Dear Friend and Reader:
As part of Saturday’s New Moon festivities, Mars and asteroid Pallas Athene, conjunct in Gemini, are square Neptune in Pisces. This is an aspect that looked like it would have some political implications, though I was hesitant to predict what. It did not look friendly.
Mars square Neptune is a complicated aspect that can have deceptive and self-destructive tendencies. However people born with this aspect can also have a talent for seeing through hypocrisy — George Orwell, author of 1984, stands out among them. That was the book where we first read the phrase, “Big brother is watching you.”
Pallas Athene adds a distinctly political dimension to the chart, as she’s a master strategist and the warrior-lawyer of the Greek pantheon; but Pallas is also square Neptune, raising a question over the legitimacy of motives and tactics used by the government. Put it all together and what do you get?
Thursday, The Guardian revealed that the National Security Agency was collecting phone records of millions of U.S. Verizon customers by the authority of a top-secret court order. The data, the government claims, is being used in an attempt to profile people to determine whether they are probable terrorists.
This isn’t merely a matter of spying on people for its own sake. In another story reported this week by NBC News, it was revealed that such profiling is enough to get someone killed by a drone attack, known as a “signature strike” based on someone’s alleged terrorist signature (covered below).
The NSA is a massive spy agency founded in 1952, originally given the mission of decrypting foreign communications. For example, during the Cold War, its boats would hover in international waters off the coast of Cuba, listening for communications between Havana and Moscow, translating the messages out of their encrypted code and giving the information to the CIA. The organization was so secret that its existence was not known till five years after its creation.
Since the Sept. 11 incident, it’s been turned loose on the American people, mostly under the authority of the PATRIOT Act. We’ve heard about this program a number of times before, but not under the authority of Pres. Obama, who famously said when he was a senator that the American people don’t want federal agents poking around their private lives.
The Guardian obtained a copy of the court order requiring Verizon to give the NSA phone call information on an “ongoing, daily basis,” reporting on calls within and directed outside the U.S. “The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of U.S. citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk — regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing,” The Guardian reported.
Then just hours later, the story got worse. The Guardian and the Washington Post published stories revealing that the NSA has been tapping directly into the three major telephone networks — AT&T, Verizon and Sprint, spying on nearly every American.
The same news reports, based on interviews with individuals close to the agency, said that the NSA can also extract data directly from the servers of Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple, as well as a small service called PalTalk that is used mostly in the Middle East.
In addition, data from credit card transactions is also being mined, and a service called Dropbox would soon be tracked as well.
This effort turns ordinary services we all use all day into instruments to spy on people’s most imitate lives — that is, people who are not even suspected of a crime. The companies all denied involvement in the program, and government officials defended it as necessary to protecting the American people from terrorists. That, as we’ve seen over and over again, has become the excuse for anything and everything.
What is different about the program is that under the Cheney/Bush administration, it was done without the authority of a court. Under Obama, it’s been done in a way that’s colorable under the authority of law. That is to say, it can be justified because forms were filled out and certain procedures were followed — though the effect is the same, and the American people were not told.
According to media reports, the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (known as the FISA court, created in 1978) grants orders to carry out the program every 90 days. The court, which consists of federal judges chosen by the chief justice, was created in the wake of domestic spying revelations under Richard Nixon, a program called COINTELPRO. The FISA court, however, approves every warrant that’s put in front of it to sign.
The whole scenario came out after The Guardian, a British newspaper, published an article about an April 25 FISA Court order giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data from Verizon for a specified three-month period ending on July 19. “The court order expressly bars Verizon from disclosing to the public either the existence of the FBI’s request for its customers’ records, or the court order itself,” The Guardian said.
Ari Fleisher, the former White House press secretary under George Bush, said that Obama was carrying out Bush’s fourth term. Some would say he’s completing Nixon’s second term.
Most media reports claim that the content of communications is not being read — only the frequency, the identity of the correspondents as tracked by the phone number and even location information based on GPS readings from the calls. But this contradicts what has long been known about such programs.
For example, the NSA has been exposed in the past for monitoring the contents of phone calls of people not suspected of terrorism. James Bamford, the author of two books on the NSA, described details of the domestic spying program in 2005 on Fresh Air with Terry Gross.
While we’re considering the civil liberties implications of these programs, I suggest we consider the spiritual ones. It’s a form of psychological warfare to instill the feeling that a person has no privacy. These programs are reported to be so thorough that they can monitor the drafts of emails being written in services like Gmail, so they can actually see correspondence that is not sent, and observe a person’s thoughts in the process of writing something.
You might think that you have nothing to fear because you haven’t done anything wrong — though if that’s true, why not submit to a weekly police search of your dresser drawers? It is traumatizing to have your private life investigated, and as such I would rate this all as a form of domestic terrorism.
We need to remember that the kind of information being collected by the NSA and the FBI is often used against activists, from peace groups to environmental organizations. Just about everyone understands that what we hear about is only the very surface layer of what is going on; what’s revealed is often a kind of cover for the much deeper layers of a surveillance program.
It’s also worth remembering the words of James Madison: “If tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.”
Drone Attacks: Who Do We Kill?
On Wednesday, Richard Engel, NBC’s chief foreign affairs correspondent, exposed documents revealing that the U.S. military does not always know who it’s killing in drone strikes. Engel made his revelation on Wednesday’s edition of The Rachel Maddow Show and then on Thursday’s edition of NBC’s The Today Show [see video here].
What is more frightening is that under current policy someone can be killed if they have the “signature” of a terrorist based on who they talk to, associate with and what places they frequent. This has nothing to do with their actual conduct.
Engel reviewed classified documents detailing 114 drone strikes in Pakistan in 2010 and 2011. The documents reveal both what is known and what is not known about the strikes. The terrorist affiliation is listed, such as “Al-Qai’da” or “Foreign fighters.”
Yet in all 114 strikes, the military admitted to killing just one civilian. A category for “other militants” contained many reports of killings, but it was not clear who they were. Up to 22 were killed in one strike. U.S. policy allows drone pilots to kill people for having a “terrorist signature” — that is, based on who they visit, or what phone numbers they dial.
Engel also interviewed a former Air Force drone pilot named Brandon Bryant who describes what it was like to use drones to kill more than 1,000 people.
“I didn’t think I’d ever have to pull a trigger,” the former pilot said, describing when he was recruited into the Air Force. “I knew that people would be dying but I wouldn’t be — at least I believed that I wouldn’t be — the direct [cause] of someone’s death.”
“You know how people say that drone strikes are like mortar attacks [or] artillery. Well, artillery doesn’t see death. The artillery doesn’t see the result of their actions. It’s really more intimate for us. We see everything. We [see] before action and after. And so I watched this guy, I watched him bleed out. I watched the result of, I guess collectively it was our action, but ultimately I’m the responsible one who guided the missile in.”
He said he had “serious doubts now” that the man was actually a combatant, “but I didn’t doubt those voices in my head.”
Weekly Horoscope for Friday, June 7, 2013, #953 | By Eric Francis
Aries (March 20-April 19) — You must be impeccable in speech and language: in what you say or write or communicate in any way. This is not a time to ignore your doubts about whether you really mean what you’re saying, or whether you’re capable of fulfilling a promise. When in doubt, say nothing. Statements made with the intent of expediency — that is, white lies intended to help you get ahead — could be the most damaging, and may have significant repercussions in the near future. Though you may not have the intention to deceive anyone, this astrology can also cover situations where you’re not working with full information, or have inaccurate data. Therefore, it’s necessary to check what you hear from others as well as it’s necessary to understand someone’s motives for putting you up to something. Be vigilant, be clear, and ask questions till you absolutely understand any situation you’re in.
Taurus (April 19-May 20) — You’ve come through many situations where you could have given in to others’ insistence that you not trust yourself, but stood your ground. You may be in a similar situation now, where friends or associates are trying to convince you of something; it could be anything. The thing to be alert for is pressure of any kind that has the effect of negatively influencing your self-confidence. You might want to be cautious about taking praise too seriously as well. You don’t need the opinions of others, and you don’t need to judge your own performance, either. What matters is that you bring sincerity and integrity into what you’re doing, and that you be accountable for any errors you make. That means consciously engaging your learning and self-correcting process. The opinions of others matter far less than we’re led to believe, and life is not a popularity contest. Impeccability matters a lot more than popularity.
Gemini (May 20-June 21) — This weekend’s stunning New Moon in your birth sign is a reminder that anything is possible and that everything is negotiable. Make sure you know what you want, because as the next few days unfold, you may find yourself in a position where you can create those very things. Yet to make this happen you’ll need to focus your intentions as clearly as possible. You may be inclined to compromise, which is something that might at some point need to happen in the physical world. I suggest that you not even vaguely consider compromising on your desires, your intentions or your idea of what is right for you. Rather, that’s the very place to stick to your true desires. If you’re feeling guilt, notice it and set it aside. If anyone tells you that you’re dreaming, tell them they’re right.
Cancer (June 21-July 22) — You may get a series of opportunities to resolve situations or psychological issues that have long troubled you. The sensation of doing so may be like pushing on an invisible wall. It starts to give way, and as you push you start to wonder when it’s going to finally stop — but it doesn’t. You might apply some positive thinking to a scenario that has resisted that very thing in the past, and discover that it’s working. None of this is an accident. You’re ready not only to confront the conflicts in your own psychology, you’re ready to let them go. You know there’s something about your nature that makes you the embodiment of opposites. I don’t mean being a walking contradiction, even if you feel like that some days. What I mean is that a theme of your life is integrating elements of yourself and the world around you that only seem to oppose one another but are in truth part of the same thing.
Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) — Be cautious with financial transactions, from basic ones to the most complicated. Much hinges on whether you understand the details, and whether you put the information to good use. To put it mildly, plenty is at stake, and there is the opportunity for significant gain or loss. Therefore, slow down and take each step consciously. Know what decisions you can (or need) to put off until you have more information. In truth you’re in an exceptionally strong position and you have all the right ingredients to succeed at whatever you’re doing. Your part is to maintain the impeccability factor. That includes being fair to the people around you, maintaining the appearance of propriety. At this moment it’s every bit as important that you be standing in your integrity as it is that you present yourself as doing so. Be conscious of any double standards you may have, and remember that what you say even casually will echo outward. The Universe has ears.
Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — Check whether your tendency to commit to multiple projects or professional endeavors is really working for you or the people you serve. This is the time to get your priorities in order. You may have a tendency to make decisions based on political expediency, that is to say, less on the basis of truth and more on the basis of what will grease the wheels, close the deal or please people in power. The other side of that kind of transaction is that someone else can lose in the process, which is usually considered a form of collateral damage. This is exactly what you want to avoid, because what happens now will have implications in the future, for good or for ill. This can be a time of tremendous achievement for you, if you do what is right. That does include what’s right for you — just make sure you keep your promises, and pause on making any new ones you’re not sure you can fulfill.
Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — Your long-range plans may seem to be conflicting with certain immediate desires. The question you might want to ask is, in this world how practical is it to plan your life years in advance? This might be a time to experiment with the idea that your immediate goals fit into a larger plan, and you don’t need to have that scheme fully mapped out for everything to hang together. You have some excellent opportunities in front of you right now, and others will notice your commitment and aura of success if you allow those qualities to gently come forward. You don’t need to push anyone or anything. There’s a strong wind at your back right now. What I do suggest is that you be realistic about whether you really want any opportunity that’s offered to you in the coming days. The question is not ‘what am I doing with the rest of my life’ but rather, ‘where might this work with my life plan?’ or even better, ‘how does this feel?’
Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — You may be negotiating some important transactions now, and if so, I suggest you be careful and take each step consciously. One tool you can work with is timing; in particular, knowing how long you can delay in order to get the information you need, or to work out the agreement as you want it to be. If things don’t seem to be working out as you want now, you can afford to wait at least one month to put them in order. If the opportunity disappears between now and then, it was probably not going to be helpful. One potential reading of the current astrology is that there are facts you may not be aware of, or may be overlooking, in service of your strategy or agenda. You need to bring the practical, discerning side of your nature into action right now, rather than your idealistic side. The moment calls for a microscope, not a kaleidoscope.
Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — I reckon there is plenty going on in your life right now, and that you’re not sure about some of it. By not sure, I mean that your intuition may be nagging you about something or someone. There may be a situation that seems to be all promise and little payout. Or you may have concerns about where your own emotional desires and needs fit into the scenario. I suggest you honor your doubts and give the situation a little more time. You’re about to enter a whole new emotional landscape when Jupiter, the Sagittarius planet, enters Cancer in a few weeks. You may need to exercise what feels like extreme patience till then, though it will be worth it. You’ll be on more solid emotional ground, and you’ll discover what it is you were concerned about.
Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — I suggest you observe how relationship situations develop over the next few weeks before you put all your emotional eggs into one basket. There may be situations that look promising. Have fun with those people. Remember though that while the first days or weeks of an encounter are meaningful — beginnings always are — you’ve learned from much past experience to watch how things develop, and to allow them to do so. The question is: who can handle who you really are? You’ve also learned not to try to tamp down your energy or put a cloak over your passion. That requires allowing people to have their responses to you. What matters most is that they do feel you and you feel them, no matter what the longer-term prospects are. As you get better at this, you’ll begin to attract people who can handle you at full strength.
Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — If you’re feeling like you’re bursting with creative and sexual energy, you’re right on time. In many ways your happiness depends on your ability to express yourself, so if you’re delaying for any reason, I suggest you feel some ideas moving, pull the cork and let some of the energy out. The thing about any creative endeavor is that it requires taking a risk. Often that risk is what you might do with potential ‘failure’. That’s exactly the psychology you want to fly into like a headwind. There’s also the small matter of having so many options. This is the time to experiment. One beautiful thing about our modern world is that one need not merely be a painter or a violinist. Very nearly everything is mixed media. As you explore, you’ll discover that there are several specific things you want to get good at — and you will.
Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — A rare alignment between Mars, Neptune and Pallas is suggesting that reality is like soft clay in your hands right now. So now is the time to sculpt your life in the way that you want. You will continue to have opportunities to do so, but this is the true formative moment. Therefore, take your time and redesign your life the way you want it. This will invariably involve how you use space, how you project yourself into the world. The astrology is suggesting that you work from the inside out: feel the heat within you, then let that shape the layers of your personality, your decisions and what you do with your time. A helpful metaphor might be to consider the hot molten core at the center of the planet that shapes the continents, and which sometimes erupts and lava flows over the Earth, forming new landmasses and changing the shape of mountains. Yet this natural force will be responsive to your plans and ideas. Said another way, anything is possible.