April 2008 Archives

The NSA Gives me the "Glomar Response"

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dod-large.pngI don't know exactly why I didn't submit an NSA FOIA request when I became aware of being spied on. Looking back at all of the articles about domestic spying, it would have been the obvious choice. Since all of the craziness seemed so connected to my international travel, I assumed at first it was the CIA. Wanting to cover my bases, I made requests to a variety of agencies last summer, getting the runaround from the FBI (sending me to a variety of field offices, giving conflicting responses), semantic weirdness from the CIA (something akin to "we have nothing filed under your name in our automated indices"), and denials elsewhere.

Finally, last December I realized the NSA was most likely the agency offended by my Jackie Kennedy costume and Jesus shopping bag and so asked my lawyer to make a request. Until a few weeks ago I thought he had. But he only pretended to. That's right. When he was unable to produce either correspondence with the NSA or a Case Number, I made my own request (after firing him, of course).

Yesterday, I received my very own Glomar Response. Never did any of the other agencies I sought records from use Glomar. This means that, yes, I've been spied on with the NSA's blessing (seemingly by off-the-charts unethical and unprofessional Booz Allen Hamilton employees for the most part). But the details of just how my 4th Amendment rights have been completely disregarded and I've pretty much been imprisoned for a year without having been charged with any crime (etc.)? Those are too precious to national security to divulge.

Read all of the fun government speak after the jump. And, if you think you've sniffed out spooks in your midst, do your own FOIA request. Those of us who have been Glomared under this administration will have recourse one day, methinks.

Free Speech: Not Left, Right, Red or Blue

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wctu.gifLast fall I read about a man in Georgia whose Operation Rescue truck was impounded because it displayed mangled fetuses. This alarmed me. Though I wouldn't want to see a Truth Truck, I believe in an individual's right to one.

Bob Roethlisberger was arrested and jailed over Thanksgiving weekend in a northern suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, on the charge of "Disorderly Conduct" for driving Operation Rescue's Truth Truck bearing signs with photos of aborted babies. The Truth Truck was impounded.

Gwinnett County Police Department officers arrested Roethlisberger Saturday after telling him that signage on the Truth Truck was "vulgar and obscene." According to Operation Rescue, officers ransacked the back of the Truth Truck without a warrant and ordered Roethlisberger to change or remove the signs. When he refused, he was arrested and incarcerated for three days before being released on $1,000 bond.

Disorderly conduct charges were eventually dropped by the county Solicitor:

"I have reviewed the evidence and law in this case and concluded that the physical display of the images in question—as shocking and offensive as they are—does not constitute 'obscene and vulgar or profane language' as specifically prohibited by this statute."
This story was covered extensively by pro-life and religious blogs, but elsewhere not so much. It's a bummer when we let ideology blind us to what binds us. While we disagree profoundly, our rights to free speech unite us as Americans.

Operation Rescue wasn't alone in dealing with not-so-peachy speech restrictions last year. The ACLU of Georgia advocated for residents of a community called Avondale Estates that prohibited the display of signs on residents' property.

Ultimately, the Court struck down some of the sign ordinance provisions as unconstitutional.  In addition, the Court has awarded the ACLU of Georgia $142,329 in attorneys fees and expenses.  This ruling is significant because it analyzes and deals with the scenario where defendants may attempt to avoid fee liability by repeatedly and unilaterally changing ordinances.

Sheesh! Nonstop signage interference!

The bummer is that a lot of free speech advocates may turn up their noses at defending Operation Rescue.  When I mentioned the Truth Truck issue to a politically engaged left-leaner, she couldn't get past the anti-abortion aspect. On the flip side, isn't it likely that pro-life advocates won't be able to look past the ACLU's church/state separation agenda?

This divisiveness is disappointing when we all want safe, free, happy futures. It sounds as though evangelicals are turning more toward issues of racial disharmony, poverty, and the environment. It behooves those on the left to ensure that our free speech advocacy is as inclusive as possible -- even of people who might find our art offensive, or don't approve of our lifestyle choices.

~~

What's on the Entrapment Menu?

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Benjamin_Franklin.jpgSince I've revealed that I have traced the IP addresses of two individuals who I believe to be Booz, Allen, Hamilton employees, and that I want to document the hacking of at least two of my computers, the stress in my life has compounded. Last week was a bad week.

Among a lot of ridiculousness: a (formerly) trusted individual tried to get me to admit to smoking pot (it was one of the most bizarre and awkward conversations ever -- he was clearly taping it). Now, this is odd, since the person already knew I was not a pot smoker. Last summer, when the hellish aspect of this adventure began, pot smoke wafted into my Las Vegas hotel room through the vent of an adjoining room, ala that scene with the hotel reviewer in Ocean's 13. This wasn't "The people next door are toking up" smoke. This was, "My God! It's like my bedspread has been sprayed by a skunk!" smoke. I called the front desk. So much weird stuff had happened, we just wanted to let them know that we were not the source.

As with the case of the gun opinions solicitation, someone trying to elicit drug use confessions makes me nervous. I can probably count on both hands all of the times in my life I've used pot. It messes up my head (I can't think well for days after), so I avoid it. On a few occasions I've eaten pot brownies. I have never done any heavier drugs. I have never purchased any drugs besides alcohol. I smoke cigarettes occasionally after a few drinks. Since I've lost so much weight from the stress of all of this I've discovered my tolerance is tiny, and I don't like to be in any way out of control, so I don't drink.

On Friday, after my dentist appointment, I opened my car to see that the plastic covering for the seat adjustment area on the left side had recently been tampered with. It was pulled away from the seat, and there were little shavings where other bits had been pried open. We still haven't been able to replace it properly. I don't know if something was removed or added. But the fact that individuals are clearly able to enter my car without alarming passers-by (obviously not setting off the car alarm) makes me worry about this drug thing.

After the Vegas fiasco, I told people I was scared that the pot wafting was some form of entrapment -- that our room would be entered and drugs would be "found." Most said that it would be such a minor infraction that I shouldn't worry. Now I am worried. Will it be planted in my car? What next?

I start thinking things like, "Did that guy on Digg who always dugg my stories and sent me marijuana legalization stories to digg in kind have some ulterior motive?" It's amazing how events like this force you to examine everything with a fine-toothed comb. Clearly, thinking the "drug war" is wasteful and leads to far too many unnecessary incarcerations is different from wanting to justify any sort of addiction.

When I can step back out of my own stress, it is fascinating to see how this all works: the mechanisms of fear and intimidation. How many people is this happening to?

~~
MartinLutherKingJr.jpgToday there has been much reflection on MLK's assassination. I can't imagine what it would have been like to be alive then, losing both him and RFK in quick succession.

Someone also asked today what would have been "done about Bush" in an earlier era (meaning -- how he would have been violently overthrown). I think these sort of questions miss the point, and are very contrary to Dr. King's Gandhian and Christian teachings. 

There have been extraordinary abuses of power in the White House, but the people -- citizens in all strata of society -- have allowed them. We have not held our leaders accountable. Taking one man's life would not add a bit of good to the world or correct a corrupt system. In fact, I imagine that any sort of attempt on anyone in the White House would only result in more draconian security measures and civil liberties abuses.

I don't think I actually condone killing of any sort except in extreme self-defense, if I felt my life was in danger (even then, we're in very theoretical territory here -- my fingernails are my most viable weapon). When a friend and I once discussed the possibility of my learning to use a gun, I could only imagine doing so in self-defense, to injure, which apparently is an unrealistic expectation (I have never been so scoffed at in all my life, actually).
I don't remember having handled a gun since I shot a sparrow's eye out with a BB-gun at around age 8. I had to put it out of its misery and felt guilty for weeks.

One of the people who recently entered my life under false pretenses did a lot of talking about a friend of hers who runs a gun control organization out of the U.K. -- brought her up every time we met. Like much of what she said, this apparently was designed to elicit some sort of incriminating self-disclosure from me (instead, I expressed interest in interning with the organization before commencing the study of human rights law). Reflecting on her motivations makes me want to be very clear in case my passions for civil liberties and civil rights have been misunderstood.

When it comes to "martyr-like" characters responding to fascism (and we in the U.S. luckily still have the opportunity to ensure we don't go Germany's route), I would relate much more to Sophie Scholl than
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (whose story a friend introduced me to last fall). Scholl expressed her political views in a rather unobtrusive manner, trying to influence through words, and was subjected to a kangaroo court and then execution. An example was made of her and two others in the White Rose resistance. I admire her courage, fortitude, and loyalty and would expect nothing less of myself. I strive to be the kind of person who would have the will to face my fate with such resolve.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, on the other hand, was a Protestant minister who was part of the resistance that attempted to assassinate Hitler. At this point, the war was raging on, and, the way I see it, this was more of a tactical/militaristic decision. For him it was also one of faith. I have no military training, or mind, and would certainly be the last person to ever do well in any such undertaking. I can see the value of having Hitler gone, but don't see how that situation at all applies to our current one. Again, we are still in a place where we have the ability to prevent something like Nazi Germany from fully flowering on U.S. soil.

King's sentiment seems the most effective:

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

People are at the heart of King's dream. We aren't meant to kill them to get there.

~~

Getting "On the List"

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Jackie Kennedy.jpg
The most "radical" act I have ever taken part in is one I organized. It was a miserable failure, and I was embarrassed by it. I write about it now not out of pride, but as a way of letting readers know what it takes to get "on the list."

You may remember the lead-up to the Iraq war as a frustrating, heartbreaking time. Many of us believed that preemptive aggression was a way to further agitate people who hated the U.S. and would only make future terrorist attacks more likely. We could see right through all of the pretextual explanations for war. At the same time, as I wrote last fall, the anti-war movement seemed frustratingly ineffectual.

So -- what was my brilliant response to the impending bloodshed and the lackluster antiwar movement? To dress up like Jackie Kennedy and carry around shopping bags with Jesus on them. Though this may seem a bit off, I think history will prove this brand of "radicalism" much more sane than Dick Cheney's. Why the Jackie Kennedy imagery?
consv.jpgI first posted this in November and then removed it because it seemed too personal. Recent events have compelled to put it back up. We all want to be safe. The specter of terrorism does require vigilance. But destroying individuals' personal relationships and creating a general sense of fear and distrust cannot advance the cause of liberty. No one should be, in effect, imprisoned without having committed any crimes, or been tried for crimes. We all must be aware of the human element of the vast surveillance apparatus before its cancerous growth metastasizes beyond all control.

Yesterday's Wired Threat Level pointed out what it means for our government agencies to have total access to our communications. Ryan Singel lists the reasons there is a difference between your ISP and the government having access to your private information. Among them, the government can: put you on a watch list, find a tenuous connection between you and suspected bad guys in order to justify further surveillance, and build secret files on Americans' First Amendment-protected political activities.

This inspired me to reflect on some of the things I've learned about what sucks most when the government intrudes on one's daily life.

Six Hours A Week Is:

A coping strategy, advocacy outlet, and form of protection. My life has been nearly destroyed by the unconstitutional practices of politically/socially-motivated private intelligence contractors and the corruption and cronyism that allow them. Apparently because I speak out in ways that prioritize the little guy and human and environmental health above gargantuan profit margins, and believe that facts are as important as PR spin, I was someone who had to be completely discredited. In 2007, after a few months of a surreal and relentless invasion of privacy and dignity, I started to spend six hours each week researching, communicating about, and advocating legal and ethical responses to assaults on our shared democratic and republican ideals. For most of that time I was writing from the perspective of someone whose life was manipulated into a constant state of terror and emergency. In 2010, many of the array of entrapment attempts seem to have failed and it seems no longer possible to get away with such excessive, obvious harassment and overt interference. As we take more practical steps to address what has been allowed to happen to my family, we do expect to see some more harassment and intimidation. But I should be able to chronicle it from a more measured perspective, rather than that of someone in constant fear. Part of me would like to go back and delete earlier posts, because even I find them hard to relate to in some ways. But this blog has been one of our only forms of protection as everyone in any official capacity ignored the truth and tried to spin and frame us into the troublemakers and perpetrators of one form or another. So I leave it up as a form of protection, a record of what has occurred, and (with luck) the account of our way back to credibility and some form of legitimate justice. All content on this site is property of Kyeann Sayer. All rights reserved.