War criminal Watch: Condoleezza Rice now on dropbox’s board of directors.

Yesterday the company that specializes in remote file sharing announced that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is now on their board of directors.  This is troubling news for a number of reasons.  The first, more pedantic reason, is simply that she played no small role in the deaths of several hundred thousand people throughout the middle east as well as the unnecessary deaths of thousands of US soldiers.  More practically though she was a member of the presidency that pushed the PATRIOT Act and is now working intimately with a company that has access to millions of personal files.

For those of you who do not know the dropbox software essentially allows you to put files in a folder on your PC where they are synced to the “cloud”.  You, or anyone else, are then free to download those files from anywhere in the world as long as you know the link to said file.   It is a handy way to transfer files that may be too large for an E-Mail attachment or that you simply do not trust google having access to.  From this point forward I would question the security of any file transferred with dropbox.

Oh and by the way. Snowden documents from last year state “that it is planning to add Dropbox as a PRISM provider.”  

PRISM, of course, being an NSA program “which allows officials to collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats,”   

How many more “coincidences” that just happen to violate rights, privacy, security and safety are we going to sweep under the rug?

A very illuminating comment over on Reddit.com

User “Three_Letter_Agency” put the current NSA issue in very clear focus today with the following:

We know the NSA and their UK buddy GHCQ can:

  • Collect the domestic meta-data of both parties in a phone-call. Source[1]
  • Set up fake internet cafes to steal data. Source[2]
  • Has intercepted the phone calls of at least 35 world leaders, including allies such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Source[3]
  • Can tap into the underwater fiber-optic cables that carry a majority of the world’s internet traffic. Source[4]
  • Tracks communications within media institutions such as Al Jazeera. Source[5]
  • Has ‘bugged’ the United Nations headquarters. Source[6]
  • Has set up a financial database to track international banking and credit card transactions. Source[7]
  • Collects and stores over 200 million domestic and foreign text messages each day. Source[8]
  • Collects and has real-time access to browsing history, email, and social media activity. To gain access, an analyst simply needs to fill out an on-screen form with a broad justification for the search that is not reviewed by any court or NSA personnel. Source[9]

“I, sitting at my desk, could wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email”. – Edward Snowden

  • Creates maps of the social networks of United States citizens. Source[10]
  • Has access to smartphone app data. Source[11]
  • Uses spies in embassies to collect data, often by setting up ‘listening stations’ on the roofs of buildings.Source[12]
  • Uses fake LinkedIn profiles and other doctored web pages to secretly install surveillance software in unwitting companies and individuals. Source[13]
  • Tracks reservations at upscale hotels. Source[14]
  • Has intercepted the talking-points of world leaders before meetings with Barack Obama. Source[15]
  • Can crack encryption codes on cellphones. Source[16]
  • Has implanted software on over 100,000 computers worldwide allowing them to hack data without internet connection, using radio waves. Source[17]
  • Has access to computers through fake wireless connections. Source[18]
  • Monitors communications in online games such as World of Warcraft. Source[19]
  • Intercepts shipping deliveries and install back-door devices allowing access. Source[20]
  • Has direct access to the data centers of Google, Yahoo and other major companies. Source[21]
  • Covertly and overtly infiltrate United States and foreign IT industries to weaken or gain access to encryption, often by collaborating with software companies and internet service providers themselves. They are also, according to an internal document, “responsible for identifying, recruiting and running covert agents in the global telecommunications industry.” Source[22]
  • The use of “honey traps”, luring targets into compromising positions using sex. Source[23]
  • The sharing of raw intelligence data with Israel. Only official U.S. communications are affected, and there are no legal limits on the use of the data from Israel. Source[24]
  • Spies on porn habits of activists to discredit them. Source[25]

Possibly the most shocking revelation was made on February 24, 2014. Internal documents show that the security state is attempting to manipulate and control online discourse with “extreme tactics of deception and reputation-destruction.” The documents revealed a top-secret unit known as the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Unit, or JTRIG. Two of the core self-identified purposes of JTRIG are to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet in an effort to discredit a target, and to use social sciences such as psychology to manipulate online discourse and activism in order to generate a desirable outcome. The unit posts false information on the internet and falsely attributes it to someone else, pretend to be a ‘victim’ of a target they want to discredit, and posts negative information on various forums. In some instances, to discredit a target, JTRIG sends out ‘false flag’ emails to family and friends.

A revealing slide from the JTRIG presentation.[26]  

Read the whole JTRIG presentation by Greenwald, just do it. Here[27]

Now, consider the words of former NSA employee turned whistleblower Russ Tice:

“Okay. They went after–and I know this because I had my hands literally on the paperwork for these sort of things–they went after high-ranking military officers; they went after members of Congress, both Senate and the House, especially on the intelligence committees and on the armed services committees and some of the–and judicial.

But they went after other ones, too. They went after lawyers and law firms. All kinds of–heaps of lawyers and law firms. They went after judges. One of the judges is now sitting on the Supreme Court that I had his wiretap information in my hand. Two are former FISA court judges. They went after State Department officials.

They went after people in the executive service that were part of the White House–their own people. They went after antiwar groups. They went after U.S. international–U.S. companies that that do international business, you know, business around the world. They went after U.S. banking firms and financial firms that do international business. They went after NGOs that–like the Red Cross, people like that that go overseas and do humanitarian work. They went after a few antiwar civil rights groups.

So, you know, don’t tell me that there’s no abuse, because I’ve had this stuff in my hand and looked at it. And in some cases, I literally was involved in the technology that was going after this stuff. And you know, when I said to [former MSNBC show host Keith] Olbermann, I said, my particular thing is high tech and you know, what’s going on is the other thing, which is the dragnet. The dragnet is what Mark Klein is talking about, the terrestrial dragnet. Well my specialty is outer space. I deal with satellites, and everything that goes in and out of space. I did my spying via space. So that’s how I found out about this… And remember we talked about that before, that I was worried that the intelligence community now has sway over what is going on.

Now here’s the big one. I haven’t given you any names. This was is summer of 2004. One of the papers that I held in my hand was to wiretap a bunch of numbers associated with, with a 40-something-year-old wannabe senator from Illinois. You wouldn’t happen to know where that guy lives right now, would you? It’s a big white house in Washington, DC. That’s who they went after. And that’s the president of the United States now.” Russ Tice, NSA Whistleblower


The State of the Union and the State of our Liberties

Nevertheless it is important not to fall into the delusion that President Obama presents the greatest danger to the culture of liberty. A historian looking back a hundred years from now is likely to group the Reagan, Bush I, and Clinton presidencies together as an era when the state receded or at least did not grow, as measured by regulatory and fiscal burdens on our lives. But Bush II relentlessly increased domestic spending and created more government involvement in health care with the Medicare D program for prescription drugs. It was President Bush who initiated many of the NSA programs.

In short, there are more similarities between Bush II and Obama than their supporters or detractors care to acknowledge. And almost all of the similarities suggest that the risks to our liberty today transcend the actions of any particular politician.

From John McGinnis. Read the rest.

Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting….

A very interesting post popped up in the technology subreddit on reddit.com a couple of days ago.    It was simply titled “What reddit looked like 9 years ago”  and the content was “Exactly what it says on the tin”.   

A web archive of reddit nine years ago.  The real fun was in the comments though where a redditor with the highly appropriate and musically astute username of “WarOnErrorism” posted the following:   

Third fuckin page. “NSA Spied on U.N. Diplomats in Push for Invasion of Iraq “

Edit: And on the 6th page: “AT&T NSA Wiretap Whistleblower Marc Klein’s Story In His Own Words”

Edit 2: Same page: “Whistle-Blower Outs NSA Spy Room”  

Links added for posterity.  

Nearly a decade ago the truth was out in the open for anyone to see and it was ignored.

The Meaning of Social Science: Ideology, Private Life, and the Internet

[Note: This is a guest essay by Dr Peter Miller, who is a sociologist (PhD, Berkeley), a longtime resident of Japan, a non-participant observer of the American scene, and (since 1991) one of the world’s few practitioners of original photogravure etching, whose semi-abstract Japan-influenced prints are in private and museum collections in Japan, Europe, Russia, and the United States. His websites can be found here & here]

Social-science expertise has been missing from current discussions of government-led spying on private citizens and the proper role of government in general. Ideologies, which is to say gut reactions, have corrupted the public debate; but there is nevertheless a role for sociological analysis of these phenomena.

Social science in its modern form started as a mostly European effort to explain the origins of the horrible totalitarianism that engulfed Europe, and to deduce the structure of institutions that would prevent it from arising again. The Nazi, Soviet, and Fascist systems were all characterized by total State-control of all aspects of life, including the most private aspects of life. Whether the ostensible purpose was re-casting human nature into the ‘new Soviet man’ or an embodiment of the German ‘volk’, they quickly evolved into an apparatus for murdering large numbers of their citizenry. Of course the prospective victims had to be identified before they could be murdered. For this purpose a State apparatus of domestic spying and information-gathering was devised. Primitive by today’s standards, the forced wearing of Jewish stars and the forced confessions by purported enemies of the State were crudely effective in generating large numbers of victims. Social scientists asked ‘How did this happen? What can be done to prevent its recurrence?’

The essential answer to the first question, distilled from reams of scholarship, is: De-legitimization of private life. All the social space traditionally separating individuals from the State was systematically removed. Private enterprise was abolished. All universities and schools in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union were taken over by government, run by political appointees, and staffed exclusively by those who would do their bidding. The same for the media, the churches (co-opted in Germany, eliminated in the Soviet Union), youth groups (Hitler Youth, Young Pioneers), and welfare organizations. All intermediary organizations that had previously functioned autonomously were either taken over by government, co-opted, intimidated into conformity, or forced out of existence. The sequence from privacy-deflation to total State control to mass murder progressed in roughly 15 years in the Soviet Union. In Nazi Germany, with more intensive propaganda and ‘education’, this sequence took only five years.

From this historical record, social scientists deduced that properly functioning democracies require lively intermediary organizations — churches, labor unions, 4-H clubs, PTAs, bowling clubs, whatever. Re-reading Tocqueville and Madison, social scientists re-discovered with these sages a high regard for such humble institutions (not that there were bowling clubs in Madison’s day, but you get the idea). The Austrian School (Hayek et al) added private enterprise to this list of freedom-enhancing entities. And from Vienna also came Lazarsfeld who posited ‘cross-pressures’ — conflicting loyalties — as the essential building-blocks of democracy. His big idea was that a healthy democracy needed unpredictability, where a person’s ethnicity, race, religion, education, or social class did not necessarily determine his voting preferences or consumer choices.

Since the 1970s, American and Western European societies have tolerated and even encouraged a progressive tribalization of their societies. Race, ethnicity, and sexual-identity have become increasingly salient in the distribution of government largesse, and consequently in the determination of political and consumer choices. Both public and private universities rely increasingly on government funding, and thus take their orders from the State, in research priorities, curricula, staffing, and extra-curricular activities. With some exceptions and counter-trends, the period since the 1970s has witnessed a progressive weakening of the autonomous mediating organizations that sociologists identified as essential to the working of democracy.

Separately, the growth of the Internet has deflated the private sphere, at first due in large part to the apparently voluntary choices of Internet users themselves. Only a few years ago the fad of the moment was 24/7 live webcams turned on oneself for the world to see. Now security cameras that do the same thing outdoors are all-pervasive. The collective mantra, highly promoted by the giant Internet companies, is ‘If you have nothing to hide, why be concerned?’ This is the tradeoff for ‘serving you better’. Mobile phones with geo-tracking are surely a great improvement in the quality of life, as is the proliferation of answers to life’s unanswered questions, and the blessings of instant communication. In return for all that, what does the loss of privacy matter?

I always doubted the business model of Internet-tracking. It never seemed plausible to me that a teen-ager with zits who happens to be in a drugstore is any more likely to buy zit-off after getting zapped with an ad on his geo-tracked mobile at that moment than if he weren’t zapped. The whole business of click-tracking, Web-tracking, and the like never made commercial sense to me. It was always hype — good for securing VC funding and not much else. But investors in these large-scale personal-data-gathering companies were not stupid. Behind our backs, these companies were getting paid by governments to sell users’ data. Their business model was not based on the supposed commercial utility of precise ad-targeting, but on secret NSA demands for indiscriminate personal data. Governments, under the banner of fighting terror, and shielded from Congressional or public scrutiny, have unlimited taxpayer funds to finance these transactions.

With the Snowden revelations, we now have a better understanding of the extent of Internet and telecom surveillance. Of course, this cannot have been a complete surprise. Nevertheless the near-universal scale of the surveillance, plus the technological capacity to sort and search the data, make for a real game-changer. As one security expert said in a recent interview:

The most shocking aspects of Edward Snowden’s courageous revelations is the scale of surveillance. Every one of us involved in this field, I think it’s fair to say, has not been surprised by what is possible but had assumed perhaps out of hope or fear that they were limited in what they did and were proportionate, and that although we didn’t believe they would just stick to terrorism they would not try to reach for everything.

But every single document, speech and slideshow shows that a bunch of juvenile lunatics have taken over the asylum and are drunk and exuberant on their capabilities to spy on everything all the time and that is what they want to do. They have lost every sort of moral compass and respect for civic values.

The problem is that many European countries, notably Britain but not exclusively Britain, have been complicit in these activities as a result of favours, trade or encouragement. Basically the NSA has, over years with Britain’s assistance, essentially tried to subvert companies and governments into a surveillance empire which is almost a supranational enterprise of their own.

The question is, to what end? As we know in sociology, not everything is what it seems. Just as the indiscriminate sweeping-up of personal data lacked a plausible commercial basis, though it still made business sense if the data were sold to government spy agencies, it is likewise implausible that all that data has much utility in fighting terror. What then is it good for?

I think that question has yet to be answered; that the answer will depend on what use the new owners of that data make of it. The meaning of the massive loss of privacy that has occurred is immanent, it will emerge as further events unfold. As far as I am aware, the central-conspiracy model does not fit the case. What we have is a set of disparate elements that as yet have not coalesced into any coherent order. Among these elements are the increasing tribalization of society, de-legitimizing of autonomous intermediary organizations, and deflation of the private sphere. These are exactly the conditions that gave rise to the totalitarian horrors of the mid-20th century. It does not appear that any current Western leader has it in him to become another Hitler or Stalin. But the elements are there, awaiting a moment — perhaps another terrorist attack or financial crisis — that will call forth a charismatic savior.

Yet one must be especially careful with historical analogies to avoid the ‘generals-fighting-the-last-war’ syndrome. Things are very different now, compared with analogous conditions 80 years ago. The greatly expanded human freedom, communication, and educational prospects empowered by the Internet may overwhelm the efforts of governments to use it as an instrument of State control. This will be a titanic struggle, with the outcome still unclear. And that’s where I’ll leave it for now, pending further sociological inquiry into what-all this may portend.

Wake up the People.

Draconian laws not only deserve lampoonery, they require it. Alert your community to the truth and drive a dialogue of liberty amongst the people. The NSA is directly assaulting free speech, attempting to silence the voice of the people — exercise your rights or lose them!

L’Espionnage américain en France.

C’est l’administration Obama qui est chargée de tout. Un mot du président et l’espionnage des alliés cessait. Complètement, sur les chapeaux de roue.

Ne me blâmez pas. Je vous avait prévenu avant même qu’il soit élu, alors que vous l’acclamiez bêtement: Barack (“la chance”) Obama n’est pas le gentil “Black” (en Français dans le texte) de vos rêves plus ou moins cinétiques. Nous somme nombreux ici à penser qu’il est simplement en train de saccager, de détruire la belle et forte Amérique de l’après deuxième guerre mondiale avec ses conneries sur tous les plans.

Les avis sont partagés cependant sur un point important. Certains opinent que c’est un malveillant gauchiste àl’ancienne mode. D’autre, dont moi, penchent plutôt vers l’idée que c’est un beau parleur fondamentalement incapable. Avant d’être élu à un poste ou un autre, il n’avait d’ailleurs jamais eu de vrai emploi de sa vie.

The Obama Presidency as the Pinnacle of Progressivism

Recently, I have been seeing a lot of libertarians tsk tsking  progressives for pinning their hopes on somebody like President Obama. For example, in a thread initiated by this article by Conor Friedersdorf of the Atlantic, an anonymous libertarian stated that Obama was “no progressive at all.”

Yet this is untrue. If anything, the Obama administration represents the pinnacle of Progressivism: “big” government taking care of the forgotten man in all aspects of his life. Self-styled progressives feigning disgust in the current administration’s dirty laundry need not do so. Either they implicitly endorse the authoritarianism of the Obama administration and pretend not to in polite company, or they don’t fully understand the moral and intellectual foundations of the ideology they purport to adhere to.

Around the Web

  1. The Reality of Feel-Good Government. James Bovard on “federal service” programs
  2. Will Wilkinson says “I smoke pot and I like it” (there’s more to the piece than just a confession)
  3. Map of police officers per 100,000 people in Europe
  4. Filming North Korea’s Film Industry
  5. Stephen Walt weighs in on the Snowden affair: What, me worry?
  6. Sex in the Arab World. An interview with Shereen El Feki

Impeach James Clapper

It’s very simple. The Director of National Intelligence needs to go. He lied to Congress about the NSA’s totalitarian PRISM program. That’s as serious and subversive a lie as can be told to Congress about any topic. It’s exactly the kind of official misconduct that the impeachment process was established to check and punish.

I encourage those of you who agree that Clapper should be impeached to reblog what I’ve written, either verbatim or modified as you see fit. So far, there has been a strong and encouraging grassroots response to the White House petition to pardon Edward Snowden, a fair amount of it from latent civil libertarians who have been shocked into engagement by the egregiousness of what Snowden has exposed. A campaign to impeach Clapper, whom Snowden’s leaks have exposed as a liar, would dovetail perfectly with the one to pardon Snowden. Clapper has already provoked a number of members of Congress with his lie about PRISM, so timely pressure from constituents could be what it takes either to pressure him out of office or to get him formally removed.

A couple of side notes on the official reaction to PRISM (the metadata, if you will):

1) Rudy Giuliani offered a cretinously jingoistic defense of Clapper in an interview with Greta Van Susteren last night (6/11), premised largely on Clapper’s distinguished service as a military officer, the underlying ethics being that we dasn’t criticize the troops. It’s worth noting that by that standard Edward Snowden would also be shielded from all criticism, although perhaps less fully shielded since Clapper had the patriotism not to truncate his military career by breaking both legs in a special forces training accident. It goes without saying, but shouldn’t, that one doesn’t hear this sort of defense offered on Bradley Manning’s behalf, and not just because he’s a young grunt. Nor does one hear it made in defense of Robert Bales or Nidal Hasan, except perhaps by their defense attorneys, because it would sound absolutely absurd to say such a thing about someone under court-martial for mass murder. I submit that it’s no less absurd or evil when said about a spook who has been caught lying to Congress about a totalitarian eavesdropping program.

The interview got weirder than that. When Van Susteren confronted Giuliani with a chronology of Clapper’s evasions, Giuliani suddenly changed tack and accused Clapper of being a loose cannon for not having formulaically stated that he could not answer the question or offered to answer it in closed-door session. By mayoral fiat, an esteemed officer and gentleman was turned into a blithering fool who didn’t know when to keep his mouth shut. This makes the notion of Giuliani as some sort of mobster at least look plausible.

2) This vile mashup of pop psychology, pop sociology, generational smears, class snobbery, and milquetoast despotism is bad even by David Brooks’ usual standards.

Around the Web: Lazy Saturday Edition

I’m not actually being lazy, I am just doing a bunch of homework (wink wink).

Knowledge is Power, so let the WikiWar begin!

Illegally Wiretapped? In the US? Sorry, but the courts won’t help you.

Can Syria’s Christians Survive?

Public ignorance about Paul Ryan and federal spending.

Pushing Back Against the State

A friend recently brought my attention to the Orwellian American Community Survey (ACS), a 48-question survey that is sent by the Census Bureau to a random sample of households and asks whether you have difficulty concentrating, how much you paid to heat your home last year, how many times you’ve been married, whether you have a toilet, and on and on.

In 2010 (and in the previous three decades) I sent in my regular census form with the first two questions filled in, those that respond to the Census Bureau’s Constitutional authority to conduct an enumeration every ten years.  I left the rest blank.  I got one visit from a census-taker and told her to get lost.  That was the end of it.  My friend, who is less interested in matters of constitutionality, tells me he simply threw his away and ignored the people who came knocking on his door until they gave up.  I think that’s what I would do with the ACS if I ever got one.

I got my driver’s license renewed last week and they took my thumb print.  I thought of resisting, but to what end?  The DMV drones would simply deny my license, and then what?  Mount some kind of campaign?  I have no time for such a thing, and a driver’s license is a necessity.

Last fall I was summoned for jury duty.  I called the specified phone number the night before and heard that I needn’t report.  But for some reason they decided I was a no-show.  The consequence?  I got a post card scolding me, no more.  (I was prepared to quote the 13th Amendment to the judge, the one that outlaws involuntary servitude.  I was also prepared to go ahead and serve, if the case were an interesting one where I might apply jury nullification.)  My friend just ignores jury summons.

I am about to begin remodeling work on my house, including re-doing a couple of bathrooms.  The building code has gotten quite a bit more intrusive since I built my house in 1978.  My neighbors are laughing at me since both did their bathrooms without permits.  But for various reasons I am going the permit route.  And in truth, some of the provisions that I bristled at first turned out, upon reflection, to be beneficial to me.

And to round out my list of sins, I never mounted the front license plate on my Thunderbird convertible.  I just thought that would spoil its looks, but it occurred to me that I probably can’t be caught by red-light cameras.  I’m amazed that I haven’t been stopped in eight years.

So the question I ask myself (and you) is: where to draw the line — when to push back and when to go along.  The aforementioned examples suggest that the consequences of resistance are likely to be far less than what we fear.  For that we can thank bureaucratic ineptitude.  Random citizens are almost as likely to fall prey to some bureaucratic outrage as are resistors.

I guess the answer is that each of us should do our own cost-benefit analysis.  How good will I feel about resisting and what is it likely to cost me?  Of course that’s often difficult to estimate, but I know one thing: I don’t want to be just a bystander to the slide into fascist dictatorship, if that’s where we’re headed.

While freedom of speech survives we should make the best of it, as in blogs like this.  But almost all the tools are in place for government agents to persecute people for their expressed opinions.  For example, the NSA is developing a capability to intercept and decrypt almost any sort of electronic communication such as emails, phone calls or Google searches. They may well be trolling the entire internet for posts like this.

What are your thoughts?  How are you pushing back?