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‘Total Information Awareness’ surveillance program returns, bigger than ever

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A new feature story in this month’s Wired blows the lid off plans for a massive new National Security Agency data center in Utah that represents the resurrection of a program that Congress killed in 2003, known as “Total Information Awareness,” targeting literally all electronic communications all over the world — including those made by American citizens.

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The proposal was to build computing systems that could suck up every electronic communication on the planet and filter them through a smart super-computer that would flag certain conversations, emails, transactions and other items of interest for further review. It was a program so monstrous in scope that after a brief legislative battle, Congress imposed strict regulations on the type of technology that could accomplish those ends, prohibiting it from ever being used against Americans.

But if well sourced intelligence reporter James Bamford is to be believed, as of this year, their efforts to stop it are moot.

According to Bamford, the NSA’s new data center in Utah will be the most all-encompassing spy machine ever conceived, capable of breaking almost any encryption, reading any email and recording any phone call anywhere in the world, even if it’s not made over the Internet. A network of ultra-sensitive satellites enhance the center’s intelligence-finding capabilities with the unique ability to sniff electronic communications from a massive distance.

More troubling still, Bamford’s three covert sources who worked for the NSA reportedly claim that the agency is dumping Americans’ communications into the mix, knowingly violating the U.S. Constitution in pursuit of a modern-day Manhattan Project.

When Congress struck down the Pentagon’s “Total Information Awareness” program, they did, however, authorize funding for “processing, analysis, and collaboration tools for counter terrorism foreign intelligence,” which is precisely how the NSA describes this data center. Just a year after that authorization, Bamford notes that the Department of Energy founded a computing facility where scientists developed technology that was secretly being funneled to the NSA for the data center currently under construction.

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Bamford’s sources are not the first to come forward with claims of dubious activity at the NSA. The Obama Administration prosecuted NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake for funneling secret data to a nameless reporter, and former NSA analyst Russell Tice came forward with other revelations in 2005, and again in 2009. Even back then he was warning that the NSA had access to all Americans’ communications and even private credit card information. That message was heard, and heard well, by lawmakers like Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), who said he would not be surprised to learn that the NSA was even spying on him.

In these latest revelations, one of Bamford’s covert sources claims that the NSA is on the verge of a massive coup, putting the U.S. inches away from “a turnkey totalitarian state.” A much smaller spying program that targeted top Democrats and reporters, uncovered amid an investigation into a burglary, was the impetus for impeachment proceedings against former President Richard M. Nixon, which caused him to resign part-way through his second term. At the time, Congress was concerned that such power would be wielded for political purposes.

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2020 Election

Donald Trump has launched a 2020 campaign disinformation juggernaut — and it’s gaining speed

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You may be forgiven if you are under the impression that the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus outbreak is just one more example of his incompetence, aggressive ignorance, contempt for science and outright abuse of government. But it's worse than that. For the White House, and especially for Donald Trump's re-election campaign, it's an opportunity to put into play the massive disinformation apparatus they have built for the 2020 presidential race.

This article first appeared in Salon.

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Never Trumpers fear for their safety if they dare attend CPAC: report

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On Saturday, Politico profiled a handful of longtime conservatives who have criticized President Donald Trump — and the general consensus was that they feared hostility at this year's annual Conservative Political Action Conference.

One such figure was former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), a Tea Party darling who has since attacked Trump for undermining the rule of law, and briefly mounted a presidential primary challenge. He attended CPAC as a guest of comedian Trevor Noah, and attendees who saw him seemed conflicted. "Torn between catching up with an old colleague and being singled out by observers as talking to a Trump foe, they split the difference — and instead kept asking him how his wife was doing," wrote Tina Nguyen.

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HBO’s Maher scorches Trump for calling coronavirus a ‘hoax’: ‘Not something he can lie his way out of’

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During the "Overtime" segment of HBO's "Real Time," host Bill Maher launched into a broadside against Donald Trump for telling South Carolina rallygoers that the coronavirus outbreak is a "hoax" being pushed by the media Democrats.

In a furious back and forth with conservative guest Buck Sexton, Maher said this was one instance where the president "could not lie his way out of it."

According to Sexton, the crisis is serious but then he tried to deflect from the issue by accusing Democrats of "trying to score political points," when they point out the Trump administration's bumbling response.

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