Microsoft evade el pago de $4,5 mil millones en Impuestos

POR LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | SEPTIEMBRE 24, 2012

En los Estados Unidos, la falta de pago de los impuestos es visto por las autoridades como uno de los mayores delitos cometidos contra el gobierno. Los individuos que evaden impuestos son etiquetados como delincuentes, incluso antes de ser juzgados en un tribunal de justicia. Los que hablan en contra del pago de impuestos sin la adecuada representación son igualados a locos o teóricos de la conspiración.

Pero cuando se trata de impuestos que las corporaciones deben pagar, las cartas sobre la mesa siempre favorecen a quienes no pagan. Empresas como Facebook, Google, Apple y Microsoft son algunas de las más conocidas corporaciones que evaden el pago de impuestos. Estas empresas tienen éxito en la evasión del pago de impuestos gracias a las lagunas que quedan abiertas en la legislación fiscal que les permite — con un mar de trucos legales — mover sus ganancias al extranjero con el fin de evitar el pago. Esta es la conclusión de un nuevo informe de un subcomité del Senado de EE.UU..

Uno de los últimos casos es el de Microsoft, la empresa fundada por el magnate Bill Gates. El gigante de la tecnología evitó el pago de $ 4,5 mil millones en impuestos entre 2009 y 2011. Microsoft se las arregló para enviar unos $ 21 mil millones en ganancias al extranjero, lo que permitió a la empresa evadir el pago de impuestos que de otra manera habrían sido recogidos por el Servicio de Rentas Internas estadounidense. Los miles de millones de dólares no pagados por Microsoft corresponde a los impuestos sobre las ventas que la empresa tuvo durante dos años completos según el informe del subcomité del Senado.

Métodos similares para evitar el pago de impuestos sobre las ventas han sido utilizados por otras grandes corporaciones, según informa el Huffington Post. Apple, por ejemplo, recaudó alrededor de $ 45 mil millones en 2011, pero sólo pagó $ 3 mil millones en impuestos. Eso se debe a que la empresa crea filiales en ciudades conocidas como “paraísos fiscales”, donde los impuestos corporativos son 0%. Apple también se las arregla para completar la venta de productos digitales desde otros países, así que cuando la empresa vende una canción o un software, el pago se realiza a la filial en Luxemburgo, por ejemplo, y no en los EE.UU..

Otras compañías como Google y Hewlett-Packard también tuvieron éxito en evitar los impuestos corporativos en los últimos años. Mientras que Apple evitó impuestos sobre $ 34,5 mil millones entre 2009 y 2011, Google esquivó los impuestos en $ 24 mil millones. Hewlett-Packard, utiliza lo que el informe del Congreso califica de préstamos giratorios a corto plazo con sus filiales para evitar el pago de miles de millones de dólares en impuestos desde 2008. El congresista Carl Levin dijo que HP mantiene miles de millones de dólares en efectivo fuera de los Estados Unidos — $ 17 mil millones en 2010 — que la compañía lo prestó a su sede en EE.UU. para evitar pagar impuestos sobre ese dinero.

Como se muestra arriba, el caso de Microsoft no es única en el no pago de impuestos. Eso es lo que los que quienes prepararon el informe creen y eso es lo que sus conclusiones parecen sugerir. También examinan cómo las multinacionales trasladaron sus operaciones a países donde los impuestos son más favorables. Por cierto, lo hacen legalmente, lo que demuestra la debilidad del código de impuestos en los Estados Unidos cuando se trata de exigir a las empresas responsables su parte de la carga tributaria.

Lo contrario es cierto para los individuos, que no disfrutan de las lagunas fiscales que las empresas como Microsoft tienen para enviar dinero fuera de los EE.UU.. De hecho, el gobierno de EE.UU. anunció cambios en el código tributario para evitar que las personas muevan sus ahorros o ganancias al extranjero. Pero nada ha sido hecho para el lado corporativo.

La falta de pago del impuestos por parte de las corporaciones recorre cada año el Congreso de los EE.UU., pero ha sido aún más relevante este año debido a la necesidad estadounidense de encontrar dinero para financiar su gasto fuera de control. En el caso de las empresas de tecnología, se han utilizado los derechos de propiedad intelectual, derechos de autor y licencias como forma de evitar la responsabilidad.

Microsoft ha dicho que la empresa no hace nada irregular y puso de relieve la compleja estructura del sistema tributario estadounidense. La compañía también dice que ha sido muy complaciente con la investigación del Congreso. El senador Carl Levin, sin embargo, cree que las prácticas utilizadas por Microsoft son por lo menos “cuestionables”.

Según el diario El País, la cantidad de dinero movida por Microsoft corresponde aproximadamente a la mitad de sus ventas en los EE.UU.. Ese dinero, dice el diario español, generalmente se envía a otros países, como Irlanda. En las investigaciones del Congreso de los Estados Unidos y las iniciativas que buscan reducir la falta de pago de impuestos por parte de corporaciones por lo general terminan en nada. Aunque tanto los republicanos como los demócratas están de acuerdo en que algo hay que hacer, “no pueden ponerse de acuerdo sobre la forma” en que esto debe ser hecho en el Congreso para evitar que empresas como HP y Cisco Systems logren escapar sin pagar impuestos en los EE.UU..

“En un momento en que decisiones presupuestarias difíciles se están realizando, mientras que las familias enfrentan aumentos de impuestos y recortes de gastos en importantes programas públicos de educación y salud, estas situación es inaceptable”, dijo Levin.

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Microsoft Evades Paying $4.5 billion in Taxes

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | SEPTEMBER 21, 2012

In the United States, the non-payment of taxes is seen by the authorities as one of the infuriating offenses against the government. Individuals who evade taxes are labeled as criminals, even before being tried in a court of law. Those who speak against taxation without representation are equaled to crazy people or conspiracy theorists.

But when it comes to corporate taxation, the tables always turn in favor of the non payers. Corporations such as Facebook, Google, Apple and Microsoft are some of the best known offenders. These corporations are successful in evading the payment of taxes thanks to loopholes left open in tax legislation that allows them to — with a sea of legal tricks — move their profits overseas in order to avoid payment. This is the conclusion of a new U.S. Senate subcommittee report.

One of the latest cases is that of Bill Gates’ Microsoft. The technology giant avoided paying $4.5 billion in taxes between 2009 and 2011. Microsoft managed to send some $21 billion in profits abroad, which allowed the company to evade the payment of taxes that otherwise would have been collected by the American Internal Revenue Service. The billions of dollars not paid by Microsoft corresponded to taxes on the sales the company had during two complete years according to report by the Senate investigations subcommittee of the U.S. Congress.

Similar methods to avoid paying sales taxes have been used by other large corporations, reports the Huffington Post. Apple, for example, earned around $45 billion in 2011, but paid only $3 billion in taxes. That is because the company creates subsidiaries in cities known as ‘tax heavens’ where corporate taxes are 0%. Apple also manages to complete sales of digital products from foreign countries, so when the company sells a song or software, the payment is made to subsidiaries in Luxemburg, and not in the U.S..

Other companies like Google and HP also succeeded in avoiding corporate taxes in the last few years. While Apple avoided taxes on $34.5 billion between 2009 and 2011, Google dodged taxes on $24 billion. Hewlett-Packard, used what the congressional report calls a number of  revolving short-term loans with its subsidiaries to avoid paying billions of dollars in taxes since 2008. Congressman Carl Levin said HP  kept billions of dollars in cash outside of the United States — $17 billion in 2010 — that it lent to its U.S. headquarters to avoid paying taxes on that money.

As shown above, the case of Microsoft is not unique. That is what those who prepared the report believe and that is what their conclusions seem to suggest. They also examine how multinationals transferred their operations to countries where taxation is more favorable. By the way, they do it legally, which shows how weak the tax code is in the United States when it comes to holding corporations accountable for their share of the tax burden.

The opposite is true for individuals, who do not enjoy the tax loopholes that corporations like Microsoft have to send money outside of the U.S.. In fact, the U.S. government announced changes in the tax code to prevent individuals from moving their savings or investment gains abroad. Nothing was prepared to do the same on the corporate side.

The non payment of corporate tax goes around every year in the U.S. Congress, but it has been even more relevant this year due to the American need to find cash to finance its out of control government spending, which in turn ran up the deficit. In the case of these technology firms, they’ve used intellectual property rights, royalties and licensing as ways to avoid accountability.

Microsoft has said it does do anything irregular and highlighted the complex structure of the American tax system. The company also says it has been very accommodating with the congressional investigation. Senator Carl Levin, however, believes that the practices used by Microsoft are at least “questionable”.

According to the newspaper El País, the amount shuffled in the Microsoft case corresponds to about half of its sales in the U.S.. That money, says the Spanish newspaper, is often sent to other countries such as Ireland. In the United States congressional investigations and initiatives that seek to curb the non payment of corporate taxes usually end in nothing. Although both Republicans and Democrats agree that something needs to be done, they cannot agree on the way Congress should approach the closing of loopholes to avoid that companies like HP and Cisco Systems manage to get away without paying taxes in the U.S..

“At a time when difficult budget decisions are being made, while families face tax increases and spending cuts in critical public programs in  education and health, these situation is unacceptable” said Levin.

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The Military Industrial Complex’s Scheme to Control the Internet

By Tom Burghardt

The training of thousands of qualified airmen, will form the nucleus of an elite corps of cyberwarfare operatives.

Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz once famously wrote that “war is the continuation of politics by other means.” Acentury later, radical French philosopher Michel Foucault turned Clausewitz on his head and declared that “politics is the continuation of war by other means.”

In our topsy-turvy world where truth and lies coexist equally and sociopathic business elites reign supreme, it would hardly be a stretch to theorize that cyber war is the continuation of parapolitical crime by other means.

Through the Wormhole

In Speed and Politics, cultural theorist Paul Virilio argued that “history progresses at the speed of its weapons systems.” With electronic communications now blanketing the globe, it was only a matter of time before our political masters, (temporarily) outflanked by the subversive uses to which new media lend themselves, would deploy what Virilio called the “integral accident” (9/11 being one of many examples) and gin-up entirely new categories of threats, “Cyber Pearl Harbor” comes to mind, from which of course, they would “save us.”

That the revolving door connecting the military and the corporations who service war making is a highly-profitable redoubt for those involved, has been analyzed here at great length. With new moves to tighten the screws on the immediate horizon, and as “Change” reveals itself for what it always was, an Orwellian exercise in public diplomacy, hitting the “kill switch” serves as an apt descriptor for the new, repressive growth sector that links technophilic fantasies of “net-centric” warfare to the burgeoning “homeland security” market.

Back in March, Wired investigative journalist Ryan Singel wrote that the “biggest threat to the open internet” isn’t “Chinese hackers” or “greedy ISPs” but corporatist warriors like former Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell.

Having retreated to his old haunt as a senior vice president with the ultra-spooky firm Booz Allen Hamilton (a post he held for a decade before joining the Bush administration), McConnell stands to make millions as Booz Allen’s parent company, the secretive private equity powerhouse, The Carlyle Group, plans to take the firm public and sell some $300 million worth of shares, The Wall Street Journal reported last week.

“With its deep ties to the defense establishment” the Journal notes, “Booz Allen has become embedded in a range of military operations such as planning war games and intelligence initiatives.” That Carlyle Group investors have made out like proverbial bandits during the endless “War on Terror” goes without saying. With “relatively low debt levels for a leveraged buyout,” the investment “has been a successful one for Carlyle, which has benefited from the U.S. government’s increasing reliance on outsourcing in defense.”

And with 15,000 employees in the Washington area, most with coveted top secret and above security clearances, Booz Allen’s clients include a panoply of secret state agencies such as the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, NSA and the U.S. Air Force. With tentacles enlacing virtually all facets of the secretive world of outsourced intelligence, the firm has emerged as one of the major players in the cybersecurity niche market.

While McConnell and his minions may not know much about “SQL injection hacks,” Singel points out that what makes this spook’s spook dangerous (after all, he was NSA Director under Clinton) “is that he knows about social engineering. … And now he says we need to re-engineer the internet.”

Accordingly, Washington Technology reported in April, that under McConnell’s watchful eye, the firm landed a $14.4 million contract to build a new bunker for U.S. Cyber Command (CYBERCOM). Chump change by Pentagon standards perhaps, but the spigot is open and salad days are surely ahead.

Now that CYBERCOM has come on-line as a “subordinate unified command” of U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), it’s dual-hatted Director, Air Force General Keith B. Alexander confirmed by the Senate and with a fourth, gleaming star firmly affixed on his epaulettes, the real fun can begin.

A denizen of the shadows with a résumé to match, Alexander is also Director of the National Security Agency (hence the appellation “dual-hatted”), the Pentagon satrapy responsible for everything from battlefield signals- and electronic intelligence (SIGINT and ELINT), commercial and industrial espionage (ECHELON) to illegal driftnet spying programs targeting U.S. citizens.

Spooky résumé aside, what should concern us here is what Alexander will actually do at the Pentagon’s new cyberwar shop.

Fact Sheet posted by STRATCOM informs us that CYBERCOM “plans, coordinates, integrates, synchronizes, and conducts activities to: direct the operations and defense of specified Department of Defense information networks and; prepare to, and when directed, conduct full-spectrum military cyberspace operations in order to enable actions in all domains, ensure US/Allied freedom of action in cyberspace and deny the same to our adversaries.”

As Antifascist Calling previously reported, CYBERCOM’s offensive nature is underlined by the role it will play as STRATCOM’s operational cyber wing. The training of thousands of qualified airmen, as The Register revealed last month, will form the nucleus of an “elite corps of cyberwarfare operatives,” underscoring the command’s signal importance to the secret state and the corporations they so lovingly serve.

Cybersecurity: The New Corporatist “Sweet Spot”

Fueling administration moves to “beef up,” i.e. tighten state controls over the free flow of information is cash, lots of it. The Washington Post reported June 22 that “Cybersecurity, fast becoming Washington’s growth industry of choice, appears to be in line for a multibillion-dollar injection of federal research dollars, according to a senior intelligence official.”

“Delivering the keynote address at a recent cybersecurity summit sponsored by Defense Daily,” veteran Post reporter and CIA media asset, Walter Pincus, informs us that “Dawn Meyerriecks, deputy director of national intelligence for acquisition and technology, said that along with the White House Office of Science and Technology, her office is going to sponsor major research ‘where the government’s about to spend multiple billions of dollars’.”

Bingo!

According to a Defense Daily profile, before her appointment by Obama’s recently fired Director of National Intelligence, Dennis C. Blair, Meyerriecks was the chief technology officer with the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), described on DISA’s web site as a “combat support agency” that “engineers and provides command and control capabilities and enterprise infrastructure to continuously operate and assure a global net-centric enterprise in direct support to joint warfighters, National level leaders, and other mission and coalition partners across the full spectrum of operations.”

During Defense Daily’s June 11 confab at the Marriott Hotel in Washington (generously sponsored by Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, General Dynamics and The Analysis Group), Meyerriecks emphasized although “tons of products” have been commercially developed promising enhanced security, “there’s not an answer Band-Aid that is going to come with this.”

All the more reason then, to shower billions of taxpayer dollars on impoverished defense and security corps, while preaching “fiscal austerity” to “greedy” workers and homeowners facing a new wave of foreclosures at the hands of cash strapped banks.

“We’re starting to question whether or not the fundamental precepts are right,” Meyerriecks said, “and that’s really what, at least initially, this [new research] will be aimed at.”

Presumably, the billions about to feed the “new security paradigm,” all in the interest of “keeping us safe” of course, means “we need to be really innovative, because I think we’re going to run out of runway on our current approach,” she said.

Washington Technology reported Meyerriecks as saying “We don’t have any fixed ideas about what the answers are.” Therefore, “we’re looking for traditional and nontraditional partnering in sourcing.”

Amongst the “innovative research” fields which the ODNI, the Department of Homeland Security and one can assume, NSA/CYBERCOM, will soon be exploring are what Washington Technology describe as: “Multiple security levels for government and non-government organizations. Security systems that change constantly to create ‘moving targets’ for hackers,” and more ominously for privacy rights, coercive “methods to motivate individuals to improve their cybersecurity practices.”

The Secret State’s Internet Control Bill

Since major policy moves by administration flacks always come in waves, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy June 18, that in order to fight “homegrown terrorism” the monitoring of internet communications “is a civil liberties trade-off the U.S. government must make to beef up national security,” the Associated Press reported.

While the Obama regime has stepped-up attacks on policy critics who have disclosed vital information concealed from the American people, prosecuting whistleblowers such as Thomas Drake, who spilled the beans on corrupt NSA shenanigans with grifting defense and security corps, and wages a low-level war against WikiLeaksCryptomePublic Intelligence and other secret spilling web sites, it continues to shield those who oversaw high crimes and misdemeanors during the previous and current regimes.

In this light, Napolitano’s statement that “we can significantly advance security without having a deleterious impact on individual rights in most instances,” is a rank mendacity.

With enough airspace to fly a drone through, the Home Sec boss told the gathering “at the same time, there are situations where trade-offs are inevitable.” What those “situations” are or what “trade-offs” were being contemplated by the administration was not specified by Napolitano; arch neocon Joe Lieberman however, graciously obliged.

As “Cyber War” joins the (failed) “War on Drugs” and the equally murderous “War on Terror” as America’s latest bête noire and panic all rolled into one reeking mass of disinformation, Senators Joseph Lieberman (ID-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Tom Carper (D-DE) introduced the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010 in the Senate.

The bill empowers the Director of a new National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications (NCCC), to be housed in the Department of Homeland Security, to develop a “process” whereby owners and operators of “critical infrastructure” will develop “response plans” for what the legislation calls “a national cybersecurity emergency.”

This particularly pernicious piece of legislative flotsam would hand the President the power to declare a “national cyber-emergency” at his discretion and would force private companies, internet service providers and search engines to “comply with the new risk-based security requirements.” Accordingly, “in coordination with the private sector … the President [can] authorize emergency measures to protect the nation’s most critical infrastructure if a cyber vulnerability is being exploited or is about to be exploited.”

Under terms of the bill, such “emergency measures” can force ISPs to “take action” if so directed by the President, to limit, or even to sever their connections to the internet for up to 30 days.

While the administration, so far, has not explicitly endorsed Lieberman’s bill, DHS Deputy Undersecretary Philip Reitinger told reporters that he “agreed” with the thrust of the legislation and that the Executive Branch “may need to take extraordinary measures” in the event of a “crisis.”

Under the 1934 Communications Act, the World Socialist Web Site points out, “the president may, under ‘threat of war,’ seize control of any ‘facilities or stations for wire communications’.”

“Though dated,” socialist critic Mike Ingram avers, “that definition would clearly apply to broadband providers or Web sites. Anyone disobeying a presidential order can be imprisoned for one year. In addition to making explicit the inclusion of Internet providers, a central component of the Lieberman bill is a promise of immunity from financial claims for any private company which carries through an order from the federal government.”

Under terms of the legislation, the president requires no advance notification to Congress in order to hit the internet “kill switch,” and his authority to reign supreme over the free speech rights of Americans can be extended for up to six months after the “state of war” has expired.

While the bill’s supporters, which include the secret state lobby shop, the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA) claim the Lieberman-Collins-Carper legislation is intended to create a “shield” to defend the U.S. and its largest corporate benefactors from the “looming threat” of a “Cyber 9/11,” one cannot discount the billions of dollars in plum government contracts that will fall into the laps of the largest defense and security corps, the primary beneficiaries of this legislation; thus the bill’s immunity provisions.

Indeed, current INSA Chairwoman, Frances Fragos Townsend, the former Bushist Homeland Security Adviser, was appointed in 2007 as National Continuity Coordinator under the auspices of National Security Presidential Directive 51 (NSPD-51) and was assigned responsibility for coordinating the development and implementation of Federal continuity of government (COG) policies. As readers of Antifascist Calling are aware, plans include contingencies for a declaration of martial law in the event of a “catastrophic emergency.” Whether or not a “national cybersecurity emergency” would fall under the penumbral cone of silence envisaged by NSPD-51 to “maintain order” is anyone’s guess.

However, in a June 23 letter to Lieberman-Collins-Carper, the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) and 23 other privacy and civil liberties groups, insisted that “changes are needed to ensure that cybersecurity measures do not unnecessarily infringe on free speech, privacy, and other civil liberties interests.”

CDT states that while “the bill makes it clear that it does not authorize electronic surveillance beyond that authorized in current law, we are concerned that the emergency actions that could be compelled could include shutting down or limiting Internet communications that might be carried over covered critical infrastructure systems.”

Additionally, CDT avers that the bill “requires CCI owners to share cybersecurity ‘incident’ information with DHS, which will share some of that information with law enforcement and intelligence personnel.” While Lieberman-Collins-Carper claim that “incident reporting” doesn’t authorize “any federal entity” to compel disclosure “or conduct surveillance,” the bill does not indicate what might be included in an ‘incident report’ and we are concerned that personally-identifiable information will be included.” Count on it!

In a press release, INSA’s chairwoman declared that the legislation is important in “establishing a public-private partnership to promote national cyber security priorities, strengthen and clarify authorities regarding the protection of federal civilian systems, and improve national cyber security defenses.”

Amongst the heavy-hitters who will profit financially from developing a “public-private partnership to promote national cyber security priorities,” include INSA “Founding Members” BAE Systems, Booz Allen Hamilton, CSC, General Dynamics, HP, Lockheed Martin, ManTech International, Microsoft, Potomac Institute for Policy Studies and Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC).

Talk about one hand washing the other! A casual glance at Washington Technology’s 2010 list of the Top 100 Federal Government Contractors provides a telling definition of the term “stakeholder”!

Blanket Surveillance Made Easy: Einstein 3’s Roll-Out

During a recent Cyberspace Symposium staged by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA), an industry lobby group chock-a-block with defense and security corps, a series of video presentations set the tone, and the agenda, for CYBERCOM and the secret state’s new push for heimatcybersecurity.

During a question and answer session “with a small group of reporters” in sync with the alarmist twaddle peddled by AFCEA and STRATCOM, Defense Systems’Amber Corrin informed us that “one possibility” floated by Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynne III to “keep us safe,” is the deployment of the privacy-killing Einstein 2 and Einstein 3 intrusion detection and prevention systems on civilian networks.

“To support such a move” Defense Systems reported, “a task force comprising industry and government information technology and defense interests … has been forged to examine issues surrounding critical infrastructure network security.”

As Antifascist Calling reported last July, Einstein 3 is based on technology developed by NSA under its Tutelage program, a subordinate project of NSA’s larger and more pervasive privacy-killing Stellar Wind surveillance operation.

Einstein 3’s deep-packet inspection technology can read the content of email messages and other private electronic communications. Those deemed “threats” to national security networks can then be forwarded to analysts and “attack signatures” (or suspect political messages) are then stored in a massive NSA-controlled database for future reference.

Federal Computer Week disclosed in March that the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) “plans to partner with a commercial Internet Service Provider and another government agency to pilot technology developed by the National Security Agency to automate the process of detecting cyber intrusions into civilian agencies’ systems.”

“The exercise,” according to reporter Ben Bain “aims to demonstrate the ability of an ISP to select and redirect Internet traffic from a participating government agency using the new technology. The exercise would also be used demonstrate the ability for U.S. CERT to apply intrusion detection and prevention to that traffic and to generate automated alerts about selected cyber threats.”

That testing is currently underway and has been undertaken under authority of National Security Presidential Directive 54, signed by President George W. Bush in 2008 in the waning days of his administration. While the vast majority of NSPD-54 is classified top secret, hints of its privacy-killing capabilities were revealed in the sanitized version of the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (CNCI) released by the Obama White House in March.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has filed suit against the government in federal court after their Freedom of Information Act request to the National Security Agency was rejected by securocrats. The agency refused to release NSPD-54, since incorporated into Obama’s CNCI, stating that they “have been withheld in their entirety” because they are “exempt from release” on grounds of “national security.”

In a follow-up piece earlier this month, Federal Computer Week disclosed that the exercise “will also allow the Homeland Security Department, which runs the Einstein program, to share monitored information with the National Security Agency, though that data is not supposed to include message content.”

“The recent combination of those three elements–reading e-mail messages, asking companies to participate in the monitoring program, and getting the NSA in the loop–has set off alarm bells about future uses of Einstein 3,” FCW’s John Zyskowski disclosed.

Those bells have been ringing for decades, tolling the death of our democratic republic. As military-style command and control systems proliferate, supporting everything from “zero-tolerance” policing and urban surveillance, the deployment of packet-sniffing technologies will soon join CCTV cameras, license plate readers and “watchlists,” thus setting the stage for the next phase of the secret state’s securitization of daily life.

Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly and Global Research, his articles can be read on Dissident Voice, The Intelligence Daily, Pacific Free Press, Uncommon Thought Journal, and the whistleblowing website Wikileaks. He is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military “Civil Disturbance” Planning, distributed by AK Press.

‘Smart dust’ aims to monitor everything. No Joke.

CNN

In the 1990s, a researcher named Kris Pister dreamed up a wild future in which people would sprinkle the Earth with countless tinysmart dust sensors, no larger than grains of rice.

These “smart dust” particles, as he called them, would monitor everything, acting like electronic nerve endings for the planet. Fitted with computing power, sensing equipment, wireless radios and long battery life, the smart dust would make observations and relay mountains of real-time data about people, cities and the natural environment.

Now, a version of Pister’s smart dust fantasy is starting to become reality.

“It’s exciting. It’s been a long time coming,” said Pister, a computing professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

“I coined the phrase 14 years ago. So smart dust has taken a while, but it’s finally here.”

Maybe not exactly how he envisioned it. But there has been progress.

The latest news comes from the computer and printing company Hewlett-Packard, which recently announced it’s working on a projectit calls the “Central Nervous System for the Earth.” In coming years, the company plans to deploy a trillion sensors all over the planet.

The wireless devices would check to see if ecosystems are healthy, detect earthquakes more rapidly, predict traffic patterns and monitor energy use. The idea is that accidents could be prevented and energy could be saved if people knew more about the world in real time, instead of when workers check on these issues only occasionally.

HP will take its first step toward this goal in about two years, said Pete Hartwell, a senior researcher at HP Labs in Palo Alto. The company has made plans with Royal Dutch Shell to install 1 million matchbook-size monitors to aid in oil exploration by measuring rock vibrations and movement, he said. Those sensors, which already have been developed, will cover a 6-square-mile area.

That will be the largest smart dust deployment to date, he said.

“We just think now, the technology has reached a point where it makes basic sense for us … to get this out of the lab and into reality,” Hartwell said.

Smart dust (minus the ‘dust’)

Despite the recent excitement, there’s still much confusion in the computing industry about what exactly smart dust is.

For starters, the sensors being deployed and developed today are much larger and clunkier than flecks of dust. HP’s sensors — accelerometers like those in the iPhone and Droid phone, but about 1,000 times more powerful — are about the size of matchbooks. When they’re enclosed in a metal box for protection, they’re about the size of a VHS tape.

So what makes a smart dust sensor different from a weather station or a traffic monitor?

Size is one factor. Smart dust sensors must be relatively small and portable. But technology hasn’t advanced far enough to manufacture the sensors on the scale of millimeters for commercial use (although Berkeley researchers are trying to make one that’s a cubic millimeter).

Wireless connections are a big distinguisher, too. A building’s thermostat is most likely hard-wired. A smart dust sensor might gauge temperature, but it would be battery-powered and would communicate wirelessly with the internet and with other sensors.

The sheer number of sensors in the network is what truly makes a smart dust project different from other efforts to record data about the world, said Deborah Estrin, a professor of computer science at the University of California, Los Angeles, who works in the field.

Smart dust researchers tend to talk in the millions, billions and trillions.

Some say reality has diverged so far from the smart dust concept that it’s time to dump that term in favor or something less sexy. “Wireless sensor networks” or “meshes” are terms finding greater acceptance with some researchers.

Estrin said it’s important to ditch the idea that smart dust sensors would be disposable.

Sensors have to be designed for specific purposes and spread out on the land intentionally — not scattered in the wind, as smart dust was initially pitched, she said.   More…