by Mike Masnick
Tue, Oct 8th 2013 3:09pm
by Tim Cushing
Thu, Oct 3rd 2013 9:45am
EFF Lawsuit Uncovers Abuse Of Surveillance Drones; DHS Files Motion To Suppress Further Transparency
from the it's-so-GREAT-that-we-have-to-sue-our-government-so-often-#americandream dept
About a week ago, the EFF obtained documents (via a FOIA lawsuit) detailing usage of CBP's (Customs and Border Protection) fleet of Predator drones. Nothing much has changed since the last time this subject was visited (back in July): the CBP is still acting like a drone lending library, loaning out its drones to everyone, from the FBI and DEA to DPS offices, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and various military entities. What has changed is just how many agencies have been recipients of the CBP's largesse.
First off, there's a "problem" with the DOJ's internal accounting. According to the recent OIG report, DOJ agencies have only used the CBP's drones twice. The list obtained by the EFF shows that DOJ agencies have utilized these drones more than 100 times. Even an internal inspection failed to uncover the breadth of the CBP's drone deployment.
Beyond this misstatement (or whatever the DOJ will claim it is), the CBP's indiscriminate drone loans have become somewhat of a community outreach program.
The list also includes several county sheriff’s departments. However, CBP has refused to release the names of these agencies, arguing in a recent court filing that to do so would disclose secret law enforcement techniques and would somehow “reveal that CBP is aware of the illegal activities taking place in a particular location.” It’s hard to fathom how releasing the name of a county sheriff department—without any other information about the drone flight for that department—would somehow let the criminals in the area know they’re being watched and help them evade detection.Worst case scenario, criminals would now be aware there's a chance their local sheriff's department might have sporadic access to surveillance drones and govern themselves accordingly. Seems like a long shot to claim that current investigations might be compromised. If the criminals are staying current with EFF and ACLU document liberations, then it's safe to assume they've already adjusted their activities to account for potential drone usage.
But the argument the CBP is pushing isn't really about protecting ongoing investigations. It's about maintaining the opacity the CBP was used to. It doesn't want to talk about its indiscriminate lending and deployment of surveillance drones because this might uncover illegal uses and constitutional violations. This summary judgment motion is the DHS (which oversees the CBP) indicating it's no longer interested in being forced to be transparent -- a tactic that echoes the UK's intelligence agency reps telling The Guardian while observing the forced hard drive destruction, "You've had your debate. There's no need to write more."
The DOJ certainly doesn't want any more info to be liberated by agencies looking after the rights of Americans. Why? Because it has deployed drones for seven years without putting together even the most minimal of privacy policies. It's finally being forced to do so thanks to the highly-critical OIG report, but it comes roughly seven years too late.
The EFF has expressed the hope that the DOJ will craft policies "with some meat on them," but early responses from various agencies indicate that they're fine with minimal guidance and oversight and point to existing rules governing manned surveillance flights as being more than adequate. According to these officials, there's no "practical difference" between the two. But that's completely wrong.
“The main difference is that UAS will drive down the cost of aerial surveillance quite radically, as well as permit smaller and more invasive and longer flying, or even persistent, aerial platforms for surveillance,” Peter Asaro, a drone expert and professor of media studies at the New School, told Ars. “The implications of these technological shifts are that such surveillance can be done much more readily and may even become ubiquitous. This has an obvious and definite impact on privacy, whether that surveillance is being conducted by police forces and the Department of Justice, or whether it is being conducted by private citizens and companies.”Even the OIG calls out the DOJ for treating the two as interchangeable:
The OIG recognized what EFF has been saying all along—that the advanced technological capabilities of drones, their low operational costs as compared to manned aircraft, and their ability to conduct “pervasive tracking of an individual’s movements” whether on “public or private property “ raise “unique concerns about privacy and the collection of evidence.”The government is currently fighting to keep its redactions intact, all the while showing it clearly can't be trusted to responsibly deploy the technology under its command.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Sep 30th 2013 9:14pm
Large Coalition Of Tech Companies And Advocacy Groups Demand Greater Transparency About NSA Surveillance
from the let-us-be-transparent dept
A large coalition of tech companies (including big ones like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Dropbox, Apple and AOL -- as well as small like... us here at Floor64) and advocacy groups/trade organizations (including the ACLU, EFF, CDT, CCIA, Engine, Freedom of the Press Foundation, Public Knowledge, Public Citizen and many more) have come together to support a move by Congress to allow much more transparency when it comes to government surveillance efforts. There's both the issue of general support for Congress being explicit in allowing tech companies to reveal information about government requests for info, and, more specifically, support for a couple of important bills introduced in Congress:
Specifically, we write to voice our strong support for S. 1452, the Surveillance Transparency Act of 2013, and H.R. 3035, the Surveillance Order Reporting Act of 2013, each of which would clarify that companies have the right to publish basic statistics about the government demands for user data that they receive. We urge the Committees to hold hearings on the issue of surveillance transparency as a prelude to the markup of these bills.There are many, many things that need to happen in response to the revelations of the NSA's activities. This is just one minor step in a much bigger process, but it's an important one. The ability of the federal government to gag companies when it requests information is a huge violation of free speech rights and the basic right of the public to know what their government is doing on their behalf.
Many of the undersigned organizations and companies previously wrote a letter to you and other leaders in Congress and the Administration on July 18th, asking for legislation that would require more comprehensive transparency reporting by the government and allow for more comprehensive transparency reporting by US companies that receive national security–related information requests. We are thankful that Senator Franken, working with eleven cosponsors including Chairman Leahy, and Representative Lofgren, as part of a bipartisan coalition of nine cosponsors including Ranking Member Conyers and Representatives Poe and Chaffetz, were able to so quickly respond to the pressing need for more transparency around the US government’s national security surveillance efforts. Such transparency is important not only for the American people, who are entitled to have an informed public debate about the appropriateness of that surveillance, but also for international users of US-based service providers who are concerned about privacy and security
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Sep 27th 2013 2:16pm
from the but-of-course dept
However, as Kevin Bankston notes, during Thursday's Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, Dianne Feinstein more or less admitted that they get emails via "upstream" collection methods. As you can see in the following clip, Feinstein interrupts a discussion to read a prepared "rebuttal" to a point being made, and in doing so clearly says that the NSA can get emails via upstream collections:
Upstream collection... occurs when NSA obtains internet communications, such as e-mails, from certain US companies that operate the Internet background, i.e., the companies that own and operate the domestic telecommunications lines over which internet traffic flows.She clearly means "backbone" rather than "background." She's discussing this in an attempt to defend the NSA's "accidental" collection of information it shouldn't have had. But that point is not that important. Instead, the important point is that she's now admitted what most people suspected, but which the administration has totally avoided admitting for many, many years since the revelations made by Mark Klein.
So, despite years of trying to deny that the NSA can collect email and other communications directly from the backbone (rather than from the internet companies themselves), Feinstein appears to have finally let the cat out of the bag, perhaps without realizing it.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Sep 19th 2013 10:53am
from the that's-not-how-it-works dept
Over at Cryptome today there's an absolutely incredible exchange between the Justice Department's Brian Fallon (from the Office of Public Affairs -- basically a PR guy) and Brad Heath, an investigative reporter from USA Today. Heath had sent the DOJ a FOIA request to the DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) asking basically whether or not the OPR had been involved in any investigation concerning the recently declassified FISA Court order, about how the NSA had misled the FISA court and abused its capabilities repeatedly. It certainly seems reasonable to try to find out if the DOJ then investigated those abuses and the NSA's misrepresentations to the FISA court.
The DOJ claimed that there were no responsive documents -- which even by itself is quite incredible. Heath appears to have then followed up with Fallon at the DOJ to seek comments. Fallon's response by itself is stunning:
I have an answer from OPR, and a FISC judge. I am not providing it to you because all you will do is seek to write around it because you are biased in favor of the idea that an inquiry should have been launched. So I will save what I have for another outlet after you publish.Basically, this is the DOJ giving the middle finger to Heath, telling him that they have answers to his questions, but won't give them to him in order to purposely try to make him look bad by giving those quotes to someone else. Heath, quite reasonably, responded that he's been perfectly patient in waiting for an answer, but if none is forthcoming, he'll write the story as he has it (which, from the FOIA request, suggests that the DOJ did absolutely nothing about the NSA's abuses and misrepresentations to the FISC).
Fallon responds that he's "done negotiating" and claims that he "will work with someone else afterwards explaining why what you reported is off base." So, not only is the DOJ not answering the reporter, it's telling the reporter that the reporter has incorrect information but the DOJ refuses to correct the reporter in order to make the reporter look bad. Heath points out that he's not "negotiating" he's just asking for answers to basic questions. And then the real issue comes out in the DOJ's reply:
You are not actually open-minded to the idea of not writing the story. You are running it regardless. I have information that undercuts your premise, and would provide it if I thought you were able to be convinced that your story is off base. Instead, I think that to provide it to you would just allow you to cover your bases, and factor it into a story you still plan to write. So I prefer to hold onto the information and use it after the fact, with a different outlet that is more objective about whether an OPR inquiry was appropriateYeah. The DOJ is saying that it has answers to a reporter's questions, which it knows adds to the public debate about the DOJ's response to the NSA's activities, but because it's trying to stifle the report, it won't share the info with him. This is incredible. It's a clear move by the DOJ to try to silence the press with an effective threat: "if you agree not to publish your article, then we'll explain why we did what we did. If you do publish your article, we'll make you look foolish."
This is incredibly childish and unprofessional behavior by Fallon and the DOJ. Remember how this is supposed to be "the most transparent administration in history"? Apparently the DOJ thinks that only means "we'll be transparent if you only agree to write nice stuff about us." That's not how it works.
Heath points out that Fallon is wrong -- if Heath just wanted to publish the story he would have done so already, without waiting for a comment from the DOJ. And then he points out the obvious:
You can’t seriously ask me not to publish something on the basis of information you won’t shareEither way, this seems to highlight (once again) how the federal government, and especially the DOJ, views journalists these days -- especially investigative journalists. It will do anything possible to intimidate them into not publishing stories that might embarrass the administration. That's not transparency, it's thuggery and intimidation.
by Tim Cushing
Tue, Sep 17th 2013 8:13pm
The PCLOB Inadvertently Opts For Total Transparency While The Surveillance Review Board Sets A Troubling Tone In Its Debut
from the moving-recklessly-at-the-speed-of-government dept
If the endgame is transparency, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board seems to have set the tone early, if inadvertently. Al Kamen at the Washington Post quickly runs down a story all too familiar to many, many others who have wondered (too late) what the difference between Cc and Bcc actually is.
[W]e were delighted to get an invitation to the board’s Oct. 4 public hearing at the Mayflower Hotel, where executive and judicial branch officials are to discuss changes to federal intelligence surveillance programs in order to adequately “protect privacy and civil liberties.”Exposing email addresses? All part of a day's work in the national security complex. That it was an outside board doing the exposing is a little disappointing, but on the bright side, many journalists now have a useful list of email addresses that will help them bypass flacks in the Communications offices.
Even better to see that the e-mailed invite displayed the e-mail addresses of the hundred or so recipients. Of course most addresses were those of media colleagues and, by definition, pretty useless.
But there were some we were happy to have, especially those for staff at the Director of National Intelligence, the National Security Council, the FBI, Justice Department, Treasury and the Pentagon. Sure saves time.
As for the other, less independent, surveillance-related board? The first meeting with the members of the Surveillance Review Board was actually two meetings -- one for tech firm reps and one for privacy advocate groups like the
The meeting with the tech firm reps was held in the White House's Truman Room, and went down something like this, according to Spencer Ackerman:
Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple and Yahoo sent representatives to the inaugural hearing, chaired by Swire. Also in attendance were Alan Davidson of MIT; Atkinson; and Meinrath. There was also representatives of the Information Technology Industry Council, Rackspace, and the Software and Information Industry Association...So, essentially pointless. Many of the tech companies are currently engaged in legal battles in hopes of making reporting on government requests for data more transparent. Others, like Microsoft, have been more cooperative with the NSA's requests in the past, but seem a bit more hesitant to do so in the future.
The meeting itself struck Meinrath as bizarre. Representatives from the technology firms were identified around the table not by their names, but by placards listing their employers. There was minimal technical discussion of surveillance mechanisms despite the presence of technology companies; Meinrath took the representatives to be lawyers, not technologists.
When it appeared like the meeting would discuss a surveillance issue in a sophisticated way, participants and commissioners suggested it be done in a classified meeting. Meinrath interpreted that as a maneuver to exclude his more-critical viewpoint.
Meinrath's assessment of the tech meeting is pretty damning.
Meinrath said he was surprised by the circumscribed discussion: "I didn't find anyone saying the bulk surveillance is horrendous and bad for our democracy." He declined to discuss specifics. "The companies are concerned that it impacts their bottom line. My concern is they're looking to preserve the function of the NSA," Meinrath said.Granted, this was the first set of meetings by the Surveillance Review Board, but based on what was observed here, it appears Meinrath's initial feeling that these administration moves will amount to nothing more than a "simulacrum of meaningful reform" is spot on.
Asked if that was the perspective of the government or the companies, Meinrath replied: "I'm not sure you can separate the two."
This feeling isn't alleviated at all by the details of the second meeting.
One group included civil libertarian organizations such as the ACLU and the Electronic Privacy Information Center. It met in a conference room on K and 20th Streets. Morrell and Clarke did not attend.That's right. The civil libertarians weren't even allowed into the White House, much less given a chance to speak to the entire board. This would seem to indicate that the Board (which operates at the behest of the administration and reports to the Director of National Intelligence) believes tech companies require full attention while safeguarding constitutional rights should be granted no more than half-measures. It would also appear that the government's main concern is winning over the tech companies in order to continue the bulk surveillance unimpeded. The concerns of the public were relegated to a separate, underattended conference room blocks away from the White House.
Finally, there's no escaping the fact that any efforts towards reforming the surveillance system will still be routed through James Clapper. Much like every corporate participant, the administration had no comment.
The White House deferred comment to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which did not respond.So, a pair of inauspicious moments for two groups ostensibly aimed at achieving the near-mythical "balance" between security and privacy. If anything's going to be achieved, the Surveillance Review Board will have to start viewing the rights of Americans as equally important as the opinions of tech companies.
by Tim Cushing
Fri, Sep 13th 2013 3:36am
from the ray-kelly-states-info-needs-to-be-pried-from-his-cold,-live-fingers dept
According to the investigative journalists Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, the entity most reluctant to part ways with information isn't any of the expected national intelligence agencies. No, the entity least likely to kick loose a response to a FOI request is none other than the NYPD.
“For the most part, they don’t respond,” Apuzzo, 34, said in an interview with The Huffington Post. “I don’t think people are well-served by that. Even the NSA responds.”Incredibly, this is an improvement over the Giuliani years.
“Even the CIA responds,” Goldman, 42, jumped in. “Even the FBI responds.”
Bob Liff, a former reporter and Democratic political consultant, said the public’s right to know may not be perfectly served under Bloomberg, but it has vastly improved from his predecessor’s time.Thanks to the oft-thwarted efforts of Apuzzo and Goldman, we now have an answer as to why New York is referred to as the "city that never sleeps." It's because it's up all night crafting narratives.
“I don’t doubt that there’s always a battle over controversial information,” Liff said. “But under Rudy, the battle was over basic information. That’s a significant distinction.”
The "public is not well-served by a police department that doesn’t allow you access to 911 calls or public records, police reports" and then "produces their own summaries of cases for you to look at, but doesn’t let you get access to the underlying documents,” Apuzzo added later.Apuzzo and Goldman have had plenty of experience with the NYPD, having exposed the department's highly questionable surveillance tactics deployed after the 9/11 attacks, along with breaking the news that a former high-ranking CIA officer was running the so-called Demographics Unit. This unit has designated entire mosques as "terrorist operations" and operates under a loophole in the laws governing police investigations -- a generous loophole manufactured by the former CIA agent himself.
“The NYPD is deciding what’s news,” Goldman said.
The powers granted to this unit are so audacious that national intelligence agencies are unable to utilize the information collected without breaking national civil liberties laws.
The NYPD's protection of its own info seems almost antagonistic. As we've covered earlier, the NYPD has rejected FOI requests for everything from weapons discharge reports to Ray Kelly's official calendar. The city of New York isn't much better, as Mike Masnick can personally attest.
There's an insularity to New York that outsiders have trouble permeating. The city is unlike any other in the US, and the residents and ingrained institutions know it. Most people don't have what it takes to get past its callous exterior and those who try are often rebuffed simply on principle. The mayor's office and police department have had each other's back throughout Bloomberg's tenure, which isn't too surprising considering the NYPD has been very instrumental in the mayor's micromanagement of the city and its inhabitants.
But this "we protect our own" attitude extends into the journalistic ranks as well, which is extremely problematic when the police department is already doing everything it can to prevent the release of unflattering information. Apuzzo and Goldman's investigative work was greeted with reactions ranging from harsh criticism to complete indifference by New York papers.
The city’s top tabloid newspapers, the New York Post and Daily News, editorialized against the AP's NYPD series in 2011, and The New York Times did little follow-up reporting on the revelations and newly published documents.That should have been a big deal and New York journalist should have been the ones informing their local readers about the abuses occurring in the name of "security" -- and at the behest of a former CIA officer. But they didn't, instead entertaining the mayor's assertions that everything the department did was legal, above board and not a violation of anyone's rights.
"It was extremely surprising to us that putting a former CIA officer in charge of the NYPD intelligence division and creating what’s been created generated so little attention at the time," Apuzzo said.
Bloomberg, like President Obama, promised greater transparency. And like the president, he's failed to follow through. Worse, this isn't simply a case of neglect -- both have taken great strides in the direction of opacity. And as for those New York journalists who criticized the pair's work, they need to take a good, long look at their own complicity in the NYPD's overreach.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Sep 5th 2013 10:36am
from the only-way-to-regain-trust dept
It's time to start cleaning up this mess. We need a special prosecutor, one not tied to the military, the corporations complicit in these programs, or the current political leadership, whether Democrat or Republican. This prosecutor needs free rein to go through the NSA's files and discover the full extent of what the agency is doing, as well as enough technical staff who have the capability to understand it. He needs the power to subpoena government officials and take their sworn testimony. He needs the ability to bring criminal indictments where appropriate. And, of course, he needs the requisite security clearance to see it all.Now, obviously, some will claim that there's so much the NSA does that needs to be kept secret -- and, that's true. Except for one little tidbit: Ed Snowden already walked out the door with much of this stuff and gave it to reporters. Meaning that most of it isn't likely to be kept secret very long. And that's why this is the only reasonable course of action, even if it goes against the NSA's general DNA.
We also need something like South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, where both government and corporate employees can come forward and tell their stories about NSA eavesdropping without fear of reprisal.
Yes, this will overturn the paradigm of keeping everything the NSA does secret, but Snowden and the reporters he's shared documents with have already done that. The secrets are going to come out, and the journalists doing the outing are not going to be sympathetic to the NSA. If the agency were smart, it'd realize that the best thing it could do would be to get ahead of the leaks.In many ways, this is like the difference between real security and security by obscurity. If the NSA is confident in what it's doing and why it's necessary, it should be able to come out and show what's really happening, and the public can take an educated position on whether or not it's appropriate.
The result needs to be a public report about the NSA's abuses, detailed enough that public watchdog groups can be convinced that everything is known. Only then can our country go about cleaning up the mess: shutting down programs, reforming the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act system, and reforming surveillance law to make it absolutely clear that even the NSA cannot eavesdrop on Americans without a warrant.
by Tim Cushing
Wed, Sep 4th 2013 7:31am
State AG Says It's OK Ohio Implemented Facial Recognition Program Without Notifying Public Because Everyone Else Is Doing It
from the the-fundamental-disconnect-between-public-and-public-servants dept
Facial recognition software is controversial, to say the least. The privacy implications run deep even when deployed in very public areas, as it basically allows for suspicionless searches of anyone whose face is visible to cameras. The feet-on-the-ground equivalent would be having officers canvass a public area, grabbing IDs from anyone it wishes and running their records. Pretty much unacceptable, even considering the potential upside of the software to catch suspected criminals or stumble upon people with outstanding warrants.
These issues haven't prevented more than half of our nation's states from rolling out some version of facial recognition databases. That doesn't make what Ohio law enforcement did right, although its main defender actually uses that exact justification to answer criticism of the roll out.
Without informing the public and without first reviewing security rules for the system, Ohio law enforcement officers started using facial recognition technology more than two months ago, scanning databases of driver's license photos and police mug shots to identify crime suspects, The Enquirer has learned.This is fairly common with controversial measures like these: deploy first, ask for permission/set guidelines later. We've seen the same thing happen repeatedly, whether its domestic drone use or the deployment of quasi-legal technology like Stingray devices that mimic cell phone towers. This isn't purely a local phenomenon. National agencies are just as prone to rolling out new methods and devices, and only begin to consider privacy implications or the need to establish guidelines after a public outcry, much as (almost) happened here.
Ohio's new facial recognition system launched June 6, without the knowledge of the attorney general or his chief operating officer. Upon learning about it two weeks later, after it had already been used for 900 facial recognition searches, top officials debated turning it off.No approval. No period for public comment. No notification to the top cop in the state, or any other top official for that matter. Ohio's law enforcement agencies simply decided to go autonomous, claiming that it was an "almost IT-driven thing." Yep. Completely unstoppable. IT informed the heads of Ohio's Bureau of Criminal Investigation that the system was ready to go live -- and that was all the top Bureau officials needed to hear. The "on" button was pushed and a briefing with the state AG was set up… for two weeks later -- after 900 searches had already been performed.
On June 20, during a meeting with DeWine, Chief Operating Officer Kimberly Murnieks sent an urgent e-mail to DeWine's chief information officer and top deputies: "First question: Can we turn this off for now? I am told it has been 'live' for two weeks. Who approved that go live?"
In the June 20 briefing with DeWine, officials quickly adopted a practice of calling the launch a "test" although some continued to be nervous about whether the system should have been launched before new policies were created.COO Murnieks suggested the system be taken offline until policies updated, but apparently, the "off" button was nowhere to be found. The system stayed online. While the COO seemed suitably concerned that facial recognition technology was being deployed without public notification or pertinent policies in place, AG DeWine was more blasé about the whole experience, deflecting criticism using the elementary-school-level "well, everyone else is doing it" argument.
Before June 20, "I didn't know it was up live, but I wasn't concerned that it was up live," DeWine said. "Whether you call it a test phase or don't call it a test phase, if we find something (wrong), we would change it, and if we find something alarming, we would shut it down. ...Of all the poor logic contained in these statements, all of it stands out as being particularly idiotic. Every single bit. DeWine may believe two wrongs don't make a right, but apparently a handful of wrongs adds up just fine.
"The fact that over half of states use (facial recognition technology), the fact that the FBI has used it, the fact that we have controls in (the online database) that work in the sense that we could prosecute people ... all of those indicate to me that what we have is adequate."
DeWine feels it's perfectly acceptable to make mistakes that could affect seriously members of the public. Not only that, but he seems to feel it's perfectly acceptable to use the public as a testing ground without even providing them a safety net of applicable data policies, safeguards or scope limitations. Pointing to other states, many of whom rolled out their programs more responsibly, is nothing more than verbal sleight-of-hand designed to diffuse outrage. (Notice I didn't say "defuse." What he's doing is spreading the blame, not placating the masses.)
And I have absolutely no idea what this phrase is supposed to mean, other than the prosecution side is always right:
...the fact that we have controls in (the online database) that work in the sense that we could prosecute people..Because it can be used to catch "bad guys," all else is negligible? Really? If so, when you're done with screwing over your own constituents, there's probably a prime spot in the NYPD for you. They like people who prize crime statistics above all else, even the Constitution.
Plus, he's happy with everything being "adequate." That's a government official for you -- never strive for more than you can obtain via stasis.
DeWine led off the previous statement by saying the program simultaneously is and isn't a "test phase," and followed it up by telling everyone why it really doesn't matter what "phase" the program's currently in.
He said the system is still in a trial phase, but said its scope or use isn't expected to change after the trial period ends.Great. So the minimal nod towards stress-testing the system meant nothing. Good to know. DeWine caps this all off by throwing a chewed-almost-beyond-recognition bone to the public's concerns.
"Should we have talked about it the day it went live?" DeWine said of the facial recognition system. "You could argue that."We are arguing that, you dolt. The problem is you, and many others like you (say, the heads of the Ohio's law enforcement agencies), can't be bothered to check with the public until it's thrusting microphones in your face or calling at all hours demanding an explanation. You and many others like you (say, the heads of the state's law enforcement agencies) are public servants. Apparently, the COO of the state is the only one actually looking out for the people she's serving. The rest of you all figure you know better and can roll out controversial programs without so much as obligatory "here's what we're doing: deal with it" press release. Because crime.
Is it any wonder no one trusts the government?
by Glyn Moody
Tue, Sep 3rd 2013 11:00pm
Desperate To Sew Up TPP Negotiations At Any Cost, Politicians Agree All Future Meetings Will Be Completely Secret
from the slap-in-the-public's-face dept
We've been reporting for several years about the extraordinary levels of secrecy surrounding the TPP negotiations, where little information was released about what was going on, and there were few opportunities for representatives of civic and other groups to meet with negotiators to present their point of view. More recently, there have been some indications that this lack of transparency is fuelling increasing discontent among some of the participating nations.
In order to get the trade deal sewn up by the end of this year, and before resistance spreads further, the negotiators have decided to hold 'inter-sessional' meetings for the remaining unresolved areas. But as this article from Scoop explains, these won't be like routine TPP meetings, with their routinely unhelpful levels of opacity:
Detective work indicates that informal 'inter-sessional' meetings on six chapters are scheduled within the next four weeks -- all in North America.
That is, rather than opening up TPP in response to widening criticisms, its negotiators will now be meeting in complete secret, presumably until they emerge with some kind of a deal, however bad. Since no information will be released about those gatherings behind closed doors, and there will be no opportunities to convey concerns to the participants, the public in whose name all these talks are taking place will have no way of knowing what is going on or of offering its views. It's the ultimate in arrogant, "we know best" negotiations where citizens are expected to accept what is given, no discussion allowed.
' "Inter-sessional" is a misnomer', says Professor Kelsey, 'because they are not planning any more formal sessions. There will be no access for the media or stakeholders to these smaller meetings.'
'Past inter-sessionals have been shrouded in secrecy to ensure we can't find out what's happening and we don't have access to those negotiators who see value in talking with us.'
'The last three years of the TPPA have been widely condemned for their lack of transparency. The process is now going further underground'.
The last time this approach was used on this scale was for ACTA, which was ultimately rejected, largely because the European public took to the streets to express its outrage at the contempt being shown towards it by the negotiators. Interestingly, in Colombia people are already taking to the streets to protest against the effects of free trade agreements with the US, Europe and Canada, at least in part. Do the governments participating in the now-secret TPP negotiations really want to risk the same happening in their own countries?