RSSCategory: Orwellian

Thank you, NSA

September 10, 2013 | By | Reply More

David Meyer “thanks” the NSA for making us all insecure. His analysis is spot on, and it should outrage everyone who has tried to password protect anything on the Internet:

What is so jaw-droppingly idiotic about your actions is that you have not only subverted key elements of modern cryptography, but you have also appointed yourself as the guardian of the knowledge that the resulting vulnerabilities exist. And if your own security systems were up to the task, then those secrets wouldn’t be sitting in the offices of the New York Times and ProPublica.

One must possess a Panglossian view on things to assume that Edward Snowden was the first person out of the many thousands in his position to make away with such material. He brought it to the public, and without that move there’s a good chance you wouldn’t have even known he took it. So who else has it? Bet you have no idea. So well done; you’ve probably put your own citizens at risk.


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Surveillance state run amok: Another reason most decent people won’t run for public office

August 25, 2013 | By | 1 Reply More

What if you were a reasonably smart and good-hearted person who was willing to run for national political office? You most likely wouldn’t because of numerous financial, social and institutional hurdles, some of which I’ve described here. If you were undeterred by those hurdles, you would be somewhat likely to be a psychopath, and you shouldn’t be allowed to serve in a position of public trust.

But let’s say you were one of those rare people who was ready to persevere through all of these hurdles. Well, there would be one more hurdle for you, one that was described by Glenn Greenwald back in November 2012, well before the Edward Snowden Story broke. The situation was the affair of General Petraeus, particularly the vast invasion and public outing of his emails to and from Paula Broadwell. All of this occurred, courtesy of the security state in a situation where no crime had been alleged.

This is a disturbing example of how, at a push of a button, one’s emails are easily accessible, and that the surveillance state doesn’t give a crap about personal privacy. More recent revelations related to Edward Snowden’s disclosures indicate that the surveillance state grabs virtually all of our emails and stores them for later analysis, meaning that they are available to dissuade one from running for office whenever the surveillance state decides to promulgate the most private aspects of your life. Here’s is an excerpt from Greenwald’s description of this real life problem, illustrated by the affair of General Petraeus:

So all based on a handful of rather unremarkable emails sent to a woman fortunate enough to have a friend at the FBI, the FBI traced all of Broadwell’s physical locations, learned of all the accounts she uses, ended up reading all of her emails, investigated the identity of her anonymous lover (who turned out to be Petraeus), and then possibly read his emails as well. They dug around in all of this without any evidence of any real crime – at most, they had a case of “cyber-harassment” more benign than what regularly appears in my email inbox and that of countless of other people – and, in large part, without the need for any warrant from a court.

But that isn’t all the FBI learned. It was revealed this morning that they also discovered “alleged inappropriate communication” to Kelley from Gen. Allen, who is not only the top commander in Afghanistan but was also just nominated by President Obama to be the Commander of US European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe (a nomination now “on hold”). Here, according to Reuters, is what the snooping FBI agents obtained about that [emphasis added]:

“The U.S. official said the FBI uncovered between 20,000 and 30,000 pages of communications – mostly emails spanning from 2010 to 2012 – between Allen and Jill Kelley . . . .

“Asked whether there was concern about the disclosure of classified information, the official said, on condition of anonymity: ‘We are concerned about inappropriate communications. We are not going to speculate as to what is contained in these documents.'”

So not only did the FBI – again, all without any real evidence of a crime – trace the locations and identity of Broadwell and Petreaus, and read through Broadwell’s emails (and possibly Petraeus’), but they also got their hands on and read through 20,000-30,000 pages of emails between Gen. Allen and Kelley.

This is a surveillance state run amok. It also highlights how any remnants of internet anonymity have been all but obliterated by the union between the state and technology companies.

Therefore, no matter who you are, even if you are a decent and intelligent person, the system has all but guaranteed that you won’t run for prominent public office. After all, if you have lived a real life, a meaningful life, you likely have at least a few skeletons in your closet. If you doubt this, go ahead and run for high political office and we’ll see what falls out.


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Recurring haunting thought

August 16, 2013 | By | 5 Replies More

Recurring haunting thought: A formal democracy is not at all inconsistent with a country trending toward dictatorship. Given our bizarre national priorities (I’m referring to the various planet-destroying and hyper-xenophobic policies where the aims of the two major parties INTERSECT), one could meaningfully advocate today for a revolution by which the control of the United States government should be handed to the People. I can imagine people scoffing at this idea: “Isn’t that what we already HAVE?” Sure. On the books, that’s what we have.

How much things have changed in the U.S. that so many high-placed prominent government officials publicly construe common folks who want to be well-informed about government misconduct to be dangerous enemies. How far we’ve come, that a former President declares that “America has no functioning democracy at this moment.” How far we’ve come that it’s so difficult to get so many people to wrest themselves from their TV and sports obsessions in order that they can regain focus enough to see the danger of our policies divesting regular folks of any meaningful political power. If this seems like hyperbole, check out “Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex is Destroying America” by John Nichols and Robert McChesney.


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The continuing shame of Guantanamo

August 15, 2013 | By | Reply More

This is not my country. What we are doing to most of the prisoners at Guantanamo is disgusting and shameful. This article by John Grisham makes U.S. misconduct vivid:

[T]he US was throwing money at anyone who could deliver an out-of-town Arab found in the region. Nabil was sold to the US for a bounty of $5,000 and taken to an underground prison in Kabul. There he experienced torture for the first time. To house the prisoners of its war on terror, the US military put up a makeshift prison at Bagram air base in Afghanistan. Bagram would quickly become notorious, and make Guantánamo look like a church camp. When Nabil arrived there in January 2002, as one of the first prisoners, there were no walls, only razor-wire cages. In the bitter cold, Nabil was forced to sleep on concrete floors without cover. Food and water were scarce. To and from his frequent interrogations, Nabil was beaten by US soldiers and dragged up and down concrete stairs. Other prisoners died. After a month in Bagram, Nabil was transferred to a prison at Kandahar, where the abuse continued.

Throughout his incarceration in Afghanistan, Nabil strenuously denied any connection to al-Qaida, the Taliban or anyone or any organisation remotely linked to the 9/11 attacks. And the Americans had no proof of his involvement, save for bogus claims implicating him from other prisoners extracted in a Kabul torture chamber. Several US interrogators told him his was a case of mistaken identity. Nonetheless, the US had adopted strict rules for Arabs in custody – all were to be sent to Guantánamo. On 15 February 2002, Nabil was flown to Cuba; shackled, bound and hooded.


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Foxes guarding the NSA henhouse

August 12, 2013 | By | Reply More

Stunning news by The Atlantic:

Last Friday, President Obama promised a review of current government surveillance practice by an independent group of outside experts. Turns out that the review group will be established by the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, who’s come under fire from Congress for erroneously telling legislators that the U.S. doesn’t “collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of million of Americans.”


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Obama tries to steal some of Edward Snowden’s limelight

August 9, 2013 | By | 2 Replies More

From Wonkblog:

Binyamin Appelbaum, an economics reporter for the New York Times, summed it up sharply on Twitter: “Obama is really mad at Edward Snowden for forcing us patriots to have this critically important conversation.”


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I have nothing to hide . . .

August 9, 2013 | By | 2 Replies More

You hear this so often: I have nothing to hide (so it’s OK for the NSA to read my email). Really?

What if they spy on you without any probable cause, find out that you possess drugs, then they turn this information over to the DEA, which pretends it didn’t get this information from the NSA, then recreates the path necessary to put you in prison? Far fetched?

A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.

Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin – not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges.

The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to “recreate” the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant’s Constitutional right to a fair trial. If defendants don’t know how an investigation began, they cannot know to ask to review potential sources of exculpatory evidence – information that could reveal entrapment, mistakes or biased witnesses.

What else could happen to those of you who have never committed a crime? How about identity theft? How about some NSA contractor stealing your passwords to your financial institutions? This is an agency with no accountability, with hundreds of thousands of employees with the technical ability to read all of your most private information. How about screwing up your computer as they search through it with the viruses they manufacture? Far Fetched?

Why should we be concerned? Check out this video.


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U.S. forces encrypted email server to shut down – gags owner

August 8, 2013 | By | 1 Reply More

George Orwell must truly be tired of spinning in his grave by now.

From Raw Story, the U.S. government has apparently forced the man running a secure email server to shut down. It is thought that this server, Lavabit, was the service Edward Snowden was using will holed up in the Moscow airport. This story also reports that the owner of Lavabit, Ladar Levison, has been barred, apparently by the U.S. from discussing this coercive action by the U.S.:

An encrypted email service believed to have been used by US leaker Edward Snowden shut down on Thursday apparently as a result of pressure from US authorities. Lavabit owner Ladar Levison posted a message at the website telling users that the he was pulling the plug on the secure email service launched in Texas nearly a decade ago. “I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit,” Levison said.

Addendum August 9, 2013:

How can this be happening, that in our beloved United States of America, “our” government can try to force a company to trample on treasured constitutional rights in a secret appeals court proceeding? This is pure insanity. Here’s where we’re headed: None of us will be allowed to communicate in any way with each other unless our BIG Nanny government is able to monitor the conversation. That’s what they are after, and they are going to get it, because most of us rely on the government’s war-cheering stenographer journalists for most of their information. Thus, organized resistance will be virtually impossible, even if 90% of the people favor massive change. This rampant spying has already killed off investigative journalism aimed at government corruption and abuses (who’s willing to call or email a reporter any more?). The situation has already become stunningly Orwellian. Along with the thorough corruption of our government with money, this government spying is turning the U.S. into a Third World fascist state, and I don’t use that term loosely. Jimmy Carter has it right: ‘America no longer has a functioning democracy.”

Here’s the latest disturbing news, from Glenn Greenwald:

What is particularly creepy about the Lavabit self-shutdown is that the company is gagged by law even from discussing the legal challenges it has mounted and the court proceeding it has engaged. In other words, the American owner of the company believes his Constitutional rights and those of his customers are being violated by the US Government, but he is not allowed to talk about it. Just as is true for people who receive National Security Letters under the Patriot Act, Lavabit has been told that they would face serious criminal sanctions if they publicly discuss what is being done to their company. Thus we get hostage-message-sounding missives like this:

I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. I feel you deserve to know what’s going on – the first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this. Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise. As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests.


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NSA appears to be planting spyware

August 6, 2013 | By | 1 Reply More

Fascinating article at Slate makes the argument that the NSA is planting spyware in order to ship private information to one of its contractors. I wasn’t sold in the first few sentences, but then the article kept disclosing more and more evidence.

Intriguingly, the malware that had apparently been placed on some of the Freedom Hosting websites Sunday may have turned up evidence showing how the feds are attempting to infiltrate Tor networks in order to track down suspects. According to an analysis by security researcher Vlad Tsrklevic, the malware in question collects identifying information about the person visiting the page and sends it back to an IP address near Reston, Va. Because the malware does not infiltrate the computer like criminal malware and instead merely collects identifying information, according to Tsrklevich, “it’s very likely that this is being operated by a law enforcement agency.”


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