President Obama on Censorship

Extracted from a CNN Breaking News:

Obama said at a White House news conference:  “We cannot have a society in which some dictator some place can start imposing censorship here in the United States,” Obama said. “That’s not who we are. That’s not what America is about.” (emphasis added)

You see what’s important here, right? We cannot allow some dictator some place to impose censorship on us, because we are much better at doing that domestically.

If you think that the pervasive surveillance that has continued to grow in the world (under every political party) is not a form of censorship, you are simply delusional.

Apparently, I am not paranoid….

All my life, people have dismissed me and told me that I am “paranoid.” I had to look up the definition as a young adult to make sure that I was using the word the same way.

2 :  a tendency on the part of an individual or group toward excessive or irrational suspiciousness and distrustfulness of others

Here is what the NSA leaks reveal that my government has been doing to its citizens for years (source):

The NSA collects much more metadata about Internet traffic: who is talking to whom, when, how much, and by what mode of communication. Metadata is a lot easier to store and analyze than content. It can be extremely personal to the individual, and is enormously valuable intelligence. Continue reading

A whole boatload of commentary on NSA, PRISM, Snowden

Evidence that the NSA Is Storing Voice Content, Not Just Metadata

Interesting speculation that the NSA is storing everyone’s phone calls, and not just metadata. Definitely worth reading.

expressed skepticism about this just a month ago. My assumption had always been that everyone’s compressed voice calls is just too much data to move around and store. Now, I don’t know.

There’s a bit of a conspiracy-theory air to all of this speculation, but underestimating what the NSA will do is a mistake. General Alexander has told members of Congress that they can record the contents of phone calls. And they have the technical capability.

NSA Secrecy and Personal Privacy

In an excellent essay about privacy and secrecy, law professor Daniel Solove makes an important point. There are two types of NSA secrecy being discussed. It’s easy to confuse them, but they’re very different.

Of course, if the government is trying to gather data about a particular suspect, keeping the specifics of surveillance efforts secret will decrease the likelihood of that suspect altering his or her behavior.

But secrecy at the level of an individual suspect is different from keeping the very existence of massive surveillance programs secret. The public must know about the general outlines of surveillance activities in order to evaluate whether the government is achieving the appropriate balance between privacy and security. What kind of information is gathered? How is it used? How securely is it kept? What kind of oversight is there? Are these activities even legal? These questions can’t be answered, and the government can’t be held accountable, if surveillance programs are completely classified.

5 Alarming Things We Should Have Already Known About the NSA, Surveillance, and Privacy Before Ed Snowden

 When former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden blew the whistle on NSA spying, the story had bracing and wonderful effects. But alert Americans should have already known at least five reasons to be alarmed at the agency and its activities, and the general state of surveillance and privacy in the U.S.A.

1. Whistleblowers have warned us about an out-of-control NSA before.

Before Snowden became a household name, there was Thomas Drake, indicted in 2010 under the Espionage Act after he said publicly that an NSA data collection program might be being used illegally to gather data on Americans. (Drake pled guilty to one small charge. The bigger ones were ultimately dropped.)

And don’t forget William Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe. Each had their homes raided by the FBI in 2007, when they were suspected of being the sources of a 2005 NSA data-collection scandal broken by the New York Times. That scandal circled around the NSA’s Bush-era warrantless wiretapping program.

Details of NSA Data Requests from US Corporations

Facebook (here), Apple (here), and Yahoo (here) have all released details of US government requests for data. They each say that they’ve turned over user data for about 10,000 people, although the time frames are different. The exact number isn’t important; what’s important is that it’s much lower than the millions implied by the PRISM document.

Now the big question: do we believe them? If we don’t, what would it take before we did believe them?

Cost/Benefit Questions NSA Surveillance

John Mueller and Mark Stewart ask the important questions about the NSA surveillance programs: why were they secret, what have they accomplished, and what do they cost?

This essay attempts to figure out if they accomplished anything, and this essay attempts to figure out if they can be effective at all.

Finding Sociopaths on Facebook

On his blog, Scott Adams suggests that it might be possible to identify sociopaths based on their interactions on social media.

My hypothesis is that science will someday be able to identify sociopaths and terrorists by their patterns of Facebook and Internet use. I’ll bet normal people interact with Facebook in ways that sociopaths and terrorists couldn’t duplicate.Anyone can post fake photos and acquire lots of friends who are actually acquaintances. But I’ll bet there are so many patterns and tendencies of “normal” use on Facebook that a terrorist wouldn’t be able to successfully fake it.

Okay, but so what? Imagine you had such an amazingly accurate test…then what? Do we investigate those who test positive, even though there’s no suspicion that they’ve actually done anything? Do we follow them around? Subject them to additional screening at airports? Throw them in jail because we know the streets will be safer because of it? Do we want to live in a Minority Report world?

Petition the NSA to Subject its Surveillance Program to Public Comment

I have signed a petition calling on the NSA to “suspend its domestic surveillance program pending public comment.” This is what’s going on:

In a request today to National Security Agency director Keith Alexander and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, the group argues that the NSA’s recently revealed domestic surveillance program is “unlawful” because the agency neglected to request public comments first. A federal appeals court previously ruled that was necessary in a lawsuit involving airport body scanners.”In simple terms, a line has been crossed,” Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, told CNET. “The agency’s function has been transformed, and we think the public should have an opportunity to say something about that.”


Love Letter to an NSA Agent

A fine piece: “A Love Letter to the NSA Agent who is Monitoring my Online Activity.”

A similar sentiment is expressed in this video.

New Details on Skype Eavesdropping

This article, on the cozy relationship between the commercial personal-data industry and the intelligence industry, has new information on the security of Skype.

Skype, the Internet-based calling service, began its own secret program, Project Chess, to explore the legal and technical issues in making Skype calls readily available to intelligence agencies and law enforcement officials, according to people briefed on the program who asked not to be named to avoid trouble with the intelligence agencies.Project Chess, which has never been previously disclosed, was small, limited to fewer than a dozen people inside Skype, and was developed as the company had sometimes contentious talks with the government over legal issues, said one of the people briefed on the project. The project began about five years ago, before most of the company was sold by its parent, eBay, to outside investors in 2009. Microsoft acquired Skype in an $8.5 billion deal that was completed in October 2011.

US Offensive Cyberwar Policy

Today, the United States is conducting offensive cyberwar actions around the world.

More than passively eavesdropping, we’re penetrating and damaging foreign networks for both espionage and to ready them for attack. We’re creating custom-designed Internet weapons, pretargeted and ready to be “fired” against some piece of another country’s electronic infrastructure on a moment’s notice.

This is much worse than what we’re accusing China of doing to us. We’re pursuing policies that are both expensive and destabilizing and aren’t making the Internet any safer. We’re reacting from fear, and causing other countries to counter-react from fear. We’re ignoring resilience in favor of offense.

Motives Aside, the NSA Should Not Spy on Us

You need not suspect the motives of those responsible for NSA surveillance to detest what they are doing. In fact, we may have more to fear from spies acting out of patriotic zeal than those acting out of power lust or economic interest: Zealots are more likely to eschew restraints that might compromise their righteous cause.

For the sake of argument, we may assume that from President Obama on down, government officials sincerely believe that gathering Americans’ telephone and Internet data is vital to the people’s security. Does that make government spying okay?

No, it doesn’t.

Spying’s the Real Story, Not Edward Snowden

I promised myself to stay away from Orwell metaphors for the duration of the latest surveillance-state controversy. But the punditocracy’s recent “two-minutes hate” against National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden has me backsliding already.

Judging by the vicious — and irrelevant — attacks on Snowden’s character, all too many leading pundits and journalists love nothing more than a ritual ragegasm against an alleged enemy of the state.

The Washington Post‘s Richard Cohen calls Snowden a “cross-dressing Little Red Riding Hood”; he’s a “total slacker” with “all the qualifications to become a grocery bagger” jeers Politico‘s Roger Simon. Snowden’s “a grandiose narcissist who deserves to be in prison” offers The New Yorker‘s Jeffrey Toobin; Fox News’s Ralph Peters raises the stakes: a “narcissistic traitor” who belongs on death row.

Schneier on Security: Government Secrets and the Need for Whistle-blowers

Schneier on Security: Government Secrets and the Need for Whistle-blowers.

Whistle-blowing is the moral response to immoral activity by those in power. What’s important here are government programs and methods, not data about individuals. I understand I am asking for people to engage in illegal and dangerous behavior. Do it carefully and do it safely, but — and I am talking directly to you, person working on one of these secret and probably illegal programs — do it.

Go read the whole essay at the link at the top. Think. Think!

Google Responds to Accusations of Data Sharing with Government

Larry Page has posted a public refutation of accusations that Google is giving the NSA or other agencies open access to user data:

What the …?

Posted: Friday, June 07, 2013

Dear Google users—

You may be aware of press reports alleging that Internet companies have joined a secret U.S. government program called PRISM to give the National Security Agency direct access to our servers. As Google’s CEO and Chief Legal Officer, we wanted you to have the facts.

First, we have not joined any program that would give the U.S. government—or any other government—direct access to our servers. Indeed, the U.S. government does not have direct access or a “back door” to the information stored in our data centers. We had not heard of a program called PRISM until yesterday. Continue reading

The Really Distressing Part of the NSA Phone Surveillance… Once Again

More breaking news about the NSA phone surveillance, admissions by the White House, admissions by the President, admissions that congress knew…. blah blah blah.

The really distressing part (again) is that 58% of the American population is:

  1. Too stupid to care
  2. Stupid enough to trust the President (ANY president!) with this information
  3. Stupid enough  trust Congress with this information
  4. Stupid enough to accept that this is “anti terrorism”
  5. Stupid enough to think that it ends at watching the durations and numbers of the calls.

Really? Really?

We have lost the “war on terror.” Our leaders are now happily terrorizing us.


Privacy is Gradaully Coming to an End

I do not mean to be sensationalist or to come across as panicking by reposting this. This is just the way the world inevitably goes with time.

Surveillance and the Internet of Things, by Bruce Schneier

The Internet has turned into a massive surveillance tool. We’re constantly monitored on the Internet by hundreds of companies — both familiar and unfamiliar. Everything we do there is recorded, collected, and collated — sometimes by corporations wanting to sell us stuff and sometimes by governments wanting to keep an eye on us.

Ephemeral conversation is over. Wholesale surveillance is the norm. Maintaining privacy from these powerful entities is basically impossible, and any illusion of privacy we maintain is based either on ignorance or on our unwillingness to accept what’s really going on. Continue reading

Galactic Roundup 16.May.2013

Print Your Gun Parts at Home, from by J.D. Tuccille

In February, the techie gun-rights group Defense Distributed unveiled a 3D-printed lower receiver for an AR-15 rifle that withstood hundreds of rounds of fire. A YouTube video of the component in action was accompanied by the terse statement, “Does not fail from firing stresses. 600+ rounds.”

The Public/Private Surveillance Partnership, from Schneier on Security by Bruce Schneier

Our government collects a lot of information about us. Tax records, legal records, license records, records of government services received– it’s all in databases that are increasingly linked and correlated. Still, there’s a lot of personal information the government can’t collect. Either they’re prohibited by law from asking without probable cause and a judicial order, or they simply have no cost-effective way to collect it. But the government has figured out how to get around the laws, and collect personal data that has been historically denied to them: ask corporate America for it.
Continue reading

Facts on “fighting crime”?

Marco Tedaldi asked me:

Did you ever wonder why there are no big, colorful statistics on the positive impact on crime and crimefighting? I am constantly wondering… and also, why despite that a lot of money is thrown in that direction.

Is it really all about fighting crime?

I am ashamed to answer, “No, I had not thought of that.” But, we all should have!

crime counter

Surveillance Cameras Are Not All That

Surveillance Cameras Are Not All That: Cameras were a big help in Boston, but that doesn’t mean they are generally a good idea. by , May 6, 2013.

Surveillance cameras were originally touted as a strong deterrent, scaring away bad guys fearful of being caught on tape. But these devices have a disappointing record in action. In some places, they noticeably reduce crime. In others, they have the same effect as a potted plant.

In the Boston bombings, the cameras utterly failed in their preventive function. Not only did the bombings occur; they occurred in perhaps the most heavily photographed spot in America that day. Besides the permanent video cameras in operation, hundreds of spectators with cellphones were eagerly capturing the scene.

The alleged killers could hardly have been unaware of their exposure. They obviously chose the finish of the marathon precisely because of all the people and lenses that would be there when the explosives detonated. They made no effort to conceal or disguise their faces to avoid being identified.

Continue reading