Tag Archives: technology

NSA Whistleblower: Government illegally storing EVERYONE’s email and Facebook messages (video)

A good reason to have a Reagan.com email address and to use encryption.

William Binney, whistleblower and former NSA crypto-mathematician who served in the agency for decades. Virtual privacy in US, Petraeus affair and whistleblowers’ odds in fight against the authorities are among key topics of this exclusive interview.

Wired Magazine:

The NSA Is Building the Country’s Biggest Spy Center (Watch What You Say)

Under construction by contractors with top-secret clearances, the blandly named Utah Data Center is being built for the National Security Agency. A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks. The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013. Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.” It is, in some measure, the realization of the “total information awareness” program created during the first term of the Bush administration—an effort that was killed by Congress in 2003 after it caused an outcry over its potential for invading Americans’ privacy.

But “this is more than just a data center,” says one senior intelligence official who until recently was involved with the program. The mammoth Bluffdale center will have another important and far more secret role that until now has gone unrevealed. It is also critical, he says, for breaking codes. And code-breaking is crucial, because much of the data that the center will handle—financial information, stock transactions, business deals, foreign military and diplomatic secrets, legal documents, confidential personal communications—will be heavily encrypted. According to another top official also involved with the program, the NSA made an enormous breakthrough several years ago in its ability to cryptanalyze, or break, unfathomably complex encryption systems employed by not only governments around the world but also many average computer users in the US. The upshot, according to this official: “Everybody’s a target; everybody with communication is a target.”

For the NSA, overflowing with tens of billions of dollars in post-9/11 budget awards, the cryptanalysis breakthrough came at a time of explosive growth, in size as well as in power. Established as an arm of the Department of Defense following Pearl Harbor, with the primary purpose of preventing another surprise assault, the NSA suffered a series of humiliations in the post-Cold War years. Caught offguard by an escalating series of terrorist attacks—the first World Trade Center bombing, the blowing up of US embassies in East Africa, the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, and finally the devastation of 9/11—some began questioning the agency’s very reason for being. In response, the NSA has quietly been reborn. And while there is little indication that its actual effectiveness has improved—after all, despite numerous pieces of evidence and intelligence-gathering opportunities, it missed the near-disastrous attempted attacks by the underwear bomber on a flight to Detroit in 2009 and by the car bomber in Times Square in 2010—there is no doubt that it has transformed itself into the largest, most covert, and potentially most intrusive intelligence agency ever created.

In the process—and for the first time since Watergate and the other scandals of the Nixon administration—the NSA has turned its surveillance apparatus on the US and its citizens. It has established listening posts throughout the nation to collect and sift through billions of email messages and phone calls, whether they originate within the country or overseas. It has created a supercomputer of almost unimaginable speed to look for patterns and unscramble codes. Finally, the agency has begun building a place to store all the trillions of words and thoughts and whispers captured in its electronic net. And, of course, it’s all being done in secret. To those on the inside, the old adage that NSA stands for Never Say Anything applies more than ever.

Keep reading HERE….it gets scarier.

Beck blasts Obama & FEMA for directing elderly without power to the internet for help (video)

So we have the biggest storms to hit New York and New Jersey in decades, there are mass power outages and granny is going to whip out her Samsung Galaxy and pull up FEMA.gov to find out what to do?

Local TV stations didn’t even broadcast emergency phone numbers before the storm hit. So what is the FCC/FEMA emergency broadcast system good for again?

UPDATE – Hey buddy you ain’t in da union! I don’t care if those people are stranded and starving YOU ain’t helpin’!

Non-Union Alabama Utility Workers Denied Entry into New Jersey – Told to Stand Down (Video)

Obama invested heavily with outsourcers, after accusing Romney of doing the same…

See our other coverage on General Electric, Obama and Outsourcing. Also see – Obama’s Top Money Man Was In Charge of Bain Capital During GST Steel Layoffs – LINK.

Here we have an outstanding piece of journalism from Phil Klein at the Washington Examiner:

President Obama has accused Mitt Romney of raking in profits from investing in companies that ship American jobs overseas, but according to his most recent financial disclosure, he and First Lady Michelle Obama have hundreds of thousands of dollars in a mutual fund that has large holdings in corporations that outsource jobs.

“(Romney) invested in companies that have been called ‘pioneers’ of outsourcing,” Obama said at a Saturday campaign event in Glen Allen, Va. “I don’t want a pioneer in outsourcing. I want some insourcing.”

But Obama’s own portfolio shows a willingness to invest in American corporations that have shifted employment overseas.

In his most recent financial disclosure from 2011, Obama and his wife reported having between $200,000 and $450,000 in the Vanguard 500 Index Fund, which invests in the largest U.S. corporations. According to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, as of Sept. 30, 2011, the fund’s biggest holding was 8,272,039 shares of Apple Inc., then valued at $3.2 billion.

The New York Times reported in January:

Not long ago, Apple boasted that its products were made in America. Today, few are. Almost all of the 70 million iPhones, 30 million iPads and 59 million other products Apple sold last year were manufactured overseas….

“Apple’s an example of why it’s so hard to create middle-class jobs in the U.S. now,” said Jared Bernstein, who until last year was an economic adviser to the White House.

“If it’s the pinnacle of capitalism, we should be worried.”

The mutual fund that the Obamas have invested in also held 94,582,281 million shares of General Electric, valued at $1.4 billion, as of the SEC filing. The multinational conglomorate has a long history of outsourcing – according to a new book  cited by the New York Times, in 1989, “G.E. became the first U.S. company to outsource software work to India.” Obama also has close ties to GE’s CEO, Jeffrey Immelt, who was appointed as chairman of his outside panel of economic advisers last year.

In addition to Apple and GE, the Obamas’ fund listed 10,655,961 shares of International Business Machines, valued at $1.9 billion. As the Wall Street Journal reported in 2009, “The technology giant has been steadily building its work force in India and other locations while reducing the number of workers based in the U.S. Foreign workers accounted for 71% of Big Blue’s nearly 400,000 employees at the start of the year, up from about 65% in 2006.”

The point in this is not to say outsourcing is wrong. Corporations are supposed to maximize profits for shareholders. But Obama’s own portfolio shows that despite his heated rhetoric, he makes investment decisions without regard to whether companies are outsourcing.

You can look at a full list of the fund’s holdings as of Sept. 30, 2011, here.

Google: ‘alarming’ rise in censorship by governments

Guardian UK:

There has been an alarming rise in the number of times governments attempted to censor the internet in last six months, according to a report from Google.

Since the search engine last published its bi-annual transparency report, it said it had seen a troubling increase in requests to remove political content. Many of these requests came from western democracies not typically associated with censorship.

It said Spanish regulators asked Google to remove 270 links to blogs and newspaper articles critical of public figures. It did not comply. In Poland, it was asked to remove an article critical of the Polish agency for enterprise development and eight other results that linked to the article. Again, the company did not comply.

Google was asked by Canadian officials to remove a YouTube video of a citizen urinating on his passport and flushing it down the toilet. It refused.

Thai authorities asked Google to remove 149 YouTube videos for allegedly insulting the monarchy, a violation of Thailand’s lèse-majesté law. The company complied with 70% of the requests.

Pakistan asked Google to remove six YouTube videos that satirised its army and senior politicians. Google refused.

UK police asked the company to remove five YouTube accounts for allegedly promoting terrorism. Google agreed. In the US most requests related to alleged harassment of people on YouTube. The authorities asked for 187 pieces to be removed. Google complied with 42% of them.

In a blog post, Dorothy Chou, Google’s senior policy analyst, wrote: “Unfortunately, what we’ve seen over the past couple years has been troubling, and today is no different. When we started releasing this data, in 2010, we noticed that government agencies from different countries would sometimes ask us to remove political content that our users had posted on our services. We hoped this was an aberration. But now we know it’s not.

“This is the fifth data set that we’ve released. Just like every other time, we’ve been asked to take down political speech. It’s alarming not only because free expression is at risk, but because some of these requests come from countries you might not suspect – western democracies not typically associated with censorship.”

Over the six months covered by the latest report, Google complied with an average of 65% of court orders, as opposed to 47% of more informal requests.

Judge estimates 30K secret spying orders approved yearly

Creepy. The camera in the nose costs $2.3 million and has infrared and ultraviolet capabilities that allow it to see into structures as well as tell if you have narcotics in your pocket from nine miles away. Coming to a city near you….

USA Today:

Federal judges approve about 30,000 secret warrants to spy on people in the USA every year, and the innocent probably will never know they were watched, says a U.S. jurist involved in issuing the orders.

Magistrate Judge Stephen Smith writes in a new paper, highlighted by Ars Technica, that the 2006 total outstripped the entire output of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Courtsince it was created in 1979, and the number is probably growing.

The secret orders are authorized by the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, known as ECPA. Smith writes that the volume of such cases “is greater than the combined yearly total of all antitrust, employment discrimination, environmental, copyright, patent, trademark and securities cases filed in federal court.”

The warrants and the court’s proceedings are not open to public scrutiny. A three-judge panel reviews denials of applications for the warrants, but the court is not adversarial or open, and many orders are never unsealed.

 

Defense Department Personnel or “Contractors” Engage in Public Smear Campaign of USA Today Reporter

George Orwell call your office….

AFP/Yahoo News Canada:

The newspaper USA Today said Friday an editor and reporter probing Pentagon propaganda efforts have been targeted by an online “misinformation campaign.”

Fake Twitter and Facebook accounts have been created under the names of the reporter and editor with postings denigrating their professional reputations, according to the daily.

The timing of the online harassment coincided with stories by Pentagon correspondent Tom Vanden Brook, who has written about the military’s “information operations” program that spent large sums on marketing campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The program has faced criticism in and outside the Defense Department as “ineffective and poorly monitored,” the paper said.

The false online accounts, including a fake Wikipedia entry, started appearing only days after the reporter first contacted Pentagon contractors for the story, the newspaper wrote.

Two weeks after enterprise editor Ray Locker’s byline appeared on a story on the same subject, a fake website under his name — RayLocker.com — popped up, the paper said.

A US official confirmed to AFP that the Defense Department had made inquiries to contractors doing public relations work to ask them about the false online accounts.

The contractors denied any such activity, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

But the websites were taken down following the Pentagon’s inquiry. Some other accounts were removed for violating Internet providers’ terms of service, USA Today said.

NYT: Police Are Using Phone Tracking as a Routine Tool

NYT:

WASHINGTON — Law enforcement tracking of cellphones, once the province mainly of federal agents, has become a powerful and widely used surveillance tool for local police officials, with hundreds of departments, large and small, often using it aggressively with little or no court oversight, documents show.

The practice has become big business for cellphone companies, too, with a handful of carriers marketing a catalog of “surveillance fees” to police departments to determine a suspect’s location, trace phone calls and texts or provide other services. Some departments log dozens of traces a month for both emergencies and routine investigations.

With cellphones ubiquitous, the police call phone tracing a valuable weapon in emergencies like child abductions and suicide calls and investigations in drug cases and murders. One police training manual describes cellphones as “the virtual biographer of our daily activities,” providing a hunting ground for learning contacts and travels.

But civil liberties advocates say the wider use of cell tracking raises legal and constitutional questions, particularly when the police act without judicial orders. While many departments require warrants to use phone tracking in nonemergencies, others claim broad discretion to get the records on their own, according to 5,500 pages of internal records obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union from 205 police departments nationwide.

The internal documents, which were provided to The New York Times, open a window into a cloak-and-dagger practice that police officials are wary about discussing publicly. While cell tracking by local police departments has received some limited public attention in the last few years, the A.C.L.U. documents show that the practice is in much wider use — with far looser safeguards — than officials have previously acknowledged.

The issue has taken on new legal urgency in light of a Supreme Court ruling in January finding that a Global Positioning System tracking device placed on a drug suspect’s car violated his Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches. While the ruling did not directly involve cellphones — many of which also include GPS locators — it raised questions about the standards for cellphone tracking, lawyers say.

The police records show many departments struggling to understand and abide by the legal complexities of cellphone tracking, even as they work to exploit the technology.

In cities in Nevada, North Carolina and other states, police departments have gotten wireless carriers to track cellphone signals back to cell towers as part of nonemergency investigations to identify all the callers using a particular tower, records show.

In California, state prosecutors advised local police departments on ways to get carriers to “clone” a phone and download text messages while it is turned off.

In Ogden, Utah, when the Sheriff’s Department wants information on a cellphone, it leaves it up to the carrier to determine what the sheriff must provide. “Some companies ask that when we have time to do so, we obtain court approval for the tracking request,” the Sheriff’s Department said in a written response to the A.C.L.U.

And in Arizona, even small police departments found cell surveillance so valuable that they acquired their own tracking equipment to avoid the time and expense of having the phone companies carry out the operations for them. The police in the town of Gilbert, for one, spent $244,000 on such equipment.

Cell carriers, staffed with special law enforcement liaison teams, charge police departments from a few hundred dollars for locating a phone to more than $2,200 for a full-scale wiretap of a suspect, records show.

Read more HERE.

[For that kind of money it is an incentive for your cell carrier to track you without a warrant – Editor]

m

Lawsuit: School administrators force 12 year old to give up her Facebook password

I am considering authoring a book called School Administrators Gone Wild simply because the volumes of the most incredible stupidity coming from public school administrators is shocking. Most parents have no idea of the scope of this problem. There are at least five civil rights groups that focus just on legal violations at schools and they are overwhelmed with more cases than they can handle (and that isn’t even including the ACLU).

Legal papers, filed by the ACLU say the 12 year old girl, “was intimidated, frightened, humiliated and sobbing while she was detained in the small school room,” while school staff and a sheriff’s deputy read her private messages…

UK Telegraph:

The case has been brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and comes amid growing concern in the United States about individuals’ ability to keep their email and other online accounts secret from their school, employer and government authorities.

A number of prospective employees have complained that they were forced to hand over their passwords to Facebook and Twitter when applying for jobs.

In the Minnesota case, the 12-year-old girl, known only as RS, is said to have been punished by teachers at Minnewaska Area Middle School for things she wrote on Facebook while at home, and using her own computer.

The ACLU is arguing that her First and Fourth Amendment rights, which protect freedom of speech and freedom from illegal searches respectively, were violated.

She is said to have been punished with detention after using Facebook to criticise a school hall monitor, and again after a fellow student told teachers that she had discussed sex online.

Legal papers, filed by the ACLU say: “RS was intimidated, frightened, humiliated and sobbing while she was detained in the small school room,” while school staff and a sheriff’s deputy read her private messages.

It went on: “RS was extremely nervous and being called out of class and being interrogated.” The lawsuit says that the mother of RS had not given permission for the viewing.

A spokesman for the school district said: “The district is confident that once all facts come to light, the district’s conduct will be found to be reasonable and appropriate.”

The case highlights growing concern in the US about the extent to which supposedly private communications can be kept from those in authority.

The ACLU recently forced the Department of Corrections in Maryland to stop requiring applicants to provide their Facebook passwords when applying for jobs.