RSSCategory: Communication

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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WMD redux

December 9, 2013 | By | Reply More
WMD redux

From Semore Hersch in the London Review of Books:

Barack Obama did not tell the whole story this autumn when he tried to make the case that Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack near Damascus on 21 August. In some instances, he omitted important intelligence, and in others he presented assumptions as facts. Most significant, he failed to acknowledge something known to the US intelligence community: that the Syrian army is not the only party in the country’s civil war with access to sarin, the nerve agent that a UN study concluded – without assessing responsibility – had been used in the rocket attack. In the months before the attack, the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports, culminating in a formal Operations Order – a planning document that precedes a ground invasion – citing evidence that the al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with al-Qaida, had mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity. When the attack occurred al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad.

THIS is why we need a vigorous free press, which means active investigative journalism and protection for whistle blowers.

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How Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald broke the NSA story

November 29, 2013 | By | Reply More

This is an interview with Laura Poitras regarding her early contacts with Edward Snowden. Excellent background and a peak into Poitras’ thought process.

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What we know, thanks to Private Chelsea (Bradley) Manning

November 29, 2013 | By | Reply More

At The Nation, Greg Mitchell has compiled a long list of things that we know, thanks to the efforts of Bradley Manning, nka Chelsea Manning. It’s a long and important list for which Manning sacrificed many years of liberty and suffered torture at the hands of the United States government. As someone who hates being lied to, I am thankful for the efforts of Manning. Here is a small excerpt from the list:

• Yemeni president lied to his own people, claiming his military carried out air strikes on militants actually done by the US. All part of giving US full rein in country against terrorists.

• Details on Vatican hiding big sex abuse cases in Ireland.

• US tried to get Spain to curb its probes of Gitmo torture and rendition.

• Egyptian torturers trained by FBI—although allegedly to teach the human rights issues.

• State Dept. memo: US-backed 2009 coup in Honduras was “illegal and unconstitutional.”

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Hillary Clinton: China was bad when it spied on its own citizens.

November 28, 2013 | By | Reply More

Now that we know that the NSA planted spyware on 50,000 networks, and now that we know numerous other revelations thanks to the courage of Edward Snowden, It’s time for Hillary Clinton to follow the logic of her criticism of China four years ago. The following excerpt is from the U.K. Guardian:

Less than four years ago Hillary Clinton, chastising China, declared that “countries or individuals that engage in cyber attacks should face consequences and international condemnation. In an interconnected world, an attack on one nation’s networks can be an attack on all.” Given what we now know to be the “Five Eyes” complete stranglehold on the world’s internet infrastructure, how can we possibly reconcile repeated American appeals to internet freedom and condemnation of Chinese internet monitoring with US-sponsored network hacking?

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Investigative journalism is being killed off

November 27, 2013 | By | Reply More

The remarks by Paul Steiger, ProPublica Founder upon receiving an award from the Committee to Protect Journalists:

What has changed is the position of us, American journalists. We are still far better off than our beleaguered cousins in danger zones abroad, of course. But financially, I don’t need to tell this group of the hammering our industry has taken in the last decade. Publications shrinking or even closing, journalists bought out or laid off, beats shrunk or eliminated.

And now, more recently, we are facing new barriers to our ability to do our jobs – denial of access and silencing of sources.

For the starkest comparison, I urge any of you who haven’t already done so to read last month’s report, commissioned by CPJ and written by Len Downie, former editor of the Washington Post. It lays out in chilling detail how an administration that took office promising to be the most transparent in history instead has carried out the most intrusive surveillance of reporters ever attempted.

It also has made the most concerted effort at least since the plumbers and the enemies lists of the Nixon Administration to intimidate officials in Washington from ever talking to a reporter.

Consider this: As we now know from the Snowden documents, investigators seeking to trace the source of a leak can go back and discover anyone in government who has talked by phone or email with the reporter who broke the story. Match that against the list of all who had access to the leaked info and voila!

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