Massive Domestic Spying was Wrong in the Past..It’s Wrong Today

NSA signIt’s a damn shame that with all that’s going on, the biggest news in Hip Hop this week is that rapper 2 Chainz did not get robbed while visiting San Francisco..Hell I was just in SF the other day and I didn’t get robbed either.. Why is this news? One would hope that the big news for 2 Chainz is while he was in the Bay he donated one of two chains to charity, he went to a group home to work with youth or that he’s doing a new song about Trayvon Martin or one that he addresses the NSA spying drama…

Which brings me to my next point, as we look at all this massive spying and surveillance of innocent people, we should keep a couple of things in mind.. First watch the media distraction where they are now getting. All these corporate backed news outlets have tuned into a PR firm for the government where they are doing massive spin control by getting everyone to debate whether or not Edward Snowden the man who blew the whistle on all this is a traitor or patriot. One would think and hope the main thrust would be centered around the actual situation of us being spied upon by private corporation using govt money and resources.. Snowden is the guy who gave of us the info.. He’s not the one in power and should not be the main focus. The questions should be what are private companies doing with all that data? What’s the guarantee it wont be abused or compromised?

Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden

The other thing to keep in mind, is since we’re talking Hip Hop news, perhaps folks should make the connection as to whats going on now with what was going down in Hip Hop a few years back New York City had a Hip Hop cop division that spent countless hours collecting dossiers on rappers and their entourages. 2Pac was being tailed, Biggie was being tailed and to this day all this intel gathering has not led to an arrest and conviction of their killers… At the time many rappers played up being surveilled as part of their whole mob/gangsta image and proof that there was bit of an edge to them…Considering the long legacy of CointelPro and how the FBI, CIA and other government agencies  spying on artists and using culture as a weapon against us, more should have been concerned and outrage then, as they should be now.

Under Cointel-Pro irreparable damage was done, not just in the Black community via the Civil Rights and Black Power movements, but also the Chicano Movement, American Indian Movement, Puerto Rican Independence Movement and the Anti-War Movements. Prior to Cointel-pro we had the McCarthy Era where major damage was done to journalists, entertainers, academics and any other thought leaders who were thought to be connected to Communism.

Like Cointel-pro many during the McCarthy Era who were 100% innocent were caught up in the wide net used by the government to battle what was actually described by some even back in those days, as a Fight Against Terror..There’s no excuse for folks who understand this history not to speak out now.. As we see a lot of this has got to wonder whats really going on? Maybe Hip Hop was surveilled in such a way as to get folks used to this practice so they wouldn’t sound the alarm once this spread and became a bit more Draconian.

Civil Rights Lawyer King Downing

Civil Rights Lawyer King Downing

Below is an interview we did with Civil Rights lawyer King Downing who is the founder of the Human Rights Racial Justice Center and has long dealt with the issues of privacy, unwarranted surveillance, racial profiling and over reach by the government. King is also formerly of the ACLU which is now suing Obama and the NSA for their egregious actions. In 2006 when I first met King, the ACLU was suing George Bush and his administration for spying on the American people Sadly not much has changed, if anything the government has doubled down.

A few years ago, King and myself along with a number of scholars, law enforcement, civil rights people, artists and activists sat on two round tables put on by the ACLU that dealt with the use and abuse of government informants. Lastly King was featured in the documentary Black and Blue: Legend of a Hip Hop Cop which focused on NYPD and their Hip Hop  division which collected large numbers of dossiers on artists, most of them innocent of any wrong doing.

He breaks a lot of things down in this Hard Knock Radio interview including the fact that the surveillance of rappers went far beyond NYPD but was actually coming from Washington DC itself..He connects a lot of dots and firmly makes the case of how the invasive profiling tactics used in the failed War on Drugs that crippled many who lived in the hood and inner cities has expanded under the Patriot Act and the War on Terror. He notes that all of this is connected and in totality make up what he describes as the surveillance state….

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During our interview with King Downing I mentioned I would play/post up the excerpt of former FBI informant Darthard Perry speaking about how he and others in the bureau did massive surveillance on Black culture so as to weaken the people…This interview took place in the 1970s..

Spying NSABuilding off what we covered with King Downing, we sat down with professor of communication Christopher Simpson of American University..
Simpson is author of several books, including; BlowbackScience of Coercion and National Security Directives of the Reagan and Bush Administrations.

With respect to this spying saga Simpson noted:

“The newly public National Security Agency records about PRISM and similar operations demonstrate that metadata about electronic communication is actually more dangerous to democracy than intercepting conversations. That is because the NSA’s analysis of this information is based on mathematical formulas that use guilt by association to construct imaginary networks of people who might, or might not, have some link to political violence, espionage, or to almost any controversy involving international relations.

“Much of what was revealed last week about the National Security Agency has been publicly available for almost a decade, but denied by officials and forgotten or ignored by most big media. The information now on the public record enables any informed person to understand the basics of how these intelligence operations work and why they are dangerous.

During our Hard Knock Radio interview, Professor Simpson expounded upon these remarks.. He laid out the case how this NSA spying situation is the War on Drugs on steroids..If anyone who has dealt with the wide nets used in the War on drugs, then you can probably relate, except, this is bigger and goes a lot deeper..The way the data is being mined, folks are getting tagged and dinged falsely with very little recourse..Y’all better not get caught up in conversations about whether or not Snowden is a Patriot or Hero.. Y’all best be asking what recourse you have from this drama..

Professor Simpson also painstakingly explains how the PRISM program works. He alerts us to how the data is collected and cross referenced with criteria that is secret which in turn determines if you are a potential target for further and more penetrating surveillance..This is no joke.. Peep the interview below..
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HKR: Are Drones Coming to Oakland? Local Activists including Medea Benjamin Speak Out

Drones police A few weeks ago the city of Oakland along with Bay Area residents in general were shocked to learn that Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern was moving in the direction of getting an unmanned drone. Now according to the sheriff the drones would be used  to find marijuana plants, for search and rescue missions, and other tasks.

It’s those ‘other tasks that have alarmed folks. It’s just a short leap from drones being used to do something non intrusive like search and rescue to doing something that is considerably more militaristic…Many feel that drones are the latest tools being used by the military and now police that push society in the direction of being a police state.  Linda Lye, staff attorney for the ACLU of Northern California wrote this in response to Sheriff Ahern’s proposed actions

Shortly before next week’s one-year anniversary of the Oakland Police Department’s brutal crackdown on Occupy Oakland, Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern announced that he was seeking funds to purchase a drone to engage in unspecified unmanned aerial surveillance. One of the many unfortunate lessons of OPD’s Occupy crackdown is that when law enforcement has powerful and dangerous tools in its arsenal, it will use them. Drones raise enormous privacy concerns and can easily be abused.

Before any drone acquisition proceeds, we need to ask a threshold question – are drones really necessary in our community? – and have a transparent and democratic process for debating that question. In addition, if the decision is made to acquire a drone, do we have rigid safeguards and accountability mechanisms in place, so that law enforcement does not use drones to engage in warrantless mass surveillance? The ACLU of Northern California has sent the Sheriff a Public Records Act request, demanding answers to these crucial questions.

You can read the rest of Linda Lye’s article HERE

Drone signsLye along with a number of other folks from a variety of social justice organizations like Critical Resistance to Electronic Frontier Foundation held a press conference in front of Oakland City Hall to speak about the situation at hand. Speakers addressed a variety of issues including the growing influence of the drone lobby and now a drone caucus that sits in Congress. There is concern that in a couple of years private corporations will be allowed to own drones, which raises concerns about the types of rights they will have or won’t have vs law enforcement.

From the looks of things whatever restrictions are levied on law enforcement will be able to be gotten around by outsourcing drone work to private companies.  There is also concern about new technology that allows drones to see through walls, listen to private conversation and intercept emails, text messages and cell phone signals.

Click the link below to listen to the press conference and the interviews we did around Drones Over Oakland

Medea Benjamin

Medea Benjamin

The above interview focuses on the pitfalls of drones being used domestically. A couple of months before the Alameda County sheriff made his drone announcement we sit down w Code Pink co-founder  Medea Benjamin to talk to her about her new book ‘Drone Warfare Killing By Remote Control’ In her book and in our interview Benjamin talks about how our foreign policy and standing in the world is being twisted because of our military’s overuse of drones. She explains that the US has killed scores of innocent people via drones and that such atrocities may one day boomer rang back on us. Benjamin talks about the types of people recruited to man these drones and how they are set up to be operated like a video game..  She goes in on this interview and breaks a lot of stuff down..Click the link below to listen

An Open Letter to Tea Party members in the 112th Congress

Dear Tea Party Members and Supporters of the 112th Congress

Later on today as many as 90 men and women backed by you will be among the 434 members of the 112th Congress that will be sworn in today.  There has been a lot of speculation as to what the Tea Party will do and how your influence and potential power will be respected. Almost everyone agrees the shift in power with Nancy Pelosi stepping down and John Boehner stepping in as Speaker of the House, is due to the enthusiasm you all touched off in people.

As an acknowledgement to that influence for the first time, the Constitution will be read. As I understand it will take more than an hour and a half  and the point of reading it is so that everyone in the chambers, the country and for that matter the entire world, is reminded exactly what sort of principles we as a country should ideally be embracing.

I have a couple of questions about this reading and your next actions as members of Congress. The first involves the 4th amendment around the issue of search and seizures and our collective protections from them..The amendment reads as follows:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and Warrants shall not be issued, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Now as you all are aware over the past few years surveillance on the American people is an at an all time high. Some of this has been a result of so-called ‘War on Drugs‘ and in more recent days the ‘War on Terror‘. We went from a nation that prided itself on having a right to privacy to one where police can stop you at any time under the loosely interpreted ‘suspicion of illegal activity‘.

For example, in places like New York City under their infamous Stop and Frisk policy anywhere from 300 thousand to more than half a million people stopped each year in New York with the police looking for guns. Very few are found, but there are high numbers of lower level summons issued.We recently come to find that New York police are under pressure to meet a quota. 20 summons is the equivalent to one arrest.

In cities like Oakland, LA and Chicago we see the government has created far-reaching gang injunctions. If it’s done thing to stop criminal activity. I think we can all agree to that, but what many of these cities are doing is establishing gang data bases.

Many of the people entered into the database are young men and women who live in high crime neighborhoods but have no gang affiliations. How they wind up being placed in the database is the police will stop many under that pesky little ‘reasonable suspicion‘ clause and then look for literally anything to associate them with a gang.

It could be they have a red, blue, purple etc backpack or jersey from a school that happens to have the same color or initials favored by a gang. They could’ve had their hats worn backwards or they were observed saying ‘hello’ to a family member or friend who is a suspected gang member. The police observe this sort of activity and the next thing you know the person they’re profiling winds up in the gang database. Once this happens, that person is subjected to all sorts of unwarranted surveillance, stop and frisk measures and even civil lawsuits.

This is all happening more often than not, without due process or the person’s knowledge they were even added to the database. Years later if that person is pulled over for a minor traffic violation, the officer punches in their name and voila, suddenly they’re viewed as a gang member.

Recently a new law was enacted in states like California which allows the police to confiscate and search our cell phones or computers to seek additional evidence in the form of text messages and emails to qualify their suspicions.

Does this sound fair? Does this sound reasonable?

Now what I described is going on in many urban areas, but I’m sure these search and seizure tactics, are manifesting themselves in other areas, probably in the form of warrantless wiretapping and are being applied to ‘suspected’ groups of varied backgrounds.

I know earlier this year while at the Netroots convention in Las Vegas I attended a panel discussion that focused on increased government surveillance. I was shocked to hear about recent reports that had come out identifying the top three targets for profiling and monitoring were Muslims with Middle Eastern Backgrounds, students at historically Black colleges and Ron Paul supporters are considered Constitutionalists. This was discussed at length at the netroots convention and I know its been discussed in other circles.

As the constitution is being read today, will you in the Tea Party be looking to put an end to all this government surveillance of innocent people? Will you be fighting to put an end to to intrusive policies like stop and frisk, warrantless wiretaps, no knock warrants and all this government monitoring on social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter?

As members of the Tea Party we understand that you are all about making sure we have Due Process. This is outlined in the 5th Amendment which reads as follows:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

As you are probably aware the past few years we’ve seen government violate this amendment on all sorts of grounds. In recent days we’ve seen the Department of Homeland Security shut down websites without due process. Popular websites like and were shut down on the suspicion of copyright infringement.

The owners say they are innocent but that didn’t seem to matter to DHS. What was most disturbing there was no warrant, no letter inquiring about so-called infringement or  whether or not the site owners had permission to post particular material. In fact with RapGodfathers they didn’t post material, but instead pointed links to sites where music was hosted.

There was no discussion or place to appeal the shut downs. There was no letter issued asking sites to remove material. Similar fate was met with 80 other sites also shut down by DHS. These sites were shut down completely along with years worth of robust discussions and exchanges on message boards and  a wealth of information in the form of articles and reviews submitted by visitors to the sites. Where was the due process for those who posted up writings and material to a site. What laws did they break?

These sites were suspected of copyright infringement and for those who respect the law that may seem like an open and shut case, but as those who love the constitution we all know that due process is paramount and a precedent should not be set by allowing increased government encroachment.  Today its the rap sites, but tomorrow it could any of our own sites if we don’t do proper attributions to quotes from newspaper article or if a visitor to our message boards post up a copyrighted picture.

It wasn’t to long ago Tea Party backed candidate Sharon Angle found herself the subject of lawsuit for posting up an article from a local newspaper about herself. Although it was a private entity that sued her and not the government, there was suspicion that the government was behind it. In addition, no letters were written requesting she remove material,she was dragged into court.

Angle is high profile but thousands of others have been hit with similar fate.

Will this sort of activity be vigoriously opposed by the 90 Tea Party backed members in congress?

Lastly I read this morning that Congressman Darrell Issa, who is set to lead the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has written to over 150 corporations asking what sort of regulations they need lifted. Is this something the Tea Party supports?

Maybe I’m cynical but last year we saw 29 miners get killed in West Virginia with the company Massey being cited as one that routinely scoffed the few regulations already in place. In fact they are cited as having the worse record in US mining history.

In San Bruno California, 6 people were killed and entire neighborhood destroyed because of faulty gas pipe that was supposed to be repaired by PG&E. At first we thought it was an unfortunate accident, but came to find out PG&E had increased rates in 2007 to justify the 5 million dollars which they had on hand needed repair faulty pipes including the one that exploded which was deemed by them to be one of the most at risk.

PG&E never did the work instead they spent 46 million dollars on Prop 16 this past summer to prevent other gas companies from coming into the area and being contracted by local municipalities. The people of California rejected PG&E’s proposition.

We won’t even speak about the negligence that led to the explosion and repair efforts around the BP Gulf Oil Spill.

All in all we hope you in the Tea Party who railed against the government clamping down on our freedoms will step up and make sure the government backs off some of these egregious intrusions. At the same time we hope that you are wary of powerful forces and corporations that have access to lawmakers like yourself and have used their money, resources and influence to literally put elected officials in their back pocket. An unchecked corporation can be just as oppressive as an unchecked government and from what I gathered y’all should be opposed that as well or are you? We look forward to seeing how you will reform Washington or if Washington will reform you.

peace out for now

Davey D

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