Friday, June 7, 2013


The Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, stated..."The release of this classified, (read secret), program is Reprehensible!"

On March 12, James Clapper squirmed as he tried to avoid answering questions about surveillance of Americans. Then, this week, back to back revelations by the Guardian and the Washington Post that NSA has been spying on Americans, and the NSA programs are so secret our elected officials cannon even mention  it, provoked Director Clapper to lash out at the journalists.
Clapper said the Fisa Court had established procedures preventing the government “indiscriminately sifting” through the collected phone records. “The court only allows the data to be queried when there is a reasonable suspicion, based on specific facts, that the particular basis for the query is associated with a foreign terrorist organisation,” Clapper said. “Only a small fraction of the records are ever reviewed” by “specifically cleared counterterrorism personnel”.
At the same time, Clapper said national security required the NSA to collect all the Verizon subscriber data, even if not all the data would be analysed, and regardless of any evidence to link the phone records to crime, foreign espionage or terrorism. On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported that other telecoms received similar orders from the government for the subscriber data.
“The collection is broad in scope,” Clapper wrote, “because more narrow collection would limit our ability to protect the nation from terrorist threats to the United States, as it may assist counterterrorism personnel to discover whether known or suspected terrorists have been in contact with other persons who may be engaged in terrorist activities.”
Yet the collection does not need to be tied to terrorism to occur – something that alarmed one Democrat senator, Jeff Merkley. He told the Guardian on Thursday that the sweeping “barn-door” collection appeared to violate the provision of the Patriot Act purportedly authorising it.
“We can't really propose changes to the law unless we know what the words mean as interpreted by the court,” Merkley said.
Clapper reiterated a point the Obama administration made on Thursday in its response to the Guardian’s story: the NSA’s dragnet of Verizon phone records, which the Fisa Court authorised until 19 July, does not include the “content of any communications or the identity of any subscriber”. Yet the so-called “metadata” – phone numbers, duration of calls – can be combined with publicly available information to easily determine subscriber identity. And a second NSA surveillance effort, disclosed by the Guardian on Thursday and codenamed PRISM, collects the content of communications provided through Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and five other large internet companies.
Clapper came under criticism on Thursday for statements to Democrat senator Ron Wyden that appeared to be contradicted by the revelations of the surveillance programs. Asked in March whether “millions” of Americans had “any kind of [their] data” collected by the US government, Clapper replied: “Not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertently perhaps collect, but not wittingly."
He has denied misleading Congress, but Clapper’s statement on Thursday suggested the collection of Americans’ phone records was deliberate, methodical and institutionalised.
“Discussing programs like this publicly,” Clapper concluded, “will have an impact on the behavior of our adversaries and make it more difficult for us to understand their intentions.”

President Obama defends this dragnet snooping on Americans under Section 215 of The Patriot Act.
As we all scramble to become cybersecurity scholars, here's a handy guide to Section 215, the part of the Patriot Act that authorized the National Security Agency to collect cell data from Verizon and also possibly data for its PRISM program.
What is Section 215?
To understand Section 215, you first need to read Section 103(a) of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which established the FISA court system that grants the government permission to conduct electronic surveillance.
The relevant section:
The Chief Justice of the United States shall publicly designate seven district court judges from seven of the United States judicial circuits who shall constitute a courtwhich shall have jurisdiction to hear applications for and grant orders approving electronic surveillance anywhere within the United States under the procedures set forth in this Act, except that no judge designated under this subsection shall hear the same application for electronic surveillance under this Act which has been denied previously by another judge designated under this subsection.
Under Section 215, the government can apply to the FISA court to compel businesses (like Verizon) to hand over user records. Here's what Slate wrote about Section 215 in a 2003 guide to the Patriot Act:
Section 215 modifies the rules on records searches. Post-Patriot Act, third-party holders of your financial, library, travel, video rental, phone, medical, church, synagogue, and mosque records can be searched without your knowledge or consent, providing the government says it's trying to protect against terrorism.
As Section 215 stands today—in the reauthorized version of the Patriot Act passed in 2005—"tangible things" (aka user data) sought in a FISA order "must be 'relevant' to an authorized preliminary or full investigation to obtain foreign intelligence information not concerning a U.S. person or to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities." It also established congressional oversight for the FISA program, requiring the DOJ to conduct an audit of the program and the "effectiveness" of Section 215, and to submit an unclassified report on the audit to the House and Senate Committees on the Judiciary and Intelligence.
That was during the Bush administration. How has the Patriot Act changed since President Obama was elected?
Not very much. Sen. Obama voted to reauthorize the Patriot Act in 2005, a decision hedefended on the campaign trail in 2008 with the caveat that some provisions contained in Section 215, like allowing the government to go through citizens' library records, "went way overboard." But in 2011 President Obama signed a bill to extend the Patriot Act's sunset clause to June 1, 2015—with Section 215 intact in its 2005 form.
Did the NSA also use Section 215 to obtain Internet data for its PRISM program?
This is less clear, but the leaked PRISM program documents seem to indicate yes. The PRISM presentation seems to imply that Section 215 applies not only to phone metadata but also to email, chats, photos, video, logins, and other online user data. Referring to the type of data the government is allowed to collect as "tangible things" allows a pretty wide berth for interpretation.

“There are dangers to allowing the government to snoop through our records. It doesn’t mean we don’t want to stop crime, we don’t want to stop terrorism. It means we need to have a rule of law, and we need to pay attention to the rule of law.

As Americans learned more this week about the kinds of records being obtained by the U.S. government, some have noted that the Patriot Act, first passed after 9/11, is at the root of some of the authorities claimed by the Obama administration.
In 2011, Congress approved legislation to renew some of those authorities to obtain records, though passage was delayed by Sen. Rand Paul, the tea party Republican from Kentucky who warned about the federal government’s power.
Here are some of his comments from the Senate floor. He was trying to get a vote on some amendments to the bill.
“There are dangers to allowing the government to snoop through our records. It doesn’t mean we don’t want to stop crime, we don’t want to stop terrorism. It means we need to have a rule of law, and we need to pay attention to the rule of law.
“We proposed several amendments. One of them went through the Judiciary Committee. It was deliberated. It was amended. It was passed with bipartisan support, but we won’t get a vote on it. It disappoints me that they are afraid to debate this on the Senate floor, and we will get no vote on amendments that were offered seriously to try to reform the PATRIOT Act to take away some of the abuses of it.
“We offered three amendments to the PATRIOT Act . One was on the gun records. That apparently unhinged people who are afraid of voting on any gun issues. Because of that, we are all going to be denied any debate or votes.
“Some will say: Oh, you are going to keep your colleagues here until 1 in the morning. Well, I think when they are here tonight at 1 in the morning, maybe they will think a little bit about why they are here and why we had no debate and why we had the power to have the debate at any point in time. I have agreed and said we can have a vote on the PATRIOT Act in an hour or 2 hours. We could have had a vote on the PATRIOT Act yesterday. But I want debate, and I want amendments. I think that is the very least the American people demand and this body demands, that there be open and deliberate debate about the PATRIOT Act .
“One of our other amendments has to do with destroying records. Some of these records they take from us through the bank spying on us, or the government spying on us, are not destroyed. I think these records should be destroyed at some point in time.
“For goodness’ sakes, if you are not a terrorist, why are they keeping these records? There ought to be rules on the destruction of these records if you are not a terrorist and they are not going to prosecute you.
“The fourth amendment says we should name the place and the person. We have one wiretap called the John Doe. They don’t name the place or the person, and they are not required to. I think we should. Now, are there times when it might be a terrorist when we say, well, we don’t want to name the person? We don’t have to name them in public. We could name them to the FISA commission. I do not object to them being named and the name being redacted, but the name should be presented to the judge who is making the decision. I want a judge to make a decision.
“James Otis–part of our revolution–for the 20 years leading up to the American Revolution, there was a debate about warrants. They issued what were called writs of assistance. They are also called general warrants. They weren’t specific. They didn’t say what crime one was being accused of, and the soldiers came into our houses. They would lodge soldiers in our houses, and they would enter into our houses without warrants. The fourth amendment was a big deal. We had passed the fourth amendment, and it was one of the primary grievances of our Founding Fathers.
“I don’t think we should give up so easily. I don’t think we should be cowed by fear and so fearful of attack that we give up our liberties. If we do, we become no different than the rest of the countries that have no liberties. Our liberties are what make us different from other countries. The fact that we protect the rights, even of those accused of a crime–people say, well, gosh, a murderer will get a trial. Yes, they will get a trial because we don’t know they are a murderer until we convict them. We want procedural restraints.
“People say: You would give procedural restraints for terrorists? I would say at the very least, a judge has to give permission before we get records. The main reason is because we are not asking for 10 records or 20 records or 40 records of people connected to terrorism. We are asking for millions of records.
“There are people in this room today who have had their records looked at. It is difficult to find out because what happens–here is the real rub, and this is how fearful they were. When the PATRIOT Act was passed shortly after 9/11, they were so fearful that they said: If a letter, a demand letter, a national security letter asks for records, you are not allowed to tell your attorney. You were gagged. If you told your attorney, they could put you in jail for 5 years. It is still a crime punishable by 5 years in jail.
“If I have Internet service and they want my records on somebody, they don’t tell me or a judge. We have no idea. There is no probable cause. This person might be relevant, which could mean anything, however tangential. If I don’t reveal those records, I go to jail. If I tell my wife they are asking for my records, I could go to jail.
“This secrecy on millions of records, this trolling through millions of records is un-American. It is unconstitutional. They have modified the Constitution through statutory law. We have given up our rights. It should be two-thirds of this body voting to change the Constitution and three-fourths of the States. We did it by 50 percent with one bill. The bill was hot when it came here. There was one copy of it. No one read it.
“I came from the tea party, and I said: We must read the bills. I propose that we wait 1 day for every 20 pages so we are ensured they are reading the bills. The PATRIOT Act was hundreds of pages long and nobody read it. Not one person read it because it wasn’t even hardly printed. There were penciled edits in the margin, and it was passed because we were afraid.
“But we can’t be so afraid that we give up our liberties. I think it is more important than that. I think it is a sad day today in America that we are afraid to debate this. The great constitutional questions such as this, or great constitutional questions such as whether we can go to war with just the word of the President, these great constitutional questions are not being debated because we are so fearful of debate.
“I urge the Senate to reconsider. I urge the Senate to consider debating the PATRIOT Act , to consider amendments, and to consider the Constitution.
“Thank you. I yield the floor.”

Officer Gen. Keith Alexander, who heads the US Cyber Command and National Security Agency, announced on Tuesday that the US is developing 40 new teams of cyber support teams to be ready by 2015. This move comes after the highly publicized cyber-attacks on American companies and of the 40 teams, 13 of them will be responsible for deploying attacks on other countries. So what does this mean for America's cybersecurity and the face of future warfare? RT's Andrew Blake joins us to discuss the latest developments.

....Four years after the U.S. and Israel allegedly launched the first known cyberweapon against Iran, President Barack Obama ordered U.S. intelligence agencies to draw up a list of overseas targets for possible offensive U.S. cyberattacks, according to a top-secret presidential directive obtained by theGuardian.
The 18-page directive issued last October states that “The secretary of defense, the DNI [Director of National Intelligence], and the director of the CIA … shall prepare for approval by the president through the National Security Advisor a plan that identifies potential systems, processes and infrastructure against which the United States should establish and maintain OCEO capabilities….”
The directive defines Offensive Cyber Effects Operations, or OCEO, as “operations and related programs or activities … conducted by or on behalf of the United States Government, in or through cyberspace, that are intended to enable or produce cyber effects outside United States government networks.”
Such operations, the document notes, “can offer unique and unconventional capabilities to advance U.S. national objectives around the world with little or no warning to the adversary or target and with potential effects ranging from subtle to severely damaging.”
The revelation — one of a string of classified leaks published by the Guardian this week — provides a full look at a directive that until now has only been partially disclosed.
Earlier this year, the administration declassified portions of the directive, but these only discussed intrusion detection systems for protecting federal computer networks and the government’s role in securing critical infrastructure. They did not discuss the nation’s plans to initiate offensive cyber operations against foreign targets, a highly controversial topic that has become even more so in light of the administration’s plans to confront China this week for its role in cyberespionage attacks against U.S. government and private networks.
A senior administration official downplayed the offensive cyber plans, telling the Guardian anonymously that it was the natural evolution of things.
“Once humans develop the capacity to build boats, we build navies. Once you build airplanes, we build air forces,” he told the paper.
The deadline for drawing up the list of attack targets was to be six months after the directive’s approval.
The directive not only discusses attacking foreign targets, but authorizes the use of offensive cyber attacks in foreign nations without the consent of those nations, whenever “US national interests and equities” require such nonconsensual attacks.” This presumably involves not attacking foreign government systems but hacking or otherwise attacking systems that are simply located in a foreign country and are engaged in attacks on the U.S. and present an imminent threat.
The directive also discusses possible cyber actions within U.S. borders, but states that any actions “intended or likely to produce cyber effects within the United States” would require the approval of the president, except in the case of an emergency, when the Defense Department and other agencies would be authorized to conduct such domestic operations without presidential approval.
The document does assert that all U.S. cyber operations should conform to U.S. and international law and only work as a complement to diplomatic and military options, and that presidential approval would be required for any actions that were “reasonably likely to result in significant consequences” such as the loss of life, property damage, severe retaliation or adverse foreign policy and economic impacts.
Among the risks and assessments to be considered were the possible impact an offensive cyberattack would have on intelligence-gathering, the risk of retaliation, the impact on the stability and security of the internet, the political risks and gains, and the establishment of unwelcome norms of international behavior.
The criteria for offensive cyber operations in the directive is not limited to retaliation for attacks against the U.S. but can also be approved if they would advance “US national objectives around the world.”
The directive comes at least four years after the U.S. is believed to have launched the first known cyberweapon in space to attack centrifuges at a uranium enrichment facility in Iran. The New York Times and Washington Post have reported that high-level sources within the current and former U.S. administrations saying that the U.S. and Israel were responsible for the worm, known as Stuxnet, which reportedly damaged some of the centrifuges.
A group of international legal experts commissioned by a NATO defense center in Europe recently published a report saying they believed that under international law the Stuxnet attack was an illegal “act of force.”
“Acts that kill or injure persons or destroy or damage objects are unambiguously uses of force” and likely violate international law, according to the Tallinn Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare, a study produced by a group of independent legal experts at the request of NATO’s Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence in Estonia.
Acts of force are prohibited under the United Nations charter, except when done in self-defense, Michael Schmitt, professor of international law at the U.S. Naval War College in Rhode Island and lead author of the study, told the Washington Times when the report was published.


In the wake of news that the US Government has started a criminal investigation into who 'leaked' the spying information, the Whistleblower, Edward Snowden,  has come forward!
Facts on the Collection of Intelligence from The Director Of National Intelligence
FOIA: No Records
Prehearing Questions for Lisa O. Monaco, upon her Nomination to be The Assistant Attorney General for National Security (long document; check out Q 12)
Secret Law
It has relied increasingly on secret evidence and closed 
tribunals, not only in Guantanamo, but here in the United 
States. It has initiated secret programs involving 
surveillance, detention, and interrogation, some of the details 
of which remain unavailable today, even to Congress.
    These examples are the topic of much discussion and 
concern, and appropriately so. But there is a particularly 
sinister trend that has gone relatively unnoticed: the 
increasing prevalence in our country of secret law.
    The notion of secret law has been described in court 
opinions and law treatises as ``repugnant'' and ``an 
abomination''. It is a basic tenet of democracy that the people 
have a right to know the law. In keeping with this principle, 
the laws passed by Congress and the case law of our courts have 
historically been matters of public record. When it became 
apparent in the middle of the 20th century that Federal 
agencies were increasingly creating a body of non-public 
administrative law, Congress passed several statutes requiring 
this law to be made public for the express purpose of 
preventing a regime of secret law.
    That purpose today is being thwarted. Congressional 
enactments and agency regulations are, for the most part, still 
public. But the law that applies in this country is determined 
not only by statutes and regulations, but also by the 
controlling interpretations of courts and, in some cases, the 
executive branch. More and more, this body of executive and 
judicial law is being kept secret from Congress as well.
Infrastructure of Oppression
NSA 2001

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Den Of Spies McFauled In Russia

Promises of millions, a new face and detailed instructions on a double-agent conspiracy in Moscow. Bearing the hallmarks of a Cold War spy thriller, Russia’s counterintelligence agency says it caught a CIA officer trying to flip a Russian operative.

US Ambassador to the Russian Federation Michael McFaul refused to comment on the detention of his subordinate or his alleged part in the cloak and dagger plot.
On his Twitter account the ambassador simply wrote ‘no’ when questioned about Ryan Fogle.
McFaul has a date with the Russian Foreign Ministry, however, where he has been summoned to give an explanation for the not-so-undercover incident.
Former assistant secretary of state Jon Alterman told RT the timing of the incident was “strange” in light of the upcoming international conference on Syria spearheaded by Moscow and Washington.
“It clearly will have an effect on the talks. I don’t think it tells us anything new about US-Russian relations. What is strange is the timing, because when it comes to catching spies – if this even was a spy – you get to choose when you take action. And the decision to act immediately before the summit seems to me calculated to affect the summit,” he argued.
The website of the American embassy in Russia says that its Political Section is engaged in “bringing to the attention of the Russian government the US position on the issues of foreign policy and security.” The section’s other task is to “inform Washington about the main provisions of the foreign and defense policy of Russia,” as well as Russian domestic political life.
Ambassador McFaul's comments seem to link this sting to Syria, and that brings me to wonder about the assassination of Ambassador Stephens in Bengazi, at what we now know was not even a US Consulate  but a secret CIA front. Yep. And my question then, as now, was why was Stevens meeting his Turkish counterpart ib Bengazi instead of at the US Embassy in Tripoli? 
some links: (for FYI only. Their opinions, not mine)

"Documents from the U.S. Espionage Den"

Many people will recall that when Iranian revolutionaries seized the U.S. embassy in Teheran in 1979, they acquired a large cache of classified U.S. government documents, some of which had been shredded and painstakingly reassembled, which they proceeded to publish. What no one seems to have noticed, however, is that they never stopped publishing!

By 1995, an amazing 77 volumes of "Documents from the U.S. Espionage Den" (Asnad-i lanih-'i Jasusi) had been collected and published by the "Muslim Students Following the Line of the Imam" (Center for the Publication of the U.S. Espionage Den's Documents, P.O. Box 15815-3489, Teheran, Islamic Republic of Iran, tel. 824005). Each volume contains original documents along with Farsi translations and, for no extra charge, an inflammatory introductory essay.

"The seizure of the embassy meant that the radicals gained access to a veritable treasury of secret and confidential documents covering some thirty years of Iranian history," wrote Amir Taheri in Nest of Spies (Pantheon Books, 1988). "They reveal the techniques of superpower diplomacy first hand and on a day-to-day basis." Although Taheri's book was not particularly well- received by reviewers, it seems to be the only book-length study to exploit the Iranian collection, or at least the 58 volumes that had been published as of 1987. The documents were also rather superficially examined by Edward Jay Epstein in an article titled "Secrets from the CIA Archive in Teheran" and published in Orbis (Spring 1987).

Ironically (not to say Iranically), publication of the documents represents an extraordinary service to scholars and to the interested public, particularly in light of the CIA's destruction of portions of the historical record on Iran.

Although there are a handful of obvious gems, the Iranians' criteria for publication are weak or nonexistent-- they seem intent on publishing everything that they recovered from the embassy, from detailed CIA procedures for handling defectors to a discussion of whether the Boy Scouts of America should plan on attending the 1979 Boy Scout Jamboree in Iran. The indiscriminate character of the collection is both its weakness and its strength.

Along with voluminous embassy cable traffic, CIA intelligence assessments and estimates that remain classified in the U.S., some of the documents in the Iranian collection are of a sort that would never be released by the CIA, since they contain detailed information on sensitive sources. Indeed, at least one execution of a CIA source is directly attributable to the capture of these records
But since the documents have already been disclosed, all possible damage has already been done, and the collection offers American readers a unique window on diplomatic and intelligence activity that is completely unobscured by classification constraints.

The Iranian records cannot replace the CIA records of the 1953 coup in Iran that have been destroyed, since they originate overwhelmingly from the late 1970s. But they could add considerably to the history of that later period.

Professor Warren Kimball, chairman of the State Department Historical Advisory Committee, told S&GB that "These documents may be worth considering as a source for reconstructing American foreign policy toward that region, particularly if other records remain classified or do not exist."
Some, though not all, of the volumes are available at the excellent Iranbooks in Bethesda, Maryland.


(unfinished, more to come)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Anonomous Hacks MIT in Honour of Aaron Swartz

Hopefully, my readers will watch the above video, published May 29, 2012, about Kaspersky Labs uncovering the Flame virus that attacked Iran, in an interview of Aaron Swartz by RT.

Wired now includes Evgeny Kaspersky on its list of the 15 Most Dangerous People.

Why dangerous though? What brings together Paula Broadwell whose book cost the CIA’s director David Petraeus his post in the government and Iran’s mysterious general Qassem Suleimani thought to be behind Tehran’s alleged nuclear weapons aspirations?

 “There used to be an established order to the world. A structure to things. You couldn't print a gun like a term paper,” writes the Wired’s Danger Room blog. “It was impossible to wreck a nuclear production plant with a few lines of code.”

This is where Evgeny Kaspersky comes in for the first time, according to the “If all he did in the last year was intercede in America's efforts to short-circuit Iran's nuclear ambitions – definitively unmasking a cyber-weapon for the first time – Kaspersky would've earned himself a spot on our list of the most dangerous people in the world.”

In May, Kaspersky Lab was the first company to announce the discovery of Trojan virus Flame – a powerful data-snatching malware targeting computers in Iran, Israel and other Middle Eastern countries. This was followed by August’s interception of Gauss that had also been attacking computers in the Middle East spying on financial transactions, emails and picking passwords to all kind of pages. "After looking at Stuxnet, DuQu and Flame, we can say with a high degree of certainty that Gauss comes from the same 'factory' or 'factories,'" Kaspersky Lab said in their Gauss report. "All these attack toolkits represent the high-end of nation-state-sponsored cyber-espionage and cyber war operations."

Wired has more on the cyber-security mogul besides a firm opposition to cyber warfare: “A longtime ally of Russia's secret security services, Kaspersky supplies technical expertise to the FSB, the successor to the KGB. His researchers train their agents in computer forensics.”


Just this week Kaspersky Labs released a report on "Operation" Red October, and Aaron Swartz alegedly committed suicide in his NY home. His family has claimed it was due to government harrassment thru an overly agressive, unjust prosecution. Today we read that Annonomous has defaced MIT web pages,

and MIT has started an investigation into their part in this intrigue. The purpose of this post is to shine some light on the shadoweynature of benign hacking, vs government attacks on other governments. At issue is how to keep safe w/o destroying individual rights. What do folks think about all of this?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Obama's Drones

"You will never see it coming." Barack Obama While the CIA condeucts it's secret drone war with Obama's hearty approval, here at home we are being watched by our government by 30,000 domestic drones. Feel Safer now? Take your shoes off. "I have two words for you: Preditor Drones." Barack Obama Do today’s foreign policy challenges mean that it’s time to retire the Constitution? A domestic policy crossover question here. Prior to September 11, 2001, it was generally assumed that our amazing Constitution could be adapted to whatever challenges or problems arose. After all, that founding document expanded to end the slavery it had once supported, weathered trials and misuses as dumb as Prohibition and as grave as Red Scares, Palmer Raids, and McCarthyism. The First Amendment grew to cover comic books, nude art works, and a million electronic forms of expression never imagined in the eighteenth century. Starting on September 12, 2001, however, challenges, threats, and risks abroad have been used to justify abandoning core beliefs enshrined in the Bill of Rights. That bill, we are told, can’t accommodate terror threats to the Homeland. Absent the third rail of the Second Amendment and gun ownership (politicians touch it and die), nearly every other key amendment has since been trodden upon. The First Amendment was sacrificed to silence whistleblowers and journalists. The Fourth and Fifth Amendments were ignored to spy on Americans at home and kill them with drones abroad. (September 30th was the one-year anniversary of the Obama administration’s first acknowledged murder without due process of an American — and later his teenaged son — abroad. The U.S. has similarly killed two other Americans abroad via drone, albeit “by accident.”) So, candidates, the question is: Have we walked away from the Constitution? If so, shouldn’t we publish some sort of notice or bulletin?

DJIBOUTI CITY, Djibouti — Around the clock, about 16 times a day, drones take off or land at a U.S. military base here, the combat hub for the Obama administration’s counterterrorism wars in the Horn of Africa and the Middle East.

Some of the unmanned aircraft are bound for Somalia, the collapsed state whose border lies just 10 miles to the southeast. Most of the armed drones, however, veer north across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen, another unstable country where they are being used in an increasingly deadly war with an al-Qaeda franchise that has targeted the United States.

Camp Lemonnier, a sun-baked Third World outpost established by the French Foreign Legion, began as a temporary staging ground for U.S. Marines looking for a foothold in the region a decade ago. Over the past two years, the U.S. military has clandestinely transformed it into the busiest Predator drone base outside the Afghan war zone, a model for fighting a new generation of terrorist groups.

The Obama administration has gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal the legal and operational details of its targeted-killing program. Behind closed doors, painstaking debates precede each decision to place an individual in the cross hairs of the United States’ perpetual war against al-Qaeda and its allies.

Increasingly, the orders to find, track or kill those people are delivered to Camp Lemonnier. Virtually the entire 500-acre camp is dedicated to counterterrorism, making it the only installation of its kind in the Pentagon’s global network of bases.

Secrecy blankets most of the camp’s activities. The U.S. military rejected requests from The Washington Post to tour Lemonnier last month. Officials cited “operational security concerns,” although they have permitted journalists to visit in the past.

After a Post reporter showed up in Djibouti uninvited, the camp’s highest-ranking commander consented to an interview — on the condition that it take place away from the base, at Djibouti's lone luxury hotel. The commander, Army Maj. Gen. Ralph O. Baker, answered some general queries but declined to comment on drone operations or missions related to Somalia or Yemen.

Despite the secrecy, thousands of pages of military records obtained by The Post — including construction blueprints, drone accident reports and internal planning memos — open a revealing window into Camp Lemonnier. None of the documents is classified and many were acquired via public-records requests.

Taken together, the previously undisclosed documents show how the Djibouti-based drone wars sharply escalated early last year after eight Predators arrived at Lemonnier. The records also chronicle the Pentagon’s ambitious plan to further intensify drone operations here in the coming months.

The documents point to the central role played by the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which President Obama has repeatedly relied on to execute the nation’s most sensitive counterterrorism missions.

About 300 Special Operations personnel plan raids and coordinate drone flights from inside a high-security compound at Lemonnier that is dotted with satellite dishes and ringed by concertina wire. Most of the commandos work incognito, concealing their names even from conventional troops on the base.

Other counterterrorism work at Lemonnier is more overt. All told, about 3,200 U.S. troops, civilians and contractors are assigned to the camp, where they train foreign militaries, gather intelligence and dole out humanitarian aid across East Africa as part of a campaign to prevent extremists from taking root.

In Washington, the Obama administration has taken a series of steps to sustain the drone campaign for another decade, developing an elaborate new targeting database, called the “disposition matrix,” and a classified “playbook” to spell out how decisions on targeted killing are made.

 The United States is governed by psychopaths. I am aware that this is a pretty bold statement, but what else can one call people in power who laugh at the deaths of human beings that THEY caused? What else can you call George Walker Bush, who makes jokes over starting an unnecessary war that killed more than a million Iraqis and caused tens of thousands of American casualties? What else can you call Hillary Clinton, who cackled with glee when she learned Moammar Gadaffi had been brutally murdered by the al-Qaeda thugs she helped Obama send to Libya? What else can you call someone like Barack Hussein Obama, who orders the death of a 16-year-old child, namely Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, and then laughs about it at the annual press corp dinner? Psychopath works for me.

Why Drone Strikes Cede "Hearts and Minds" to the Taliban