New World Order: Labor, Capital, and Ideas in the Power Law Economy

Foreign Affairs
By Erik Brynjolfsson, Andrew McAfee, and Michael Spence

Robots at the “Hannover Messe” trade fair in Hanover, Germany, April 2014. (Morris Mac Matzen / Courtesy Reuters)

Recent advances in technology have created an increasingly unified global marketplace for labor and capital. The ability of both to flow to their highest-value uses, regardless of their location, is equalizing their prices across the globe. In recent years, this broad factor-price equalization has benefited nations with abundant low-cost labor and those with access to cheap capital. Some have argued that the current era of rapid technological progress serves labor, and some have argued that it serves capital. What both camps have slighted is the fact that technology is not only integrating existing sources of labor and capital but also creating new ones.

Machines are substituting for more types of human labor than ever before. As they replicate themselves, they are also creating more capital. This means that the real winners of the future will not be the providers of cheap labor or the owners of ordinary capital, both of whom will be increasingly squeezed by automation. Fortune will instead favor a third group: those who can innovate and create new products, services, and business models.

The distribution of income for this creative class typically takes the form of a power law, with a small number of winners capturing most of the rewards and a long tail consisting of the rest of the participants. So in the future, ideas will be the real scarce inputs in the world — scarcer than both labor and capital — and the few who provide good ideas will reap huge rewards. Assuring an acceptable standard of living for the rest and building inclusive economies and societies will become increasingly important challenges in the years to come.


In the future, ideas will be the real scarce inputs — scarcer than both labor and capital.

Turn over your iPhone and you can read an eight-word business plan that has served Apple well: “Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China.” With a market capitalization of over $500 billion, Apple has become the most valuable company in the world. Variants of this strategy have worked not only for Apple and other large global enterprises but also for medium-sized firms and even “micro-multinationals.” More and more companies have been riding the two great forces of our era — technology and globalization — to profits.

Technology has sped globalization forward, dramatically lowering communication and transaction costs and moving the world much closer to a single, large global market for labor, capital, and other inputs to production. Even though labor is not fully mobile, the other factors increasingly are. As a result, the various components of global supply chains can move to labor’s location with little friction or cost. About one-third of the goods and services in advanced economies are tradable, and the figure is rising. And the effect of global competition spills over to the nontradable part of the economy, in both advanced and developing economies.

All of this creates opportunities for not only greater efficiencies and profits but also enormous dislocations. If a worker in China or India can do the same work as one in the United States, then the laws of economics dictate that they will end up earning similar wages (adjusted for some other differences in national productivity). That’s good news for overall economic efficiency, for consumers, and for workers in developing countries — but not for workers in developed countries who now face low-cost competition. Research indicates that the tradable sectors of advanced industrial countries have not been net employment generators for two decades. That means job creation now takes place almost exclusively within the large nontradable sector, whose wages are held down by increasing competition from workers displaced from the tradable sector.

Even as the globalization story continues, however, an even bigger one is starting to unfold: the story of automation, including artificial intelligence, robotics, 3-D printing, and so on. And this second story is surpassing the first, with some of its greatest effects destined to hit relatively unskilled workers in developing nations.

Visit a factory in China’s Guangdong Province, for example, and you will see thousands of young people working day in and day out on routine, repetitive tasks, such as connecting two parts of a keyboard. Such jobs are rarely, if ever, seen anymore in the United States or the rest of the rich world. But they may not exist for long in China and the rest of the developing world either, for they involve exactly the type of tasks that are easy for robots to do. As intelligent machines become cheaper and more capable, they will increasingly replace human labor, especially in relatively structured environments such as factories and especially for the most routine and repetitive tasks. To put it another way, offshoring is often only a way station on the road to automation.

This will happen even where labor costs are low. Indeed, Foxconn, the Chinese company that assembles iPhones and iPads, employs more than a million low-income workers — but now, it is supplementing and replacing them with a growing army of robots. So after many manufacturing jobs moved from the United States to China, they appear to be vanishing from China as well. (Reliable data on this transition are hard to come by. Official Chinese figures report a decline of 30 million manufacturing jobs since 1996, or 25 percent of the total, even as manufacturing output has soared by over 70 percent, but part of that drop may reflect revisions in the methods of gathering data.) As work stops chasing cheap labor, moreover, it will gravitate toward wherever the final market is, since that will add value by shortening delivery times, reducing inventory costs, and the like.

The growing capabilities of automation threaten one of the most reliable strategies that poor countries have used to attract outside investment: offering low wages to compensate for low productivity and skill levels. And the trend will extend beyond manufacturing. Interactive voice response systems, for example, are reducing the requirement for direct person-to-person interaction, spelling trouble for call centers in the developing world. Similarly, increasingly reliable computer programs will cut into transcription work now often done in the developing world. In more and more domains, the most cost-effective source of “labor” is becoming intelligent and flexible machines as opposed to low-wage humans in other countries.


If cheap, abundant labor is no longer a clear path to economic progress, then what is? One school of thought points to the growing contributions of capital: the physical and intangible assets that combine with labor to produce the goods and services in an economy (think of equipment, buildings, patents, brands, and so on). As the economist Thomas Piketty argues in his best-selling book Capital in the Twenty-first Century, capital’s share of the economy tends to grow when the rate of return on it is greater than the general rate of economic growth, a condition he predicts for the future. The “capital deepening” of economies that Piketty forecasts will be accelerated further as robots, computers, and software (all of which are forms of capital) increasingly substitute for human workers. Evidence indicates that just such a form of capital-based technological change is taking place in the United States and around the world.

In the past decade, the historically consistent division in the United States between the share of total national income going to labor and that going to physical capital seems to have changed significantly. As the economists Susan Fleck, John Glaser, and Shawn Sprague noted in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Monthly Labor Review in 2011, “Labor share averaged 64.3 percent from 1947 to 2000. Labor share has declined over the past decade, falling to its lowest point in the third quarter of 2010, 57.8 percent.” Recent moves to “re-shore” production from overseas, including Apple’s decision to produce its new Mac Pro computer in Texas, will do little to reverse this trend. For in order to be economically viable, these new domestic manufacturing facilities will need to be highly automated.

The United States has one of the world’s highest levels of real GDP per capita — even as its median income has stagnated.

Other countries are witnessing similar trends. The economists Loukas Karabarbounis and Brent Neiman have documented significant declines in labor’s share of GDP in 42 of the 59 countries they studied, including China, India, and Mexico. In describing their findings, Karabarbounis and Neiman are explicit that progress in digital technologies is an important driver of this phenomenon: “The decrease in the relative price of investment goods, often attributed to advances in information technology and the computer age, induced firms to shift away from labor and toward capital. The lower price of investment goods explains roughly half of the observed decline in the labor share.”

But if capital’s share of national income has been growing, the continuation of such a trend into the future may be in jeopardy as a new challenge to capital emerges — not from a revived labor sector but from an increasingly important unit within its own ranks: digital capital.

In a free market, the biggest premiums go to the scarcest inputs needed for production. In a world where capital such as software and robots can be replicated cheaply, its marginal value will tend to fall, even if more of it is used in the aggregate. And as more capital is added cheaply at the margin, the value of existing capital will actually be driven down. Unlike, say, traditional factories, many types of digital capital can be added extremely cheaply. Software can be duplicated and distributed at almost zero incremental cost. And many elements of computer hardware, governed by variants of Moore’s law, get quickly and consistently cheaper over time. Digital capital, in short, is abundant, has low marginal costs, and is increasingly important in almost every industry.

Even as production becomes more capital-intensive, therefore, the rewards earned by capitalists as a group may not necessarily continue to grow relative to labor. The shares will depend on the exact details of the production, distribution, and governance systems. 

Most of all, the payoff will depend on which inputs to production are scarcest. If digital technologies create cheap substitutes for a growing set of jobs, then it is not a good time to be a laborer. But if digital technologies also increasingly substitute for capital, then all owners of capital should not expect to earn outsized returns, either.


What will be the scarcest, and hence the most valuable, resource in what two of us (Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee) have called “the second machine age,” an era driven by digital technologies and their associated economic characteristics? It will be neither ordinary labor nor ordinary capital but people who can create new ideas and innovations.

Such people have always been economically valuable, of course, and have often profited handsomely from their innovations as a result. But they had to share the returns on their ideas with the labor and capital that were necessary for bringing them into the marketplace. Digital technologies increasingly make both ordinary labor and ordinary capital commodities, and so a greater share of the rewards from ideas will go to the creators, innovators, and entrepreneurs. People with ideas, not workers or investors, will be the scarcest resource.

The most basic model economists use to explain technology’s impact treats it as a simple multiplier for everything else, increasing overall productivity evenly for everyone. This model is used in most introductory economics classes and provides the foundation for the common — and, until recently, very sensible — intuition that a rising tide of technological progress will lift all boats equally, making all workers more productive and hence more valuable.

A slightly more complex and realistic model, however, allows for the possibility that technology may not affect all inputs equally but instead favor some more than others. Skill-based technical change, for example, plays to the advantage of more skilled workers relative to less skilled ones, and capital-based technical change favors capital relative to labor. Both of those types of technical change have been important in the past, but increasingly, a third type — what we call superstar-based technical change — is upending the global economy.

Today, it is possible to take many important goods, services, and processes and codify them. Once codified, they can be digitized, and once digitized, they can be replicated. Digital copies can be made at virtually zero cost and transmitted anywhere in the world almost instantaneously, each an exact replica of the original. The combination of these three characteristics — extremely low cost, rapid ubiquity, and perfect fidelity — leads to some weird and wonderful economics. It can create abundance where there had been scarcity, not only for consumer goods, such as music videos, but also for economic inputs, such as certain types of labor and capital.

The returns in such markets typically follow a distinct pattern — a power law, or Pareto curve, in which a small number of players reap a disproportionate share of the rewards. Network effects, whereby a product becomes more valuable the more users it has, can also generate these kinds of winner-take-all or winner-take-most markets. Consider Instagram, the photo-sharing platform, as an example of the economics of the digital, networked economy. The 14 people who created the company didn’t need a lot of unskilled human helpers to do so, nor did they need much physical capital. They built a digital product that benefited from network effects, and when it caught on quickly, they were able to sell it after only a year and a half for nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars — ironically, months after the bankruptcy of another photography company, Kodak, that at its peak had employed some 145,000 people and held billions of dollars in capital assets.

Instagram is an extreme example of a more general rule. More often than not, when improvements in digital technologies make it more attractive to digitize a product or process, superstars see a boost in their incomes, whereas second bests, second movers, and latecomers have a harder time competing. The top performers in music, sports, and other areas have also seen their reach and incomes grow since the 1980s, directly or indirectly riding the same trends upward.

But it is not only software and media that are being transformed. Digitization and networks are becoming more pervasive in every industry and function across the economy, from retail and financial services to manufacturing and marketing. That means superstar economics are affecting more goods, services, and people than ever before.

Even top executives have started earning rock-star compensation. In 1990, CEO pay in the United States was, on average, 70 times as large as the salaries of other workers; in 2005, it was 300 times as large. Executive compensation more generally has been going in the same direction globally, albeit with considerable variation from country to country. Many forces are at work here, including tax and policy changes, evolving cultural and organizational norms, and plain luck. But as research by one of us (Brynjolfsson) and Heekyung Kim has shown, a portion of the growth is linked to the greater use of information technology. Technology expands the potential reach, scale, and monitoring capacity of a decision-maker, increasing the value of a good decision-maker by magnifying the potential consequences of his or her choices. Direct management via digital technologies makes a good manager more valuable than in earlier times, when executives had to share control with long chains of subordinates and could affect only a smaller range of activities. Today, the larger the market value of a company, the more compelling the argument for trying to get the very best executives to lead it.

When income is distributed according to a power law, most people will be below the average, and as national economies writ large are increasingly subject to such dynamics, that pattern will play itself out on the national level. And sure enough, the United States today features one of the world’s highest levels of real GDP per capita — even as its median income has essentially stagnated for two decades.


The forces at work in the second machine age are powerful, interactive, and complex. It is impossible to look far into the future and predict with any precision what their ultimate impact will be. If individuals, businesses, and governments understand what is going on, however, they can at least try to adjust and adapt.

The United States, for example, stands to win back some business as the second sentence of Apple’s eight-word business plan is overturned because its technology and manufacturing operations are once again performed inside U.S. borders. But the first sentence of the plan will become more important than ever, and here, concern, rather than complacency, is in order. For unfortunately, the dynamism and creativity that have made the United States the most innovative nation in the world may be faltering.

Thanks to the ever-onrushing digital revolution, design and innovation have now become part of the tradable sector of the global economy and will face the same sort of competition that has already transformed manufacturing. Leadership in design depends on an educated work force and an entrepreneurial culture, and the traditional American advantage in these areas is declining. Although the United States once led the world in the share of graduates in the work force with at least an associate’s degree, it has now fallen to 12th place. And despite the buzz about entrepreneurship in places such as Silicon Valley, data show that since 1996, the number of U.S. start-ups employing more than one person has declined by over 20 percent.

If the trends under discussion are global, their local effects will be shaped, in part, by the social policies and investments that countries choose to make, both in the education sector specifically and in fostering innovation and economic dynamism more generally. For over a century, the U.S. educational system was the envy of the world, with universal K–12 schooling and world-class universities propelling sustained economic growth. But in recent decades, U.S. primary and secondary schooling have become increasingly uneven, with their quality based on neighborhood income levels and often a continued emphasis on rote learning. 

Fortunately, the same digital revolution that is transforming product and labor markets can help transform education as well. Online learning can provide students with access to the best teachers, content, and methods regardless of their location, and new data-driven approaches to the field can make it easier to measure students’ strengths, weaknesses, and progress. This should create opportunities for personalized learning programs and continuous improvement, using some of the feedback techniques that have already transformed scientific discovery, retail, and manufacturing.

Globalization and technological change may increase the wealth and economic efficiency of nations and the world at large, but they will not work to everybody’s advantage, at least in the short to medium term. Ordinary workers, in particular, will continue to bear the brunt of the changes, benefiting as consumers but not necessarily as producers. This means that without further intervention, economic inequality is likely to continue to increase, posing a variety of problems. Unequal incomes can lead to unequal opportunities, depriving nations of access to talent and undermining the social contract. Political power, meanwhile, often follows economic power, in this case undermining democracy.

These challenges can and need to be addressed through the public provision of high-quality basic services, including education, health care, and retirement security. Such services will be crucial for creating genuine equality of opportunity in a rapidly changing economic environment and increasing intergenerational mobility in income, wealth, and future prospects.

As for spurring economic growth in general, there is a near consensus among serious economists about many of the policies that are necessary. The basic strategy is intellectually simple, if politically difficult: boost public-sector investment over the short and medium term while making such investment more efficient and putting in place a fiscal consolidation plan over the longer term. Public investments are known to yield high returns in basic research in health, science, and technology; in education; and in infrastructure spending on roads, airports, public water and sanitation systems, and energy and communications grids. Increased government spending in these areas would boost economic growth now even as it created real wealth for subsequent generations later.

Should the digital revolution continue to be as powerful in the future as it has been in recent years, the structure of the modern economy and the role of work itself may need to be rethought. As a group, our descendants may work fewer hours and live better — but both the work and the rewards could be spread even more unequally, with a variety of unpleasant consequences. Creating sustainable, equitable, and inclusive growth will require more than business as usual. The place to start is with a proper understanding of just how fast and far things are evolving.

Foreign Affairs

Is the NSA Grabbing All Americans’ Phone Call Content?

The New American
by Thomas R. Eddlem

nsa snooping

The NSA and the National Director of Intelligence have consistently denied that they listen to the content of Americans’ telephone calls, but the history of intelligence agency claims about the scope of its spying on Americans is one of lies and more lies. So the question must be asked: Are they lying again with respect to recording the content of Americans’ phone calls?

The answer to that question may be “yes,” and it may be “no.” But there’s also a possible “technically, no” response to that question that’s even more frightening, for which there is a substantial amount of circumstantial evidence. First, here are a few of the blatant lies the U.S. intelligence apparatus has publicly told to the American people:

Lie #1: We are not keeping Americans’ phone data.
During a March 12, 2013 Senate hearing, Senator Ron Wyden asked U.S. Intelligence Director James Clapper: “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Admiral James Clapper replied: “No, sir.”

Several months later, NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed to the American people that Clapper’s statement was a bold-faced lie. The NSA had, in fact, been collecting data on hundreds of millions of Americans under a program named PRISM, a program NSA documents revealed that also collected Internet traffic “directly from the servers of these U.S. Service Providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.” And copies of that database, it was later learned, are sent to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. James Bamford over at The Intercept likewise revealed on October 2, 2014 a 40-year history of the NSA releasing documented lies to both the American people and to Congress. 

Lie #2: We can’t grab Americans’ e-mails.
NSA Director General Keith Alexander told U.S. House investigators on March 20, 2012, that the NSA didn’t have the “ability” to wiretap Americans’ telephone calls:

Representative Hank Johnson (D-Ga.): General Alexander, if Dick Cheney were elected president and wanted to detain and incessantly waterboard every American who sent an email making fun of his well-known hunting mishaps, what I’d like to know is, does the NSA have the technological capacity to identify those Cheney bashers based upon the content of their emails? Yes or no.
General Alexander: No. Can I explain that?
Representative Johnson: Yes.
General Alexander: The question is where are the emails and where is NSA’s coverage. I assume by your question that those emails are in the United States.
Representative Johnson: Correct.
General Alexander: NSA does not have the ability to do that in the United States.

The reality is that the NSA does possess the technical ability to record Americans, and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s revelations proved that hundreds of thousands of Americans’ telephone conversations have been “legitimately” recorded by the NSA because one party of the call was abroad. Moreover, thousands of innocent Americans’ e-mails have been monitored by the NSA, according to information provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden. Indeed, the capacity to wiretap American’s phone lines and record the full audio from them is present on a widespread basis, as the NSA program SOMALGET wiretaps the full audio from every call in and out of the nation of the Bahamas (and the NSA grabs metadata from the same program from all calls in Mexico, Kenya, and the Philippines).

Lie #3: CIA wouldn’t hack into U.S. Senate computers.
As the U.S. Senate conducted its oversight of the Bush-era detention policies under the CIA, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) charged the CIA with spying on Senate computers and deleting material on those U.S. Senate computers. “As far as the allegations of the CIA hacking into Senate computers, nothing could be further from the truth,” CIA Director John Brennan told Andrea Mitchell at a Council on Foreign Relations forum March 11, 2014. It later came out that Feinstein’s charges were the precise truth, and Brennan had told a bold-faced lie.

Lie #4: NSA wiretapping authority has never been abused.
“There is no abuse,” former NSA Director Michael Hayden told NBC’s Meet the Press on December 15, 2013. President Obama himself denied the NSA had abused its surveillance capabilities in an address to the nation on August 9, 2013: “If you look at the reports — even the disclosures that Mr. Snowden has put forward — all the stories that have been written, what you’re not reading about is the government actually abusing these programs and listening in on people’s phone calls or inappropriately reading people’s emails. What you’re hearing about is the prospect that these could be abused. Now, part of the reason they’re not abused is because these checks are in place, and those abuses would be against the law and would be against the orders of the FISC.”

But it soon came out that there have been thousands of cases of abuse of that intelligence on American citizens from internal NSA reviews of the information. In some cases, this involved taking audio from telephone calls of Americans by suspicious lovers in the employ of the NSA, according to a summary provided to Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa): “In 2004, upon her return from a foreign site, the subject reported to NSA Security that, in 2004, she tasked a foreign telephone number she had discovered in her husband’s cellular telephone because she suspected that her husband had been unfaithful. The tasking resulted in voice collection of her husband.”

So in light of the many lies of our intelligence officials and the politicians overseeing them, it’s quite possible that the NSA could be lying — again — with respect to its gathering, retention and search of Americans’ conversations as it did with phone records “metadata.” 

Tag-team Approach to Surveilling Americans
But there’s another possible explanation for the NSA following legal protocol, as claimed in public, where it nevertheless has indirect access to Americans’ phone calls: It’s possible the NSA has an agreement with foreign intelligence agencies to spy on Americans in exchange for U.S. surveillance of their populations, with an agreement to exchange the information. Consider the possibility that the NSA — which like the all-seeing eye of Sauron in the Lord of the Rings trilogy — is faced outward surveilling the world while the other two pairs of the “Five Eyes” partners (the U.K., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) are focused inward on the NSA’s one blind spot: the United States. This may sound like a far-out conspiracy theory, but statements of partnership between the United States and it allies — especially its Anglo “Five Eyes” allies — make such an arrangement plausible in light of existing legal restrictions against surveilling American citizens.

The NSA has paid hundreds of millions of dollars to “Five Eyes” partner GCHQ in Britain because GCHQ is “less constrained by NSA’s concerns about compliance,” according to intelligence officials who talked off the record with London’s The Guardian for August 1, 2013. Of course, there are no restrictions whatsoever on NSA surveillance of foreigners; the only surveillance restrictions on the NSA are those against recording the audio of Americans’ phone calls. According to The Guardian, the federal funding of British intelligence “exploited to the full our unique selling points of geography, partnerships [and] the UK’s legal regime.” The chief benefit of geography is that Britain is not constrained by legal restrictions on spying on Americans. A British Cabinet official told The Guardian after the Edward Snowden revelations that “joint projects in which resources and expertise are pooled, but the benefits flow in both directions.”

GCHQ has already acknowledged collecting massive Internet information on British citizens under its blanket authority under U.K. law to collect “external communications.” What’s to stop them from also collecting the Facebook and Google traffic of Americans? Clearly, Americans’ phone calls and e-mails are “external” to the U.K. But without American assistance, the British government likely lacked the technical capability for such massive surveillance, or perhaps lacked the will to invest this level of funds to surveil the people of an ally. In this light, the massive NSA aid to GCHQ and the close partnership with the Five Eyes countries could be explained. Two pair of the Five Eyes are quite possibly charged with surveilling Americans, and then coordinating with their American counterparts in order to skate around what little is left of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibiting warrantless searches. In exchange, the NSA shares information on their people, as well as information on other nations where the United States surveils and our allies don’t have surveillance capabilities.

Similar relationships have been reported among America’s other allies. The Washington Post reported on October 30, 2013, “In France, the daily Le Monde reported Wednesday that France’s external intelligence agency collaborated with the United States starting at the end 2011 or beginning of 2012 to provide a window into Internet traffic flowing via underwater cables that surface in France…. The cables carry much of the Internet traffic that flows to Africa and Afghanistan, the newspaper said. In exchange for allowing access to the traffic, the NSA provided information about areas of the world where France has no intelligence presence, the newspaper reported.” What areas that involved, the article didn’t specify. Clearly there are many areas the massive resources of the NSA could help the French intelligence agencies. But if the French intelligence agencies are willing to sell out the privacy of their people in exchange for more intelligence sharing, why should American intelligence agencies be immune from such a deal?

Indeed, American intelligence officials have publicly expressed a rather blasé attitude toward foreign intelligence agencies spying on Americans. In an October 29, 2013, hearing before the House Select Committee on Intelligence, Director of Intelligence James Clapper responded to this question from Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.):

Mike Rogers: Do you believe that the allies have conducted or at any time any type of espionage activity against the United States of America — our intelligence services, our leaders, otherwise?
Clapper: Absolutely…. And I have to say, Chairman Rogers, that some of this reminds me a lot of the movie Casablanca. “My God, there’s gambling going on here!” You know, it’s the same kind of thing.
The statement above proves that Clapper is aware of allied intelligence agencies spying on Americans, an activity the agencies he controls are prohibited from doing. But it also leaves open the question of how much of that spying (and sharing of that intelligence) is done on a formalized partnership basis, and how much is done on an ad hoc basis. If the NSA is lying about its restraint from collecting the audio of Americans’ phone calls, a vigorous partnership of “we’ll spy on you, if you’ll spy on us” would be unnecessary, as would hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to GCHQ. But if the NSA wants to surveil Americans while at the same time formally complying with their public pronouncements, focusing two pair of the “Five Eyes” back on Americans becomes a real possibility.

The extent of foreign surveillance of American phone calls is not known, and won’t be known without an Edward Snowden-like whistleblower from GCHQ or one of the other Five Eyes partners. But it’s clear that Congress should not take the NSA’s public pronouncements at face value, but should investigate the level of foreign surveillance of Americans.

The New American

The Case That EV-D68 and Ebola Were Constituted As Bio-Weapons Directed At the American People

The Common Sense Show
by Dave Hodges

One of Sun Tzu’s strategies for war commands Generals to place their soldiers on “Death’s Ground” where they either have to successfully fight or die. The American troops fighting on Omaha Beach, on D-Day, June 6, 1944, is an example of this principle at work in history. Shortly after landing on Omaha Beach, the American casualties were so horrific and the leadership was so decimated, the American battle plan ceased to exist. The only way the American soldiers were going to get off that beach was adapt and find a way to win the battle, or they would leave the beach in a body bag. The Americans adapted, developed a new plan and fought their way inland.

sun tzuThis principle of Sun Tzu describes how and why viruses become so dangerous, as being placed on “Death’s Ground”, adapting and mutating is how a virus lives to fight another day and what makes them so difficult to treat.

The American people are in the midst of being placed upon “Death’s Ground” as well. Every facet of our life is under attack from the globalists. The human race’s right to exist is under attack from a determined enemy who serves Satan and is committed to our collective destruction.

The intention of this article is to cast light on a present set of viral cocktails and the true reasons that they were constituted in very suspicious ways.


A Warning From a Friend

I recently detailed how a recently retired FEMA friend of mine, his family and a cadre of like-minded people went into hiding in an attempt to avoid what is happening. One of the things that my friend said was that the trump card for the elite was to use a series of viruses to debilitate the population prior to the martial takeover of the country. He also stated that the ensuing vaccinations would be deadliest of all the viral cocktails coming our way.

Two years later, it would appear that my friend’s words are reaching critical mass as the recent events would suggest that an attack upon the American people is already underway. In other words, we are already at war and most of us do not even  realize it.


Why Is the Government Reconstituting Deadly Viruses?

holly living deadThe “Spanish” flu pandemic of 1918 and 1919 caused the deaths of 20-50 million people worldwide and an estimated 675,000 in the U.S. The virus had a mortality rate of approximately one percent to all who were exposed.

The 1918 flu has been described as capable of sickening and killing a person on the same day. The virus is an H1N1 Type A influenza. Symptoms of infection were similar to the regular flu, but it is actually far more severe than the typical, seasonal flu. The main dangers lie in contracting viral pneumonia leading to acute respiratory distress and subsequent death. As the reader reaches key passages below, one has to wonder if the respiratory distress from the Spanish Flu is being reconstituted in the present Enterovirus 68?

In the immediate future, our society may wish we would have followed the old axiom, “Let sleeping dogs lie”, because in an act of extreme insanity, the virus has been reconstituted, by the Center for Disease Control researchers. The reconstituted virus was obtained from frozen tissue samples from a female who died from the virus in the 1918 outbreak.

In my unqualified personal opinion, I think this is insane. Even the New York Times questions the wisdom of such an action as have many scientists.


What If the 1918 Flu Were to Get Released?

I am sure you are wondering the same thing that I was wondering as I was doing research for this article. Just how bad could the 1918 flu pandemic become if the reconstituted virus were to be released into the general population in 2014?

In 1918, the world’s population was a mere 1.8 billion people. The population of the United States was 103 million people. Today, the world’s population is 7.1 billion and the population of the United States is 310 million people. If we simply did a geometric projection of the 1918 flu, assuming a current  trend, today, it would kill over two million in the United States and about 100 million worldwide. However, pandemics do not spread in a geometric progression as the transmission would be asymmetrical.


Today, the world is a far different place than it was 100 years ago. The country and the world are far more mobile. In the event of a local outbreak, it is not likely that the flu could be contained because of air travel. Even the most astute researchers would not realize what was being dealt with until after the first several deaths. Subsequently, the alarm would not be sounded for at least one to two weeks. By then, grounding air travel and limiting civilian mobility would not make any difference. That means in the present Ebola and EV-D68 crisis, it is too late to contain these viruses. They are going to run their course, mutate, and even become more deadly.

Let me remind you, the US has only 2.5 million doses of Tamiflu. The US spends an inordinate amount of money in funding the Center for Disease Control and the National Institute of Health and it looks like a big waste of resources and money. After researching this article, I have come to believe that we waste an inordinate amount of money pretending we can turn back mother nature, when in fact, we cannot. In fact, before you are done reading this article, you should have some very serious doubts as to whether humanity is under a deliberate attack from the forces of the CDC and the NIH.

Let’s just consider that just for the sake of argument that if the reconstituted 1918 flu were to be released, chaos would reign supreme. Fear would be rampant. We have already reached that level with Ebola. Last Thursday, my son’s PE class was playing dodge ball and the kids began to yell that the ball had Ebola and the intensity of the game in terms of being struck by the “Ebola” ball greatly increased the intensity of the game.

As I previously pointed out that in previous years and under a more virtuous government, there would be decisive action taken. Clearly, in the past, a medical emergency would be declared. Emergency rooms, hospitals and doctor’s offices would quickly be overwhelmed. Air travel would be halted. The economy would be in grave danger because commerce would virtually cease due to the fact that nearly everything we buy is shipped. Home confinements would be ordered and effectively martial law would be declared. However, I am sure we do not to have worry, nobody from the Obama administration would ever find the idea of a false flag pandemic to be desirable, would they? Before you complete this article, some of you will be answering in the affirmative.

The fact is that Ebola and EV-D68 are going to take their course. There is nothing that can be done. The treason that is coming from the White House with the failure to close air travel from West Africa and to close the border, is notable and it is too late.

Just When You Don’t Think It Can Get Any Worse

Under the phrase, “What the hell are we thinking”, have you heard that scientists are using scrapings from the teeth of two 1500-year old corpses to re-create the bacteria that caused the Bubonic Plague and the Justinian Plague? What is known is that if the plague ever becomes airborne, people could die within 24 hours. Biowarfare is a potential use for this threatening organism, as would be any false flag attack.


A release of the Bubonic Plague and the Justinian Plague would produce catastrophic results and make the reconstituted 1918 Flu appear to be a mere case of the sniffles. This video paints a frightening picture. Is this what will follow the Enterovirus 68 and Ebola?


Do We Have Anything to Worry About?

Do we now know the true purpose for these coffins?

Do we now know the true purpose for these coffins?

If you only believe in coincidences, then you have absolutely nothing to worry about. However, if you believe things happen for a reason, and purpose then you might want to consider what I brought out several months ago when I mentioned that FEMA, earlier in the year, were advertising for contractors who are able to supply medical biohazard disposal capabilities, along with 40 yard dumpsters, to go with 1,000 tent hospitals across the United States. The emergency roll out of these services must be able to be completed within 24-48 hours. Don’t be fooled by the rapid rollout of resources. As I pointed out, before the authorities realized they had a potential pandemic on their hands, it would be too late to contain the damage.

Whatever, could be coming must be very big because FEMA is also seeking to obtain 200,000 doctors’ scrubs to be delivered to the 1,000 tent hospitals. That adds up to 20 extra hospitals per state. Aren’t these numbers a tantamount admission that whatever is coming will quickly overwhelm the existing medical services?

FEMA was also ordering portable showers and toilets, so these facilities would appear that they will be taking on an air of permanence. Can there be any doubt that FEMA is ramping up the National Disaster Preparedness Program? The sheer numbers clearly point to the enormous size of the coming event.


The Suspicious Worldwide Emergence of Multiple Forms of the Enterovirus 68 and Ebola

Rafal TokarzCadhla Firth, Shabir A. MadhiStephen R. C. HowieWinfred WuAmadou Alpha SallSaddef HaqThomas Briese,and W. Ian Lipkin, have all documented the sudden appearance of Enterovirus (EV-D68) in 1962. The virus seemingly came from nowhere lending credence to the notion that the virus was artificially developed. Also, it is suspicious that the virus only manifested in 26 cases that were reported between 1970 and 2005 (Khetsuriani et al., 2006). Now it is rampant!

The original clinical presentation of EV-D68 infections in the 1962-2005 outbreaks ranged from mild illness to complications requiring hospitalization and, in rare instances, death. The virus has morphed at an exceptional rate and has become very dangerous. The rate of viral adaptation is notable and does not appear to follow an expected mutation scheme. This lends rise to conspiracy theories which state that the virus was artificially developed prior to 1962 and was purposely and dramatically mutated just prior to 2005 when we began to see a dramatic rise in the number of presenting cases as well as the lethality of these cases.

The Poliovirus is composed of an RNA genome and it has manifested within EV-D68. It is only one of four mutations of the EV-D68 virus. Yet, for some reason, the Poliovirus, the most deadly, is leading the way in EV-D68 infectious cases. The odds are one in four that this development is due to chance. This fact should make every researcher ask questions. The odds of natural selection do not favor EV-D68 manifesting in its present form of the Poliovirus. It looks like this virus has had help in mutating in order to make it more deadly.

Along the same lines, Ebola also follows a very suspicious path and has a questionable past. Presently, there’s no treatment for Ebola. The most that can be done for a patient is what’s called “supported therapy”, which entails balancing fluids and electrolytes, blood pressure, oxygen, and monitoring for other infections. Like the EV-D68, the Ebola virus seemingly appeared out of nowhere in 1976, as Ebola was discovered by the Ebola River in Zaire. Just like EV-D68 there is no suitable explanation on how or why both viruses suddenly appeared and then became so dangerous.

One theory that some doctors that I have interviewed believe is probable is that many of the treatments directed towards both EV-D68 and Ebola have tried to work by blocking the RNA one-time sequencing and adaptation. These medical sources privately state that this would cause the virus to mutate in an out of control manner, because RNA only attempts to bind to a virus one time, unlike its counterpart DNA.

I have further been told by my sources that the current Ebola vaccine being developed by GSK works on this same principle. My fear is that the virus will morph from one that can infect its victims through aerosolized and close proximity airborne means within tightly contained spaces such as an airplane or a restroom, to one in which the virus can remain airborne over vast distances. If these viruses becomes airborne, in the same manner as the Flu, it will be Katie-bar-the-door as there will be nowhere that we can run and hide from these deadly effects.

The CDC Patent Is Explained

The morphing and mutation of Ebola explains why the CDC would be allowed to patent the virus. In other words, it has been artificially constituted to mutate from its original state. Therefore, the CDC was not allowed to patent something from nature, they were allowed to patent something that had been purposely mutated.

Are Vaccines Complicit in the Spread of Deadly Viruses?

In the recent briefing with my sources, I was also told that the illegal immigrant children that came into America presented with none of these RNA type of viruses IF THEY HAD NEVER BEEN VACCINATED.  Subsequently, my sources believe that previous vaccinations served as a trigger event to initiate positive replication of a virus within a host. The American public is in desperate need of qualified biologists to investigate these allegations.


Death’s Ground

natural news ebolaViruses have survived for years by being placed upon Death’s Ground. However, it is now humans that have been placed on Death’s Ground. We have a rare opportunity to expose the severe corruption in the history of the United States. There is what you know and what you can prove. The case implicating the CDC for treason against the American people is circumstantially strong. However, if we can piece together the origins of these pathogens and correlate them with the function of vaccines and the inaction of the CDC, the NIH and the Obama administration as a whole, we can wake up a lot of Americans.

Although I no longer believe that we can thwart the spread of the EV-D68 and Ebola viruses, we might be able to call enough public attention to the future viruses coming from the reconstituted Spanish Flu and Justinian’s Plague, to force a temporary retreat by the globalists.  We do not have much time to react because recent actions of the elite would suggest that we are going to be hit with wave after wave of attacks from these viruses.

The Common Sense Show

The GMO Biotech Lobby’s Emotional Blackmail and Bogus Claims: Monsanto’s Genetically Modified Crops Will Not Feed The World

Global Research
By Colin Todhunter

gmo food on

“There are 7.2 billion people on the planet. There will be 9.6 billion by 2050. The demand for food will double… [Using GM food and data science is] the only thing that will enable us to feed the planet without encroaching on the forests and wetlands….This represents a business opportunity, but from a societal perspective, it’s very important.” Robert Fraley, CEO of Monsanto, Winner of the World Food Prize 2013 [1].

The claims made by Monsanto do not stack up. Issues pertaining to the weaponisation of food aside [2], GM food represents little more than a massive business opportunity, a way of enriching a handful of people, all carried out under the guise of altruism.

“It’s difficult, in the short term, figuring out how I am going to make money dealing with people who don’t have money. But in practice the development of agriculture at a village level is something that could make an enormous amount of business sense over time.” – Robert Shapiro, former CEO of Monsanto (quoted in the CBAN report ‘Will GM Crops Feed The World’).

By ‘development’, what Shapiro really meant was allowing Monsanto to take control of agriculture and strategic policy decisions and destroying traditional methods, knowledge and practices in order to recast them in its corporate image [3].

The following quote is indicative of the pro-GMO lobby’s use of emotional blackmail when forwarding its cause and the smearing of anyone who rejects GM crops as being an enemy of the poor and a hypocrite. Such statements are based on spurious claims about the efficacy of GMO technology and divert attention away from the true nature and causes of hunger and food poverty.

“It is shameful to me that the leaders of some South African countries who are apparently well-fed, would rather see their populations go hungry then eat the same food we consume daily in the United States.” – US Republican Senator Charles Grassley, 2003 (quoted in the CBAN report ‘Will GM Crops Feed The World’).

Proponents of GM crops claim that we need such technology to address hunger and to feed a growing global population. We are told by the GM biotech sector that GM crops are essential, are better for the environment and will provide the tools that farmers need in a time of climate chaos. It claims that GM crops provide higher yields and higher incomes for farmers around the world.

The Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) has just released a fully referenced report [4] that dissects each of these claims and dismisses them one by one. Readers are urged to consult the full report, but its main findings are presented below.

  • Hunger is caused by poverty and inequality. People are generally hungry not because of insufficient agricultural production but because they do not have money to buy food, access to land to grow food or because of complex problems like food spoilage, poor food distribution systems and a lack of reliable water and infrastructure for irrigation, storage, transport and financing.
  • If these deeper problems are not addressed and as long as food is not reaching those who are hungry and poor, increased agricultural production will not help reduce food insecurity.
  • We already produce enough food to feed the world’s population and did so even at the peak of the world food crisis in 2008. Current global food production provides enough to feed ten billion people.
  • The world produces 17 percent more food per person than it did 30 years ago and yet the number of food insecure people is still very high.
  • The recent food price crises of 2008 and 2011 both took place in years of record global harvests, clearly showing that these crises were not the result of scarcity.
  • The GM crops that are on the market today are not designed to address hunger. Four GM crops account for almost 100 percent of worldwide GM crop acreage. All four have been developed for large-scale industrial farming systems and are used as cash crops for export, to produce fuel or for processed food and animal feed.
  • GM crops have not increased yields and do not increase farmers’ incomes.
  • GM crops lead to an increase in pesticide use and cause further harm to the environment. Pesticide reduction was the primary selling point for Bt cotton adoption in India, but overall pesticide use has not decreased in any state that grows Bt cotton, with the exception of Andhra Pradesh.
  • GM crops are patented and owned by large corporations. These companies profit
  • From the sale of GM crops and royalties on GM traits, while small-scale farmers round the world bear the increased cost of buying seeds and the risks that come with using GM crops. GM crops reduce choice but increase risk for farmers, while the likes of Monsanto dominant the agritech sector and rake in enormous profits.

The main message is that hunger, food security and ‘feeding the world’ is a political, social and economic problem and no amount of gene splicing is capable of surmounting obstacles like poor roads, inadequate rural credit systems and insufficient irrigation [5].

The answer to food security, food democracy and local/national food sovereignty does not lie with making farmers dependent on a few large corporations whose bottom line is exploiting agriculture to maximise profit.

As with other reports [6,7], the CBAN report concludes that we need to support diverse, vibrant and sustainable agroecological methods of farming and develop locally-based food economies. After all, it is small farms and peasant farmers (more often than not serving local communities) that are more productive than giant industrial (export-oriented) farms and which produce most of the world’s food on much less land [8]. And in line with previous findings, not least those of Helena Paul [9], it also states that experience with GM crops shows that the application of GM technology is more likely to enhance and entrench the social, economic and environmental problems created by industrial agriculture and corporate control.






5] Glover, Dominic. 2010. Exploring the Resilience of Bt Cotton ’s “Pro-Poor Success Story”. Development and Change, 41(6), pp.955-981.





Global Research

GMO Crops Accelerate Herbicide and Insecticide Use While Mainstream Media Gets It Wrong

Global Research
By David Bronner


Michael Specter’s recent articles bashing Vandana Shiva and the labeling of genetically engineered foods in the New Yorker (Seeds of Doubt and The Problem with G.M.O. Labels) are the latest high-profile pro-GMO articles that fail to engage with the fundamental critique of genetically engineered food crops in U.S. today. Rather than reduce pesticide inputs, GMOs are causing them to skyrocket in amount and toxicity.

Setting the record straight, Dr. Ramon J. Seidler, Ph.D., former Senior Scientist at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has recently published a well-researched article documenting the devastating facts, Pesticide Use on Genetically Engineered Crops, in Environmental Working Group’s online AgMag. Dr. Seidler’s article cites and links recent scientific literature and media reports, and should be required reading for all journalists covering GMOs, as well as for citizens generally to understand why their right to know if food is genetically engineered is so important. The short discussion below summarizes the major points of his five-page article.

More than 99 percent of GMO acreage is engineered by chemical companies to tolerate heavy herbicide (glyphosate) use and/or produce insecticide (Bt) in every cell of every plant over the entire growing season. The result is massive selection pressure that has rapidly created pest resistance—the opposite of integrated pest management where judicious use of chemical controls is applied only as necessary. Predictably, just like overuse of antibiotics in confined factory farms has created resistant “supergerms” leading to animals being overdosed with ever more powerful antibiotics, we now have huge swaths of the country infested with “superweeds” and “superbugs” resistant to glyphosate and Bt, meaning more volume of more toxic pesticides are being applied.

Predictably, we now have huge swaths of the country infested with “superweeds” and “superbugs” resistant to glyphosate and Bt, meaning more volume of more toxic pesticides are being applied. Photo credit: Shutterstock

For example, the use of systemic insecticides, which coat GMO corn and soy seeds and are incorporated and expressed inside the entire plant, has skyrocketed in the last ten years. This includes use of neonicotinoids (neonics) which are extremely powerful neurotoxins that contaminate our food and water and destroy non-target pollinators and wildlife such as bees, butterflies and birds. In fact, two neonics in widespread use in the US are currently banned in the EU because of their suspected link to Colony Collapse Disorder in bees.

Mainstream pro-GMO media also fail to discuss the ever-increasing amount of older much more toxic herbicides like 2,4 D and Dicamba being sprayed along with huge volumes of Glyphosate to deal with superweeds. Most importantly and egregiously, this biased reporting does not mention the imminent approval of the pesticide industry’s next generation herbicide-tolerant crops that are resistant not only to glyphosate, but also high doses of 2,4 D and Dicamba, that will lead to huge increases of these toxic chemicals sprayed on our food and farming communities.

U.S. Department of Agriculture and EPA are in the process of rubber-stamping these into our farming communities (and unlabeled onto our dinner plates) this fall, yet pro-GMO media consistently fails to discuss their imminent approval even as the lower-toxicity profile of glyphosate is touted. Such reporting gives a pass to the chemical pesticide industry that pours millions into lobbying government and media elites and defeating voter ballot initiatives to require labeling of GMO foods.

Hopefully Dr. Seidler’s article will be widely read and disseminated, so reporters can learn the facts and check their biases against industry-fed distortions.  Citizens and consumers need to hear the fundamental concern that GMOs are doubling down on, not freeing us from, the pesticide treadmill that contaminates our food and water while lining the pockets of the chemical companies that make both the GMOs and the pesticides used on them.

David Bronner is president of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, the top-selling brand of natural soaps in North America. He graduated with a degree (B.A.) in Biology from Harvard University in 1995. A leader in the fight to label GMO foods in the U.S., Dr. Bronner’s dedicates resources to progressive issues on behalf of the company’s mission to use profits to help make a better world.

Global Research

Apple, Google Encryption Moves Enrage FBI Director Comey

The New American
by Bob Adelmann

A week after smartphone makers Apple and Google announced software that now makes their phones impervious to government snooping, FBI Director James Comey expressed outrage, claiming that he could simply not understand why these two companies would “market something expressly to allow people to place themselves above the law.” He added: “There will come a day when it will matter of great deal to the lives of people … that we be able to gain access [to that private information].”  

Of course, such information is, or should be, protected under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.

What the new software means is that law enforcement officials will have to go back to the old way of investigating crime and turning up incriminating evidence. They will still be able to seek records of calls or texts from cellular carriers, eavesdrop on conversations and, based on the cell towers used, determine the general locations of suspects. They also will be able to access private data deliberately or unintentionally backed up on remote cloud services. And law enforcement agencies continue to have the capability of installing malicious software onto smart phones, turning them into virtual spies on the behavior of their owners.

On its website Apple noted: “Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data. So it’s not technically feasible for us to respond to government [search] warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running [operating system] iOS 8.”

But both companies will still have the ability, and the legal responsibility, to turn over any user data stored elsewhere, such as on cloud services, which typically include backups of photos, videos, e-mail communications, and music collections. Users wishing to prevent law enforcement from going after that data will have to adjust their personal settings that block that data from flowing to the cloud.

Christopher Soghoian, a software technology expert for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), was delighted about the new software:

This is a great move. Particularly after the Snowden disclosures, Apple seems to understand that consumers want companies to put their privacy first.

However, I suspect there are going to be a lot of unhappy law enforcement officials.

Another of those unhappy law enforcement officials is Ronald Hosko, a former investigator for the FBI, who labeled the encryptions by Apple and Google “problematic,” adding that it will make life more difficult for law enforcement to collect key evidence. He declared that “our ability to act on data [stored in these devices] is critical to our success” in preventing and solving crimes.

For more than three years, Google’s Android device has had encryption capability, although it was difficult to engage. In Android’s latest iteration, that encryption will now be enabled automatically right out of the box so that, as Android spokeswoman Nikki Christoff said, “You won’t even have to think about turning it on.”

These moves reflect a seismic groundswell of outrage against the federal government’s invasions of privacy which were first exposed by Edward Snowden, a computer professional who leaked classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA). Craig Timberg, writing in the Washington Post, called it “a part of a broad shift by American technology companies to make their products more resistant to government snooping” in the aftermath of the Snowden revelations.

It also makes largely redundant the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in June, in Riley v. California, which concluded that “police generally may not, without a warrant, search digital information on a cell phone seized from an individual who has been arrested.” Writing for the unanimous court, Chief Justice John Roberts noted:

Modern cell phones are not just another technological convenience. With all they contain and in all they may reveal, they hold for many Americans “the privacies of life.” The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought.

He added:

The term “cell phone” is itself misleading shorthand; many of these devices are in fact minicomputers that also happen to have the capacity to be used as a telephone. They could just as easily be called cameras, video players, Rolodexes, calendars, tape recorders, libraries, diaries, albums, televisions, maps or newspapers.

Prior to that decision, law enforcement officials were able to use the doctrine of SITA — Search Incident To Arrest — a broad exception carved out of the Fourth Amendment allowing police to seize and download information from smart phones obtained during an arrest without the need for getting a search warrant in advance.

As this unbreakable encryption technology spreads across the vast array of Apple products and, more slowly, into Google’s previous iterations of its Android products, it will continue to reflect a groundswell of pushback against the surveillance state.

The National Security Agency, unfortunately, will be only slightly inconvenienced by either the Riley decision or the new technology announced by Apple and Google. NSA agents will continue to hoover citizens’ personal data and store it in vast digital warehouses for future use at their convenience. It’s going to take far more than encryption technology to protect Americans from the NSA.

Nevertheless, this decision is an important victory for privacy, even if it is not an all-important one.

The New American

FBI Forces Police Departments Across the US to Keep Quiet about Cellphone Spying Gear



Not only are local police departments across the United States increasingly relying on so-called StingRay devices to conduct surveillance on cell phone users, but cops are being forced to keep quiet about the operations, new documents reveal.

Recent reports have indicated that law enforcement agencies from coast to coast have been turning to IMSI-catcher devices, like the StingRay sold by Florida’s Harris Corporation, to trick ordinary mobile phones into communicating device-specific International Mobile Subscriber Identity information to phony cell towers — a tactic that takes the approximate geolocation data of all the devices within range and records it for investigators. Recently, the Tallahassee Police Department in the state of Florida was found to have used their own “cell site simulator” at least 200 times to collect phone data without once asking for a warrant during a three-year span, and details about the use of StingRays by other law enforcement groups continue to emerge on the regular.

But while the merits of whether or not law enforcement officers should legally be able to collect sensitive cell information by masquerading as telecommunication towers remains ripe for debate — and continues for certain to be an issue of contention among civil liberties advocates — newly released documents raise even further questions about how cops use StingRays and other IMSI-catchers to gather great chunks of data concerning the whereabouts of not just criminal suspects, but seemingly anyone in a given vicinity that happens to have a phone in their hand or pocket.

Relentless pleas for details about use of IMSI-catchers by the Tacoma Police Department in Washington state paid off recently when the investigative news site Muckrock obtained a six-page document after following up for several months on a Freedom of Information Act request placed with the TPD.

According to the document, police in Tacoma were forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA, with the Federal Bureau of Investigation before they could begin conducting surveillance on cell users with a Harris-sold StingRay.

Although the majority of the December 2012 document is redacted, a paragraph from FBI special agent Laura Laughlin to Police of Chief Donald Ramsdell reveals that Tacoma officers were told they couldn’t discuss their use of IMSI-catchers with anyone.

“We have been advised by Harris Corporation of the Tacoma Police Department’s request for acquisition of certain wireless collection equipment/technology manufactured by Harris Corporation,” the FBI letter reads in part. “Consistent with the conditions on the equipment authorization granted to Harris Corporation by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), state and local law enforcement agencies must coordinate with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to complete this non-disclosure agreement prior to the acquisition and use of the equipment/technology authorized by the FCC authorization.”

Muckrock first obtained documents in August referring to the NDA between the Tacoma PD and the US Department of Justice, but Shawn Musgrave wrote for the site this week that the agreement itself — albeit a highly redacted one — were only provided last Friday. (PDF)

“The Tacoma document provides key insight into the close cooperation among the FBI, Harris Corporation and the Federal Communications Commission to bar StingRay details from public release,” Musgrave wrote.

“The fact that the FBI received notification from Harris that TPD was interested in a StingRay reveals a surprising level of coordination between a private corporation and a federal law enforcement agency,”Musgrave continued. “The agreement also makes clear that completing the NDA is compulsory by order of the FCC.”

Alan Butler, an appellate advocacy counsel for the Washington, DC-based Electronic Privacy Information Center, or EPIC, was quick to comment to Muckrock about the information revealed by the FOIA request.

“What is so fascinating about the beginning paragraph of the NDA you received,” Butler said, “is that it makes clear that Harris, the FCC and the FBI are working together to facilitate the proliferation of these devices among state and local law enforcement agencies.”

“It’s not clear to me why the FCC would have an interest in requiring law enforcement agencies to sign NDA’s with the FBI, unless they were concerned that the spread of this technology could harm users of American communications networks,” added Butler, whose group has previously filed multiple FOIA requests and legal complaints on its own with the FBI over the use of IMSI-catchers.

And Matt Cagle, an attorney who specialized in surveillance an serves as a police fellow for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Northern California office, tweeted that it’s “alarming” to see that the FCC — a public agency — “is conditioning certification of cell spy tech” without informing the public.

As RT reported recently, the US Marshals Service recently intervened in a dispute between the police department in Sarasota, FL and the ACLU by seizing cell phone records collected by an cop-owned StingRay before the civil libertarians could review them.

This is consistent with what we’ve seen around the country with federal agencies trying to meddle with public requests for Stingray information,” ACLU staff attorney Nathan Freed told Wired back in June. “The feds are working very hard to block any release of this information to the public.”

At the time, Wired reported that the ACLU believes that “dozens” of US police department have used StingRays under the caveat that they sign an NDA.



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