the Bush administration couldn't have done it without the aiding-and-abetting of Democratic incumbents, and they all have to be raked over-the-coals for their votes giving the president the ability to invade Iraq those fateful last months in 2002. They all have a lot of explaining left to do, just not representatives like Sen. Patrick Leahy, Dennis Kucinich, and a few others. There are probably 30 politicians worth saving in Congress right now. If we do our jobs as citizens, only this tiny-minority of incumbents will be left in Congress by the Fall of 2010.

For impairing the 800 year tradition of habeas corpus, for allowing the president undue powers in a time that was never close to the danger after Pearl Harbor, and so much more, it's time to make the political process scream. It's time to demand answers from incumbents and candidates (often the same thing). TALON is just one more symptom of a sick political culture, an infected system. But we were reassured by the Pentagon's spokespeople in late-2005 that names were being purged after 90 days, shortly after its existence was broached by whistleblowers. The shadowy role of private contractors in these programs should be investigated--if not by the press, by Congress.

Last year, a Pentagon review found that as many as 260 reports in the database, known as Talon, were improperly collected or kept there. At the time, the Pentagon said that the database included about 13,000 entries, and that fewer than 2 percent either were wrongly added or were not purged later when they were determined not to have involved real threats. (The New York Times, 08.21.2007)

As previously written and reported widely, the Pentagon and the White House cannot be trusted with such matters. What's being misreported is that such surveillance is clearly illegal and unconstitutional, an obvious violation of the Fourth amendment, but legal interpretation these days has reached into realms of the fictive and outlandish. An interesting aspect to all of this that could be related to "Hookergate" is--again--the Ronald Roughead connection. Last year at least, he was known to be working for a government contractor who likely services the CIFA (Counter-Intelligence Field Activity) agency at the Pentagon that ran TALON. This corporation is known as SAIC (Science Applications International Corporation), and Roughead might be working at the Mitre corporation as well in similar capacities (see article below this one). It's possible that these institutions provided material support for these dubious programs under a cloak of high-level clearances and the abuse of legitimate secrecy policies.

The December 15th, 2005 Pentagon Statement on TALON: http://www.fas.org/sgp/news/secrecy/2005/12/121505.html

Reuters "Politics Summary," 08.22.2007: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/22/AR2007082200517_2.html

The BBC Today on TALON: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6958791.stm

The New York Times, 08.21.2007: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/22/washington/22terror.html?ref=us