Fukushima Daiichi: Inside the Debacle

An unprecedented look at the disastrous handling of the accident at Tepco’s nuclear power station explains why Japan still doesn’t trust nukes.

by Bill Powell and Hideko Takayama

Fortune (April 20 2012)

More than a year has passed since a massive earthquake and a series of tsunamis triggered the worst accident at a nuclear power plant since Chernobyl in 1986, but the epic debacle at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station remains front and center in Japan, at the very core of a historic debate over the future of nuclear energy – one that comes down to a fundamental question: Should nuclear power, which prior to the accident last year generated thirty percent of the electricity for the world’s third-largest economy, have any future at all in Japan?

On April 13, the government of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda tipped its hand. With summer approaching, and with it peak demand for electricity, the Japanese government approved the restart of two nuclear reactors in the small fishing town Oi, in Fukui prefecture on Japan’s west coast.

The nine power companies in Japan have the legal authority to fire up the nuclear plants once they have received regulatory approval from Tokyo, in practice. But the Noda administration now must seek the assent of the local and prefectural governments affected by a restart – as it will have to do for each of the other 48 reactors across the country should it seek to bring them back online in order to avoid crippling brown outs this summer.

That assent won’t come easily. Public opposition to nuclear power now runs hot in Japan. Far from fading over the last year, opposition seems to have expanded to a solid majority of citizens nationwide, putting both Noda’s government and Japan’s big business community (which needs the electricity) in a very difficult spot. The reason for that is the debacle of Fukushima Daiichi – the six-reactor power station owned and operated by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco)  – and the many questions that still surround the terrifying events that began on March 11, 2011.

For the past year, through interviews with employees of Tepco (some officially sanctioned by the company, some without its knowledge), government officials and nuclear industry experts in Japan and abroad, we’ve attempted to answer two of the most fundamental issues at the heart of nuclear debate now roiling Japan: how could the accident at Fukushima Daiichi have happened – and how, in particular, could it have happened in Japan, a country once known, not so long ago, for its sheer management and engineering competence?

The answers are bracing. The epic disaster at Fukushima Daiichi represents failure at almost every level, from how the Japanese government regulates nuclear power, to how Tepco managed critical details of the crisis under desperate circumstances.

As horrific as the natural disasters that occurred on March 11 2011 were, the Japanese government itself has concluded that the nuclear crisis effectively began more than four decades before that, when one of the world’s largest electric generating stations was located at the ocean’s edge, in a country in which earthquakes – huge ones – are facts of life, and have been for centuries. This story recounts not only the fearful days that followed the Great Tohoku quake, but what led Tepco, and Japan, to be in such a position of vulnerability to begin with.

The Darkest Hours

In the wee hours of the morning of March 15 2011 Tepco President Masataka Shimizu sat in the back of his company car, threading his way through the deserted streets of Tokyo. It had been three days since a massive earthquake – 9.0 on the Richter scale – and a series of tsunamis had utterly devastated northeastern Japan. No natural disaster had ever been greater, but for Shimizu, whose company operated the massive Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, an epic crisis had only begun.

He had been summoned to the office of Naoto Kan, then Prime Minister of Japan. Kan was furious: As horrific as the damage from the quake and tsunami was, Japan now faced the prospect of the worst nuclear accident in human history. At Tepco’s Fukushima Daiichi power station, massive hydrogen explosions had already damaged two of the three reactors that had been operating on March 11, releasing dangerous levels of radiation into the atmosphere. (The three other reactors at the power station had offline at the time for routine maintenance.) The nuclear fuel in the three reactors that were operating appeared to be melting down.

The scene at the plant site, about 160 miles northeast of Tokyo, was nothing short of apocalyptic: small fires blazed at the damaged reactors, the smoke mixing with the steam that they were releasing. Radiation levels would eventually spike so high that the plant’s emergency off-site center five kilometers away had to be evacuated; astonishingly, the building was not designed to withstand elevated radiation levels, even though its precise purpose was to serve as a backup operations center during a nuclear emergency.

For three agonizing days, conditions at the Fukushima Daiichi site had been steadily deteriorating; and Tepco, at least in the eyes of senior government officials, had not given any sign of being able to get control of the situation.

To the contrary, former Prime Minister Kan (he resigned in August) tells Fortune that the Tepco called Tokyo’s minister of economy, trade and industry and told him Tepco wanted to withdraw from the site completely – a staggering admission of defeat that immediately conjured up images of an uncontained nuclear meltdown; a worst case scenario, in other words, of potentially lethal proportions. Shimizu also called Kan’s chief cabinet secretary, insisting: “We cannot hold onto the site!”

At roughly the same time, Goshi Hosono, who would become the Japanese government’s point man during the nuclear crisis, called Tepco’s on site plant manager, Masao Yoshida, and asked if he too thought Fukushima Daiichi needed to be abandoned. Yoshida appeared to push back against Shimizu, his boss, saying, “we can still hold on, but we need weapons, like a high-pressure water pump”.

Kan had been increasingly frustrated by the lack of what he felt was reliable information about the state of the nuclear crisis since its onset; he compared it to “playing the telephone game”. At 4 am, he ordered an aide to call Shimizu back and instruct him to come to his office.

(Shimizu, then 66, was not accustomed to being called on the carpet by government officials. He was a pillar of the conservative Japanese industrial establishment, and a Tepco lifer. He had also been a member in good standing of the global nuclear power industry; less than a year earlier he had been elected to the board of the World Association of Nuclear Operators, a trade group ostensibly devoted to ensuring the “highest possible standards of safety”.)

Kan himself wanted to hear what Shimizu was thinking, but he had already decided, after talking to his nuclear emergency team before the Tepco president arrived, that “I could not let it [an evacuation] happen. It just wasn’t an option.”

Turning a Blind Eye

There was no precedent for the magnitude of the quake and tsunami that wreaked havoc at Fukushima Daiichi. But the disaster wasn’t unimaginable. In fact, workers periodically discussed among themselves the risks of the facility’s location. “I always wondered why you would build a nuclear site this size in an earthquake zone right on the ocean”, said one worker, who requested anonymity because Tepco had not granted him permission to speak to the press. Sitting in a small karaoke bar in the nearby city of Minami-soma, the worker was at the plant on March 11 2011 and worked almost continuously through the spring, summer and autumn to try to contain the crisis.

Tepco’s senior management and Japan’s nuclear regulators wondered about the risks, too, this worker noted. When the licenses for the Fukushima Daiichi generating stations were granted in 1966 and 1972, they called for the plant to be able to withstand a wave cresting at 3.1 meters in height – a figure based on the size of a tsunami in Chile in 1960.

As recently as 2008, according to the Japanese government’s interim report into the accident released at the end of last year, Tepco reevaluated the tsunami risks at the plant. New simulations the company ran showed waves could reach as high as 15 meters – chillingly, almost the exact height of the biggest wave that smashed into the coastline on the afternoon of March 11.

Tepco didn’t believe the simulation was reliable.

As a Japanese government investigation into the nuclear accident concludes, in understated but withering prose: “Tepco still did not take concrete measures against the possibility of tsunami”, because it didn’t trust the new model that had generated that result.

The report is equally critical of the nuclear regulatory agencies in Japan. “The investigation committee is unable to find efforts of the regulatory organizations concerned” to determine whether adequate defenses against possible tsunamis were in place.

Japan would pay dearly for that. Two Tepco workers, in the process of inspecting unit number four, were killed instantly when the largest of the seven waves struck the plant site. The cooling systems for the reactors that were operating and the plant’s spent fuel pools were disabled when backup generators failed.

The ensuing chaos and confusion – at Tepco headquarters and at the plant site – would lead to a series of early missteps that would eventually cause hydrogen explosions at three of the reactor units, blasts that released damaging levels of radioactive material in the atmosphere and seawater. “I thought we were done”, recalls Masao Yoshida, the plant manager. “I thought we would lose control over the reactors completely”.

Heads in the Sand

Nuclear safety in Japan historically has been predicated on making sure plants could withstand “design basis accidents”.

Translation: an accident that the plant has been designed to deal with automatically. What happened a year ago went far beyond that. The industry calls the accident at Fukushima Daiichi a station blackout, or an SBO.

In the United States, in the 1980s and 1990s, regulatory authorities and nuclear operators began planning for the possibility of station blackouts, in which a nuclear plant loses all sources of power, just as Fukushima Daiichi did last year. They began installing what Satoshi Sato, a nuclear industry consultant in Tokyo, calls “defense in depth”, which means there are both redundant and diverse mechanisms in place intended to cope with accidents, up to and including SBOs.

Tepco and Japan’s nuclear regulators say they did have redundant power sources in place – the on site diesel generators that also eventually failed after the tsunami struck. (Despite sitting within a few hundred yards of the Pacific ocean, the generators were not designed to withstand flooding.)

But Japan never even tried to prepare for station blackouts. Even as the rest of the world moved on, says Sato, the feeling in Tokyo was, “SBOs are not conceivable; don’t even think about it”.

Critics of the industry in Japan say there is a basic reason for that. Historically, the government and the power companies spent more time and energy trying to convince the public that nuclear energy was safe than it did actually trying to make nuclear energy safe. Says Sato:

we spent ten times more money for PR campaigns than we did for real safety measures. It’s a terrible thing.

“A Tough Moment”

When Shimizu walked into Kan’s office in the early hours of March 15 of last year, the Prime Minister was surrounded by the key officials from his office and various ministries trying to cope with the ongoing crisis.

Kan told the Tepco executive that his plan to withdraw from Fukushima Daiichi was unacceptable. “There’s no way you can leave the site”. Shimizu, according to Kan, didn’t protest. “I understand”, he replied. Tepco has denied through its press spokesmen that it ever intended to pull out entirely from the plant and Shimizu has declined to talk to the press. Kan, in his interview with Fortune, was adamant in his language about what Shimizu said he wanted to do: “Tettai”, he said in Japanese. Withdraw.

Kan said he then told the Shimizu that they needed to set up a joint nuclear task force at the company’s headquarters, so lines of communication might be improved. Kan wanted to reinforce the message at Tepco, and so he drove to the headquarters shortly after Shimizu had left.

At around 5:45 that morning, he addressed some 200 Tepco employees, including Shimizu and the chairman, Tsunehisa Katsumata, and told them that he knew they faced “a tough moment”.

In the days that followed the station blackout, many of Tepco’s on site workers went to extraordinary lengths to cope with the chaotic and deteriorating situation. They scrambled to the site’s parking lots and scavenged car batteries to try to generate power to open key valves at the reactors.

When the government gave the orders to vent the primary containment vessels of the operating reactors, an important step to diminish the pressure building up inside, workers popped potassium iodide tablets and were told they had only seventeen minutes to work, lest they be exposed for too long to radiation levels that were dangerously high.

The man at the center of this, Tepco’s point man during the crisis, was Masao Yoshida, the site manager at Fukushima Daiichi. He had also been frustrated in the first days of the crisis by what he felt was bad information Kan and other key people in Tokyo were getting.

Yoshida understood better than anyone involved that getting water onto the reactors and into the spent fuel pools was the most important thing that needed to happen. But at one point, more than a day into crisis and – after a hydrogen explosion had already damaged reactor unit one – the powers that be in Tokyo got sidetracked, at least in Yoshida’s view, by a discussion about “re-criticality”.

Kan wanted to know whether the exposed core could still create a fissile reaction, complicating the effort to achieve a “cold shut-down” (which to this day remains the ultimate end game at Fukushima Daiichi.)  According to the detailed account of an independent investigative commission led by Yoichi Funabashi, one of Japan’s most respected journalists, the discussion somehow got tangled up with the question of whether to try to pump seawater into the reactors.

Yoshida, with the situation at the plant deteriorating rapidly, thought this discussion was a complete waste of time.  He was thus stunned, according to the Funabashi Commission report, when on a conference call with Shimizu and Tepco’s chief liaison with the government, Ichiro Takekuro, he was told to delay the spraying of seawater onto the exposed reactors.

This, in Yoshida’s view, was exactly the wrong thing to do at that moment.

So during the call, Yoshida motioned another employee over and whispered to him that even though he would now order a halt to the seawater injections – so the officials in Tokyo could hear him doing so on the phone – he wanted everyone at the site to understand that they should disregard that order. Seawater needed to be sprayed onto the site – or they were going to be in worse trouble than they were already.

In any chain of command situation anywhere, it was nothing less than insubordination. In a Japanese context, what Yoshida did is practically unthinkable. Hierarchy is everything in Japan. It literally dictates how low you should bow when meeting someone else. (In late November, Yoshida stepped down as site manager, having been hospitalized with an undisclosed illness.)

Yoshida’s decision in the face of crisis speaks volumes as to just how desperate the situation was then. “It was exactly the right thing to do”, says Sato, the consultant.

Into the Fire

In the first hours and days following the earthquake and tsunami, investigators have found Tepco personnel made also critical mistakes – a couple of which are still unexplained.

One involved a critical piece of equipment, known as an isolation condenser, which keeps the water level in the reactor constant even if offsite electricity is lost. On the night of March 11, Tepco operators at the plant site belatedly recognized that the system was not functioning, and then once they did, tried and failed to open up manually a valve that had been closed.

The assumption that the system was working delayed the decision to “vent”, or depressurize, the reactor unit, a mistake that, in the eyes of the government’s interim report, led to the first huge hydrogen explosion at reactor one the afternoon of March 12.

The independent Funabashi report also questions why it took seven hours from the time Prime Minister Kan approved the plan to vent to the first attempt to execute it. All the while, more hydrogen was leaking into the reactor building.

Conditions inside the plant – and confusion just outside of it – may have precluded swifter action.

Yoshida had ordered his team to make preparations to vent reactors one and two shortly after midnight, and Kan, the Prime Minister, approved the plan at around 1:30 am.

But there was no procedure to operate the vent valves without power, so Yoshida’s operators had to figure out on the fly how to do so manually – and then take potentially fatal risks to try to make it work.

At the same time, the government wanted to make sure residents who still remained in the area around of the plant were evacuated. It would be several hours before that happened, in part because the residents had no idea in which direction they were to flee.

Shortly after nine in the morning of March 12, Yoshida dispatched the two teams. Both had volunteered to go into the reactor, knowing that radiation levels were dangerously high. Each headed to different sections to open critical valves.

The first team succeeded and quickly withdrew. But as the second team entered, their “dose rates” – their exposure to radiation – immediately spiked. One of the operators was instantly exposed to 106 millisieverts of radiation, above the 100 “emergency dose limit” mandated by Tepco.

The team was pulled out immediately, having failed to open the necessary valves to reduce pressure in the reactor. It took until 2:30 that afternoon – almost 24 hours after the earthquake  – for venting of reactor one to commence.

Just over an hour later, at 3:36, the massive explosion shook the site.

Over the next three days, two more hydrogen blasts followed, one at reactor three, and one at unit four, which had been offline at the time of the tsunami.

In the desperate days just after the accident, there was no single event or decision that brought the situation back from the brink. Yoshida’s decision to ignore the order against spraying seawater was important. The eventual ability of the Japanese military, police and fire department units, using multiple water cannons and fire trucks, to get to the site and douse it with seawater prevented the crisis from becoming even worse.

If there was a making-it-up-as-they-went-along quality to the effort, it’s because they were: the defense forces didn’t even have a site map for Fukushima Daiichi when its personnel first arrived.

Still, starting from about March 17, Kan told Fortune he felt “we were creating a defense line, we were pushing back against the enemy”. Radiation levels, while still high, had stopped increasing. Days later some electricity was finally restored to the site.

But it would be a long time before Kan or anyone else felt any sense of relief. On July 19th, Tepco said it believed it had stabilized the temperature inside the reactors – an important step toward the goal of “cold shutdown”. That was the first day, Kan says, when he could effectively exhale, when he thought “the worst was over”.

The Funabashi commission report points out in withering detail that the Japanese government never gave its citizens a realistic sense of just how long it would take to get control of the disabled plant, nor what the ongoing risks were as radiation continued to be emitted from the site. Arguably, it still hasn’t.

On December 16, Kan’s successor, Yoshihiko Noda, announced that the stricken reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station had reached “a state of cold shutdown”. Japan’s worst-ever nuclear accident, the Prime Minister said, had finally been brought under control.

The moment was meant to be a calming milestone, psychological balm for a wounded country in the process of trying to heal. The only problem with it, as workers today at the nuclear power plant, will tell you, is this: it wasn’t true then, and it’s still not true today. “The coolant water is keeping the reactor temperatures at a certain level, but that’s not even near the goal [of a cold shut down]”, says an engineer working inside the plant. “The fact is, we still don’t know what’s going on inside the reactors”.


Fukushima Is Falling Apart

Are You Ready … For A Mass Extinction Event?

by Max Keiser

maxkeiseronfacebook.com (April 26 2012)

If they are MOX fuel, containing six percent plutonium, one fuel rod has the potential to kill 2.89 billion people. If this pool collapses, as Senator Wyden is now saying too, we would face a mass extinction event from the release of radiation in those rods.

That is, if we aren’t in one already. Nuke experts like Arnie Gundersen and Helen Caldicott are prepared to evacuate their families to the southern hemisphere if that happens. It is that serious.

So now you know, if you didn’t before. We are in big trouble.

More information on Reactor Four down below.

Thirteen months have passed since the Fukushima reactors exploded, and a US Senator finally got off his ass and went to Japan to see what is going on over there. What he saw was horrific. And now he is saying that we are in big trouble. See the letter he sent to US Ambassador to Japan Ichiro Fujisaki, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and NRC’s Chairman Gregory Jaczko here. But what is so ironic about this is that we have been in this heap of trouble since March of 2011. March 17th, to be exact, when the plume of radioactive materials began bombarding the west coast of California. And Oregon. And Washington. And British Columbia. And later Maine, Europe, and everywhere in between. Independent researchers, nuke experts, and scientists, from oceanography to entomology and everywhere in between, having been trying to sound the alarm ever since.

The scientists most upset are those who have studied the effects of radiation on health. I’ll say it again, so its really clear: we are in big trouble.

The most preliminary reports of soil contamination are starting to come in from the USGS [United States Geological Survey], who has seemed reluctant to share this information. Los Angeles, California, Portland, Oregon, and Boulder, Colorado, so far have the highest radioactive particle contamination out of the entire US.

That being said, every single city tested across the country showed contamination from Fukushima. What is even more alarming, however, about the numbers coming in, is that they are from samples taken April 5th, of last year.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company, or Tepco, has only recently confirmed that there were three meltdowns, and they have been ongoing, unabated, for thirteen months, and no effort has been made to contain them.

Technology has to be developed/invented to deal with the melted out corium under the reactors. Until then, they will keep doing what they have been doing.

Tepco just keeps dumping water on them, after which they let it pour into the ocean, and steam up through the ground, every second of every day. The jet stream, and a highly dynamic portion of our atmosphere called the troposphere, have been swirling around massive amounts of radioactive particles and settling them out, mostly in rain, over the entire northern hemisphere, especially the west coast of North America, from Alaska down to Baja and even further.

Iodine, cesium, strontium, plutonium, uranium, and a host of other fission products have been coming directly from Japan to the west coast for thirteen months.

Maybe you have heard about sick seals, polar bears, tainted fish, mutations in dandelions and fruits and vegetables, possibly even animals already, and seaweed. In fact the kelp from Corona del Mar contained 40,000,000 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive iodine, as reported in Scientific American several weeks ago.

If you don’t know your becquerels, its a lot. That’s what your pacific fish feed on. And that was only ONE isotope reported. There were up to 1600 different isotopes that have been floating around in our air, pouring out of the reactors, and steaming out of the ground, every second of every day, for thirteen months.

And there has been silence from our mainstream media, for which the depths of depravity are so severe I will devote an entire article just to the “why” at a future time.

But back to the research: reports in the past week indicate the pollen in southern California is radioactive now too, and it is flying around, and if you live there and go outside, you are breathing it in. And so are your children.

Along with fission products blowing over from Japan. And radiation in your drinking water. And in your rain. And in the fish you are eating. And your vegetables. And the milk supply. And its happening every second, of every day. For thirteen months. Are you starting to see a problem here?

Problem is, that’s not even the biggest problem. The biggest problem is what Senator Wyden is all bent out of shape about, even though independent researchers and nuke experts have been warning about this for a year. And that is that the Reactor #4 building is on the verge of collapsing. Seismicity standards rate the building at a zero, meaning even a small earthquake could send it into a heap of rubble. And sitting at the top of the building, in a pool that is cracked, leaking, and precarious even without an earthquake, are 1565 fuel rods (give or take a few), some of them “fresh fuel” that was ready to go into the reactor on the morning of March 11th when the earthquake and tsunami hit.

If they are MOX fuel, containing six percent plutonium, one fuel rod has the potential to kill 2.89 billion people. If this pool collapses, as Senator Wyden is now saying too, we would face a mass extinction event from the release of radiation in those rods.

That is, if we aren’t in one already. Nuke experts like Arnie Gundersen and Helen Caldicott are prepared to evacuate their families to the southern hemisphere if that happens. It is that serious.

So now you know, if you didn’t before. We are in big trouble.

Get informed. Start paying attention to this. Every single statement in this article is verifiable, and I will continue to verify and validate the seriousness of this situation at every opportunity I have.

This may be the most important thing you ever pay attention to, for the sake of your family, friends, your neighbors, every one you know and meet, all of humanity.

It’s been thirteen months, you have some catching up to do.

More on Fukushima reactor Number Four:

– Arnie Gunderson: More Cesium In Reactor Four Spent Fuel Pool Than All Nukes Ever Exploded

– Fukushima Reactor Number Four Meltdown?

– Nuclear Expert Arnie Gundersen: Reactor Number Four Spent Fuel Pool Likely to Shatter or Collapse Onto Its Side in a Magnitude 7.0 Earthquake (Audio)

– Former Japanese Ambassador to Switzerland: ‘Fate of  Japan and the Whole World Depends on Number Four Reactor’

– Dr Helen Caldicott (Co-Founder of Physicians For Social Responsibility): What We Learned From Fukushima (Video – April 2 2012): Dr Helen Caldicott: If Spent Fuel Pool Number Four collapses I am evacuating my family from Boston.

– Former UN adviser: If Number Four pool collapses I’ve been told ‘during fifty years continual, you cannot contain’ (Video) – MUST-SEE: Fukushima Totally Out Of Control – Radioactive Fallout In the US

– Reactor Four Spent Fuel Pool Is the Highest Risk Now: If The Cooling Water is Lost It’ll Be Just a Few Hours at Most Before That Waste is on Fire (RT.com – The Big Picture – Video)

– Independent And Government Experts Say Reactor Four Spent Fuel Pool Is a Grave Concern: 460 Tons Of Nuclear Fuel Could Overheat, Explode and Release Massive Amounts Of Radiation (((Finishing Off Japan)))

– Professor Dr Hiroaki Koide On Asahi TV: If Reactor Four Spent Fuel Pool Cracks and Leaks This Would Be THE END … For A Wide Area Including Tokyo (Video)

– Worst Case Scenario: Where To Go When Reactor Number Four Spent Fuel Pool Falls on the Ground?:
Dr Arnie Gundersen warns they need to go further than 450 kilometers – Whistleblower: ‘Reactor Four Is Like A Inverse Pyramid, Very Unstable And Dangerous’ – Tepco Admits It Can’t Stop Reactor Four Water Leakage – Collapse Of Ractor Four Spent Fuel Pool Could Cause A Disaster Worse Than The THREE REACTOR MELTDOWNS – Structural Integrity A Major Concern Among Experts (Associated Press)

– Fukushima Worker Suspects Explosion At Reactor Four to be the Cause 0f 8.5 Tons Water Leakage (at 301,750,000 becquerels)

– Fukushima Worker: Reactor Four Full of Nuclear Fuel – ‘If Another Earthquake Hits It, It’s Over’ … ‘Pacific Ocean Side of Japan and West Side of America Won’t Be Inhabitable Anymore’

– POSSIBLE RED ALERT: Japanese LDP Politician: Hydrogen Explosion May Have Happened at Reactor Four on January 9 2012

– Fukushima Worker: Reactor Four Spent Fuel Pool Completely Without Water, Boiled After New Years Earthquake

– Fukushima: ‘Reactor Number Four Is Looking More and More Like the Leaning Tower Of Pisa Right Now’ – If It ‘Falls Over It’s Just Gonna Dump a Whole Reactor Core Right Out onto the Ground’ (and Tokyo & Yokohama Will Be Lost!) (Video)

– Confirmed: Fukushima Reactor Number Four is Falling Apart, Wall Was Lost on the South Side (Video, Photos)

– Tepco: Fukushima Reactor Number Four ‘Air Duct’ Explosion on Fourth Floor

– Reactor Four Spent Fuel Pool Is Completely ‘EXPOSED’ – Ambulances Heard At Least Ten Times a Day at Fukushima Nuclear Plant (Video)

– Excellent Arnie Gundersen Interview: Leave Tokyo If There Is a Severe Aftershock and The Unit Four Building Collapses, Now That The Winds Have Turned: Arnie Gundersen:

… It could have cut Japan in half. But now the winds have turned, so they are heading to the south toward Tokyo and now my concern and my advice to friends that if there is a severe aftershock and the Unit Four building collapses, leave. We are well beyond where any science has ever gone at that point and nuclear fuel lying on the ground and getting hot is not a condition that anyone has ever analyzed.

Similar/Related Articles

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Fukushima Reactor 2: Radiation “Comparable to What We See in Space”

Massive New Radioactivity Possible from Fukushima, Especially If Melted Core Materials Hit Water

The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Is Far From Over

The Amount of Radioactive Fuel at Fukushima DWARFS Chernobyl

Fukushima Reactor Four: Life On Planet Earth in the Balance

Fuel rod fire at Fukushima reactor “would be like Chernobyl on steroids”

Tokyo Soil: Blanketed with Fukushima Radiation – Would Be Considered “Radioactive Waste” in US

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Alert: Fukushima Coverup, Forty Years of Spent Nuclear Rods Blown Sky High

Copyright (c) 2010 Infowars. All rights reserved.



by Albert Bates

The Great Change (April 25 2012)

We are in a crisis in the evolution of human society. Its unique  to both human and geologic history. It has never happened before and it  can’t possibly happen again. Albert Bates, author of The Post Petroleum  Survival Guide and Cookbook (2006), brings you along on his personal journey.



Without electricity filling stations cannot pump. Cars pile up, first in long lines, as they did in Russia and Cuba, then simply abandoned on the street. Four months after Fukushima, streets still held cars without gasoline. When there is no gasoline for cars, there is also no gasoline for trucks. This would include the trucks that deliver groceries from farms and processing plants to stores. In Japan, the  shelves soon emptied of perishables, then staples such as rice, grains and noodles.



History may not repeat itself, but it rhymes, said Mark Twain, and one of the verses we’ve been hearing is the sound of Japan tinkling from nuclear fallout, in the chord of Chernobyl. In February of 2012, an official Japanese inquiry revealed that evacuation of Tokyo was considered by the government even before the hydrogen explosions at Fukushima Daichi but was forestalled by ordering human cannon fodder into the blazing radioactive reactors.

Last week it was reported that a Tokyo evacuation would have required the Kuril Islands to receive refugees, news that raised ire in Russia, which captured the 56-island chain 810 miles off Japan’s northeastern shore at the end of World War Two and has no intention of returning it to Japan, even in such dire circumstances.

Japanese diplomats assuaged their Russian counterparts by revealing they were also “seriously considering” an offer by China to relocate tens of millions of their citizens to the Chinese mainland to inhabit what are called the “ghost cities”, built by the Chinese government in recent years for reasons still unknown. In a 2010 article, London’s Daily Mail revealed, “Some estimates put the number of empty homes at as many as 64 million, with up to twenty new cities being built every year in the country’s vast swathes of free land”.

The Fukushima reactor complex is not out of the frying pan, the Japanese government is still attempting to make an omelet from its broken eggs, while occasionally acknowledging it hasn’t a clue how to do that. Arnie Gunderson of Fairewinds Associates told Alex Smith on Radio Ecoshock earlier this month that the nuclear fuel pools left tottering in blown up buildings would be toppled by another earthquake, putting Tokyo at risk. And, he said, the likelihood of another large earthquake there, soon, is very high.

Gundersen said it is unlikely there would be an explosion as the Fuke #4 swimming pool collapses, but dangerous “hot” particles would still be propelled around the world, because within two days of the collapse, the Zircalloy and radioactive metals (Technicium, Strontium, Cesium and Plutonium, for instance) would burn at a very high temperature, sending particles eight miles high. The result would be an everlasting disaster for Japan that could create a permanent no-man’s strip fifty miles wide across the country, dividing it in half and, by the way, lethally contaminating Tokyo, 238 kilometers (148 miles) to the South. Gunderson said that anyone living in or near Tokyo should evacuate at the first news of another earthquake and fire at the plant.

One of the best talks at the 11th Australasian Permaculture Convergence in Turangi, New Zealand last week was by Toru Sakawa, a permaculture farmer and teacher in Northern Japan. Toru began his permaculture career twenty years ago in New Zealand, as a WWoOFer at Rainbow Valley Farm, where he received his permaculture design certificate.

When the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster befell his country on March 11 2011, Toru’s farm was being visited by an expeditionary film crew called Biodiesel Adventure, which had been driving around the world on waste vegetable oil. Leaving Tokyo in December 2007, they had driven from Vancouver to Washington DC, including a stop at Los Angeles Eco Village, then Europe, Africa, Kazakhstan, Russia, China, and back to Japan.

In the months that followed the disaster, they could continue to drive around Fukushima Prefecture when no-one else could, because they made their own fuel onboard the vehicle. Heroically, they abandoned their view tour and morphed into Biodiesel Relief, using Toru’s farm as their base camp.

In 2006 Michael Gorbachev wrote:



The nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl twenty years ago this month, even more than my launch of perestroika, was perhaps the real cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union five years later … The price of the Chernobyl catastrophe was overwhelming, not only in human terms, but also economically. Even today, the legacy of Chernobyl affects the economies of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus … The twentieth anniversary of the Chernobyl catastrophe reminds us that we should not forget the horrible lesson taught to the world in 1986. We should do everything in our power to make all nuclear facilities safe and secure. We should also start seriously working on the production of the alternative sources of energy.



Lest we forget, it was the collapse of the former Soviet Union that precipitated the “Special Period” in Cuba, wherein the Cuban export trade disintegrated, imports of subsidized commodities, especially petroleum, vanished overnight, and the population was left to a diet of one-third less daily calories and clunky Chinese bicycles to take them to and from work. Cuba became a nation of skinny farmers, growing eighty percent of the food consumed by Havana within city limits.

We might not have expected to see that rhyme repeated in Japan, but it has begun being chanted. Some things happened right after the multiple meltdown that were not in anyone’s emergency planning documents, but this is what a nuclear meltdown feels like.

Without electricity filling stations cannot pump. Cars pile up, first in long lines, as they did in Russia and Cuba, then simply abandoned on the street. Four months after Fukushima, streets still held cars without gasoline.

When there is no gasoline for cars, there is also no gasoline for trucks. This would include the trucks that deliver groceries from farms and processing plants to stores. In Japan, the shelves soon emptied of perishables, then staples such as rice, grains and noodles. What was left? Candy. Soda. Beer and liquor. If you are thinking of what to stockpile for the financial collapse, the end of the dollar and the confiscation of gold, those cases of Grand Marnier and Beluga caviar may not be as good an idea as you thought.

Toru Sakawa and Biodiesel Relief spent the past year making fuel from waste oil and moving supplies from farms to evacuation centers. What did they need most? Well, first, food. Toru shared his winter supplies of rice and grains, dried meat and eggs. Then he went to a neighbor to learn how to make tofu in a traditional wood-fired kitchen.

Next, shoes. People had run out of their homes in the night barefoot. Then, bicycles. Bicycles are still more popular today and more people ride them than before the earthquake.

Another similarity between Cuba and Japan was the sheer scale of the crisis burning up telephone wires and Blackberries in capitols – surpassing any that had happened before then. In the Cuban missile crisis the White House and Kremlin were on hair triggers, the US talking about an air strike against missile silos that Pentagon generals were blissfully unaware were already armed and launch-ready, under the command of field officers, and aimed at major cities where their families lived.

In Japan they were thinking of sending twenty to sixty million people to Russia and China. Bureaucrats were tasked to draw up contingency plans, post-haste, like, by next morning, if you please? The mind boggles.

In Cuba the crisis was fueled by a combination of the Monroe Doctrine (the US retains its Manifest Destiny to be the sole colonial empire in the Western Hemisphere), a rabid Cold War political dialectic – better dead than red – and an inchoate fear that whatever philosophy Fidel Castro had contracted fighting against Generalisimo Batista might be contagious. All patently insane.

In the latter case the crisis came from the technological insanity – borne of advertising hype; peaceful atoms, energy too cheap to meter – of untethered desire to power superspeed trains and svelt coffee pots by bubbling a brew of the deadliest poisons ever invented, at temperatures approaching the Sun’s.

In both countries the insanity was driven by herd behavior, with each herd – generals, politicians, consumers, engineers – conditioned to be stampeded easily. Fortunately for us, John F Kennedy was less easily cowed than were post-war Japanese industrialists, economists, politicians and antinuclear activists. Both Kennedy and Khrushchev understood the enormity of the risk, and the Cuban crisis was brought back from the brink by cool-headed negotiation. In Japan the juggernaut that bought us a crisis that no one has yet invented a way out of still grows larger by the day.

At least the Chinese have pre-positioned some empty cities. This is a wise preparation for any nation considering following its nuclear Sirens’ wails.


The original version of this article, at the URL below, contains several links not included here.


Weaponized Data

A New Front in Global Capital’s Control Grid

by Antifascist

Antifascist Callng (April 22 2012)

Exploring the Shadowlands of the Corporate Police State

From driftnet surveillance to data mining and link analysis, the secret state has weaponized our data, “criminal evidence, ready for use in a trial”, as Cryptohippie famously warned.

No longer the exclusive domain of intelligence agencies, a highly-profitable Surveillance-Industrial Complex emerged in the 1980s with the deployment of the NSA-GCHQ ECHELON intercept system. As investigate journalist Nicky Hager revealed in CovertAction Quarterly back in 1996:



The ECHELON system is not designed to eavesdrop on a particular individual’s e-mail or fax link. Rather, the system works by indiscriminately intercepting very large quantities of communications and using computers to identify and extract messages of interest from the mass of unwanted ones. A chain of secret interception facilities has been established around the world to tap into all the major components of the international telecommunications networks. Some monitor communications satellites, others land-based communications networks, and others radio communications. ECHELON links together all these facilities, providing the US and its allies with the ability to intercept a large proportion of the communications on the planet.



With the exponential growth of fiber optic and wireless networks, the mass of data which can be “mined” for “actionable intelligence”, covering everything from eavesdropping on official enemies to blanket surveillance of dissidents is now part of the landscape: no more visible to the average citizen than ornamental shrubbery surrounding a strip mall.

That process will become even more ubiquitous. As James Bamford pointed out in Wired magazine,



the Pentagon is attempting to expand its worldwide communications network, known as the Global Information Grid, to handle yottabytes (10 to the 24th bytes) of data. (A yottabyte is a septillion bytes – so large that no one has yet coined a term for the next higher magnitude.)



“It needs that capacity because, according to a recent report by Cisco, global Internet traffic will quadruple from 2010 to 2015”, Bamford reported, “reaching 966 exabytes per year. (A million exabytes equal a yottabyte.) … Thus, the NSA’s need for a one-million-square-foot data storehouse. Should the agency ever fill the Utah center with a yottabyte of information, it would be equal to about 500 quintillion (500,000,000,000,000,000,000) pages of text.”

A former top NSA official turned whistleblower, William Binney, who resigned in 2001 shortly after the agency stood-up the Bush regime’s warrantless wiretapping programs (now greatly expanded under Hope and Change huckster Barack Obama), “held his thumb and forefinger close together” and told Bamford, “We are that far from a turnkey totalitarian state”.

Last week, Binney said on Democracy Now when queried whether there were any differences between the Bush and Obama administrations,



Actually, I think the surveillance has increased. In fact, I would suggest that they’ve assembled on the order of twenty trillion transactions about US citizens with other US citizens.



Add to that the Transportation Security Administration’s invasion of “travel by other means”, as Jennifer Abel pointed out in The Guardian, through the agency’s usurpation of “jurisdiction over all forms of mass transit”, and it should be clear to Americans (though it isn’t) that there is no way of escaping the secret state’s callous trampling of our rights.

Commenting, Salon’s Glenn Greenwald pointed out that the



domestic NSA-led Surveillance State which Frank Church so stridently warned about has obviously come to fruition.

The way to avoid its grip is simply to acquiesce to the nation’s most powerful factions, to obediently remain within the permitted boundaries of political discourse and activism.



“Accepting that bargain”, Greenwald noted,



enables one to maintain the delusion of freedom – “he who does not move does not notice his chains”, observed Rosa Luxemburg – but the true measure of political liberty is whether one is free to make a different choice.



But in a militarized Empire such as ours the only “choice” is to shut up, keep your head down – or else.

‘Lower Your Shields and Surrender Your Ships’

Militarist solutions to intractable social contradictions, the oft-maligned class struggle, do not appear out of the blue. Indeed, NSA’s ECHELON system, the template for STELLAR WIND and the agency’s associated email and web search database known as PINWALE, were technological responses by Western elites to challenges posed by the “excess of democracy” decried by Samuel Huntington and his cohorts in The Crisis of Democracy (1975), published by the Rockefeller-funded Trilateral Commission.

Social critic Andrew Gavin Marshall observed that for Huntington and the right-wing ideologues who mounted an intellectual counterattack against the democratic “excesses” of the 1960s, the “massive wave of resistance, rebellion, protest, activism and direct action by entire sectors of the general population which had for decades, if not centuries, been largely oppressed and ignored by the institutional power structure of society”, were “terrifying”.

Fast forward to today. As the global economic crisis deepens and hundreds of millions of people worldwide reject the “austerity” boondoggles of the financial sharks who brought on the crisis through massive frauds disguised as “investment opportunities”, our corporatist masters are fighting back and have turned to police state methods to prop-up their illegitimate rule.

Nor should it surprise us, as George Ciccariello-Maher pointed out in CounterPunch in the wake of last summer’s London “riots”, a mass response to police murder (coming soon to an “urban exclusion zone” near you!):



Irrational, uncontrollable, impermeable to logic and unpredictable in its movements, these undesirables have once again ruined the party for everyone, as they have done from Paris 1789 to Caracas 1989. In Fanon’s inimitable words: “the masses, without waiting for the chairs to be placed around the negotiating table, take matters into their own hands and start burning …”



Call it the great fear of those lording it over the slaves down on the global plantation!

Combining attributes of Jeremy Bentham’s “Panopticon” and George Orwell’s ubiquitous “Big Brother”, the National Security State, as it works to stave-off its own well-deserved collapse, seeks to root out and marginalize “dangerous” individuals and ideologies thereby “inoculating” the body politic from what were euphemistically called in the halcyon days of J Edgar’s COINTELPRO operations, “subversive elements”.

It matters little whether today’s “usual suspects” are landless peasants, displaced workers, investigative journalists, civil libertarians or innocent citizens mistakenly caught in one dragnet or another: “threats” will be “neutralized” or more pointedly, in the evocative language employed by spooks: “Terminated with extreme prejudice”.

Operating alongside tried and methods – police repression and violence – contemporary crackdowns are guided by “robust situational awareness” gleaned from the wealth of personal data stored on multiple digital devices (the spies in our pockets) and in huge databases. As Cryptohippie averred:



An electronic police state is quiet, even unseen. All of its legal actions are supported by abundant evidence. It looks pristine.



“When we produced our first Electronic Police State report”, the privacy professionals wrote, “the top ten nations were of two types:

1. Those that had the will to spy on every citizen, but lacked ability.

2. Those who had the ability, but were restrained in will.

But as they revealed in their 2010 National Rankings, “This is changing: The able have become willing and their traditional restraints have failed”. The key developments driving the global panopticon forward are the following:

* The USA has negated their Constitution’s fourth amendment in the name of protection and in the name of “wars” against terror, drugs and cyber attacks.

* The UK is aggressively building the world of 1984 in the name of stopping “anti-social” activities. Their populace seems unable or unwilling to restrain the government.

* France and the EU have given themselves over to central bureaucratic control.

As Marxist critic and Situationist troublemaker Guy Debord pointed out decades ago in The Society of the Spectacle (1967), “the spectacle is not the inevitable consequence of some supposedly natural technological development. On the contrary, the society of the spectacle is a form that chooses its own technological content.”

Mark that well.

Rejecting the orthodoxies and received wisdom of his day, Debord argued that



The reigning economic system is a vicious circle of isolation. Its technologies are based on isolation, and they contribute to that same isolation. From automobiles to television, the goods that the spectacular system chooses to produce also serve it as weapons for constantly reinforcing the conditions that engender “lonely crowds”. With ever-increasing concreteness the spectacle recreates its own presuppositions.



It is again worth noting that the much-vaunted “global village” which sprung to life with the widespread deployment of the internet in the 1990s, as a profit-center for the giant telecoms and a spy machine for the secret state, was, after all, a casual by-product of the Pentagon’s quest for a wartime digital communications system.

But now that every facet of daily life has become a war theater, what are we to make of the electronic walled gardens offered for sale by Apple, Facebook and Google, replete with their multitude of proprietary apps [applications] which, like Bentham’s “Panopticon”, have become prisons of our own choosing?

Ponder Debord’s rigorous theorems in this light; substitute “cell phone” or “GPS” for “automobile”, and “internet” for “television” and it becomes clear pretty quickly that unbeknownst to the militarist inventors of the “digital highway” they had stumbled upon the perfect means for enabling a global control grid.

As Debord averred:



If the spectacle, considered in the limited sense of the “mass media” that are its most glaring superficial manifestation, seems to be invading society in the form of a mere technical apparatus, it should be understood that this apparatus is in no way neutral and that it has been developed in accordance with the spectacle’s internal dynamics.



“Internal dynamics” geared only towards its own survival and reproduction come hell or high water. Endless wars on “terror”, “drugs”, “crime”, take your pick. Prison-Industrial Complexes? Genetically-engineered plagues? Ecological collapse? Step right this way! There’s an app for that and much, much more!

Indeed, “if the social needs of the age in which such technologies are developed can be met only through their mediation, if the administration of this society and all contact between people has become totally dependent on these means of instantaneous communication, it is because this ‘communication’ is essentially unilateral”, that is, “the product of the social division of labor that is both the chief instrument of class rule and the concentrated expression of all social divisions”.

Keep in mind that Debord’s seminal text was penned in 1967, long before the wet dreams of securocrats had been brought to life like Frankenstein’s monster. Once a disquieting and uncanny shape looming on some far-off, dystopian horizon, the world of smart phones and dumbed-down people is, simply put, an Americanized Borg cube where “resistance” is always “futile”.

The question is, in our fallen Republic does anyone even notice?


Data Mining You

How the Intelligence Community is Creating a New American World

by Tom Engelhardt

TomDispatch (April 03 2012)

I was out of the country only nine days, hardly a blink in time, but time enough, as it happened, for another small, airless room to be added to the American national security labyrinth. On March 22nd, Attorney General Eric Holder and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Jr signed off on new guidelines allowing the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), a post-9/11 creation, to hold on to information about Americans in no way known to be connected to terrorism – about you and me, that is – for up to five years. (Its previous outer limit was 180 days.) This, Clapper claimed, “will enable NCTC to accomplish its mission more practically and effectively”.

Joseph K, that icon of single-lettered anonymity from Franz Kafka’s novel The Trial, would undoubtedly have felt right at home in Clapper’s Washington. George Orwell would surely have had a few pungent words to say about those anodyne words “practically and effectively”, not to speak of “mission”.

For most Americans, though, it was just life as we’ve known it since September 11 2001, since we scared ourselves to death and accepted that just about anything goes, as long as it supposedly involves protecting us from terrorists. Basic information or misinformation, possibly about you, is to be stored away for five years – or until some other attorney general and director of national intelligence think it’s even more practical and effective to keep you on file for ten years, twenty years, or until death do us part – and it hardly made a ripple.

If Americans were to hoist a flag designed for this moment, it might read “Tread on Me” and use that classic illustration of the boa constrictor swallowing an elephant from Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince (1943). That, at least, would catch something of the absurdity of what the National Security Complex has decided to swallow of our American world.

Oh, and in those nine days abroad, a new word surfaced on my horizon, one just eerie and ugly enough for our new reality: yottabyte. Thank National Security Agency (NSA) expert James Bamford for that. He wrote a piece for Wired magazine on a super-secret, $2 billion, one-million-square-foot data center the NSA is building in Bluffdale, Utah. Focused on data mining and code-breaking and five times the size of the US Capitol, it is expected to house information beyond compare,



including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails – parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter”.



The NSA, adds Bamford,


has established listening posts throughout the nation to collect and sift through billions of email messages and phone calls, whether they originate within the country or overseas. It has created a supercomputer of almost unimaginable speed to look for patterns and unscramble codes. Finally, the agency has begun building a place to store all the trillions of words and thoughts and whispers captured in its electronic net.



Which brings us to yottabyte – which is, Bamford assures us, equivalant to septillion bytes, a number “so large that no one has yet coined a term for the next higher magnitude”. The Utah center will be capable of storing a yottabyte or more of information (on your tax dollar).

Large as it is, that mega-project in Utah is just one of many sprouting like mushrooms in the sunless forest of the US intelligence world. In cost, for example, it barely tops the $1.7 billion headquarters complex in Virginia that the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, with an estimated annual black budget of at least $5 billion, built for its 16,000 employees. Opened in 2011, it’s the third-largest federal building in the Washington area. (And I’ll bet you didn’t even know that your tax dollars paid for such an agency, no less its gleaming new headquarters.) Or what about the 33 post-9/11 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work that were under construction or had already been built when Washington Post reporters Dana Priest and William Arkin wrote their “Top Secret America” series back in 2010?

In these last years, while so many Americans were foreclosed upon or had their homes go “underwater” and the construction industry went to hell, the intelligence housing bubble just continued to grow. And there’s no sign that any of this seems abidingly strange to most Americans.

A system that creates its own reality

To leave the country, of course, I had to briefly surrender my shoes, hat, belt, computer – you know the routine – and even then, stripped to the basics, I had to pass through a scanner of a sort that not so long ago caused protest and upset but now is evidently as American as apple pie. Then I spent those nine days touring some of Spain’s architectural wonders, including the Alhambra in Granada, the Mezquita or Great Mosque of Cordoba, and that city’s ancient synagogue (the only one to survive the expulsion of the Jews in 1492), as well as Antonio Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, his vast Barcelona basilica, without once – in a country with its own grim history of terror attacks – being wanded or patted down or questioned or even passing through a metal detector. Afterwards, I took a flight back to a country whose national security architecture had again expanded subtly in the name of “my” safety.

Now, I don’t want to overdo it. In truth, those new guidelines were no big deal. The information on – as far as anyone knows – innocent Americans that the NCTC wanted to keep for those extra 4 1/2 years was already being held ad infinitum by one or another of our seventeen major intelligence agencies and organizations. So the latest announcement seems to represent little more than bureaucratic housecleaning, just a bit of extra scaffolding added to the Great Mosque or basilica of the new American intelligence labyrinth. It certainly was nothing to write home about, no less trap a fictional character in.

Admittedly, since 9/11 the US Intelligence Community, as it likes to call itself, has expanded to staggering proportions. With those seventeen outfits having a combined annual intelligence budget of more than $80 billion (a figure which doesn’t even include all intelligence expenditures), you could think of that community as having carried out a statistical coup d’etat. In fact, at a moment when America’s enemies – a few thousand scattered jihadis, the odd minority insurgency, and a couple of rickety regional powers (Iran, North Korea, and perhaps Venezuela) – couldn’t be less imposing, its growth has been little short of an institutional miracle. By now, it has a momentum all its own. You might even say that it creates its own reality.

Of classic American checks and balances, we, the taxpayers, now write the checks and they, the officials of the National Security Complex, are free to be as unbalanced as they want in their actions. Whatever you do, though, don’t mistake Clapper, Holder, and similar figures for the Gaudis of the new intelligence world. Don’t think of them as the architects of the structure they are building. What they preside over is visibly a competitive bureaucratic mess of overlapping principalities whose “mission” might be summed up in one word: more.

In a sense – though they would undoubtedly never think of themselves this way – I suspect they are bureaucratic versions of Kafka’s Joseph K, trapped in a labyrinthine structure they are continually, blindly, adding to. And because their “mission” has no end point, their edifice has neither windows nor exits, and for all anyone knows is being erected on a foundation of quicksand.

Keep calling it “intelligence” if you want, but the monstrosity they are building is neither intelligent nor architecturally elegant. It is nonetheless a system elaborating itself with undeniable energy. Whatever the changing cast of characters, the structure only grows. It no longer seems to matter whether the figure who officially sits atop it is a former part-owner of a baseball team and former governor, a former constitutional law professor, or – looking to possible futures – a former corporate raider.

A basilica of chaos

Evidently, it’s our fate – increasing numbers of us anyway – to be transformed into intelligence data (just as we are being eternally transformed into commercial data), our identities sliced, diced, and passed around the labyrinth, our bytes stored up to be “mined” at their convenience.

You might wonder: What is this basilica of chaos that calls itself the US Intelligence Community? Bamford describes whistleblower William Binney, a former senior NSA crypto-mathematician “largely responsible for automating the agency’s worldwide eavesdropping network”, as holding “his thumb and forefinger close together” and saying, “We are that far from a turnkey totalitarian state”.

It’s an understandable description for someone who has emerged from the labyrinth, but I doubt it’s on target. Ours is unlikely to ever be a Soviet-style system, even if it exhibits a striking urge toward totality; towards, that is, engulfing everything, including every trace you’ve left anywhere in the world. It’s probably not a Soviet-style state in the making, even if traditional legal boundaries and prohibitions against spying upon and surveilling Americans are of remarkably little interest to it.

Its urge is to data mine and decode the planet in an eternal search for enemies who are imagined to lurk everywhere, ready to strike at any moment. Anyone might be a terrorist or, wittingly or not, in touch with one, even perfectly innocent-seeming Americans whose data must be held until the moment when the true pattern of eneminess comes into view and everything is revealed.

In the new world of the National Security Complex, no one can be trusted – except the officials working within it, who in their eternal bureaucratic vigilance clearly consider themselves above any law. The system that they are constructing (or that, perhaps, is constructing them) has no more to do with democracy or an American republic or the Constitution than it does with a Soviet-style state. Think of it as a phenomenon for which we have no name. Like the yottabyte, it’s something new under the sun, still awaiting its own strange and ugly moniker.

For now, it remains as anonymous as Joseph K and so, conveniently enough, continues to expand right before our eyes, strangely unseen.

If you don’t believe me, leave the country for nine days and just see if, in that brief span of time, something else isn’t drawn within its orbit. After all, it’s inexorable, this rough beast slouching through Washington to be born.

Welcome, in the meantime, to our nameless new world. One thing is guaranteed: it has a byte.


Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s (2010) as well as The End of Victory Culture (2007), runs the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com. His latest book is The United States of Fear (2011).


Why I’m Sticking With Dropbox (Over Google Drive)

by Coby Chapple

blog.cobychapple.com (April 26 2012)

There has been a massive build-up to the release of Google Drive, and while this new offering from the search giant was always going to be a big one, I firmly believe that there’s a really convincing argument why Dropbox is a better choice for storing your stuff online: privacy, and retaining rights over your content. I’m no lawyer, but you don’t have to be to understand why the implications of Google’s privacy policy are probably something you want to avoid.

Side note: If you clicked through to this then you’re probably the kind of person who would enjoy following me on Twitter {1}. Drop me a line with your feedback while you’re there too!

What you’re giving Google when using Drive

Take a look at Google’s Terms of Service {2}.


Notice the highlighted portion that reads:

When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.

Do you really want to sign over a worldwide license to use, modify, create derivative works, and publicly display or distribute for every document you upload to Google? My guess is your answer is no.

Edit: I’ve received some criticism for selective highlighting here, and I’d like to make it clear that the following also occurs in Google’s terms:

You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours.

and also:

The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones.

Despite this, I still feel Google’s policy asks for more license than just what is necessary to provide me with the service.

Dropbox FTW {3}

Now let’s see what Dropbox’s terms say {4}.


Their stance essentially appears to be the complete opposite of Google’s. Notice the highlighted portion in the above image which reads:

You retain full ownership to your stuff. We don’t claim any ownership to any of it. These Terms do not grant us any rights to your stuff or intellectual property except for the limited rights that are needed to run the Services, as explained below.

Bravo, Dropbox! Well done for choosing a stance that supports my rights and privacy. That’s the kind of attitude more businesses should take.

Make up your mind yourself, but for me I know I’ll be sticking with Dropbox unless something radical changes.

Enjoy this post? You should totally follow me on Twitter!


{1} http://twitter.com/cobychapple

{2} https://www.google.com/intl/en/policies/terms/

{3} http://netforbeginners.about.com/od/f/f/What-Is-FTW-for-the-Win.htm

{4} https://www.dropbox.com/terms


Coby Chapple is a designer, developer, entrepreneur, and (apparently) a blogger.


Senator Church’s Prophetic Warning

by Washingtons Blog (April 22 2012)

Senator Frank Church – who chaired the famous “Church Committee” into the unlawful FBI Cointel program, and who chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – said in 1975:

Th[e National Security Agency’s]  capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide.  [If a dictator ever took over, the NSA] could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back.

Now, the NSA is building a $2 billion dollar facility in Utah which will use the world’s most powerful supercomputer to monitor virtually all phone calls, emails, internet usage, purchases and rentals, break all encryption, and then store everyone’s data permanently.

The former head of the program for the NSA recently held his thumb and forefinger close together, and said:

We are, like, that far from a turnkey totalitarian state

So Senator Church’s warning was prophetic.

Spying Began Before 9/11

While you might assume that the NSA’s spying on Americans is a response to 9/11, the government’s illegal spying on Americans actually began before 9/11.

Bloomberg reported in 2006:

The US National Security Agency asked AT&T Inc to help it set up a domestic call monitoring site seven months before the September 11 2001 attacks, lawyers claimed June 23 in court papers filed in New York federal court.

“The Bush Administration asserted this became necessary after 9/11”, plaintiff’s lawyer Carl Mayer said in a telephone interview. “This undermines that assertion”.

“The US Department of Justice has stated that AT&T may neither confirm nor deny AT&T’s participation in the alleged NSA program because doing so would cause ‘exceptionally grave harm to national security’ and would violate both civil and criminal statutes”, AT&T spokesman Dave Pacholczyk said in an e-mail.

US Department of Justice spokesman Charles Miller and NSA spokesman Don Weber declined to comment.

And see these:



In other words, the NSA’s trashing of the constitutional rights of American citizens had nothing to do with 9/11.

NSA Heard the 9/11 Hijackers’ Plans from Their Own Mouths … But Didn’t Stop Them

Indeed, the NSA was listening in on the 9/11 hijackers’ phone calls before 9/11, but didn’t do a whole lot to stop them:

* The National Security Agency and the FBI were each independently listening in on the phone calls between the supposed mastermind of the attacks and the lead hijacker. Indeed, the FBI built its own antenna in Madagascar specifically to listen in on the  mastermind’s phone calls

* According to various sources, on the day before 9/11, the mastermind told the lead hijacker “tomorrow is zero hour” and gave final approval for the attacks. The NSA intercepted the message that day and the FBI was likely also monitoring the mastermind’s phone calls

* Shortly before 9/11, the NSA also intercepted multiple phone calls to the United States from Bin Laden’s chief of operations

* According to the Sunday Herald, two days before 9/11, Bin Laden called his stepmother and told her “In two days, you’re going to hear big news and you’re not going to hear from me for a while”. US officials later told CNN that “in recent years they’ve been able to monitor some of Bin Laden’s telephone communications with his [step]mother. Bin Laden at the time was using a satellite telephone, and the signals were intercepted and sometimes recorded.” Indeed, before 9/11, to impress important visitors, NSA analysts would occasionally play audio tapes of bin Laden talking to his stepmother.

* And according to CBS News, at 9:53 am on 9/11, just fifteen minutes after the hijacked plane had hit the Pentagon, “the National Security Agency, which monitors communications worldwide, intercepted a phone call from one of Osama bin Laden’s operatives in Afghanistan to a phone number in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia”, and secretary of Defense Rumsfeld learned about the intercepted phone call in real-time (if the NSA monitored and transcribed phone calls in real-time on 9/11, that implies that it probably did so in the months leading up to 9/11 as well)

As we reported in 2008, the NSA even monitored the hijackers within the United States:

We’ve previously pointed out that the US government heard the 9/11 plans from the hijackers’ own mouth. Most of what we wrote about involved the NSA and other intelligence services tapping top Al Qaeda operatives’ phone calls outside the US

However, as leading NSA expert James Bamford – the Washington  Investigative Producer for ABC’s World News Tonight with Peter Jennings for almost a decade, winner of a number of journalism awards for coverage national security issues, whose articles have appeared in dozens of publications, including cover stories for the New York Times Magazine, Washington Post Magazine, and the Los Angeles Times Magazine, and the only author to write any books (he wrote three) on the NSA – reports, the NSA was also tapping the hijackers’ phone calls inside the US.

Specifically, hijackers Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi lived in San Diego, California, for two years before 9/11. Numerous phone calls between al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi in San Diego and a high-level Al Qaeda operations base in Yemen were made in those two years.

The NSA had been tapping and eavesdropping on all calls made from that Yemen phone for years. So NSA recorded all of these phone calls.

Indeed, the CIA knew as far back as 1999 that al-Mihdhar was coming to the US. Specifically, in 1999, CIA operatives tailing al-Mihdha in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, obtained a copy of his passport. It contained visas for both Malaysia and the US, so they knew it was likely he would go from Kuala Lumpur to America.

ABC News reported in 2002:




Shortly before September 11, NSA intercepts detected multiple phone calls from Abu Zubaida, bin Laden’s chief of  operations, to the United States. The intercepts were never passed on.




And Raw Story wrote in 2008:

Author James Bamford looked into the performance of the NSA … and found that it had been closely monitoring the 9/11 hijackers as they moved freely around the United States and communicated with Osama bin Laden’s operations center in Yemen. The NSA had even tapped bin Laden’s satellite phone, starting in 1996.

“The NSA never alerted any other agency that the terrorists were in the United States and moving across the country towards Washington”,  Bamford told PBS.

PBS also found that “the 9/11 Commission never looked closely into NSA’s role in the broad intelligence breakdown behind the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks. If they had, they would have understood the full extent to which the agency had major pieces of the puzzle but never put them together or disclosed their entire body of knowledge to the CIA and the FBI.”

In a review of Bamford’s book, former senator and 9/11 Commission member Bob Kerrey wrote, “As the 9/11 Commission later established, US intelligence officials knew that al-Qaeda had held a  planning meeting in Malaysia, found out the names of two recruits who had been present – Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi – and suspected that one and maybe both of them had flown to Los Angeles. Bamford reveals that the NSA had been eavesdropping for months on their calls to Yemen, yet the agency ‘never made the effort’ to trace where the calls originated. ‘At any time, had the FBI been notified, they could have found Hazmi in a matter of seconds’.”

Former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer told PBS, “None of this information that we’re speaking about this evening’s in the 9/11 Commission report. They simply ignored all of it.”

Spying Unrelated to Keeping Us Safe

As we’ve previously documented, the spying isn’t being done to keep us safe … but to crush dissent … and to help the too big to fail businesses compete against smaller businesses (and here).

Indeed, the NSA monitoring efforts will not focus on spying on potential terrorists – or even criminal activity – but in recording every phone call, email, internet search or other communication in the country.

Not Just the NSA: Other Agencies and Shady Foreign Groups Spying on Americans As Well

It’s not just the NSA.

As Nat Hentoff writes:

Thirty years after Church’s principled stand, the Washington Post reported that the NSA had already been  enlisting other intelligence agencies to assist its surveillance of “people inside the country suspected of having terrorist connections” (“Bush Authorized Domestic Spying”, Dan Eggen, December 16 2005).

On what basis? That’s classified.

And Bamford reports that shady companies with ties to Israel are wiretapping Americans for the NSA:




One of the [National Security] agency’s biggest secrets is just how careless it is with that ocean of very private and very personal communications, much of it to and from Americans. Increasingly, obscure and questionable contractors – not government employees – install the taps, run the agency’s eavesdropping infrastructure, and do the listening and analysis.

And with some of the key companies building the US’s surveillance infrastructure for the digital age employing unstable employees, crooked executives, and having troubling ties to foreign intelligence services, it’s not clear that Americans should trust the secretive agency ….

Secretive contractors with questionable histories and little oversight were also used to do the actual bugging of the entire US telecommunications network.

According to a former Verizon employee briefed on the program, Verint, owned by Comverse Technology, taps the communication lines at Verizon, which I first reported in my book The Shadow Factory in 2008. Verint did not return a call seeking comment, while Verizon said it does not comment on such matters.

At AT&T the wiretapping rooms are powered by software and hardware from Narus, now owned by Boeing, a discovery made by AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein in 2004. Narus did not return a call seeking comment.

What is especially troubling is that both companies have had extensive ties to Israel, as well as links to that country’s intelligence service, a country with a long and aggressive history of spying on the US.

In fact, according to Binney, the advanced analytical and data mining software the NSA had developed for both its worldwide and international eavesdropping operations was secretly passed to Israel by a mid-level employee, apparently with close connections to the country. The employee, a technical director in the Operations Directorate, “who was a very strong supporter of Israel”, said Binney, “gave, unbeknownst to us, he gave the software that we had, doing these fast rates, to the Israelis”.

Because of his position, it was something Binney should have been alerted to, but wasn’t.

“In addition to being the technical director”, he said, “I was the chair of the TAP, it’s the Technical Advisory Panel, the foreign relations council. We’re supposed to know what all these foreign countries, technically what they’re doing … They didn’t do this that way, it was under the table.” After discovering the secret transfer of the technology, Binney argued that the agency simply pass it to them officially, and in that way get something in return, such as access to communications terminals. “So we gave it to them for switches”, he said.

“For access”.

But Binney now suspects that Israeli intelligence in turn passed the technology on to Israeli companies who operate in countries around the world, including the US. In return, the companies could act as extensions of Israeli intelligence and pass critical military, economic and diplomatic information back to them. “And then five years later, four or five years later, you see a Narus device”, he said. “I think there’s a connection there, we don’t know for sure”.

Narus was formed in Israel in November 1997 by six Israelis with much of its money coming from Walden Israel, an Israeli venture capital company. Its founder and former chairman, Ori Cohen, once told Israel’s Fortune Magazine that his partners have done technology work for Israeli intelligence. And among the five founders was Stanislav Khirman, a husky, bearded Russian who had previously worked for Elta Systems, Inc. A division of Israel Aerospace Industries, Ltd, Elta specializes in developing advanced eavesdropping systems for Israeli defense and intelligence organizations. At Narus, Khirman became the chief technology officer.

A few years ago, Narus boasted that it is “known for its ability to capture and collect data from the largest networks around the world”.

The company says its equipment is capable of “providing unparalleled monitoring and intercept capabilities to service providers and government organizations around the world” and that “Anything that comes through [an Internet protocol network], we can  record. We can reconstruct all of their e-mails, along with attachments, see what Web pages they clicked on, we can reconstruct their [Voice over Internet Protocol] calls.”

Like Narus, Verint was founded in Israel by Israelis, including Jacob “Kobi” Alexander, a former Israeli intelligence officer. Some 800 employees work for Verint, including 350 who are based in Israel, primarily working in research and development and operations, according to the Jerusalem Post. Among its products is STAR-GATE, which according to the company’s sales literature, lets “service providers … access communications on virtually any type of network, retain  communication data for as long as required, and query and deliver content and data …” and was  “[d]esigned to manage vast numbers of targets, concurrent sessions, call data records, and communications”.

In a rare and candid admission to Forbes, Retired Brigadier General Hanan Gefen, a former commander of the highly secret Unit 8200, Israel’s NSA, noted his former organization’s influence on Comverse, which owns Verint, as well as other Israeli companies that dominate the US eavesdropping and surveillance market. “Take NICE, Comverse and Check Point for example, three of the largest high-tech companies, which were all directly influenced by 8200 technology”, said Gefen. “Check Point was founded by Unit alumni.  Comverse’s main product, the Logger, is based on the Unit’s technology.”

According to a former chief of Unit 8200, both the veterans of the group and much of the high-tech intelligence equipment they developed are now employed in high-tech firms around the world. “Cautious estimates indicate that in the past few years”, he told a reporter for the Israeli newspaper Ha’artez  in 2000, “Unit 8200 veterans have set up some yhirty to forty high-tech companies, including five to ten that were floated on Wall Street”. Referred to only as “Brigadier General B”, he added, “This correlation between serving in the intelligence Unit 8200 and starting successful high-tech companies is not coincidental: Many of the technologies in use around the world and developed in Israel were originally military technologies and were developed and improved by Unit veterans”.

Equally troubling is the issue of corruption. Kobi Alexander, the founder and former chairman of Verint, is now a fugitive, wanted by the FBI on nearly three dozen charges of fraud, theft, lying, bribery, money laundering and other crimes. And two of his top associates at Comverse, Chief Financial Officer David Kreinberg and former General Counsel William F Sorin, were also indicted in the scheme and later pleaded guilty, with both serving time in prison and paying millions of dollars in fines and penalties.