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 Ron Paul group to defy IRS
Privacy

BY: Joel Gehrke April 15, 2014 | 2:15 pm
Washington Examiner

Ron Paul's nonprofit Campaign for Liberty will fight the Internal Revenue Service's demand that it reveal its donor list to the agency, despite having already been fined for refusing to do so.

"There is no legitimate reason for the IRS to know who donates to Campaign for Liberty," Megan Stiles, the communications director at Campaign for Liberty, told the Washington Examiner in an email on Tuesday. "We believe the First Amendment is on our side as evidenced by cases such as NAACP v. Alabama and International Union UAW v. National Right to Work. Many 501(c)(4) organizations protect the privacy of their donors in the very same way as Campaign for Liberty. For some reason the IRS has now chosen to single out Campaign for Liberty for special attention. We plan to fight this all the way."

Ron Paul suggested that the group will refuse to pay the IRS fine in an fundraising email to supporters about the agency's request for information.

"Paying this outrageous extortionist fine — just to exercise our rights as American citizens to petition our government — may even be cheaper in the short run," he wrote. "But it’ll just embolden an alphabet soup of other federal agencies to come after us." Paul's email said that the rule requiring that 501(c)(4)s list their donors is "rarely enforced."

Stiles accused the IRS of trying to silence her organization. "The IRS technically requires donor information from 501(c)(4) organizations and is forbidden by law from releasing it to the public, yet despite this they have 'mistakenly' released the information repeatedly over the years," she wrote. "Often these leaks have been made to political opponents of the conservative groups whose information was leaked. Leaking the donor information is intended to harass and to intimidate those donors from donating to political causes. Campaign for Liberty has refused to provide donor information to the IRS to protect the privacy of our members. Now the IRS has demanded the information and fined Campaign for Liberty for protecting its members’ privacy."

Posted by editor on Friday, April 25 @ 21:53:33 PDT (3588 reads)
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 Sen. Paul announces 'historic' class-action suit over NSA spying
Privacy

Sen. Rand Paul on Wednesday announced what he described as one of the largest class-action lawsuits in history, taking President Obama and top intelligence officials to court over National Security Agency surveillance. 

"This, we believe, will be a historic lawsuit," the Kentucky Republican said. The suit, joined by conservative advocacy group FreedomWorks, was filed in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia. 

It alleges that the NSA program that sweeps up and stores massive amounts of telephone "metadata" -- which includes where and when calls are made, but not the contents of the calls -- violates the Fourth Amendment. The suit asks the court to rule the program unconstitutional and forbid the government from continuing it. 

"There's a huge and growing swell of protest in this country of people who are outraged that their records would be taken without suspicion, without a judge's warrant and without individualization," Paul said, at a press conference in Washington. 

He said hundreds of thousands of people have joined, and predicted the suit could "conceivably represent hundreds of millions of people who have phone lines in this country."...

Posted by editor on Wednesday, February 12 @ 10:01:22 PST (2898 reads)
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 Judge deals blow to NSA phone data program
Privacy

Published December 16, 2013
FoxNews.com

A federal judge ruled Monday that the National Security Agency's bulk collection of phone records likely violates the Constitution, in a major setback for the controversial spy agency. 

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon granted a preliminary injunction sought by plaintiffs Larry Klayman and Charles Strange. However, he also stayed his decision "pending appeal," giving the U.S. government time to fight the decision over the next several months. 

The judge wrote that he expects the government to "prepare itself to comply with this order when, and if, it is upheld."...

Posted by editor on Monday, December 16 @ 18:14:12 PST (3311 reads)
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 Government Spies Forcing Privacy Email Services To Shut Down
Privacy

Steve Watson
Infowars.com
December 12, 2013

GCHQ, the British counterpart and facilitator to the NSA, has forced a privacy focused email service to shut down because it could not effectively spy on the encrypted emails people were sending.

As the blog IT Security Guru reports, a beta version of the PrivateSky service from London-based web security firm CertiVox was shut down early in 2013 following a government order.

The secure email encryption service, which worked with both web based email and Outlook, had “tens of thousands of heavily active users” before it was targeted by government spooks, according to the developers.

Brian Spector, CEO of CertiVox, tells reporters “Towards the end of 2012, we heard from the National Technical Assistance Centre (NTAC), a division of GCHQ and a liaison with the Home Office, [that] they wanted the keys to decrypt the customer data.”

“So they had persons of interest they wanted to track and came with a RIPA warrant signed by the home secretary. You have to comply with a RIPA warrant or you go to jail.” Spector adds.

Because the PrivateSky system works by splitting the root key between the company and the user, CertiVox was simply unable to wholly fulfil the government demand to hand over the data.

“So as far as I know we are the first to do that so if the NSA or GCHQ says ‘hand it over’… they cannot do anything with it until they have the other half, where the customer has control of it.” Spector notes.

The CEO also says that his company could only have continued to offer the secure email system by allowing government spies to have backdoor access to it – completely defeating the point of PrivateSky...

Posted by editor on Thursday, December 12 @ 13:40:08 PST (2879 reads)
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 Spies worry over 'doomsday' cache stashed by ex-NSA contractor Snowden
Privacy

(Reuters) - British and U.S. intelligence officials say they are worried about a "doomsday" cache of highly classified, heavily encrypted material they believe former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden has stored on a data cloud.

The cache contains documents generated by the NSA and other agencies and includes names of U.S. and allied intelligence personnel, seven current and former U.S. officials and other sources briefed on the matter said.

The data is protected with sophisticated encryption, and multiple passwords are needed to open it, said two of the sources, who like the others spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters...

 

Posted by editor on Tuesday, November 26 @ 16:07:09 PST (1596 reads)
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 America's Plan to Kill Online Privacy Rights Everywhere
Privacy

By Colum Lynch
Foreign Policy
Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The United States and its key intelligence allies are quietly working behind the scenes to kneecap a mounting movement in the United Nations to promote a universal human right to online privacy, according to diplomatic sources and an internal American government document obtained by The Cable.

The diplomatic battle is playing out in an obscure U.N. General Assembly committee that is considering a proposal by Brazil and Germany to place constraints on unchecked internet surveillance by the National Security Agency and other foreign intelligence services. American representatives have made it clear that they won't tolerate such checks on their global surveillance network. The stakes are high, particularly in Washington -- which is seeking to contain an international backlash against NSA spying -- and in Brasilia, where Brazilian President Dilma Roussef is personally involved in monitoring the U.N. negotiations.

The Brazilian and German initiative seeks to apply the right to privacy, which is enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to online communications. Their proposal, first revealed by The Cable, affirms a "right to privacy that is not to be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with their privacy, family, home, or correspondence." It notes that while public safety may "justify the gathering and protection of certain sensitive information," nations "must ensure full compliance" with international human rights laws. A final version the text is scheduled to be presented to U.N. members on Wednesday evening and the resolution is expected to be adopted next week.

A draft of the resolution, which was obtained by The Cable, calls on states to "to respect and protect the right to privacy," asserting that the "same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, including the right to privacy." It also requests the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, present the U.N. General Assembly next year with a report on the protection and promotion of the right to privacy, a provision that will ensure the issue remains on the front burner.

Publicly, U.S. representatives say they're open to an affirmation of privacy rights. "The United States takes very seriously our international legal obligations, including those under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights," Kurtis Cooper, a spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations, said in an email. "We have been actively and constructively negotiating to ensure that the resolution promotes human rights and is consistent with those obligations."

But privately, American diplomats are pushing hard to kill a provision of the Brazilian and German draft which states that "extraterritorial surveillance" and mass interception of communications, personal information, and metadata may constitute a violation of human rights. The United States and its allies, according to diplomats, outside observers, and documents, contend that the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights does not apply to foreign espionage.

In recent days, the United States circulated to its allies a confidential paper highlighting American objectives in the negotiations, "Right to Privacy in the Digital Age -- U.S. Redlines." It calls for changing the Brazilian and German text so "that references to privacy rights are referring explicitly to States' obligations under ICCPR and remove suggestion that such obligations apply extraterritorially." In other words: America wants to make sure it preserves the right to spy overseas...

Posted by editor on Sunday, November 24 @ 02:11:46 PST (1854 reads)
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 CIA Collects Money Transfer Data from Western Union and Others
Privacy

November 15th, 2013, 08:32 GMT
By Lucian Parfeni

For the past few months, since the Edward Snowden revelations went public, the NSA has been the focus of most reports, along with its British counterpart, the GCHQ. That makes sense, since Snowden worked for the NSA when he decided to gather information to leak and most of the documents he collected were from the GGHQ.

But these aren't the only two spy agencies messing with people's privacy and going beyond what the laws that govern them allow or should allow.

The CIA is collecting all financial transactions processed by the likes of Western Union, including those to and from the US. What this means is that the CIA has on hand a list of all transfers processed by Western Union including those of Americans.

The idea is to track the funding of various terrorist organizations and individuals associated with them or, at least, that's what anonymous officials say the program is for.

The agency would not confirm the program. But it is claimed that the program is legal under the Section 215 of the Patriot Act and is overseen by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. These are the same conditions that make most of NSA's surveillance "legal."

Allegedly, the data on Americans can't be searched by CIA agents, even if it's stored, unless they can be tied to terrorist organizations. The data is also supposed to be deleted after a few years.

Both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have reported on the matter, citing sources inside the government.

What's encouraging in all of this is that, for once in the past few months, these revelations don't come from the Edward Snowden documents. Of course, it's bad news that there are many of these types of programs that need to be revealed, but it's a good thing that they are finally unveiled, one way or another.

Posted by editor on Saturday, November 16 @ 13:46:36 PST (1791 reads)
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 To Stop Junk Mail, Stop Receiving Mail
Privacy

by Bill Rounds

I hated having to check the mail. When I did receive mail in my mailbox, it was mostly ads, bulk mail and mass mailers that were a complete waste of my time and a waste of trees. Before I had figured out how to stop junk mail, I still had to go through that pile of junk in order to not miss the occasional important piece of mail that I got. I found a way to stop receiving mail and don’t receive regular mail anymore. You don’t have to either.  I will show you one way to stop receiving mail.

Problems Sending Mail From Home

All of these options will prevent someone from snooping through your mail, possibly taking important items or even stealing your identity.

Sending mail from the curbside mailbox in front of your own home can be dangerous, especially if you are paying bills through the mail. You should never leave a piece of mail with a personal check in your curbside mailbox. These problems sending mail are related to the problems receiving mail at home.  By receiving mail at your home, you disclose the identity of the people who live there to anyone who might be curious. Not only might your mail contain your name on the outside, there may be sensitive information on the inside. You may receive checks, credit card offers or other pieces of mail that sit unattended near the street. This kind of information can be gold to private investigators and identity thieves. Receiving mail at an address that is not your permanent home might also expose you to income tax in a state that is not the state with which you have the strongest connection.

To Stop Junk Mail, Start Online

There are ways to stop receiving mail that you don’t want by contacting many of the mass mailing marketing agencies that keep track of you and send junk mail to you.  I may cover that in another post, but my purpose here is to show you how to stop receiving mail altogether to stop junk mail.  It is actually possible to stop receiving mail at your curb side mailbox, even if you have received mail at that address before. First, it is helpful to eliminate all important mail, like bank statements, credit card bills, etc. Check those kinds of important accounts online if possible. Online security protocol should be followed of course.

To Stop Junk Mail, Use A New Address

You still may have items or accounts that do not allow for electronic monitoring, or you may not want to risk the potential insecurity of online activity. For these items you can use a PO box or private mail receiving agency, like Earth Class Mail, to receive your mail. Another option is to receive mail at an office or location that has more security than a curb side mail box. All of these options will prevent someone from snooping through your mail, possibly taking important items or even stealing your identity. Earth Class Mail is also a good way to easily dispose of unwanted junk mail easily.

Once you no longer depend on the mail for service, you can take steps to stop mail delivery to your home. The post office allows requests from customers to hold delivery of their mail for up to 30 days. I am unaware if there are any limits to how often you can do this, or if you can extend this request for longer than 30 days.

Stop Receiving Mail By Not Checking Mail

You can rely on another postal regulation to cease mail delivery to your house completely. I don’t think the USPS likes people doing this, but it is within the regulations of the post office. If your mail accumulates in your mailbox and more mail cannot be reasonably delivered, the mailman will take all of your mail and hold it at the post office. Oreo will double stuff their cookies, the post office will not.  He will not deliver more mail to your house until you pick your mail up at the post office. You will be notified with a short note left in your mailbox where your pile of useless junk mail once sat. Once you have read the note, you should leave it in the mailbox for good so that the mailman is not aware that you have ever seen the note. They will only hold your mail for a few weeks, so anything older than a few weeks will be returned to sender.

This is easier to do if you can avoid the mailman. It might make for uncomfortable conversation if you regularly do yoga on your front lawn whenever your mailman comes by or if you see him at parties. If your house appears to be a vacation home, this technique will also be more effective.

Conclusion

I do not think the post office intends for people to stop checking their mail so they can stop receiving their mail.  That is the unintended result of their policy.  This is just one of many of the strategies discussed in the book How To Vanish that are legal but that the authorities don’t really want you to know about.  Do not let your private information sit unattended at the curb every day.  If possible use a reputable CMRA such as Earth Class Mail as this will both protect your privacy, increase peace of mind and save you time. It will also help you when you are traveling outside of tax free states so that you don’t expose yourself to unjust tax liability.  Fight the urge to check your mail just for a while and you will never have to check it again.

Posted by editor on Friday, November 08 @ 17:59:46 PST (1399 reads)
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 Being an Existential Prepper
Privacy

by SARTRE
October 28, 2013

It may seem that an analysis of the prepper cultural phenomena is a trite endeavor, but if you delve into the philosophical underpinnings of human instincts for survival, a worthy lesson can be the result. Since life is a gift, the conditions upon which it ends or voluntarily forfeited, are not necessarily dependent upon the will of the individual. A calculated act of placing your life at risk is not equivalent with a deliberate suicide. The functions and purpose of the prepper community is in direct conflict with those individuals that languish in hopeless despair and desperation. The response of the prepper to social turmoil is to prepare for contingencies. Yet that defensive posture avoids the essential question, what is the point of surviving if the communal environment is a hopeless wasteland.

A novel plot for a pilot reality show entitled Preppers vs. Self-Sufficientists gives a comparison.

"Picture a quiet street in a small suburban town, Somewhere, U.S.A. On the left side of the street live the Self-Sufficientists, community-minded folks who believe that being self-reliant in the event of whatever disaster or hardship may come is good for everyone. The right side of the street is reserved for the Preppers, people who mind their own business, look after themselves, and are armed and ready to defend the freedoms they hold dear."

What accounts for this different approach towards survival, largely depends upon the peril level and perceived type of social dislocation and political unrest that might follow. The populace dismisses both viewpoints, discounted by the vast majority of urban inhabitants that are entirely dependent upon the interdependent public services and just in time distribution systems that sustain their lifestyle.

Whether a natural disaster, a social unrest upheaval, a financial bubble or a breakdown of infrastructure or services; the expectation is that the government will respond. Meeting the needs of the dispossessed is now seen as a civil right, no matter what the circumstance.

Proverbs 27:12 -

"A prudent person foresees the danger ahead and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences."

For the dependent dwellers, they never assume the personal responsibility to take even the most modest precautions. The remediation of dire consequences falls upon first responders, FEMA facilities and government subsidies. Prepping for an unknown catastrophic disaster would interfere with texting and surfing.

Reliance upon a fragile technological communication cloud, when a storm is on the horizon, is foolish to the prudent person. However, common sense and practical skills are distinctly on the decline, even when found in the postmodern artificial intelligence matrix.

prepper.jpg

Therefore, when the prepper enthusiast emerges as a counter weight to urban apathy, the slackers lash out against the rural refuge mindset that promotes independence and self-reliance...

Posted by editor on Tuesday, October 29 @ 05:09:00 PST (1219 reads)
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 US admits: French surveillance revelations raise 'legitimate questions'
Privacy

Paul Lewis in Washington and Angelique Chrisafis in Paris
theguardian.com, Monday 21 October 2013 23.24 BST

The White House conceded on Monday that revelations about how its intelligence agencies have intercepted enormous amounts of French phone traffic raised "legitimate questions for our friends and allies".

In a statement released after a phone call between Barack Obama and his counterpart, François Hollande, the White House made one of its strongest admissions yet about the diplomatic impact of the disclosures by the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The French government had earlier summoned the US ambassador in Paris on Monday to demand an urgent explanation over claims that the National Security Agency had engaged in widespread phone and internet surveillance of French citizens.

The French daily Le Monde published details from the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, suggesting the NSA had been intercepting French phone traffic on what it termed "a massive scale".

"The president and President Hollande discussed recent disclosures in the press – some of which have distorted our activities, and some of which raise legitimate questions for our friends and allies about how these capabilities are employed," the White House said in a statement. 

"The president made clear that the United States has begun to review the way that we gather intelligence, so that we properly balance the legitimate security concerns of our citizens and allies with the privacy concerns that all people share. The two presidents agreed that we should continue to discuss these issues in diplomatic channels."

Le Monde said more than 70m French phone calls had been recorded in one 30-day period late last year. Techniques included the automatic recording of conversations from certain numbers, and sweeping up text messages based on keywords. Le Monde warned that the interceptions were likely to have targeted not just those with suspected terrorist links but also people in business and politics...

Posted by editor on Monday, October 21 @ 22:07:32 PDT (1533 reads)
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 How the NSA Thinks About Secrecy and Risk
Privacy

At this point, the agency has to assume that all of its operations will become public, probably sooner than it would like.

Bruce Schneier
The Atlantic.com
Oct 4 2013, 11:06 AM ET

The former monitoring base of the NSA in Bad Aibling, Germany (Reuters)

As I report in The Guardian today, the NSA has secret servers on the Internet that hack into other computers, codename FOXACID. These servers provide an excellent demonstration of how the NSA approaches risk management, and exposes flaws in how the agency thinks about the secrecy of its own programs.

Here are the FOXACID basics: By the time the NSA tricks a target into visiting one of those servers, it already knows exactly who that target is, who wants him eavesdropped on, and the expected value of the data it hopes to receive. Based on that information, the server can automatically decide what exploit to serve the target, taking into account the risks associated with attacking the target, as well as the benefits of a successful attack. According to a top-secret operational procedures manual provided by Edward Snowden, an exploit named Validator might be the default, but the NSA has a variety of options. The documentation mentions United Rake, Peddle Cheap, Packet Wrench, and Beach Head—all delivered from a FOXACID subsystem called Ferret Cannon. Oh how I love some of these code names. (On the other hand, EGOTISTICALGIRAFFE has to be the dumbest code name ever.)

Snowden explained this to Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald in Hong Kong. If the target is a high-value one, FOXACID might run a rare zero-day exploit that it developed or purchased. If the target is technically sophisticated, FOXACID might decide that there's too much chance for discovery, and keeping the zero-day exploit a secret is more important. If the target is a low-value one, FOXACID might run an exploit that's less valuable. If the target is low-value and technically sophisticated, FOXACID might even run an already-known vulnerability.

We know that the NSA receives advance warning from Microsoft of vulnerabilities that will soon be patched; there's not much of a loss if an exploit based on that vulnerability is discovered. FOXACID has tiers of exploits it can run, and uses a complicated trade-off system to determine which one to run against any particular target...

Posted by editor on Saturday, October 05 @ 21:47:49 PDT (2759 reads)
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 NSA disguised itself as Google to spy, say reports
Privacy

by Edward Moyer
CNET.com
September 12, 2013 2:19 PM PDT

If a recently leaked document is any indication, the US National Security Agency -- or its UK counterpart -- appears to have put on a Google suit to gather intelligence.

Here's one of the latest tidbits on the NSA surveillance scandal (which seems to be generating nearly as many blog items as there are phone numbers in the spy agency's data banks).

Earlier this week, Techdirt picked up on a passing mention in a Brazilian news story and a Slate article to point out that the US National Security Agency had apparently impersonated Google on at least one occasion to gather data on people. (Mother Jones subsequently pointed out Techdirt's point-out.)

Brazilian site Fantastico obtained and published a document leaked by Edward Snowden, which diagrams how a "man in the middle attack" involving Google was apparently carried out.

A technique commonly used by hackers, a MITM attack involves using a fake security certificate to pose as a legitimate Web service, bypass browser security settings, and then intercept data that an unsuspecting person is sending to that service. Hackers could, for example, pose as a banking Web site and steal passwords.

The technique is particularly sly because the hackers then use the password to log in to the real banking site and then serve as a "man in the middle," receiving requests from the banking customer, passing them on to the bank site, and then returning requested info to the customer -- all the while collecting data for themselves, with neither the customer nor the bank realizing what's happening. Such attacks can be used against e-mail providers too.

It's not clear if the supposed attack in the Fantastico document was handled by the NSA or by its UK counterpart, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). The article by the Brazilian news agency says, "In this case, data is rerouted to the NSA central, and then relayed to its destination, without either end noticing."

"There have been rumors of the NSA and others using those kinds of MITM attacks," Mike Masnick writes on Techdirt, "but to have it confirmed that they're doing them against the likes of Google... is a big deal -- and something I would imagine does not make [Google] particularly happy."

Google provided a short statement to Mother Jones reporter Josh Harkinson in response to his questions on the matter: "As for recent reports that the US government has found ways to circumvent our security systems, we have no evidence of any such thing ever occurring. We provide our user data to governments only in accordance with the law." (The company is also trying to win the right to provide more transparency regarding government requests for data on Google users.)

CNET got a "no comment" from the NSA in response to our request for more information...

 

Posted by editor on Friday, September 13 @ 04:32:48 PDT (1627 reads)
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 Tahoe and Tor: Building Privacy on Strong Foundations
Privacy

September 6, 2013 | By Danny O'Brien
EFF.org

Many people want to build secure Internet services that protect their users against surveillance, or the illegal seizure of their data. When EFF is asked how to build these tools, our advice is: don't start from scratch. Find a public, respected, project which provides the privacy-protecting quality you want in your own work, and find a way to implement your dream atop these existing contributions.

So, for instance, the New Yorker's Strongbox, a dropbox for anonymous sources, uses Tor as its basis to provide anonymity to its users. If you want anonymity in your app, building your tool on top of Tor's backbone means you can take advantage of its experience and future improvements, as well as letting you contribute back to the wider community.

Anonymity is only one part of what will make the Net secure and privacy-friendly, though. The recent NSA revelations as well as glitches and attacks on single services like GitHub, Amazon, Twitter and the New York Times, have prompted demand for online data storage that doesn't depend on companies who might hand over such data or compromise security to comply with government demands, nor depend on one centralised service that could taken down through external pressure.

Tahoe-LAFS draws from a combination of computer security philosophies, backed up with cryptography implement in open-source code.

The Principle of Least Authority In computer science, the principle of least authority means granting the minimum set of permissions necessary to accomplish a task. For example, someone who is a contributing blogger on a website doesn't need full administrator access to a site. Tahoe attempts to apply this principle to online file storage by ensuring through encryption that the organization storing your data can't see all your data, and that users can be given fine-grained access through cryptographic capabilities.

Cryptographic capabilities In Tahoe-LAFS, you can read or write a file in the system only if you know a (rather long) set of characters, or key. The capability keys are different for each file, which means you can share a picture by sending a friend one capability key without giving them access to everything. You can also give people power to create or even edit files by sending them different keys. Using capability-based security means there's no central authority that manages access control for you, as with Dropbox or Google Docs. You're in charge of spreading (or withholding) your capability keys.

Erasure coding A method of redundantly storing data over a number of servers that allows data to be reconstructed, even if a certain number of those servers get shut down or corrupted. In the default Tahoe network, data is spread over ten drives, and can be read even if seven of those servers are lost. That means you don't have to rely on one provider, and makes Tahoe storage harder to disrupt.

The Tahoe Least Authority File System (Tahoe-LAFS) has been actively developed since 2007. Just as Tor concentrates on anonymity, Tahoe-LAFS's developers have worked hard to create a resilient, decentralized, infrastructure that lets you store online both data you'd want to keep private, as well as data you want to share with selected groups of friends. It's also able to protect against a single source of failure or censorship, like a commercial service being attacked or responding to a takedown.

Tahoe-LAFS is open source, but this month, some of the Tahoe project's founders launched S4, a commercial "PRISM-proof" secure, off-site backup service which uses Tahoe as a backend, and Amazon as a storage site.

Tahoe's protections against third-party snooping and deletion have the kind of strong mathematical guarantees that reassure security experts that Tahoe-LAFS is well-defended against certain kinds of attack. That also means its privacy and resilience are not dependent on the good behaviour or policies of its operators (see the box for more info).

Secure online backups like S4 are  one possible use for Tahoe's time-tested code and approach. You and your friends can run your own Tahoe network, sharing storage space across a number of servers, confident that your friends can only see and change what they have the caps to see, and that even if a sizeable number of those servers disappear, your data will still be retrievable. Services like git-annex-assistant, a decentralised Dropbox-like folder synchroniser, already optionally offer it as backend. Some privacy activists have run private Tahoe networks over Tor, creating an anonymous, distributed, and largely censorship-proof, storage system.

It's great to see commercial services like S4 emerging in the face of our new knowledge about pervasive online surveillance. Even better is the possibility that others, including entrepreneurs, designers and usability experts, will stand on the shoulders of the secure possibilities that protocols like Tor and Tahoe provide, and give us all innovative Internet tools that can truly keep users and their data safe and sound.

Posted by editor on Tuesday, September 10 @ 00:29:42 PDT (1770 reads)
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 Crucial Unanswered Questions about the NSA's BULLRUN Program
Privacy

September 9, 2013 | By Dan Auerbach and Kurt Opsahl
EFF.org

As we work hard to promote encryption on the web through tools like our browser extension HTTPS Everywhere, we also pay close attention to attacks that undermine the security of that encryption. That's why we were dismayed by last Thursday's revelations about the National Security Agency's aggressive efforts to undermine the ability of citizens to communicate securely. It's not surprising that the NSA would try to break cryptographic systems in whatever way they can, but the deeply pernicious nature of this campaign—undermining national standards and sabotaging hardware and software—as well as the amount of overt private sector cooperation are both shocking.

These leaks should not lead us to privacy nihilism – while we cannot be certain about the NSA's capabilities, we have good reason to believe that the mathematical underpinnings of crypto systems in widespread use remain strong. We are safer when communicating with encryption and anonymity tools. This is especially true for open source tools that are developed in public view and provide a higher level of auditability than closed tools. Even if the NSA and other major spying powers like the United Kingdom, China, and Russia have advanced attacks and backdoors, strong encryption can make their spying more difficult while protecting against less sophisticated adversaries.

And while it is important not to despair, a thorough examination of the available information from the NSA is in order, both so that we can bolster our defenses against these attacks on our communications infrastructure, and so that we can have an open democratic debate about what tactics are appropriate for the NSA to use. Unfortunately, while last Thursday's articles and documents about the BULLRUN program paint a picture of spy agencies working hard on a variety of fronts in order to undermine our ability to communicate securely, these broad brush strokes leave many key questions unanswered.

Does the NSA hold the private SSL encryption keys of major communication service providers like Facebook, Google, and Microsoft?

We've recently been worried about the privacy of keys that are supposed to be in the hands of service providers and no one else. A very large fraction of the world's online communications flow through a handful of service providers, and in turn a handful of private keys used by those providers serve as a gateway to the communications of billions of people. It is therefore critical to know whether or not the NSA has these private keys, since that would mean the agency has unfettered access to a huge swath of the world's online communications.1

Posted by editor on Tuesday, September 10 @ 00:19:43 PDT (1811 reads)
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 Edward Snowden Reveals Secret Decryption Programs: 10 Things You Need To Know
Privacy

By Ryan W. Neal
International Business Times
on September 06 2013 12:38 PM

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has leaked new documents to The Guardian and The New York Times that reveal expensive secret programs in the NSA and GCHQ aimed at defeating online privacy by decrypting email, online banking and medical records. Security experts have said that the programs “undermine the fabric of the Internet,” but can they really be any worse than the surveillance programs Snowden outted, like PRISM and XKeyscore? Here are 10 things you need to know about the latest Snowden leak.

1.       Codenamed Bullrun and “Edgehill”

The NSA’s decryption program was named "Bullrun" after the major battle in the American Civil War, while the British program was named "Edgehill" after a battle in the English Civil War. According to the documents leaked by Snowden, Bullrun aims to “defeat the encryption used in specific network communication technologies.” Similarly, Edgehill aimed to decrypt the four major Internet communication companies: Hotmail, Google, Yahoo and Facebook.

2.      Bullrun Began 10 Years Ago

Snowden showed how the NSA had been working for a decade to break Internet encryption technologies. A major breakthrough for the NSA came in 2010, when it was able to exploit Internet cable taps to collect “vast amounts” of data.

3.       NSA and GCHQ View Encryption as a Threat

One document leaked by Snowden showed that the NSA described its program as “the price of admission for the U.S. to maintain unrestricted access to and use of cyberspace.” Both the NSA and GCHQ described encryption, used to ensure privacy and establish confidence in Internet commerce, as a threat to their mission against terrorism.

4.       Bullrun Is the Most Expensive Program Leaked by Snowden

The funding allocated for Bullrun in top-secret budgets dwarfs the money set aside for programs like PRISM and XKeyscore. PRISM operates on about $20 million a year, according to Snowden, while Bullrun cost $254.9 million in 2013 alone. Since 2011, Bullrun has cost more than $800 million.

5.       Bullrun Influences Product Design

A majority of the funding for Bullrun goes toward actively engaging tech companies in their product design. The NSA covertly influenced tech companies to insert vulnerabilities into commercial products that would allow the NSA access without consumers’ knowledge. Snowden did not name specific tech companies that were involved.

6.       GCHQ Has Lofty Goals For Edgehill

Edgehill started with the initial goal of decrypting the programs used by three major Internet companies, which were unnamed in Snowden’s leak, and 30 Virtual Private Networks. GCHQ hopes that by 2015 Edgehill will have decrypted 15 major Internet companies and 300 VPNs...

Posted by editor on Monday, September 09 @ 23:55:21 PDT (1383 reads)
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 Facebook to compensate users for sharing details on ads
Privacy

By Joe Miller
BBC News
August 27, 2013

Approximately 614,000 Facebook users whose personal details appeared in ads on the site without their permission will each receive a $15 (£9.65) payout.

The names and pictures of an estimated 150 million Facebook members were used in Sponsored Stories, but only those who responded to an email from the site earlier this year will be compensated.

Privacy organisations will also receive some of the $20m (£12.9m) settlement.

Facebook said it was "pleased" the settlement had been approved.

The payout was approved by a US court on Monday following a class action filed against Facebook in 2011 by five of its users.

The group said their details had been used to promote products and services through the site's Sponsored Stories programme, without paying them or giving them the choice to opt-out.

A Sponsored Story is a tailored advertisement that appears on members' Facebook pages, highlighting products a user's friends have endorsed or "liked" on the site.

No 'meaningful' harm

US District Judge Richard Seeborg acknowledged that the $15 payments were relatively small, but said it had not been established that Facebook had "undisputedly violated the law".

He added that the claimants could not prove they were "harmed in any meaningful way".

The court estimated that Facebook had made about $73m (£47m) in profit from the Sponsored Stories featuring details of the 150 million members.

The settlement also requires Facebook to make changes to its "Statement of Rights" and to give users more information and control over how their details are used in the future...

Posted by editor on Wednesday, August 28 @ 07:48:45 PDT (1250 reads)
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 DoD Training Manual: 'Extremist' Founding Fathers 'Not Welcome In Military'
Privacy

Adan Salazar
Infowars.com
August 24, 2013

Conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch recently obtained a Department of Defense training manual which lists people who embrace “individual liberties” and honor “states’ rights,” among other characteristics, as potential “extremists” who are likely to be members of “hate groups.”

dodman

Marked “for training purposes only,” the documents, obtained Thursday through a Freedom of Information Act request submitted in April, include PowerPoint slides and lesson plans, among which is a January 2013 Air Force “student guide” distributed by the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute simply entitled “Extremism.”

Judicial Watch’s FOIA request asked for “Any and all records concerning, regarding, or related to the preparation and presentation of training materials on hate groups or hate crimes distributed or used by the Air Force.”

As the group notes, “The document defines extremists as ‘a person who advocates the use of force or violence; advocates supremacist causes based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or national origin; or otherwise engages to illegally deprive individuals or groups of their civil rights.’”

The manual goes on to bar military personnel from “active participation” in such extremist organization activities as “publicly demonstrating,” “rallying,” “fundraising” and “organizing,” basically denying active-duty military from exercising the rights they so ardently fight to defend.

It begins its introduction of a section titled, “Extremist ideologies,” by describing the American colonists who sought independence from British rule as a historical example of extremism.

“In U.S. history, there are many examples of extremist ideologies and movements. The colonists who sought to free themselves from British rule and the Confederate states who sought to secede from the Northern states are just two examples,” according to the training guide.

In a section drawing inspiration from a 1992 book titled “Nazis, Communists, Klansmen, and Others on the Fringe: Political Extremism in America,” the manual also lists “Doomsday thinking” under “traits or behaviors that tend to represent the extremist style.”

Extremists often predict dire or catastrophic consequences from a situation or from a failure to follow a specific course, and they tend to exhibit a kind of crisis-mindedness. It can be a Communist takeover, a Nazi revival, nuclear war, earthquakes, floods, or the wrath of God. Whatever it is, it is just around the corner unless we follow their program and listen to their special insight and wisdom, to which only the truly enlightened have access. For extremists, any setback or defeat is the beginning of the end.

“Nowadays,” the manual explains, “instead of dressing in sheets or publicly espousing hate messages, many extremists will talk of individual liberties, states’ rights, and how to make the world a better place.”...

Posted by editor on Saturday, August 24 @ 22:46:24 PDT (1535 reads)
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 NSA reportedly broke privacy rules thousands of times
Privacy

Published August 16, 2013
FoxNews.com

The National Security Agency has overstepped its authority and broken privacy rules thousands of times every year since being given new surveillance powers by Congress in 2008, The Washington Post reported, citing an internal audit and other secret documents.

The documents, which the Post claims it received earlier this summer from NSA leaker Edward Snowden, detail how the controversial agency has crossed the line many times over in its collection of massive amounts of data from around the world.

Despite repeated claims by officials that the NSA does not spy on Americans, the Post reports that the bulk of the infractions involved improper surveillance of Americans or foreign targets in the U.S. Some of the infractions were inadvertent, caused by typographical errors resulting in U.S. calls or emails being intercepted. Others were more serious.

The Post reported that the most significant violations included the unauthorized use of information on more than 3,000 Americans and green-card holders. In another incident, the Post reported that a “large number” of calls from Washington were intercepted in 2008 after the Washington area code 202 was confused with the code 20, which is the code for dialing to Egypt.

In total, an NSA audit from May 2012 reportedly found 2,776 incidents in the prior 12 months of improper collection and handling of communications.

In another case, the special court that oversees the NSA did not learn about a new collection method until it had been underway for months. The court ruled the method unconstitutional, according to the Post.

Posted by editor on Friday, August 16 @ 06:01:14 PDT (1391 reads)
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 FBI pressures Internet providers to install surveillance software
Privacy

CNET has learned the FBI has developed custom "port reader" software to intercept Internet metadata in real time. And, in some cases, it wants to force Internet providers to use the software.

August 2, 2013 12:26 PM PDT

The U.S. government is quietly pressuring telecommunications providers to install eavesdropping technology deep inside companies' internal networks to facilitate surveillance efforts.

FBI officials have been sparring with carriers, a process that has on occasion included threats of contempt of court, in a bid to deploy government-provided software capable of intercepting and analyzing entire communications streams. The FBI's legal position during these discussions is that the software's real-time interception of metadata is authorized under the Patriot Act.

Attempts by the FBI to install what it internally refers to as "port reader" software, which have not been previously disclosed, were described to CNET in interviews over the last few weeks. One former government official said the software used to be known internally as the "harvesting program."

Carriers are "extra-cautious" and are resisting installation of the FBI's port reader software, an industry participant in the discussions said, in part because of the privacy and security risks of unknown surveillance technology operating on an sensitive internal network.

It's "an interception device by definition," said the industry participant, who spoke on condition of anonymity because court proceedings are sealed. "If magistrates knew more, they would approve less." It's unclear whether any carriers have installed port readers, and at least one is actively opposing the installation.

In a statement from a spokesman, the FBI said it has the legal authority to use alternate methods to collect Internet metadata, including source and destination IP addresses: "In circumstances where a provider is unable to comply with a court order utilizing its own technical solution(s), law enforcement may offer to provide technical assistance to meet the obligation of the court order."

AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Comcast, and Sprint declined to comment. A government source familiar with the port reader software said it is not used on an industry-wide basis, and only in situations where carriers' own wiretap compliance technology is insufficient to provide agents with what they are seeking...

Posted by editor on Monday, August 05 @ 03:07:04 PDT (1766 reads)
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 New Snowden leak: NSA program taps all you do online
Privacy

By Amanda Wills, Mashable
August 1, 2013 -- Updated 1854 GMT (0254 HKT

(CNN) -- You've never heard of XKeyscore, but it definitely knows you. The National Security Agency's top-secret program essentially makes available everything you've ever done on the Internet — browsing history, searches, content of your emails, online chats, even your metadata — all at the tap of the keyboard.

The Guardian exposed the program on Wednesday in a follow-up piece to its groundbreaking report on the NSA's surveillance practices. Shortly after publication, Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former Booz Allen Hamilton employee who worked for the NSA for four years, came forward as the source.

This latest revelation comes from XKeyscore training materials, which Snowden also provided to The Guardian. The NSA sums up the program best: XKeyscore is its "widest reaching" system for developing intelligence from the Internet.

The program gives analysts the ability to search through the entire database of your information without any prior authorization — no warrant, no court clearance, no signature on a dotted line. An analyst must simply complete a simple onscreen form, and seconds later, your online history is no longer private. The agency claims that XKeyscore covers "nearly everything a typical user does on the Internet."

As The Guardian points out, this program crystallizes one of Snowden's most infamous admissions from his video interview on June 10:

Snowden's dad: Revelations 'shocking'

Dad to Snowden: Stay safe ... in Russia

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

While United States officials denied this claim, the XKeyscore program, as the public understands it, proves Snowden's point. The law requires the NSA to obtain FISA warrants on U.S. citizens, but this is pushed aside for Americans with foreign targets — and this program gives the NSA the technology to do so. The training materials claim XKeyscore assisted in capturing 300 terrorists by 2008.

The Guardian article breaks down how the program works with each activity, from email monitoring to chats and browsing history, and includes screenshots from the training materials.

The Guardian reached out to the NSA for comment prior to publication. The agency defended the program, stressing that it was only used to legally obtain information about "legitimate foreign intelligence targets in response to requirements that our leaders need for information necessary to protect our nation and its interests."

"XKeyscore is used as a part of NSA's lawful foreign signals intelligence collection system," the agency said in its response. "Allegations of widespread, unchecked analyst access to NSA collection data are simply not true. Access to XKeyscore, as well as all of NSA's analytic tools, is limited to only those personnel who require access for their assigned tasks ... .

"In addition, there are multiple technical, manual and supervisory checks and balances within the system to prevent deliberate misuse from occurring. Every search by an NSA analyst is fully auditable, to ensure that they are proper and within the law. These types of programs allow us to collect the information that enables us to perform our missions successfully -- to defend the nation and to protect U.S. and allied troops abroad."

XKeyscore is the second black mark on the NSA's record in the past few weeks. The Guardian's first story uncovered PRISM, a highly controversial surveillance program that reportedly allows the security agency to access the servers of major Internet organizations including Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, YouTube and Skype, among others...

Posted by editor on Thursday, August 01 @ 15:03:21 PDT (2242 reads)
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 Google 'Pressure Cookers' and 'Backpacks,' Get a Visit from the Cops
Privacy

AP

by Philip Bump 10:09 AM ET

Michele Catalano was looking for information online about pressure cookers. Her husband, in the same time frame, was Googling backpacks. Wednesday morning, six men from a joint terrorism task force showed up at their house to see if they were terrorists. Which prompts the question: How'd the government know what they were Googling?

Catalano (who is a professional writer) describes the tension of that visit.

[T]hey were peppering my husband with questions. Where is he from? Where are his parents from? They asked about me, where was I, where do I work, where do my parents live. Do you have any bombs, they asked. Do you own a pressure cooker? My husband said no, but we have a rice cooker. Can you make a bomb with that? My husband said no, my wife uses it to make quinoa. What the hell is quinoa, they asked. ...

Have you ever looked up how to make a pressure cooker bomb? My husband, ever the oppositional kind, asked them if they themselves weren’t curious as to how a pressure cooker bomb works, if they ever looked it up. Two of them admitted they did.

The men identified themselves as members of the "joint terrorism task force." The composition of such task forces depend on the region of the country, but, as we outlined after the Boston bombings, include a variety of federal agencies. (The photo above is from the door-to-door sweep in Watertown at that time.) Among those agencies: the FBI and Homeland Security.


Update 1:45 p.m.: In a conversation with The Atlantic Wire, FBI spokesperson Peter Donald confirmed The Guardian's report that the FBI was not involved in the visit itself. Asked if the FBI was involved in providing information that led to the visit, Donald replied that he could not answer the question at this point, as he didn't know.

We asked if the Suffolk and Nassau police, which The Guardian reported were the authorities that effected the raid, are part of the government's regional Joint Terrorism Task Force. They are, he replied, representing two of the 52 agencies that participate. He said that local police are often deputized federal marshals for that purpose — but that the JTTF "did not visit the residence." He later clarified: "Any officers, agents, or other representatives of the JTTF did not visit that location."

We are awaiting a response from Suffolk County police and the Department of Homeland Security which operates an investigatory fusion center in the region.


Ever since details of the NSA's surveillance infrastructure were leaked by Edward Snowden, the agency has been insistent on the boundaries of the information it collects. It is not, by law, allowed to spy on Americans — although there are exceptions of which it takes advantage. Its PRISM program, under which it collects internet content, does not include information from Americans unless those Americans are connected to terror suspects by no more than two other people. It collects metadata on phone calls made by Americans, but reportedly stopped collecting metadata on Americans' internet use in 2011. So how, then, would the government know what Catalano and her husband were searching for?

It's possible that one of the two of them is tangentially linked to a foreign terror suspect, allowing the government to review their internet activity. After all, that "no more than two other people" ends up covering millions of people. Or perhaps the NSA, as part of its routine collection of as much internet traffic as it can, automatically flags things like Google searches for "pressure cooker" and "backpack" and passes on anything it finds to the FBI.

Or maybe it was something else. On Wednesday, The Guardian reported on XKeyscore, a program eerily similar to Facebook search that could clearly allow an analyst to run a search that picked out people who'd done searches for those items from the same location. How those searches got into the government's database is a question worth asking; how the information got back out seems apparent.

It is also possible that there were other factors that prompted the government's interest in Catalano and her husband. He travels to Asia, she notes in her article. Who knows. Which is largely Catalano's point.

They mentioned that they do this about 100 times a week. And that 99 of those visits turn out to be nothing. I don’t know what happens on the other 1% of visits and I’m not sure I want to know what my neighbors are up to.

One hundred times a week, groups of six armed men drive to houses in three black SUVs, conducting consented-if-casual searches of the property perhaps in part because of things people looked up online.

But the NSA doesn't collect data on Americans, so this certainly won't happen to you.

You might also want to read our look at how to hide from the NSA, or a comparison of the NSA's recently revealed search tool with Facebook's.

Correction: After confirmation from the FBI that its agents weren't involved in the visit, the headline of this piece was changed to "Visit From the Cops" instead of "the Feds."

Photo: Massachusetts police search a home after the Boston bombings.

Want to add to this story? Let us know in comments or send an email to the author at pbump@theatlantic.com. You can share ideas for stories on the Open Wire.

Posted by editor on Thursday, August 01 @ 13:50:59 PDT (2085 reads)
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 The NSA Fight [a fissure in the GOP]
Privacy

By Jonathan Strong
National Review Online
July 26, 2013 7:00 PM

On Friday, July 19, on the House floor, Majority Leader Eric Cantor pulled Representative Justin Amash aside, ushering him into a meeting with whip Kevin McCarthy and three of Amash’s congressional allies.

Cantor pressed Amash to withdraw his amendment to stop the National Security Agency from collecting logs of every American’s phone calls and said he would work to provide a vote on the issue in a future bill.

But several of Cantor’s top aides, who were also present, gave what Amash thought was a more threatening overture: There’s bound to be a procedural technicality we can use to kill the amendment, they said, and we’re going to find it.

The meeting, which has not been previously reported, underscores the efforts of some in House leadership to stop the proposal, which was offered as an amendment to the Department of Defense appropriations bill, from coming to a vote, according to documents reviewed by National Review and to interviews with participants.The amendment had already been through the procedural wringer, with the House parliamentarian’s office giving an initial approval that it was “in order” to change its mind only as outside parties, including GOP leadership, weighed in.

Indeed, prior to an all-important Rules Committee meeting that would decide whether the amendment ever got to see the light of day, the measure was headed for a premature death.

It was Speaker John Boehner who ultimately saved it, giving the amendment the green light after discussing it for the first time with Amash on the House floor on Monday night — minutes before the Rules Committee had been slated to kill it.

Boehner never told Amash why he would give the Michigan Republican, of all people, the privilege of the vote. Amash had helped lead a failed coup attempt against the speaker in January, and Boehner was so deeply opposed to the amendment he took the rare step of voting against it. (By tradition, the speaker doesn’t usually vote.)

But one animated and colorful conversation later, the amendment was en route to the House floor, prompting panic from its opponents on the House Intelligence Committee, who later that night announced an emergency classified briefing with General Keith Alexander, the NSA director, the next day.

The vote, once it was finally permitted, exposed a large bipartisan coalition with concerns about the NSA’s aggressive use of the Patriot Act to collect vast amounts of “metadata” from phone companies.

Despite President Obama’s pleas to vote against the amendment, 111 House Democrats — 55 percent of the caucus — voted for the amendment. Over 80 percent of the Progressive Caucus backed the proposal, which was cosponsored by Representative John Conyers, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee...

Posted by editor on Saturday, July 27 @ 10:30:07 PDT (1504 reads)
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 The Not-So-Simple Saga of Edward and Barack...
Privacy

by by Michael I. Niman
ArtVoice.com
July 11, 2013

Not to mention Ron Paul, the Saudis, the New York Times, and your grandma

It reads like a political thriller. An NSA spook, Edward Snowden, meets his conscience, blows the whistle on a massive secret attack on the Fourth Amendment, and is pursued globally by an obsessed president. Spice things up with a bit of character development cross-pollinated with a history lesson.

First there’s Darth President. His administration has earned the distinction of invoking the Espionage Act of 1917 (a constitutionally questionable World War One relic) more than all other presidents in the previous 96 years combined—by a factor of two. The Obama administration has charged eight people under the act. All previous administrations have charged three.

Then there’s Snowden—the high school dropout who landed himself a high-paying spy job and donated 500 bucks to Ron Paul’s last presidential campaign.

Add in a tinge of Bible and Snowden becomes a modern-day David taking on Goliath. For intrigue, let’s start the story by routing our would-be hero’s escape from the evil empire through China and Russia. Hide the whistleblower in the sprawling Moscow airport, play some cat-and-mouse, launch a few rumors as to his destination, then capture a presidential jet or two searching for him, and we’ve got a news story ready-made for a 24-hour infotainment cycle.

Only we don’t really have much real news here.

Your grandma

In the hunt for Snowden, we seem to have missed the forest for the trees. The crime—the big crime with hundreds of millions of victims—is the crime that Snowden blew the whistle on. Someone—and I’m purposely vague here, so bear with me—is subverting all that Net 2.0 stuff we’ve come to love and upon which we’ve become dependent to violate our Fourth Amendment rights protecting our privacy.

Okay, many of us have long claimed to assume that the shadowy National Security Agency was always spying on us, but really, most of that was just the alcohol talking. We wish we were important enough for somebody, anybody, to give a damn about us.

Snowden documented that somebody actually does. They care very much about each and every one of us. It turns out the government spends tax money scanning your grandmother’s telephone usage for anti-American calling patterns.

Aside from being one of the biggest blockbuster political exposés in our nation’s history, this story will also fertilize every loony conspiracy theory that Internet trolls can cook up, further distracting us from the real threats we face, politically, environmentally, and economically. So the challenge is to keep our focus on the ball. Not the cue stick.

Notice I haven’t said “the government is spying on us,” nor have I identified Snowden as a “government whistleblower.” This is where the story, and the legal case against Snowden, both take a twist. Snowden, while sticking it to the NSA harder than anyone in history, putting the reclusive agency on front pages and computer screens around the world, didn’t actually work for the NSA. It turns out that out that in our corporatocracy, every government service is on the table to be transformed into a revenue-stream for Wall Street, the secret agent business included.

The spook-industrial complex

Technically, Snowden is a private eye. A hired dick snooping on your hairstylist, dope dealer, and, apparently, you. The spin doctors have settled on using the word “contractor,” a vague catch-all covering everything from mercenaries to cafeteria workers, to describe him. Sort of like “contract killer.” Snowden was a “contractor.” Technically, he was contracted by Booz Allen Hamilton Incorporated to spy on us. And Booz Allen was contracted by the NSA.

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Booz Allen grosses $5.76 billion in annual revenues, with 99 percent of that bounty coming from our tax dollars. They’re essentially a shadow government agency with no government oversight or control, as evidenced by their hiring patterns. And they’re not alone. Bloomberg reports that approximately 70 percent of the intelligence budget, which in and of itself is top secret, is handed over to private spook shops—or in Bloomberg’s lexicon, “contracted out.” Snowden is just one of an army of private dicks snooping on your grandparents.

Borrowing a concept and a warning from President Dwight D. Eisenhower, it’s apparent we now have ourselves a mega-billion-dollar, government-funded spook-industrial complex. Politically, this means we now have one more entrenched set of corporate interests who will use their economic power—which, according to the 2011 Supreme Court Citizens United ruling, can now translate directly to political power—to perpetuate their own unnecessary existence. I say “unnecessary” not because spying is unnecessary, though spying on your grandmother probably is, but because government workers did it cheaper—about 40 percent cheaper, according to Bloomberg. And apparently with greater efficacy on the secrets front.

One advantage the spook-industrial complex has, even over the entrenched military-industrial and prison-industrial complexes, is that the secrecy surrounding the intelligence community and especially its budget isolates this sector from what little scrutiny other government contractors face. Tell the public about how their tax money is being squandered and you activate Darth President. The Obama Justice Department, for example, charged one former NSA executive, Thomas Drake, with violating the Espionage Act of 1917, just for speaking to a reporter about excessive money paid to contractors—essentially blowing the whistle on the private spook game. The non prima facie charges were eventually dropped, but the damage was done, with a clear message to other whistleblowers that this administration is in hunting mode.

Why Wall Street wants spooks to stalk Grandma

This new private spook industry has a vested interest in making sure that the NSA continues to want everybody spied upon always. If this surveillance state slows down and the broad spectrum spying stops, so do the lucrative contracts, the fat executive bonuses, the payouts to Wall Street investors, and so on. Apparently, the need to spy has grown to take on a new dimension—it’s now entrenched in Wall Street’s economy. This, more than any perceived security need, will guarantee the continuing growth of the surveillance state and the incarceration state.

But the private spook twist in the story does undermine the “Edward Snowden, NSA leaker” meme. Snowden did not leak NSA secrets, allegedly blowing the whistle on a criminal conspiracy against the US Constitution. Someone else, as yet unnamed, leaked NSA secrets, to Booz Allen. And no one, not in government or in the press, is looking for that criminal—the one who gave a private corporation access to our private data.

Snowden informed the press of this whole complex story. That’s the second elephant in the closet. The cat-and-mouse game, like the conspiracy theories this whole episode will no doubt fuel, distracts us from the fact that private corporations, aided and abetted by the NSA, are spying on the American people. Where a cop can theoretically get a warrant to snoop, a corporation cannot. With corporate snooping, there is no pretense of oversight.

Outsourcing security to the enemy?

Corporations are essentially stateless, owing their allegiance only to their stockholders (Remember how Ford, GM, and IBM, for example, sold military and Gestapo equipment to the Third Reich.) Though Booz Allen currently derives almost all of its income from selling its spy services to the US government, it is still very much a multinational corporation, itself owned mostly by the creepy Carlyle Group. The Carlyle Group is owned in part by the government of the United Arab Emirates and the Saudi royal family. (The bin Laden family divested their Carlyle holdings in October of 2001 after a relative soured the family name.) The group is powerful, with George Bush Senior serving as an advisor at the time George Bush Junior was ramping up the surveillance state Barack Obama now caretakes.

Also troubling, but predictable, is the corporate media response to this story. Snowden blew the whistle to journalist, Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald is a role model for aspiring journalism students. He began as an independent blogger with an impeccable record for accuracy (not shared by much of the mainstream corporate media). He eventually got picked up by the Guardian of the UK, one of the world’s top news agencies. It’s there where Snowden approached him with his blockbuster story, which Greenwald took to press.

Punks in the press

Almost as frightening as Snowden’s story is the corporate media’s response. Not only have they, for the most part, ignored the real story and focused instead on the whistleblower-on-the-run meme, but some so-called journalists have editorially called for the prosecution of both Snowden and Greenwald, whose crime was not covering up the story. Apparently they would have covered it up had Snowden approached them, in which case we’d have Snowden tucked away in a cage, and no story.

Andrew Ross Sorkin, for example, a New York Times reporter, speaking on CNBC, argued for the arrest of Greenwald, the journalist, for reporting the story. NBC’s David Gregory, in an interview, suggested to Greenwald that maybe he should be charged with a crime. The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi questions Greenwald’s credentials as a journalist, insinuating that breaking such a daring story is “advocacy”—in this case, I’d say, for preserving the US Constitution, as if censoring the story wouldn’t in and of itself be an act of advocacy for a police state.

This later form of advocacy though censorship isn’t just acceptable in the mainstream corporate press—it’s become the norm. If it wasn’t for the cat-and-mouse aspect of this story, and the promise of an OJ-grade trial, it would probably be a nonstarter. We’ve come a long way, in a bad direction, since the the New York Times published the Pentagon Papers, making leaker Daniel Ellsberg, then facing 113 years in jail charged under the 1917 Espionage Act, into a hero.

I predict that in the long run, this whole affair won’t have any real impact on the NSA and proxy spying on the American people. But I suspect it will liven up the conversation on government outsourcing. This is ironic, however, since such privatization of government is a libertarian mantra. And Snowden, the private contractor, is an avid libertarian.

Dr. Michael I. Niman is a professor of journalism and media studies at SUNY Buffalo State. His previous columns are at artvoice.com, archived at www.mediastudy.com, and available globally through syndication.

Posted by editor on Thursday, July 11 @ 10:42:36 PDT (1388 reads)
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 Protect Passwords with KeePass
Privacy

by DS
HowToVanish.com

In my previous article, I talked about the first step to digital security: good passwords. Once you have a system, the easy part is coming up with secure passwords (IliKeC@tnip$1928 I used as an example came pretty easy).    However, the hard part is remembering all these passwords.

Difficult To Remember So Many Passwords

You could come up with different variations of your same password for the various accounts that you use. But all those accounts start to add up: multiple e-mail accounts, Facebook,  cell phoneBitcoin, banking, Amazon, iTunes, Dropbox…the list goes on and on. You may have a wonderful method of keeping the passwords straight, but do you really want to remember 50 variations of IliKeC@tnip$1928? If you like to keep your brain cells available to store random trivia facts for your shot against Watson on Jeopardy, there are software solutions that do the remembering for you.

A quick search on your favorite search engine (google, yauba, whatever floats your boat) reveals the plethora of available software solutions. Many are paid, many are free, and many are just no good. Some use proprietary cryptography, while others use open source cryptography. Some are cloud based, while others are traditional desktop software. So what’s a secret agent to do?

Free and Open Source Software Is The Preferred Solution

My personal preference for password managers is to look for a free, open source, traditional desktop solution. I like free because I try not to pay for software, since software trends change so rapidly. I like open source because I know what software and what cryptography is being used to protect my data. I like a traditional desktop solution because when it comes to my personal data, I want to be in control of it.

Now, I’m a huge proponent of cloud-based solutions for most of my software solutions. E-mail, word processing, music, file storage all taste better in a cloud-based solution. But when it comes to my user names and passwords–my access to all my private data, like my anonymous card for shopping online–I want to be in control of my data. Cloud- based solutions offer a great deal of flexibility and accessibility, but if I don’t have access to the Internet and the cloud-based solution doesn’t offer a local storage solution, I’m SOL. With the ubiquity of Internet connectivity these days, it’s not a likely scenario. But, if you are reading this, you are the type to plan for all contingencies, not just the most likely ones.

How To Use KeePass

So which free, open source, traditional desktop software do I use to keep track of my passwords? KeePass.

This awarding winning piece of software meets all of my requirements for a password manager and is a breeze to use.

After downloading and installing the software (Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, and portable versions are available), you create a new password database.

This entails creating a master password that you will use to unlock the database.

Once you’ve created the database, you can create entries for each and every login you have. And this is where KeePass truly begins to shine. Let’s use creating an entry for your e-mail account. Instead of using IliKeC@tnip$1928 as your password, you can have KeePass create a random password for you. You can set up the various parameters for the password, including password length and types of characters.

Not only does KeePass create passwords for you, but KeePass also remembers passwords for you. With a convenient copy/paste feature, you no longer have to type your own passwords.

Conclusion

As awesome as KeePass is, we’ve only scratched the surface of this fantastic utility. Digital security is like forcing the principle of the Fourth Amendment, requiring a really good reason to pierce your personal privacy, to work for you.  Check back for the follow up post with secret ninja tips and tactics of how to use KeePass as your greatest password weapon.  You can use KeePass to make sure you are keeping good records with strong encryption that won’t be compromised.  Everything from any hawala transactions you make to protecting your bank privacy.  You can even use it to store the usernames and passwords for your anonymous web surfing accounts...

Posted by editor on Monday, July 08 @ 23:46:14 PDT (1346 reads)
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  The truth shall keep us free -- Snowden has awakened a giant
Privacy

By Judge Andrew P. Napolitano
Published June 27, 2013
FoxNews.com

Which is more dangerous to personal liberty in a free society: a renegade who tells an inconvenient truth about government law-breaking, or government officials who lie about what the renegade revealed? 

That’s the core issue in the great public debate this summer, as Americans come to the realization that their government has concocted a system of laws violative of the natural law, profoundly repugnant to the Constitution and shrouded in secrecy.

The liberty of which I write is the right to privacy: the right to be left alone. The Framers jealously and zealously guarded this right by imposing upon government agents intentionally onerous burdens before letting them invade it. 

Whatever one thinks of Snowden’s world-traveling odyssey he has awakened a giant.

They did so in the Fourth Amendment, using language that permits the government to invade that right only in the narrowest of circumstances.

The linchpin of those circumstances is “probable cause” of evidence of crime in “the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” 

If the government cannot tell a judge specifically what evidence of crime it is looking for and precisely from whom, a judge may not issue a search warrant, and privacy -- the natural human yearning that comes from within all of us -- will remain where it naturally resides, outside the government’s reach.

Congress is the chief culprit here, because it has enacted laws that have lowered the constitutional bar that the feds must meet in order for judges to issue search warrants. And it has commanded that this be done in secret.

And I mean secret.

The judges of the FISA court -- the court empowered by Congress to issue search warrants on far less than probable cause, and without describing the places to be searched or the persons or things to be seized -- are not permitted to retain any records of their work. They cannot use their own writing materials or carry BlackBerries or iPhones in their own courtrooms, chambers or conference rooms. They cannot retain copies of any documents they’ve signed. Only National Security Agency staffers can keep these records...

Posted by editor on Tuesday, July 02 @ 01:03:35 PDT (1155 reads)
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