RSSCategory: Privacy

Lavabit shuts down rather than comply with U.S. government coercion

August 17, 2013 | By | Reply More

From Democracy Now:

Lavabit, an encrypted email service believed to have been used by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, has abruptly shut down. The move came amidst a legal fight that appeared to involve U.S. government attempts to win access to customer information. In a Democracy Now! broadcast exclusive, we are joined by Lavabit owner Ladar Levison and his lawyer, Jesse Binnall. “Unfortunately, I can’t talk about it. I would like to, believe me,” Levison says. “I think if the American public knew what our government was doing, they wouldn’t be allowed to do it anymore.” In a message to his customers last week, Levison said: “I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people, or walk away from nearly 10 years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit.” Levison said he was barred from discussing the events over the past six weeks that led to his decision. Soon after, another secure email provider called Silent Circle also announced it was shutting down.


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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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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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The most transparent administration strikes again

July 25, 2013 | By | 4 Replies More
The most transparent administration strikes again

In regards to the Amash amendment which would have de-funded the portion of the NSA earmarked to spying on American citizens (which was narrowly voted down last night), the office of the President’s Press Secretary :

In light of the recent unauthorized disclosures, the President has said that he welcomes a debate about how best to simultaneously safeguard both our national security and the privacy of our citizens…we oppose the current effort in the House to hastily dismantle one of our Intelligence Community’s counterterrorism tools. This blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open, or deliberative process.

My irony alarm was so overloaded by this statement that I had to turn it off because all the neighbors were complaining.

To show just how much the President values an informed, open, process, he sent the head of the NSA to brief members of Congress:

NSA head Gen. Keith Alexander scheduled a last-minute, members-only briefing in response to the amendment, according to an invitation distributed to members of Congress this morning ...The invitation warned members that they could not share what they learned with their constituents or others. “The briefing will be held at the Top Secret/SCI level and will be strictly Members-Only,” reads the invite.

Ha! How’s that for open and informed?

[More . . . ]


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Teach the children of America about America’s secret courts

July 19, 2013 | By | Reply More

I wonder if American children in civics classes are taught about the secret courts of America?

Glenn Greenwald on Democracy Now.

That might be the most amazing thing about all of this, is that we have a secret court that meets in complete secrecy, with only the government present, and this court is issuing rulings that define what our constitutional rights are. How can you have a democracy in which your rights are determined in total secrecy by a secret court issuing 80-page rulings about what rights you have as a citizen? It is Orwellian and absurd. And I think one of the reforms that will come and is coming from our reporting is that a lot more light is going to be shined on the shenanigans that have been taking place within that court.

And after we teach them about our secret courts, we are just getting warmed up. Civics classes should also include lessons that our phone companies are happy accomplices to spying on their customers:

We’ve known for a long time that the telecoms—AT&T, Sprint, Verizon—are completely in bed with the United States government. Remember, the scandal of the NSA in the Bush years was that—not just that the Bush administration was eavesdropping on the calls of Americans without the warrants required by law, but also that the telecoms were vigorously cooperating in that program and turning over full and unfettered access to the telephone calls and records of millions of their customers even though there was no legal basis for doing so. And, in fact, the telecoms were on the verge of losing in court and being sued successfully by millions of their customers that they had violated their civil rights and also that they had violated their privacy rights and broken the law, criminally and civilly. And it was only because the Congress stepped in, with the leadership of both political parties, and retroactively immunized the telecoms. But the telecom industry makes massive profits on their extreme cooperation with these—with the NSA to allow all kinds of unfettered access to the communications of their customers. And so, the telecoms are the last people that want transparency brought to their cooperation with the NSA, because that would really shock people to learn just how untrustworthy those companies are when it comes to protecting the privacy of their customers’ communications.

What else is our government up to?

That Snowden has created some sort of “dead man’s switch” – whereby documents get released in the event that he is killed by the US government – was previously reported weeks ago, and Snowden himself has strongly implied much the same thing. That doesn’t mean he thinks the US government is attempting to kill him – he doesn’t – just that he’s taken precautions against all eventualities, including that one (just incidentally, the notion that a government that has spent the last decade invading, bombing, torturing, rendering, kidnapping, imprisoning without charges, droning, partnering with the worst dictators and murderers, and targeting its own citizens for assassination would be above such conduct is charmingly quaint).

Teach the children the truth. If you dare.


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Former GOP Senator Gordon Humphrey speak up for Edward Snowden

July 17, 2013 | By | Reply More

Glenn Greenwald verified then published this letter from former GOP Senator Gordon Humphrey to Edward Snowden. Snowden then responded.

I continue to be impressed by the care Snowden has gone in presenting information, literally and between the lines.


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Edward Snowden’s Insurance Policy

July 13, 2013 | By | Reply More

Glenn Greenwald reports on information Edward Snowden has held back so far:

The original La Nacion interview which Reuters claimed to summarize is now online; the rough English translation is here. Here’s the context for my quote about what documents he possesses:

“Q: Beyond the revelations about the spying system performance in general, what extra information has Snowden?

“A: Snowden has enough information to cause more damage to the US government in a minute alone than anyone else has ever had in the history of the United States. But that’s not his goal. [His] objective is to expose software that people around the world use without knowing what they are exposing themselves without consciously agreeing to surrender their rights to privacy. [He] has a huge number of documents that would be very harmful to the US government if they were made public.”

Fascinating. Why should Snowden need such a policy? Would the U.S. really try to murder him? Greenwald responds:

[T]he notion that a government that has spent the last decade invading, bombing, torturing, rendering, kidnapping, imprisoning without charges, droning, partnering with the worst dictators and murderers, and targeting its own citizens for assassination would be above such conduct is charmingly quaint.

Though Greenwald doesn’t mention the recent death of Michael Hastings, I am increasingly willing to add that suspicious death to the disreputable things the U.S. government has done over the past decade. The U.S. will stop at nothing, because they have little to fear from most members of the lapdog press, and because the citizens are so wrapped up in staying financially solvent, indulging in consumerism, and obsessing about movies, TV shows and sports that reality has become gauze-like and unmotivating.


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Microsoft handing customer data to NSA

July 11, 2013 | By | Reply More

The Guardian reports:

Microsoft has collaborated closely with US intelligence services to allow users’ communications to be intercepted, including helping the National Security Agency to circumvent the company’s own encryption, according to top-secret documents obtained by the Guardian.

The files provided by Edward Snowden illustrate the scale of co-operation between Silicon Valley and the intelligence agencies over the last three years. They also shed new light on the workings of the top-secret Prism program, which was disclosed by the Guardian and the Washington Post last month.


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Thomas Drake, formerly of the NSA, offers this test . . .

July 10, 2013 | By | Reply More

In this interview, Thomas Drake offers this test, and his background should be of special interest.

Thomas Drake is a former National Security Agency senior executive. He blew the whistle on multibillion-dollar fraud and a vast Fourth Amendment-violating secret electronic surveillance and data mining program that he says fundamentally weakened national security and eroded civil liberties. He was charged under the Espionage Act by the Obama administration and faced 35 years in prison. The criminal case against him ultimately collapsed and charges were dropped.

Here’s Drake’s test.

If I say take your entire life, all your passwords and all your accounts and all your credit cards and every email address, and put it into a box, drive to the other side of town, knock on the door of a perfect stranger, but a fellow citizen, and say, here, I’m giving you this box for safekeeping, would you do it? Everybody to date has said, of course not. And then I ask, why not? Well, because I don’t trust them. So then I say, well, if you don’t trust your fellow citizen, then why would you trust the government in secret, without your consent–without your consent, I want to reemphasize–with learning everything there is to know about you? Well, and then they kind of look at you funny and say, oh, I never thought about it quite that way.

That’s what we’re facing. And as we saw during the Nixon administration, the ability of the government to abuse and misuse that kind of information is just–without controls, without checks, without the ability to provide legitimate and fundamental oversight, well, then we have a scenario where the government’s out of control in its ability to know everything there is to know about all of its people.


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