Thursday, July 03, 2014

"Just Gotta Be Me..."

The people who spy on the NSA have set heads twirling this July 4th with the news that the NSA is now "'targeting" anyone who is interested in maintaining their privacy.

Revealed: 'Collect It All' NSA Targets Those Seeking Web Privacy
"Merely visiting privacy-related websites is enough for a user's IP address to be logged into an NSA database,' says new report."
The counter-spies decoded the NSA's 'filter' apps that lets them identify people to be targeted, and they found that the rules are pretty general.

NSA targets the privacy-conscious
"The NSA tracks all connections to a server that hosts part of an anonymous email service at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It also records details about visits to a popular internet journal for Linux operating system users called "the Linux Journal - the Original Magazine of the Linux Community", and calls it an "extremist forum".
NSA even targets those too poor for computers. In some impoverished places, old desktops are stripped of their hard drives and set up for visitors to boot using a USB flash drive. For $5, this gives a person his own computer. 

"Another tool specifically named in the NSA’s code is Tails, a Linux-based operating system specially designed for privacy and security which filters all of its Internet traffic through Tor and can be run from a CD-ROM or USB stick."
Is the NSA going to track every privacy-loving poor person on the earth? If your government is less than democratic, would you not use Tails?


The findings also contradict NSA longstanding claims that its surveillance targets only those suspected of engaging in activity that threatens national security.

“They say ‘We’re not doing indiscriminate searches,’ but this is indiscriminate,” Opsahl notes. “It’s saying that anyone who is looking for those various [services] are suspicious persons.”
While the NSA states that they do not target U.S. citizens in the USA,
"In this example, under the NSA’s procedures, a U.S. citizen sending an email about Putin’s frequent, shirtless poses to another U.S. citizen could have their communications intercepted and analyzed by NSA under a variety of conditions:"
... which include the condition that when the NSA can't tell whether you are connecting to the internet from inside the US or not because your privacy program won't let them, then you are targetable.

 Cover your gonads, and the NSA will think that you're hiding something. Your very wish for privacy justifies their interest.

You don't even have to be actually interested in retaining your privacy. Just in the idea of retaining it - that's enough to make you a potential terrorist, in the NSA's view.

Boing-boing has a very good article about it, titled

   "If you read Boing Boing, the NSA considers you a target for deep surveillance"


How can a person avoid being targeted? To avoid being targeted you need to never visit a long list of sites. The NSA has the list. You don't. The list is always changing.

If you want to find out about not being targeted, you will need to visit sites that describe being targeted. Doing this will cause the NSA to target you. So to avoid being targeted, you need to be sure never to visit any of the sites that they won't tell you about and that you dare not try to find out about.

Good luck.

Eventually, anyone intelligent will be on their target list. Early arrivals get extra points.


So what does being targeted mean?

"Targeting" means that they think you are a potential terrorist. They will retain your records permanently.

Of course, the NSA is getting leakier and leakier. It doesn't take any special program to learn about the holes in their cheese:
"I do not believe that this came from the Snowden documents. I also don't believe the TAO catalog came from the Snowden documents. I think there's a second leaker out there."
Swiss.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Genius

"Greenhouse is a browser plugin created by Nicholas Rubin, a 16-year-old programmer. It seeks out the names of elected US officials on any web-page you load in your browser and adds a pop-up link to their names listing the major donors to their campaigns."    Full story...

This discovery thanks to boingboing.net, a wonderful site wanting to be bookmarked.

The Triple-Pot Latte

There's nothing quite like the vigor and vim that comes from a large cup of strong coffee loaded with sugar. The caffeine lights the fire, and the sugar feeds the flames. What previously was urgent is suddenly imperative, what was impossible is delightfully doable.

How, one wonders, might this be improved?

The other day I ordered a latte at a local espresso stand before going on into a theater to see "The Metropolitan Opera Live in HD". They had no interesting syrups to sweeten it with. No peppermint, no hazelnut, no chocolate or vanilla. Only agave syrup. I tried it. No flavor to speak of. Its flavor was subtle, as they say.

The next other day, I was browsing online the cannabis edibles I could enjoy if I were simply to move to Colorado and what did I see?  Agave syrup.

What was inconceivable became delightfully doable.  A medium latte contains two shots of espresso. Add three shots of cannabis agave, and what do you get?  How will you know?

It's time now for this blog's yearly April 20th look at how the holy weed of the ancient San Franciscans has been doing lately, a review delayed slightly this year for ahem personal  reasons.

For those in a hurry, Huffington Post hits the highlights with their yearly review.

 11/09/2012 - Counties in Washington State drop marijuana possession cases in response to vote.

 4/05/2013 - Seattle police return marijuana taken from street dealers

 4/20/2013 - Prohibition now costs the government $20 billion a year.
Imagine the improvements if that much money were spent on education.

 May 17th - The Organization of American States said that countries should consider decriminalizing drug use.

 May 24th - Marijuana cannabinoids slow brain degradation and aging, reverse dementia

 May 25th - 47 percent of Americans say pot should be legal to grow.

 Jul 21st - A new federally funded study proves that marijuana is safe and effective as a medicine.
Not what they planned to prove, but what can they do?
"The goal of the study was to disprove the many other studies that show cannabis to be safe and effective in treating symptoms, side-effects and diseases. Guess what? The CMCR came to the same conclusion as those other studies: marijuana is medically useful and effective. Oops. That’s rather inconvenient, isn’t it?"
Aug 7th - CNN's Sanjay Gupta says Americans terribly and systematically misled about marijuana. He stated that the DEA has no scientific basis for the claim that marijuana has no medical value.

Aug 12th - A Dr. Sanjay Gupta Special: WEED shows how kids sick with epilepsy are helped by cannabidiol.

Aug 12th - AG  Eric Holder presents new Justice Department drug sentencing reforms.

Aug 18th - A report from Hempfest in Seattle:
"I haven't been to it in a few years, but I had to go do THIS one... the first one where marijuana is legal!"

Aug 19th - 82% of Americans believe that the US is losing the war on drugs.

Aug 20th - White House won't say if federal position on medical marijuana will be swayed by the Sanjay Gupta video.

 Aug 21st - State officials say DOJ has given 'tacit approval' for legal marijuana

 Aug 26th - The Senate Judiciary Committee invites AG Holder to discuss clash between fed and state marijuana laws.

 Aug 29th - DOJ will let the Washington and Colorado marijuana laws go into effect.

 Aug 30 - Is the war on drugs coming to an end?
"The Justice Department's announcement that it would not block Colorado and Washington from implementing state laws legalizing marijuana marked a sea change."

 Aug 30 - Police groups furious about AG Eric Holder's mrijuana policy 

 Sep 05 - Republican John McCain says "Maybe we should legalize. We're certainly moving that way as far as marijuana is concerned. I respect the will of the people."

 Sep 12 - Even Neo-con Grover Norquist and the tea party favor equal government tax treatment for legal marijuana businesses.
"Norquist, founder of Americans for Tax Reform, the group that pressed congressional Republicans to sign a strict anti-tax pledge, stood alongside Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), a tea party favorite, at a Thursday press conference to advocate for the change."
At issue is a section of the federal tax code that prohibits businesses considered drug traffickers from taking basic tax deductions for business expenses.
 Sep 20th - NBC News reports that cannabidiol (CBD) turns off the cancer gene involved in metastasis findings.


 Sep 26 - Colorado marijuana industry gets $1 million from an investor group

 Oct 17 - California is poised to legalize recreational marijuana in 2016.

 Oct 31 - One in four Americans would buy pot if it were legal. This is not a trivial market.

 Nov 05 - Portland, Maine, legalizes recreational marijuana. Adults may possess up to 2.5 ounces legally.

 Nov 09 - The NAACP supports marijuana rights:  "the NAACP's Board of Directors passed a resolution last month in support of H.R. 1523 -- the Respect States Marijuana Laws Act."


 Nov 21 - Feds and the local police raid pot shops as they prep for January openings.
"Just weeks before shops are to start selling marijuana for recreational use in Colorado, federal and local law enforcement raided stores across the Metro area Thursday morning."

 Dec 29, 2013 - Colorado prepares for legal recreational sales.

 Jan 1st, 2014  - The nation's first legal recreational pot market opened in Colorado today.

 January 3rd - Bill to legalize pot introduced in Vermont.

 Jan  6th - Ad agencies prepare for the legal marijuana market. "Their goal is to make it not only acceptable, but hip..."   Uh...

 Jan 15th - The New Hampshire House just became the first state body to ok recreational use.

 Jan 19th - President Obama says that marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol.

 Jan 27th - Bush holdover DEA chief slams Obama for saying marijuana less dangerous than alcohol.

 Feb 28th - Alaskans will be able to vote for recreational marijuana on their summer ballot

 March 9th - In California, the Democratic party platform backs legalization.

 March 10th - Colorado collects $2 million in recreational pot taxes in January alone.

 March 14th - Stephen Colbert  "The market has spoken and the market is toking."

 March 24th - A state lawmaker plans to introduce a bill to legalize recreational use in New Jersey

 April 1st - DC mayor signed a bill decriminalizing up to an ounce of marijuana.

 April 4th - Attorney General Eric Holder said that he would be glad to work with Congress to reschedule marijuana.  It isn't addictive, toxic, or lacking in medicinal uses, and it looks kind of funny up there at the top of the dangerous drug list.

 April 7th - Michelle Leonhart, Bush-holdover DEA chief, thinks marijuana legalization will kill puppies. After all, you only have to look at the dogs that have already died from the illegal usage.

 April 14th - Maryland has decriminalised marijuana. Under 10 grams is a civil offense, now.

 April 15th - Tourists flock to Colorado, where crime is down and marijuana is up.


 April 16th - Can smoking marijuana "change your brain?"   Bad science says "yes!"



 April 16th - The ZaZZZ cannabis-edibles vending machine from American Green will be installed in the Herbal Elements dispensary in Vail, Colorado. Very soon.


 April 24th - John Paul Stevens, retired Supreme Court Justice, thinks marijuana should be legalized.

 May 5th - The chief of the DEA, a Bush hold-over, refuses to support drug sentencing reforms, although her boss the Attorney General is all for them.

 May 5th - The federal government just ordered a thousand pounds of marijuana. They need to do research, so the DEA upped their yearly allotment from 21 kg to 650 kg.

 May 6th - Nobel Prize - winning economists say we should end the war on drugs.

 May 6th - An army base was broken into and covered in pot seeds. "A group of anti-war Italians opposed to a US Army base in their midst broke into said Army base last week, where they planted about 200,000 marijuana seeds, reports Stars and Stripes."

 May 8th - Oklahoma initiatives for the November ballot would make marijuana a legal, exportable cash crop.

  May 14th - Kentucky sues the DEA to free its impounded hemp seeds. They were intended for agricultural research.  The win could be big if the judge bases it on the following:
"The public interest is not served by allowing unaccountable federal agencies to exercise arbitrary and capricious powers, not rationally related to carrying out any legitimate governmental purpose."  says the Kentucky Department of Agriculture lawsuit.
 May 21st - Colorado will spend $10 million researching marijuana's medical benefits

June 3rd -  Denver Post's Marijuana Reviews are Smokin'  -  "I found my legs tethered to the ground with my head meandering in the sky.”

June 3rd - Obama signs farm bill which legalizes hemp growing.

 June 4th - NYT columnist Maureen Dowd over-ate pot candy in a lonely Colorado hotel room and lived to write about it.

June 4th - California weed industry worth $31 billion a year. "... more than the combined value of California’s ten largest agricultural commodities."

June 8th -  Denver crime falls over 10 percent in wake of pot legalization

June 8th - Mexican President open to legalization.

 June 11th - New report blasts DEA for spending 40 years obstructing marijuana science.

June 13th - Jamaica to decriminalize personal marijuana possession - less than 2 ounces in a public space is legal. In a private space...?

 June 19th - The Senate could follow the House in blocking DEA enforcement against medical marijuana use. A bill has been proposed. The House passed their version of it with surprising alacrity.

 June 19th - The Philadelphia City Council voted to decriminalize marijuana.  Up to an ounce, oh my... ...  . . . (I use www. realtor.com for all my re-location daydreams...)

 June 20th -  And finally, the pope, after cancelling his appointments for the next month, has declared recreational drugs bad. Doesn't lead to the desired results, he says. Patience, o holy one. Sometimes it takes a party or two to realize the jubilee that is going on inside you.

 Says this ancient former San Franciscan candlemaker.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Tomorrow Today

Change is ever faster and faster.

News about our government's secret surveillance of American citizens sits near the top of the headlines. While the government hopes to learn everyone's most secret secret, so does the public hope to learn the government's secrets. The government's secrets are both much more vulnerable and much more interesting, as its crimes are much more blatant and more profound than the petty crimes of the average American.

Whistle-blower Chelsea Manning, who long ago released to the public a cockpit video of an American helicopter gunner shooting down newsmen who were filming the scene of a military action, and who followed that by passing on a veritable shipping pallet of incriminating documents to universal publicizer Wikileaks --- has just written an op ed piece for the New York Times, explaining how Americans have been continuously lied to since the start of the war. She called it  "The Fog Machine Of War".  Respectability has come to her while still in prison.

Another whistle-blower, Edward Snowden, is still in Russia, but...
"Edward Snowden routinely hangs around at the New York ACLU offices by means of a BEAM telepresence robot, through which he can meet with journalists for "face-to-face" interviews."
He recently gave aid, over the video, to a reporter who was having an epileptic seizure. (He himself has had epilepsy.)


Nationalization of our local police continues. The latest embarrassment has been the discovery that, using a CIA tool called Stingray, police cars can capture the cellphone calls of people in their houses. Stingray pretends to be the nearest cell tower, capturing a call because its signal is more powerful and then making an actual link to a real cell tower. It just inserts itself into the line.  "Hi, mom... "

What is even more embarrassing to the government, the feds are trying really hard to keep the states' open records laws from revealing publicly the police-to-CIA emails that let them set up this vast fishnet. These attempts to cover their very private secrets are very public.

When I was a little kid, it was very important to know if your barn door was open, and worse, if the horse was out of the barn. The federal government is now trapped in the spotlight, trying to pretend that its horse isn't really out of the barn. Popcorn, anyone?

From 'The Independent' - Trevor Paglen documents the hidden world of governmental surveillance, from drone bases to "black sites"   But everyone's doing that these days...

   On 6/5, 65 Things We Know About NSA Surveillance That We Didn't Know a Year Ago


Terrorism, defined as "the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims" has come to America. Two recent attacks on local government by anti-government gun-toting not-quite-sane people both fulfill the definition.

One chap had just about had it with his local courthouse. He was expected to enter a plea on June 6th to eleven felony drug charges. He had other plans:
"Dennis Marx wore body armor and a gas mask. He brandished an assault rifle, an assortment of grenades, "all kinds of ammunition" and even used his silver Nissan SUV as a weapon of sorts, according to authorities. The 48-year-old man toted his own water supply and flexible handcuffs, presumably to corral hostages once he got inside the north Georgia courthouse."
Within three minutes, he was dead on the lawn. Suicide by police. He was believed to be a supporter of the Sovereign Citizens movement, which denies government's right to enforce the laws. He also was a former government employee for much of his life.

Then in Nevada, a couple of days later, two young people who had been expelled from the Bundy ranch for being too radical, decided to start the next revolution by killing two policemen. They became trapped behind a barricade in a store. The young woman shot and killed the young man and then herself.

They were of pseudo-fascist leanings, laying a 'swastika-stamped manifesto' on the dead policemen.


For those whose lives have become desperate, desperation turns to anger, and anger to violence. When one's own life is worth nothing, then neither is anyone else's.

Drastic, shameful, desperate poverty is real in America. The courts are making poverty criminal, fining the poor, and then sending them prison when they can't pay the fine:

A poor lady died on the floor of a jail. A single mother, she couldn't always get her kids to school already fed, well-dressed and on time. She was fined for their truancy. And then sent to jail because she could not produce documentary evidence for not paying the fines. She had high blood pressure and needed medication. The jailor did not give it to her. She died on the floor of her cell.
"Thousands of people have been jailed over truancy fines in this county since 2000, and two in three of those jailed have been women, according to the AP. But the criminalization of poverty is a much broader national phenomenon, with court costs and fees magnifying the statutory penalties for a variety of minor infractions such that the financial penalty snowballs into an un-payable debt for low-income people.
The results, as catalogued in a year-long National Public Radio investigation, are staggering: a 19-year-old jailed for three days after catching a smallmouth bass during rock bass season, because he couldn’t pay the fine; a homeless man sentenced to a year in jail over $2,600 in penalties incurred by shoplifting a $2 can of beer; a recovering drug user sent to jail three times for being unable to make payments on nearly $10,000 in court costs."
The crime is that of being poor in a society with an economic system designed to move money upwards.

While the devotees of fascism described further above may have an unscrewed motto or two, their pain is economic, and they rightly recognize that the power of the government enforces the pain, as in Mrs. Dinino's case. The government is at war with them.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor will be available for employment soon - he has been 'primaried' by a conservative far to his right, a rare tea-party intellectual. His upcoming departure will be "a blow to military spending."  More popcorn.

China has just demonstrated its unawareness of the world's hunger for news by arresting a very public, very popular civil rights lawyer on some very hazy, trumped-up charges:
"Police said Pu was arrested on suspicion of "creating a disturbance" and "illegally obtaining personal information." It did not provide details, but the former offense, a kind of public disorder crime, has been widely used to prosecute activists in recent months. Pu's friend said the accusations were groundless.
"Just half a year ago, civil rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang was earning accolades in the Chinese media for his work pushing for the abolition of labor camps."
The Chinese authoritarians must think that no one will ever know that they have made for him such a problem. Popcorn! We surely haven't heard the last of this.


The fascist kids who killed the cops thought they were starting a revolution, but it's been happening for a long time at a much lower level.

Low-Level Insurgencies: The Working-Class Mini-Revolts of the Twenty-First Century

In England, some chintzy folks put iron spikes in the sidewalk to prevent the homeless from sleeping nearby.  Activists recently poured concrete over those spikes, turning them back into sleeping spots.

Where government has been screwing up, it has been paying through the teeth:  New York City Agrees to Largest Occupy Wall Street Settlement Ever 

A Philadelphia school district has just paid $610,000 for taking 50,000 pictures of students for two years without their permission while they were at home, in some cases dressing and undressing, using laptops that had been loaned by the school to the students for free.

Remember the Nisour Square killings in Baghdad, in 2007?  Blackwater contractors shot their way through traffic when they got nervous.

"After years of delays, four former guards from the security firm Blackwater Worldwide are facing trial in the killings of 14 Iraqi civilians and the wounding of 18 others in bloodshed that inflamed anti-American sentiment around the globe."

Good news for the planet, as well - electric car manufacturer Tesla has just opened up its patents for use by others, adding them to the public domain. Now lots of companies can make electric cars. This will help guarantee that charging stations are available, and Tesla will still make the best electric on the market.

It all works out in the end.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Dear Mr. President

Dear Mr. President,

As you consider ways of bringing peaceful resolution to the Middle East, I hope you can remember that old U of C motto, "... and how many ways can this go wrong?" and ask it often.

May the infinite guide your footsteps, for they are ours, also.

Dan McIntyre

Saturday, June 07, 2014

On, Wisconsin

Wisconsin yesterday became the 27th state in this country to legalize gay marriage. Over half of the states now allow gay marriage. In all the other states, there are actions moving through the courts. 

The next big change coming may be an end to the war on drugs. Two states so far have made a real beginning in this. Colorado will be using its new income from pot taxes to research medical uses of cannabis - something the feds never got around to. A rolling snowball may soon become an avalanche.

Power to the people. To the extent people feel deprived of power, they will sooner or later obtain it.


Monday, May 26, 2014

A Better Global Warming Question

A couple of years ago, the global warming debate was about whether it was really happening. It has now been determined that global warming is happening.

The arguers have shifted their argument, saying that global warming is not caused by human burning of carbon fuels. It's just a natural variation in the weather. A seventh wave.

The question, though, is:  "If all energy generation were suddenly switched to non-carbon burning methods - to solar, wind and thermal - what would then happen to the global warming problem?"

Would global warming begin to go away?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Start Your Own Social Network?

How hard would it be these days to put together a simple "Start Your Own Social Network" software package?

The add-on market could be major. This would allow a low entry price for the starter package.

If the starter package were a groupware project, it could be delivered for free. Its authors could then go on to write add-ons as shareware and sell upgrades. Or sell the premium version independently.

Even attempting it would look good on the resume.
 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Is Mankind's Future Evolution Already Within Us?

Geneticists examining the differences between Neanderthal DNA and the DNA of modern man have discovered that for each species different parts of the overall design have been switched on and off. The difference between Neanderthal and Homo Sapiens is in the on-off pattern of the switches.

A program. 

Combinations of the switches appear to produce an effect like a volume control, making arms more or less longer, brains more or less larger.

One wonders... are there gene switches waiting to be toggled in modern man that can produce a post-modern individual? Does the next version of the genus lie within us?

Should mankind artfully become its future self?

Monday, April 07, 2014

The Gift To Progressives From The Ultra-Right

As equal marriage rights for all are instituted in state after state, and across the world in country after country, American gays have the Westboro Baptist Church to thank for making homophobia look totally ridiculous.

Similarly, the Koch brothers have managed to fund so many kooky ultra-right wing causes that parts of conservatism now look ridiculous to mainstream America. They have split the Republican Party.

Lately, the Supreme Court has allowed unlimited corporate funding of candidates for office. This may not work out well, either. Corporate funding of politicians will not be secret. A politician will be known by the bulges in his pocket. Crowd-funding, which his opponent may use, is growing by leaps and bounds.

The crowd of corporations that funds a candidate may be his halo. Or more likely his albatross.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Visibility Is Killing The Security State

 The security agencies - the FBI, CIA, NSA, DIA, DEA and others - have been benefited in recent years from the increasing visibility of the human population. But they never expected to become increasingly visible themselves. Eek. They just can't live that way.


 The idea that data wants to be free never occurred to them.

 Back around 1965, Gordon Moore of Intel noticed that every two years, the number of transistors that could be put in a chip doubled. Computing power was doubled. This two-year doubling rate has continued in a general way to this day. The recent fall in price of the USB flash drives (thumb), from two dollars a gigabyte to two gigabytes per dollar, was a stunning example, an adjustment where two doublings of efficiency occurred. What falls behind, catches up.

 This makes owning data easier and easier. Twice as easy every two years. Stuff gets passed around. Stuff of interest goes further. Hot stuff goes viral.

 Anything still secret in this world is a curiosity target. What are they hiding? The harder they hide it, the hotter it gets. The harder the security state hides what they're up to, the farther through the human world the knowledge of it moves.

 The better the security state becomes known, the more clearly its former mistakes and crimes are seen. Yet they make mistakes even now.

 In all probability, the security agencies are not yet preparing to adapt to the increasing visibility they will face over the next several decades. At five doublings a decade, visibility will increase 32 times over ten years. People I don't know will be emailing me, telling me to trim my toenails.

 Us and them. They have toenails, too. And their toenails really need clipping.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Is Mankind Itself Mentally Ill?

If mankind were one being, would it be sane?

Mental illness is of several kinds.  In one of them, schizophrenia, splitting occurs in the mind that sets it against itself. Does this describe mankind?

In an ill mind, passion and logic can be at war with one another. Passion can rule. Or logic can rule, producing a sociopathic society. Does this describe mankind?

In a healthy mind, the forces of passion and logic both work to the overall benefit. The mutual benefit. Does this describe mankind?  It could.

The being with a billion eyes and ears now has cellphones. Passion empowers logical shapes globally.

Does this idea feel reasonable?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Many-To-Many Era Begins

I bought a new computer a week ago. As I started it up, at some point it told me that it had been intentionally designed to be a TV provider. 

Apparently cable TV will soon be falling by the wayside, just as the old way of broadcasting from towers fell some years ago. The cable guys just might want to buy a new computer and see what they're up against.   

If ABC's web TV feed happens to be transmitted from a single tcp/ip address, then everyone on earth is potentially a TV broadcaster, as there are more than enough addresses for everyone. We can all be "one-to-many."

Even when a person may have had one too many... or can only count "One, two, many..."   One can speak to all, anyone can speak to one.

A time is near at hand when many people may wear eyepieces that broadcast their immediate visual experiences and receive video from others. Many to many.

A new world begins. Again.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Obama Leashes The NSA

On January 17th, 2014, the question of how the NSA should properly be governed entered formally into the  public discourse.  President Obama put the NSA on a leash.  

It's not a very short leash. It is a stretch leash, as  it lets the animal wander a bit, but it brings it back home in the end. It is a thin leash. It could break. It may need to be strengthened if the animal on the end grows larger or more independent.  

Obama spoke at the Department of Justice...

       First, he told his audience that their mission dates back to Paul Revere...

PRESIDENT OBAMA: "Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you so much, please have a seat. At the dawn of our Republic, a small, secret surveillance committee, born out of the Sons of Liberty, was established in Boston. And the group’s members included Paul Revere. At night, they would patrol the streets, reporting back any signs that the British were preparing raids against America’s early patriots..."


       Then he spoke of the leash that intelligence agencies have always worn...
 
"Throughout this evolution, we benefited from both our Constitution and our traditions of limited government. U.S. intelligence agencies were anchored in a system of checks and balances, with oversight from elected leaders and protections for ordinary citizens. Meanwhile, totalitarian states like East Germany offered a cautionary tale of what could happen when vast unchecked surveillance turned citizens into informers and persecuted people for what they said in the privacy of their own homes..."


       He explained that abuse of the surveillance system for political gain has happened here before.

"In fact, even the United States proved not to be immune to the abuse of surveillance. In the 1960s government spied on civil rights leaders and critics of the Vietnam War. And probably in response to these revelations, additional laws were established in the 1970s to ensure that our intelligence capabilities could not be misused against our citizens."


       The struggle that keeps our services going has become a struggle against motivated individuals.

"Now, if the fall of the Soviet Union left America without a competing superpower, emerging threats from terrorist groups and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction place new and, in some ways, more complicated demands on our intelligence agencies.

Moreover, these new threats raised new legal and new policy questions, for while few doubted the legitimacy of spying on hostile states, our framework of laws was not fully adapted to prevent terrorist attacks by individuals acting on their own or acting in small ideological -- ideologically driven groups on behalf of a foreign power."


       To deal with threats from motivated individuals, we needed to become able to spy on everyone.

"The horror of September 11th brought all these issues to the fore. Across the political spectrum, Americans recognized that we had to adapt to a world in which a bomb could be built in a basement and our electric grid could be shut down by operators an ocean away.

So we demanded that our intelligence community improve its capabilities and that law enforcement change practices to focus more on preventing attacks before they happen than prosecuting terrorists after an attack."


       Spying on everyone enables agencies to focus on those who are most likely to cause problems and to stop them just before they do this:

"It is hard to overstate the transformation America’s intelligence community had to go through after 9/11. Our agencies suddenly needed to do far more than the traditional mission of monitoring hostile powers and gathering information for policymakers.
 
Instead, they were now asked to identify and target plotters in some of the most remote parts of the world and to anticipate the actions of networks that, by their very nature, could not be easily penetrated by spies or informants."


       The NSA's view of all people is shared with all law enforcement:

"Today, new capabilities allow intelligence agencies to track who a terrorist is in contact with and follow the trail of his travel or his funding. New laws allow information to be collected and shared more quickly and effectively between federal agencies and state and local law enforcement.


       But Obama has problems with torture, warrant-less wiretaps, and new "authorities" that were put into law without debate:

"And yet, in our rush to respond to a very real and novel set of threats, the risk of government overreach, the possibility that we lose some of our core liberties in pursuit of security also became more pronounced. We saw in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 our government engage in enhanced interrogation techniques that contradicted our values. As a senator, I was critical of several practices, such as warrantless wiretaps. And all too often new authorities were instituted without adequate public debate."


       The problem persists:

"... some of the worst excesses that emerged after 9/11 were curbed by the time I took office. But a variety of factors have continued to complicate America’s efforts to both defend our nation and uphold our civil liberties.

First, the same technological advances that allow U.S. intelligence agencies to pinpoint an al-Qaida cell in Yemen or an email between two terrorists in the Sahel also mean that many routine communications around the world are within our reach. And at a time when more and more of our lives are digital, that prospect is disquieting for all of us.

Second, the combination of increased digital information and powerful supercomputers offers intelligence agencies the possibility of sifting through massive amounts of bulk data to identify patterns or pursue leads that may thwart impending threats. It’s a powerful tool. But the government collection and storage of such bulk data also creates a potential for abuse."


       As we get more and more powerful, we should watch what we do:

"But America’s capabilities are unique, and the power of new technologies means that there are fewer and fewer technical constraints on what we can do.

That places a special obligation on us to ask tough questions about what we should do."


       All this light that's being shined on intelligence agencies messes them up, even as they do their best to over-collect information of decreasing relevance. Surveillance technology is evolving faster than the laws that govern it. The danger of overreach becomes more acute:

"And finally, intelligence agencies cannot function without secrecy, which makes their work less subject to public debate. Yet there is an inevitable bias, not only within the intelligence community but among all of us who are responsible for national security, to collect more information about the world, not less. So in the absence of institutional requirements for regular debate and oversight that is public as well as private or classified, the danger of government overreach becomes more acute. And this is particularly true when surveillance technology and our reliance on digital information is evolving much faster than our laws."


       Our new capabilities are outstripping the laws that guide us:

"... And while I was confident in the integrity of those who lead our intelligence community, it was clear to me in observing our intelligence operations on a regular basis that changes in our technological capabilities were raising new questions about the privacy safeguards currently in place.

Moreover, after an extended review in the use of drones in the fight against terrorist networks, I believe a fresh examination of our surveillance programs was a necessary next step in our effort to get off the open-ended war footing that we’ve maintained since 9/11."

       An end to the war on the world.


       Then he mentioned his War College speech last spring about the NSA and the use of drones:

"And for these reasons, I indicated in a speech at the National Defense University last May that we needed a more robust public discussion about the balance between security and liberty. Of course, what I did not know at the time is that within weeks of my speech an avalanche of unauthorized disclosures would spark controversies at home and abroad that have continued to this day."


       The solution to the Snowden issue is to uphold the civil liberties and privacy protections our ideals and our Constitution require:

"...  the task before us now is greater than simply repairing the damage done to our operations or preventing more disclosures from taking place in the future.

Instead we have to make some important decisions about how to protect ourselves and sustain our leadership in the world while upholding the civil liberties and privacy protections our ideals and our Constitution require.

This effort will not be completed overnight, and given the pace of technological change, we shouldn’t expect this to be the last time America has this debate."


       There are going to be some changes:

"So before outlining specific changes that I’ve ordered, let me make a few broad observations that have emerged from this process."


       1) The need is real, abuse is possible, corporations do it too, we can't just say "trust us":

"First, everyone who has looked at these problems, including skeptics of existing programs, recognizes that we have real enemies and threats...

We cannot prevent terrorist attacks or cyberthreats without some capability to penetrate digital communications...

Moreover, we cannot unilaterally disarm our intelligence agencies...  We know that the intelligence services of other countries... are constantly probing our government and private sector networks and accelerating programs to listen to our conversations and intercept our emails and compromise our systems."


       2)  There is a potential for abuse.

"Second, just as our civil libertarians recognized the need for robust intelligence capabilities, those with responsibilities for our national security readily acknowledge the potential for abuse...

... they know, more than most of us, the vulnerabilities to privacy that exist in a world where transactions are recorded and email and text and messages are stored and even our movements can increasingly be tracked through the GPS on our phones."


       3) Corporations perform surveillance, too. They're part of the picture.

"Third...  Corporations of all shapes and sizes track what you buy, store and analyze our data and use it for commercial purposes. That’s how those targeted ads pop up on your computer and your smartphone periodically.

But all of us understand that the standards for government surveillance must be higher. Given the unique power of the state, it is not enough for leaders to say: Trust us....  Our system of government is built on the premise that our liberty cannot depend on the good intentions of those in power."


       The changes, from he whose motto was "Change you can believe in..." :


"... And today I can announce a series of concrete and substantial reforms that my administration intends to adopt administratively or will seek to codify with Congress.


       A new directive will strengthen oversight and will take into account our commitment to privacy and basic liberties:

"First, I have approved a new presidential directive for our signals intelligence activities both at home and abroad. This guidance will strengthen executive branch oversight of our intelligence activities. It will ensure that we take into account our security requirements, but also our alliances, our trade and investment relationships, including the concerns of American companies, and our commitment to privacy and basic liberties. And we will review decisions about intelligence priorities and sensitive targets on an annual basis so that our actions are regularly scrutinized by my senior national security team."


       We will make programs more visible (or more transparent, depending on how you read this).


 "Second, we will reform programs and procedures in place to provide greater transparency to our surveillance activities and fortify the safeguards that protect the privacy of U.S. persons. Since we began this review, including information being released today, we’ve declassified over 40 opinions and orders of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court... "


       We will annually look to see if there are any secret FISA court decisions that we can declassify:

"And going forward, I’m directing the director of national intelligence, in consultation with the attorney general, to annually review for the purposes of declassification any future opinions of the court with broad privacy implications and to report to me and to Congress on these efforts."


       Privacy interests will be independently represented before the  FISA court:

"To ensure that the court hears a broader range of privacy perspectives, I’m also calling on Congress to authorize the establishment of a panel of advocates from outside government to provide an independent voice in significant cases before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court."


       We are placing more restrictions of some sort or other on using information in criminal cases that comes from in American-foreign communications: 
 
"Third...  Specifically, I’m asking the attorney general and DNI to institute reforms that place additional restrictions on government’s ability to retain, search and use in criminal cases communications between Americans and foreign citizens incidentally collected under Section 702."

 
       National security letters, which secretly tell companies to provide information to the government, will be secret for a limited time, and will be made public after their need is gone.

"Fourth, in investigating threats, the FBI also relies on what’s called national security letters, which can require companies to provide specific and limited information to the government without disclosing the orders to the subject of the investigation."
 

       Bulk metadata which describes telephone calls - who called who, when, and for how long - comes from the providers. Henceforth it can stay on their computers. We can create a data warehouse out of diverse provider databases that looks to us like one single database. It's the same data - it just sits on the provider's computers rather than ours.  (And a deft move, that!)      

"This brings me to the program that has generated the most controversy these past few months, the bulk collection of telephone records under Section 215.

The review group turned up no indication that this database has been intentionally abused, and I believe it is important that the capability that this program is designed to meet is preserved.

Having said that, I believe critics are right to point out that without proper safeguards, this type of program could be used to yield more information about our private lives and open the door to more intrusive bulk collection programs in the future.

I believe we need a new approach. I am therefore ordering a transition that will end the Section 215 bulk metadata program as it currently exists and establish a mechanism that preserves the capabilities we need without the government holding this bulk metadata."


       We are going to limit the fineness of the fishnet with which we gather America's data:


"Effective immediately, we will only pursue phone calls that are two steps removed from a number associated with a terrorist organization, instead of the current three..."


        Let Congress debate the shape we will take:

"I recognize that there are additional issues that require further debate.

I have concerns that we should not set a standard for terrorism investigations that is higher than those involved in investigating an ordinary crime.

But I agree that greater oversight ... may be appropriate. And I’m prepared to work with Congress on this issue.

 ... On all these issues, I’m open to working with Congress to ensure that we build a broad consensus for how to move forward. And I’m confident that we can shape an approach that meets our security needs while upholding the civil liberties of every American."


       On collection of intelligence from abroad:

"Let me now turn to ... intelligence collection abroad. Our capabilities help protect not only our nation but our friends and our allies as well.

But our efforts will only be effective if ordinary citizens in other countries have confidence that the United States respects their privacy too. And the leaders of our close friends and allies deserve to know that if I want to know what they think about an issue I’ll pick up the phone and call them rather than turning to surveillance.

..., the new presidential directive that I’ve issued today will clearly prescribe what we do and do not do when it comes to our overseas surveillance.

To begin with, the directive makes clear that the United States only uses signals intelligence for legitimate national security purposes and not for the purpose of indiscriminately reviewing the emails or phone calls of ordinary folks."


       Obama forgets how the national security apparatus was used to suppress the Occupy Movement:

"The United States does not collect intelligence to suppress criticism or dissent, nor do we collect intelligence to disadvantage people on the basis of their ethnicity or race or gender or sexual orientation or religious beliefs. We do not collect intelligence to provide a competitive advantage to U.S. companies or U.S. commercial sectors.

... people around the world, regardless of their nationality, should know that the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don’t threaten our national security and that we take their privacy concerns into account in our policies and procedures.
This applies to foreign leaders as well. Given the understandable attention that this issue has received, I’ve made clear to the intelligence community that unless there is a compelling national security purpose, we will not monitor the communications of heads of state and government of our close friends and allies."


       Obama is assigning staff to follow through:

"Finally, to make sure that we follow through on all these reforms... The State Department will designate a senior officer to coordinate diplomacy on issues related to technology and signals intelligence. We will appoint a senior official at the White House to implement the new privacy safeguards that I’ve announced today. I will devote the resources to centralize and improve the process we use to handle foreign requests for legal assistance, keeping our high standards for privacy while helping foreign partners fight crime and terrorism."


       More reforms will be needed:

"... So while the reforms that I’ve announced will point us in a new direction, I am mindful that more work will be needed in the future. On thing I’m certain of, this debate will make us stronger. And I also know that in this time of change, the United States of America will have to lead."


       Working together, Congress and the Executive can navigate the "privacy vs security" tight-rope:

"For more than two centuries, our Constitution has weathered every type of change because we’ve been willing to defend it and because we’ve been willing to question the actions that have been taken in its defense. Today is no different. I believe we can meet high expectations. Together, let us chart a way forward that secures the life of our nation while preserving the liberties that make our nation worth fighting for.

Thank you. God bless you. May God bless the United States of America.
Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you"


--- + * + --- + * + --- + * --- + * + --- + * + --- + * --- + * + --- + * + --- + * --- + * + --- + * + ---

Of course, there were objections. The Conservatives felt Obama did not do enough to preserve our freedom by suppressing surveillance. Progressives also felt he could have done more. 


The NSA is uncertain how much information Snowden took and how soon it will be released. One can guess that they have been cleaning house lately, burying old messes, preparing to be all spick and span for a visit by the preacher. As a creature on a leash, it behooves the NSA to become a "good dog."

As more and more bad news gets leaked by the Guardian about the NSA, the leash may be a more and more comfortable place for it to be.

Obama followed his NSA speech by saying, a day or two later, that marijuana causes less damage to a person than beer. This completely changed the subject, and the NSA was no longer in the news.

Friday, December 13, 2013

The World Is My War Zone

War used to take place on battlefields. In a war zone. Far away. Now, terrorism and the war against it take place everywhere. Everyone lives in a war zone in the war on terror.

In a war zone, rules change. Liberties are limited. Authority - of one side or the other - rules.

And now begins a war to regain our liberties from those who have managed to keep the world a war zone, to keep themselves in power by perpetual war.

Now begins a war against authority.

Whether seen from the left as a war against the Idi Amins of the world or from the right as a war against big government, it is a war against existing authority.

The goal of the war - as seen from my side - is to make the world something better than a war zone.

"Civic engagement" - a most innocent phrase - involves attending hearings on new laws. It involves going in buses to lobby your representative. And maybe a little picketing and rallying. It means making sure your elected representatives know you are out there and are watching them.

Mankind has got government surrounded.

We are the peace zone.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Week of Stunning Change

Saturday night, 8:34 PM 11/24/13.  Six minutes ago McClatchy News reported that "Iran has reached agreement with the West on an interim nuclear deal". This means that there will be no war with Iran, no matter how much Israel pouts and storms.


On Thursday November 21st, the Senate voted to eliminate filibusters on most presidential appointments. Too many appointments were being held up for petty political reasons. 50 "Yes" votes, not 60, are now required for an appointment to be accepted. The Senate now has 53 Democrats and two Independents who caucus with the Democrats. Republicans can no longer hobble the Obama administration by blocking his chosen leaders for the Executive branch from running their departments. They can no longer attach generic wish lists to appointments.

This rule change stands as a warning - other rules that require 60 votes can similarly be discarded if they are misused.  


On Wednesday November 20th, Vermont approved their own state level single-payer healthcare system.
"The slogan of the program: Everybody in, nobody out."   


On November 18th, Secretary of State John Kerry said that the Monroe Doctrine is dead. It has guided two centuries of American domination of South American countries. It died something of a natural death: it has been invoked less and less in recent years as a reason for our influence there. But once upon a time, it justified our converting democracies into banana republics. No more.

A bill that will ease the resettling elsewhere of the detainees at Guantanamo is before Congress.

A bill that will make public the level of civilian deaths due to drone strikes is before Congress.

And surely there will be more.

Hallelujah.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Thorn Of Drones

I spent years trying to help a friend pull an emotional thorn out of his hand. Finally I discovered that the thorn that was hurting him was growing from his hand. He was born in pain. He lived in pain so he could know he was living. He caused pain.

Drones that kill are such a thorn. They hurt the sender and the recipient. They inspire retaliation. Their use is not clean.

Last spring, in a graduation speech at the War College, President Obama said that the military is becoming more and more obsolete and that it is being replaced by the NSA and drones, which accomplish the same goals at a fraction of the cost.

A week later, the Snowden material began to be released, and the NSA was no longer a secret. The NSA became an object to be investigated. Its compromise of our liberty may not be worth the extra security it brings. In recent weeks, America's use of drones has been similarly targeted. Drones have flaws. They hurt people we don't want to hurt.

Perhaps the saddest result of drone warfare is that a drone-fired missile kills not only the individual who is targeted, it kills everyone around him as well. Civilians are killed.

There are growing calls to end the use of drones. Targeted killings by the military are beginning to undercut the efforts of the State Department to make peace. The deaths of people who are blithely killed by desk jockeys playing a computer game in a country far away cause damage to our greater effort.

Just as the flow of news about the NSA is reining in their excesses, so may the story of America's self-destructive use of drones rein in the excesses of targeted killing. Here is a blog about drones that I just started, something to collect links to the unfolding story. It is called   The Thorn Of Drones.

I hope that peaceful means can serve to make a more peaceful world. Killing by drone is not a peaceful means. It does not bring peace.

Friday, November 01, 2013

The Global War On Terror Becomes A War On Privacy

Here is a third installment in the ongoing tale of the NSA's growth from an anti-terror organization into an anti-dissent tool. The story continues to unfold. People are being watched. People are watching back. And the NSA is not ready for close scrutiny.

As inquisitive humans continue to explore and expose this central office of intelligence, its opposite is more and more taking shape. The secret spy center has become a mystery to be unraveled, a story wanting to be told. While it clings to its secrets, it is surrounded more and more closely by "dark holes" into which secret information can be dropped by whistleblowers. This secret information then gets passed to a waiting public.

Knowledge may thrive, but no secrets will survive.


       Overview of the over-viewers:

 06/05/13 - 10/11/13   The NSA Files  - The Guardian's Overview 
                        The forty major stories so far...

 09/11/13 oen      Gems Mined from the NSA Documents and FISA Court Opinions Released

09/21/13 aclu   The Ten Most Disturbing Things You Should Know About the FBI Since 9/11

10/23/13 wapo     Former NSA chief:  NSA and U.S. Cyber Command are now ‘indistinguishable’
The head of the NSA happens also to be the head of the U.S. Cyber Command. 
10/24/13 jc     How the US Government Betrayed the Constitution and Invented an Imaginary Fascist One


        How the NSA got here:

10/21/13 dd        A psychological history of the NSA


       The slender thread of case law that makes NSA legal:

10/09/13 jc    How a Purse Snatching Led to the Legal Justification for NSA Domestic Spying


       The NSA has been collecting more and more data.  "Collect it all!" is the idea.

09/19/13 y       Anti-terror program tracks innocents, ACLU says
"An off-duty supervising dispatcher with Sacramento P.D. noticed a female subject taking pictures of the outside of the post office in Folsom on Riley Street this morning. The female departed as a passenger in a silver Mazda."
09/26/13 cbs      Watching you: When and where you may be tracked

 09/26/13 hufpo     Keith Alexander: In Best Interest Of U.S. To 'Put All The Phone Records' Into A Searchable 'Lockbox'

09/28/13 bb     DiFi admits that the NSA is wiretapping the Internet's backbone

10/02/13 du  NSA director admits agency trawls Twitter/Facebook but insists they are NOT building personal files on Americans

10/10/13  gdn     The double danger of the NSA's 'collect it all' policy on surveillance

10/11/13 td         The Data Hackers: 
"... Inside your mobile phone and hidden behind your web browser are little known software products, marketed by contractors to the government, that can follow you around anywhere."    

         The NSA collects what's in your computer's email address books:
 
10/14/12 wapo       NSA collects millions of e-mail address books globally

10/14/13 reu      U.S. spy agency collects millions of email address lists: report

10/14/13 bb     Report: The NSA collects half a million buddy lists and inboxes a day. Is one of them yours?

10/15/13 jc            Now the NSA has your Little Black Book


         The NSA is keeping lists of everyone's friends:

09/28/13 nyt      N.S.A. GathersData on Social Connections of U.S. Citizens

09/30/13 aw        White House Defends NSA ‘Social Mapping’ of Americans

09/30/13 td               NSA Creates Social Profiles of U.S. Citizens


      There is no limit to the information the government collects:

09/07/13 du    Computer program uses Twitter to 'map mood of nation'  (and this may be legal~ed)
"They claim Emotive could help calm civil unrest and identify early threats to public safety."    (Such as picketing the White House....?)
 09/07/13 du       New Docs Show NSA Can Access User Data From All Major Cell Phones - -  Including iPhone, Android

09/08/13 hufpo          NSA Can Access Most Smartphone Data, Der Spiegel Reports

09/08/13 y                      Ruling allowed NSA search of domestic email

09/12/13 frbs        E-ZPasses Get Read All Over New York (Not Just At Toll Booths)

09/13/13 w           FBI Admits It Controlled Tor Servers Behind Mass Malware Attack

09/29/13  td                         NSA Agent Spied on Women for Years

10/07/13 ajz            Report: Government data collection imperils liberty and security

10/17/13 brnc         The U.S. Government’s Secrecy Problem Just Got Worse  

10/08/13 fp         Hostile Takeover: Now the NSA Wants to Snoop on Wall Street, too

10/30/13 h           NSA Broke Into Yahoo, Google Data Centers: Report 

10/30/13 tpm   NSA Chief: 'To My Knowledge' Agency Didn't Tap Google, Yahoo Data Centers
(General Keith Alexander pretending not to know about NSA program 'Muscular'...)

        The information is dispersed to our allies:

09/12/13 jc    US NSA Gives Israel Raw Intelligence on US Citizens (Chamberlain)


       Accumulating all this data accomplishes nothing:

10/21/13 atlntc      Why the NSA's Defense of Mass Data Collection Makes No Sense
"The U.S. intelligence community claims it's not spying on citizens until someone actually looks at the data it collects. That argument is deeply flawed."

       Businesses have been forced to help the NSA spy on people:

09/27/13 td     The One Telco Exec Who Resisted The NSA Has Been Released From 4+ Years In Jail

10/01/13 du              A CEO who resisted NSA spying is out of prison. And he feels ‘vindicated’ by Snowden leaks.

09/25/13 rt          Attorneys for shuttered email service Lavabit ask court to unseal case files

10/03/13 bb                Unsealed Lavabit docs show that Feds demanded SSL keys

10/07/13 tny                           How Lavabit Melted Down

10/11/13 gdn       Skype under investigation in Luxembourg over link to NSA

10/11/13 du    Amid NSA Outrage, Big Tech Companies Plan to Track You Even More Aggressively

10/17/12 bb      Apple: Rebutting Apple's claim of Imessage security: Apple can too spy on users

10/22/13 bb         VPN company shuts down after Lavabit case demonstrates threat of state-ordered, secret self-sabotage

10/23/13 tpm              Facebook Eliminates Feature That Lets Users Hide From Search


        Some businesses are in the business of inventing spy tools for the government:

10/02/13 mccy   Senate intelligence committee director denies NSA collects data on Americans’ cellphone locations   ...Correct... It's the FBI that tracks phone locations, not the NSA (see next link below)...


Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/10/02/204012/feinstein-appears-to-confirm-nsa.html#storylink=cpy
10/09/13 jc    Big Brother’s little Brothers: How Surveillance Companies Mine your Info for the Gov’t
"Harris Corporation provides technology to the FBI to track, via our mobile phones, where we go"

       Some businesses resist being forced to work with the spy system:
 
09/10/13 td    FLYING PIG: The NSA Is Running Man In The Middle Attacks Imitating Google's Servers


        "Back doors" have been installed in hardware/software by the makers that allow the NSA entry - and anyone else, too:

09/11/13 bb     How the feds asked Microsoft to backdoor BitLocker, their full-disk encryption tool

10/03/13 bb           EFF: the NSA has endangered us all by sabotaging security
"NSA has deliberately weakened the security that ensures the integrity of the banking system, aviation control, embedded systems in everything from cars to implanted defibrillators, as well as network infrastructure, desktop computers, cloud servers, laptops, phones, tablets, TVs, and other devices."
10/08/13 sln         NSA’s hardware back doors may still be a “problem from hell”  


          NSA forced a standards committee to put a "back door" into encryption standards: 

09/05/13 LAT        Latest Snowden revelation: NSA sabotaged electronic locks 
"In an era in which businesses, as well as the average consumer, trust secure networks and technologies for sensitive transactions and private communications online, it’s incredibly destructive for the NSA to add flaws to such critical infrastructure."
 09/08/13 bb             Firsthand account of NSA sabotage of Internet security standards

09/09/13 bb                         What NSA sabotage does to security

09/10/13 bb                This is the crypto standard that the NSA sabotaged


       Other nations are distressed and offended: 
  
09/08/13 jc       NSA Spying: Indian Gov’t Bans Employee Google Use as Euro Parliament Weighs Law Fining Cooperative Firms

09/08/13 wapo      Brazilian TV show says U.S. spied on state-run Petrobras oil firm, cites NSA documents

09/13/13 oen        Brazil Launches Investigation Of NSA Spying Allegations

09/17/13 tpm       Brazilian President's State Visit To White House Cancelled After Spying Flap

09/18/13 jc      Brazilian President Snubs Obama: How US Cyber Espionage will Destroy the Internet

09/25/13 th              NSA planted bugs at India's missions in D.C., U.N.

09/25/13 td               Brazilian President Speaks Out Against U.S. Spying

10/06/13 gdn   Cabinet was told nothing about GCHQ spying programmes, says Chris Huhne
"Cabinet ministers and members of the national security council were told nothing about the existence and scale of the vast data-gathering programmes run by British and American intelligence agencies, a former member of the government has revealed."
10/20/13 hufpo          NSA Hacked Mexican Presidents' Email For Years: Report 

10/20/13 du                  Uruguay's president quips about alleged US espionage
 
10/24/13 du                'Out of Hand': Europe Furious Over US Spying Allegations
"The newest allegations of US spying have unleashed a torrent of criticism and concern in Europe. If suspicions unearthed by SPIEGEL that the US tapped Chancellor Merkel's cell phone turn out to be true, the ramifications for trans-Atlantic ties could be immense." 
10/25/13 hufpo        Divided EU Responds To NSA Spying Scandal 

10/25/13 bb                 NSA spied on 35 world leaders
"A leaked 2006 memo from the NSA to staffers in the White House, State and the Pentagon asked them to search their rolodexes for the personal numbers of world leaders so the Agency could spy on them." 
10/25/13 du    NSA Spying Not Very Focused on Terrorism: Power, Money and Crushing Dissent Are Real Motives Ops
"One unnamed US official handed over 200 numbers, including those of the 35 world leaders, none of whom is named. These were immediately “tasked” for monitoring by the NSA." - Guardian
10/26/13 tpm         Report: U.S. Tracked Merkel's Cell Phone Since 2002

10/26/13 hp     NSA Collected Data On 60 Million Phone Calls In Spain Over Course Of One Month: Report

10/26/13 du      Exclusive: 21 Nations Line Up Behind U.N. Effort to Restrain NSA

10/14/13  nyt             Clapper and Carney Get Slippery on Surveillance
"Then, yesterday, Der Spiegel reported that German Chancellor Angela Merkel asked Mr. Obama “for a thorough explanation of serious indications that U.S. intelligence agencies had declared her private mobile phone to be a target in their operations.”

The White House press secretary, Jay Carney said, “The president assured [Merkel] that the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications” of the chancellor.” Please note: IS not monitoring and WILL NOT monitor. The allegation, unaddressed, was that the United States HAD been monitoring her calls (until it was caught in the act)."
 10/31/13 tpm   NSA Surveillance Threatens U.S. Efforts Abroad
"Secretary of State John Kerry went to Europe to talk about Mideast peace, Syria and Iran. What he got was an earful of outrage over U.S. snooping abroad."

       The British are similarly invasive:

10/25/13 gdn       Leaked memos reveal GCHQ efforts to keep mass surveillance secret

10/26/13 bb     UK spies were terrified that the willing cooperation of telcos would get out; understood they were breaking the law


       The NSA (and the Brits) think the solution to their exposure is to stop the presses:

10/25/12 gdn      As Europe erupts over US spying, NSA chief says government must stop media

10/28/13 gdn     David Cameron makes veiled threat to media over NSA and GCHQ leaks


       The NSA is a law unto itself. It lies to the President:

09/10/13 tpm       U.S. Officials: NSA Phone Record Collection Violated Privacy Protections 

09/20/13 bb       Report: Dept of Justice ethics watchdog didn't look into judges' NSA concerns

09/25/13 bb              Secret Cold War docs show NSA spied on senators back then
 
09/30/13 td                 NSA Holds Internet Records Longer Than Obama Said

09/10/13 y                   Docs:  Officials misused US surveillance program
"U.S. officials for nearly three years accessed data on thousands of domestic phone numbers they shouldn't have and then misrepresented their actions to a secret spy court to reauthorize the government's surveillance program, documents released Tuesday show."
09/12/13 w    6 Whopping Government Misstatements About NSA Spying

10/28/13 jc America’s Secret 4th Branch of Government: The NSA kept even Obama in the Dark

10/31/13 bb         NSA spokesmen told to just say "9/11" to deflect criticism

 
       The DEA is even worse:

10/23/13 du    Massive Snooping (makes NSA look like rank amateurs) by the DEA via ATT into our phone records...
"The "Hemisphere Project" keeps track of every phone call going through an ATT switch, going back 26 years -- adding about 4 billion new call records per day.

        The surveillance apparatus decides for itself how powerful it should be:

09/25/13  cbs     Independent NSA spying review not so independent
The Director of National Intelligence is reviewing the NSA. Not an independent, as was promised.

       The cost to America:

09/11/13 blbg       NSA Spying Seen Risking Billions in U.S. Technology Sales


       Exigency rules the land.  Justice is defiled.

09/12/13 to     When the Police Become a Standing Army, Liberty is Sacrificed Without Security

09/18/13 hufpo   Nameless And Shameless:  Masked DEA Agents Raid Innocent Women, Refuse To Reveal Their Identities

09/22/13 du        Destroying the Right to Be Left Alone

09/28/13 du      AP: Journalist Glenn Greenwald to Investigate the NSA's Role in Washington's Assassination Program

10/09/13 nj         Soon, Drones May Be Able to Make Lethal Decisions on Their Own

10/17/13 hufpo      NSA Involvement In Drone Program Revealed In Documents 
 "The National Security Agency has been extensively involved in the U.S. government's targeted killing program... "

       Censorship requires privacy loss:

09/06/13 bb            UK censorwall bans VPNs:
"The only way to stop Internet users from accessing "bad" websites is to spy on all their Internet traffic (you have to look at all their traffic in order to interdict the forbidden sites). So it follows that any censorship system must also ban any privacy/security tools."

        Enforcers decide that dissent equals terrorism

09/25/13  gdn    UK detention of Reprieve activist consistent with NSA's view of drone opponents as 'threats' and 'adversaries'

09/26/13 oen   The Federal Government's War on Martin Luther King Went Far beyond NSA Taps
"They talked ominously of "neutralizing" him as an effective leader. And even more ominously they sent him a poison pen letter flatly saying "King you are done" and suggesting he kill himself."
10/07/13 du        NC legislature police chief says ‘anarchists’ from ‘Moral Monday’ protests on watch list
"General Assembly Police Chief Jeff Weaver testified to a murmur of disbelief among the many lawyers attending the Wake County District Court hearing that his 18-officer department had people in this region they labeled “anarchists” and collected intelligence on them." 
10/09/13 du    Virginia State Police Surveilled And Recorded License Plates At Routine Political Gatherings
 
10/18/13 to   Report Finds Police Worldwide Criminalize Dissent, Assert New Powers in Crackdown on Protests

10/18/13  to    Canadian Police Use Military Tactics to Disperse Indigenous Anti-Fracking Blockade


       Citizens cope with privacy loss:

09/09/13 gdn            How to foil NSA sabotage: use a dead man's switch

09/18/13 bb            Browser plugin that adds NSA-trolling keywords to the URLs you load

09/19/13 bb                          Grumpy cat wants a gnu Internet

10/25/13 du         Who's watching you? Track the trackers with new Web tool

10/25/13 eff       Ten Steps You Can Take Right Now Against Internet Surveillance
 

      Reform of the intelligence process is beginning:

09/06/13 aw       Surveillance State Repeal Act Would Ban NSA ‘Back Doors’

09/06/13 td        Surveillance State Legislation Would Bar Some NSA Decryption

09/07/13 mj          Google Redoubles Effort to Thwart NSA Surveillance

09/12/13 bb                    EFF's guide to NSA reform bills

09/11/13 du          Senator Pat Leahy: Bulk collection of metadata must stop
 
09/12/13 hufpo   Parts Of Secret Yahoo Court Order Will Be Declassified, Justice Department Says

09/13/13 gdn             Time to tame the NSA behemoth trampling our rights

09/16/13 wapo        ACLU calls on Obama, Congress to rein in power of the FBI

09/25/13 du               Senators Push Bill to End Phone Record Collection

09/30/12 cnn         Former NSA contractor designs 'surveillance-proof' font

09/30/13  rsn     NSA Spying Creates a New Data Haven Industry. Government Stimulus at Work!

10/01/2013 aw         California Governor Signs Ban on NDAA Detentions:
"State Will Not Cooperate With Any Federal Attempts to Detain Californians -

"The NDAA allows the president to place people into indefinite detention by the US military without charges or a trial on “national security” grounds and has sparked a series of lawsuits from Americans who fear detention as political dissidents."
10/10/13 gdn      Patriot Act author prepares bill to put NSA bulk collection 'out of business

10/10/13 gdn     The USA Freedom Act: a look at the key points of the draft bill
 
10/11/13 aw        FISA Court: NSA Can Keep Collecting Your Phone Records

   "Several different bills are currently going through Congress which would eliminate the legal provisions under which the surveillance authority is requested, and would keep the NSA from bringing such requests to the FISA courts."
 
10/17/13 nyt    Europe Moves to Shield Citizens’ Data

10/30/13 nyt   No U.S. Action, So States Move on Privacy Law


    Making the NSA a laughing stock helps the process along:
 
09/11/13 bb       Iranian filmmaker punks NSA again   "Because a lot of my friends (and other people who posted a comment on our channel) were concerned that I might get in trouble with NSA after my telephone call last week, I decided to call NSA again and ask them whether I have anything to fear from the agency."

10/24/13  hp   Former NSA Director Isn't Too Thrilled About Having His Private Conversations Tweeted
        Belly up, NSA's innards are now becoming public:

09/10/13 tpm    The NSA Machine: Too Big For Anyone To Understand
   "Newly declassified documents released Tuesday tell a story of a surveillance apparatus so unwieldy and complex that nobody fully comprehended it, even as the government pointed it at the American people in the name of protecting them."

09/10/13 bb    NSA reveals that it illegally gathered thousands of phone records, to the appalled astonishment of FISA court judge


09/12/13 du     Yahoo CEO Mayer: we faced jail if we revealed NSA surveillance secrets

09/13/13 tpm    U.S. To Declassify Secret 2008 Order That Made Yahoo Turn Over Customer Data

09/26/13 du           Official sidesteps queries on cellphone locations
 "Alexander says his agency can only collect such data with an individual court order. But he did not say whether the agency had ever collected information about locations from which cellphone calls are made."

   "Wyden is a longtime critic of NSA surveillance methods. Earlier this year, he questioned Director of National Intelligence James Clapper about whether U.S. intelligence gathered the records of millions of Americans. Clapper said no, but had to apologize later when leaks by a former NSA systems analyst revealed the bulk collection of U.S. telephone records and email data." 

    All this effort is not foiling any terrorist plots - just wasting money:

10/08/13 aw   Fun Fact: NSA’s Collection of Americans’s MetaData Doesn’t Make Us Safer
"this single successful prosecution, under a vague criminal statute, which stopped a few thousand dollars from reaching one side in a local conflict in the Horn of Africa, is the sole success story for the NSA bulk domestic surveillance program."

10/24/13 pp  The NSA's Big Terrorism Claim Doesn't Hold Up

10/11/13 aw         The NSA Isn’t Foiling Terrorist Plots


     The NSA director, General Keith Alexander, has admitted lying and will retire soon:

09/15/13 du  Inside the mind of NSA chief Gen Keith Alexander
A lavish Star Trek style bridge that he had constructed as part of his 'Information Dominance Center' is endlessly revealing...  the cost: over a hundred million dollars...
09/16/13 bb    Video of top NSA spook Gen'l Alexander's Starship Enterprise clone/Information Dominance Center

09/25/13 aw   NSA Chief Defends Collecting Americans’ Phone Records

10/15/13 aw   No, NSA Surveillance Wouldn’t Have Prevented 9/11 And It Hasn’t Foiled a Single Terror Plot 
"The problem is that NSA Director Alexander says a lot of things that aren’t true. Back in June, he claimed that NSA’s bulk collection of call records and Internet activity disrupted 54 “terror plots.” Early this month, the Senate Judiciary Committee got Alexander to admit that this claim was wrong and misleading..."
10/12/13 nyt       N.S.A. Director Firmly Defends Surveillance Efforts
 "The director of the National Security Agency, Gen. Keith B. Alexander, said in an interview that to prevent terrorist attacks he saw no effective alternative to the N.S.A.’s bulk collection of telephone and other electronic metadata from Americans."


        The government is in a tizzy:

10/11/13 bb  NSA chiefs confiding in their allies: Obama is hanging us out to dry

10/21/13 hufpo    U.S. Army Says Only Two Brigades Fully Trained Amid Budget Cuts, Fiscal Uncertainty 


       The NSA loses its best defender - Dianne Feinstein:

10/28/13 tpm   Official:  Feinstein's Statement On Intel Collection Not Accurate
"Earlier in the day, Feinstein said: “The White House has informed me that collection on our allies will not continue, which I support."

The official said that statement is not accurate."
At that point, Feinstein lost her temper. 
10/28/13 y     NSA official: 'We're really screwed now:'
"We're really screwed now," the official said. "You know things are bad when the few friends you've got disappear without a trace in the dead of night and leave no forwarding address."
10/28/13 fp    'We're Really Screwed Now':  NSA's Best Friend Just Shivved The Spies
"In a pointed statement issued today, Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Dianne Feinstein said she was "totally opposed" to gathering intelligence on foreign leaders and said it was "a big problem" if President Obama didn't know the NSA was monitoring the phone calls of German Chancellor Angela Merkel."
"Perhaps most significant is her announcement that the intelligence committee "will initiate a review into all intelligence collection programs."

"Republican hawk John McCain, for instance, is now calling for a special select committee to investigate U.S. spying."
10/28/13 du        White House official sees need for 'constraints' on NSA spying

10/28/13 aw          NSA Staff Angry at Obama’s Attempts to Distance Himself

10/28/13 gdn    NSA review panel to present Obama with dossier on surveillance reforms

10/28/13 aw           Key Lawmakers Turn Against NSA,  Back Reform Bill

10/29/13 du    Top intelligence officials called to testify on NSA surveillance programs

10/29/13 jc         Elites Stick together...   Feinstein Slams NSA Merkel Tap
Juan Cole notes that Merkel is 'one of us'...
".... the news that German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s personal cell phone was monitored by the NSA has finally made waves in Washington. Senator Dianne Feinstein, who vocally defended mass electronic surveillance of the American public and who wants to introduce legislation regularizing it, professes to find the Merkel tap unseemly."

... the German Chancellor is a European white person, a peer of the politicians in Washington, and it is not gentlemanly or ladylike to spy on their persons."
10/29/13 hp    James Clapper: Spying On Leaders Not Significant Enough To Tell Congress


       Spying on citizens and foreign leaders is not about terror:

10/28/13 pol               Glenn Greenwald: Spying not about terror

10/29/13 cbs      EU official alleges NSA sought economic edge for U.S.


       Circling the wagons:
 
10/17/13  ajz       The US government's secrecy problem just got worse
 
   Now, the government can classify and hide any document that they think might possibly be used by others to incite people against us. Or which might make people think a little less of us.
"Perhaps even more disturbing, this justification for secrecy will be strongest when the U.S. government's conduct most clearly violates accepted international norms. Evidence of human rights abuses against foreign nationals, for instance, is particularly likely to spark hostility abroad."

"The judge in al-Qahtani's case showed no such restraint. She held that the photos and videos were properly classified because "it (is) both logical and plausible that extremists would utilize images of al-Qahtani ... to incite anti-American sentiment, to raise funds, and/or to recruit other loyalists."

When CCR pointed out that this result was speculative, the judge responded that "it is bad law and bad policy to second-guess the predictive judgments made by the government’s intelligence agencies." In short, the government may classify information, not because that information reveals tactical or operational secrets but because the conduct it reveals could in theory anger existing enemies or create new ones."
10/31/13 tpm   Report: Obama Scales Back Eavesdropping Of U.N. Headquarters


       The inevitability of leaks:

09/08/13 bb    NSA leaks as a demographic phenomena

   "Many will also believe in openness, especially the hacker types the NSA needs to recruit."


       A new plot line develops: empower the whistleblowers: 

09/18/13 jc      How the National Security State Creates its own Whistleblowers

10/15/13  bb          Freedom of the Press Foundation Launches  SecureDrop, an Open-Source Submission Platform for Whistleblowers

10/16/13 du       Wikileaks In A Box: SecureDrop Is WhistleBlower Communication Tool For Media
"... the Freedom of the Press Foundation has launched SecureDrop, an anonymous submission tool for secure communications between sources and journalists."
10/15/13 bb    Greenwald leaves Guardian for new venture backed by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar (updated)    Perhaps he anticipates a lot of whistle-blowing. There are certainly a lot of whistles that can be blown.

10/29/13 td   Greenwald and Friends Add Two Journalists to News Venture


     If Glenn Greenwald's new venture brings whistle-blower reports to the world, he will have perfected the automation of the news-gathering process. And the news will be what it should be.

The NSA, which has had a corner on secrecy, is finding itself surrounded by information vacuums which are sweeping up secrets left and right and releasing them to a global audience.

Knowledge may thrive, but no secrets will survive.