RSSCategory: Communication

Exclusive interview of Edward Snowden by German Television

February 7, 2014 | By | Reply More

Fascinating interview of Edward Snowden by German Television Channel NDR.

As reported by Jay Syrmopoulos, this interview of Edward Snowden was largely ignored by the U.S. corporate media.

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Real NSA Reform

January 18, 2014 | By | 1 Reply More

President Obama kicked off a meek and week NSA reform effort. The EFF has described what real reform would involve. [Reposted with creative commons permission by the EFF):

1. Stop mass surveillance of digital communications and communication records.

It doesn’t matter what legal authority is being cited—whether it’s the Patriot Act, the FISA Amendments Act, or an executive order—the government should not be sweeping up massive amounts of information by and about innocent people first, then sorting out whether any of its targets are included later. The NSA has disingenuously argued that simply acquiring this data isn’t actually “collecting” and that no privacy violation can take place unless the information it stores is actually seen by a human or comes up through an automated searches of what it has collected. That’s nonsense. The government’s current practices of global dragnet surveillance constitute general warrants that violate the First and Fourth Amendments, and fly in the face of accepted international human rights laws. Obama needs to direct the NSA to engage only in targeted surveillance and stop its programs of mass surveillance, something he can do with a simple executive order.

2. Protect the privacy rights of foreigners.

The NSA’s surveillance is based upon the presumption that foreigners are fair game, whether their information is collected inside the US or outside the US. But non-suspect foreigners shouldn’t have their communications surveilled any more than non-suspect Americans. The review group recommended limited protections for non-US persons and while that is a good start, the president should do more to ensure that actual suspicion is required before either targeted or untargeted surveillance of non-US persons.

3. Don’t turn communications companies into the new Big Brother: no data retention mandate.

Obama’s review group recommended ending the NSA’s telephone records program, which we strongly agree with, but then indicated that a reasonable substitute would be to force American communications companies to store the data themselves and make it available to the government. The group ultimately recommended a data retention mandate if companies won’t comply voluntarily. But companies shouldn’t be pressed into becoming the NSA’s agents by keeping more data than they need or keeping it longer than they need to. To the contrary, companies should be working on ways to store less user data for less time—decreasing the risks from data breaches and intrusions like the one that just happened to Target. Data retention heads in the wrong direction for our security regardless of whether the government or private parties store the information.

4. National Security Letters need prior judicial review and should never be accompanied by a perpetual gag order.

One recommendation of the review group we heartily endorse is reining in National Security Letters. The FBI uses these letters to demand user data from communications service providers with no judicial review. Providers are forbidden from talking about receiving NSLs, which means the letters also serve as perpetual gag orders. EFF was successful in convincing a federal judge to strike down these NSLs last year. The case is on appeal but Obama can remedy the situation more quickly by instructing the FBI not to issue NSLs without prior judicial review, and to limit its use of gag orders.

5. Stop undermining Internet security, weakening encryption, and infiltrating companies.

Recent revelations show that the NSA is undermining Internet encryption, making us all less secure when we use technology. These practices include weakening standards, attacking technology companies, and preventing security holes from being fixed. As the president’s review group recognized, this has serious consequences for any industry that relies on digital security—finance, medicine, transportation, and countless others, along with anyone in the world who relies on safe, private communication. Obama should follow the recommendations of his review group and immediately stop the NSA’s efforts to undermine or weaken the security of our technologies.

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A running list of what the NSA can do

January 17, 2014 | By | Reply More

The articles have been coming at a steady clip, and it’s difficult to keep track of all of the revelations. But this article by Jodi Avergan lists the access that the NSA has to our private lives, many of these with links.

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Excellent stop-smoking ad

January 5, 2014 | By | Reply More

I found this video of a stop-smoking ad on Facebook and wanted to share it here too:

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Duck (And Cover…)

January 4, 2014 | By | Reply More
Duck (And Cover…)

By now those who don’t know about Phil Robertson and the debacle at A & E are most likely among those who have no access to any kind of media.  They have no idea what the world is doing, because they have no way of knowing what to pay attention to.  [More … ]

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Glenn Greenwald: To be a modern journalist means that one understands and uses cryptography tools

December 29, 2013 | By | Reply More

To be a modern journalist means that one understands and cryptography tools. This is the modern price to pay in order to do any investigative journalism, and Greenwald made it clear that training up on these tools is a significant investment of time and energy. This is one of the themes of this talk by Glenn Greenwald, who indicates that all serious journalists now embrace tools such as TOR browser, PGP and OTR.

[Note the minute markings are from an audio recording that is no longer available – I’ve substituted a video of Greenwald’s talk that more recently became available].

He also indicates:

The NSA, the President and Congress will only pretend to reform the NSA. (6 min mark). There will not be “meaningful reform.”

It is “possible” that some courts might asserts some meaningful oversight. Other countries will put pressure on the U.S., and some large

Crytography tools such as TOR browser, PGP and OTR will be more often employed, and the battle for privacy will be fought on a technological battlefield. That’s why Keith Alexander dresses up in a “cool” way trying to recruit young hackers at hacker conferences. (8 min)

The power to further the power of the government to spy lies with programmers who develop internet/computer tools. (11 min).

Gives great credit to Laura Poitras (13 min) and Edward Snowden (14 min) for allowing him to do his job. He speaks of Snowden in terms of courage, bravery and inspiration. But all of them have been inspired by others, notably Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley Manning). Also inspiring much of this work was Daniel Ellsberg (16 min). The organization that “pioneered the template” was Wikileaks, including Sarah Harrison, who rescued Edward Snowden from Hong Kong. (17 min). Barrett Brown and Aaron Swartz.

It is a long growing list of whistle blowers and transparency activists who are being disproportionately intimidated and punished, and this demonstrates how sick the system is. (Min 20). When these people have seen government abuses, it emboldens them to step forward to do what was right, and this is a sign of “serious activism.”

The U.S. government is completely committed to one outcome: putting Edward Snowden in a small cage, incommunicado. (23 min). The U.S. cannot allow Snowden to live any sort of decent life, because that might inspire others who might also be tempted to act against government abuses.

There are people who are willing to stand by and allow people of good conscience get crushed by corrupt governments. This includes many politicians who express indignation for spying on their own country, but fail to take steps to protect whistle-blowers who have exposed this wrong-doing. (min 26). The U.S. will make many of these countries (Germany and Brazil, for example), pay a price, but they should pay that price. Edward Snowden certainly paid that price.

Greenwald knew that the some of his biggest adversaries would be the so-called news media, who constitute the most loyal and devoted servants of governments who are abusing the privacy of their citizens. (min 28). He decided that he would need to be “very disruptive” of the status quo regarding the media. These leaks did not occur with the assistance of the media, but despite the media. (min 29). Greenwald recounts a BBC interview from last month where he commented that government officials routinely lie. The interviewer interrupted Greenwald and was incredulous that U.S. and British officials were routinely making false statements. (30 min). This is common behavior for “media stars,” who consider it immoral to seriously question government officials. This, despite clear proof that James Clapper lied to Congress. Keith Alexander clearly lied that the NSA couldn’t give numbers involving the number of those affected by the NSA program, “Boundless Informant.” Many reports have now shown that the NSA is commonly spying on private corporations. (32 min). This is “serial lying,” yet the media acts scandalized when you suggest that they have an adversarial role. (34). There are “very brave” journalists out there who heaped criticism upon those whistle-blowers who the U.S. government has scandalized and marginalized. (35 min). They argue that these whistle-blowers have “broke the law and should now pay the penalty.” But when the NSA lies to Congress, as James Clapper has done, you hear only silence. (35 min).

The media has decided that its job is to serve the government. That is why Greenwald is part of a new journalistic enterprise, which takes on a clear adversarial role.

There is one over-arching point to all of the recent revelations: The goal of the NSA and its five-eyes partners is to eliminate privacy globally, to ensure that there cannot be any human communications that evade their surveillance net. They want to be sure that all forms of communication by telephone or internet are “collected, monitored, stored and analyzed by that agency, and by their allies. This is a ubiquitous surveillance state. You don’t need hyperbole to make that point.” All of this has been proven with the documents released by Edward Snowden. “The NSA and the GCHQ are being driven crazy by the idea that you can go on an airplane and use certain cell phone devices and internet services and be away from their prying eyes for a few hours at a time.” (min 39). They aren’t targeting particular people; rather they are targeting everyone, at all times.

This goal collides with the need to express dissent without fear. (40 min). “A surveillance state by its necessity, by its very existence, breathes conformity. because whenever people know that they are always susceptible to being watched, even though they are not always being watched, the choices that they make are far more constrained, far more limited than when they could act in the private realm. The “elimination of privacy” is at the top of the list for the NSA.

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Is there anyone out there still defending the NSA?

December 29, 2013 | By | Reply More

Is there anyone out there still defending the NSA and criticizing Edward Snowden? The NSA is thoroughly corrupt.  Why the fuck do they think that law abiding citizens put locks on our doors and carefully employ passwords when we use our devices on the internet? This is arrogant and illegal activity–just because their big budget has allowed them to invade our privacy ubiquitously doesn’t make it legal. Hundreds or thousands of NSA operatives should be escorted out in handcuffs, starting with those at the top. Consider today’s report by Der Spiegel–it is a detailed article filled with red flags:

Sometimes it appears that the [NSA’s] spies are just as reliant on conventional methods of reconnaissance as their predecessors.

Take, for example, when they intercept shipping deliveries. If a target person, agency or company orders a new computer or related accessories, for example, TAO can divert the shipping delivery to its own secret workshops. The NSA calls this method interdiction. At these so-called “load stations,” agents carefully open the package in order to load malware onto the electronics, or even install hardware components that can provide backdoor access for the intelligence agencies. All subsequent steps can then be conducted from the comfort of a remote computer.

These minor disruptions in the parcel shipping business rank among the “most productive operations” conducted by the NSA hackers, one top secret document relates in enthusiastic terms. This method, the presentation continues, allows TAO to obtain access to networks “around the world.”

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The Polar Express: A Skeptical Review

December 23, 2013 | By | Reply More

PolarExpressI’d idly heard of the movie “The Polar Express” since it came out in 2004. This year, in a fit of holiday spirit, I queued it up on Netflix and played it through my Roku. I don’t know exactly what I expected from what was clearly a children’s Christmas movie, but it had moderately good reviews from a variety of sources.

Let me say up front that the animation was impressive; they managed to clear the edge of the Uncanny Valley on the almost believably human side. I enjoyed the attention to detail in the vintage buildings and the train itself. The many voices of Tom Hanks were also enjoyable, with clear jibes at famous phrases from some of his other movie appearances.

But the story was quite disturbing. It begins with a boy who is clearly climbing out of the pit of magical thinking and beginning to apply reason to observation, vis-a-vis Santa. But then he has a dream in which he is wooed by a stranger to get into a big dark vehicle to go somewhere unknown; a good message for any child? In this train, he meets a Disney cross section of humanity: Many white kids, a pale black girl, an ostracized poor kid, and a stereotypical Bronx Jewish know-it-all. Let’s ignore what this clearly Semitic character is doing on a train bound for Santa’s workshop.

The unnamed central character of the story is given several opportunities to show that he has superior morality, which I appreciate given his clearly agnostic bent. The other kids of deeper faith are mostly lacking empathy.

Anyway, after many improbable and long sequences of cartoon adrenaline action, they pass the Arctic Circle (accurately described as 66° North Latitude or about 2/3 of the way from the equator to the pole) and can see the North Pole itself (a few train lengths or 2,000 miles, depending on what you believe).

Once there, the agnostic protagonist, the poor kid, the dark girl, and the greedy Bronx kid get lost and only can find their way by following blind faith. In the end, our hero learns that he must ignore his intelligence and embrace total faith in the magical Mr. C. in order to function properly in society. The symbol of true faith in this story is being able to hear the sleigh bells. He could feel and see them all the time. But without faith, he was deaf to their mob-inspiring siren call. Yeah, the frenzy of the adoring mob when the bells rang was truly scary. Does anyone else notice the architectural similarities between the town square and the Vatican?

Anyway, when the lad of reinvigorated faith wakes from his epiphany, he notices that his parents, people of regularly declared faith, cannot actually hear the bells. They are just playing along, presumably for the safety of blending in. Our hero, in his adult voice-over condescension, claims to still hear the bells despite his near brush with rationality at the start of the story.

Anyway, the message of the film is clear: To be happy you must believe. To survive, at least pretend.

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Physicians’ gag order regarding fracking to be re-evaluated

December 22, 2013 | By | Reply More

Amazing that such a law could be passed in the first place. From Alternet.

Challenges by Pennsylvania citizens and townships on provisions in the law that prohibit doctors from telling patients about health impacts related to fracking chemicals were sent back to Commonwealth Court for reevaluation. The “physician gag order” (or “ frack gag“) was recently challenged by a doctor who claimed it infringed on his First Amendment rights and his duties as a doctor, but his challenge was thrown out by a Pennsylvania court in October. The Supreme Court’s decision to send the Commonwealth Court’s decision back down for re-evaluation spells trouble for the gag order. Doctors have expressed concern over this rule in Pennsylvania and what it means for their patients — a report from Pennsylvania documented a range of health problems affecting residents living near natural gas operations, including skin rashes, headaches and chronic pain.

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