Tag Archives | Surveillance

Reason Magazine Subpoena Stomps on Free Speech

Stephen Melkisethian (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Stephen Melkisethian (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Virginia Postrel Via Bloomberg View:

Wielding subpoenas demanding information on anonymous commenters, the government is harassing a respected journalism site that dissents from its policies. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York claims these comments could constitute violent threats, even though they’re clearly hyperbolic political rhetoric.

This is happening in America — weirdly, to a site I founded, and one whose commenters often earned my public contempt.

Los Angeles legal blogger Ken White has obtained a grand jury subpoena issued to Reason.com, the online home of the libertarian magazine I edited throughout the 1990s. The subpoena seeks information about commenters who posted in response to an article by the site’s editor Nick Gillespie about the letter that Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht wrote to Judge Katherine B. Forrest before she sentenced him to life in prison without parole. Ulbricht was convicted of seven felony charges, included conspiracies to traffic in narcotics and launder money, and faced a minimum sentence of 20 years in prison.

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You’re a Criminal in a Mass Surveillance World – How to Not Get Caught

Anne-Frank-NSA

David Montgomery via Liberty.me:

Sometimes you just get lucky.

I was in Amsterdam when the Snowden story broke. CNN was non-stop asking politicians and pundits, “Is Edward Snowden a traitor?” Those who said he betrayed America also said something else: Mass surveillance is only an issue if you’re a criminal. If you’ve got nothing to hide then you’ve got nothing to fear.

The Snowden story hit me upon my return from – of all places on earth – the Secret Annex of the Anne Frank House. The Secret Annex is where Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis for two years. It was during this period of hiding in terror that Anne wrote her world-famous diary. In it she confided, “I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met.”

The “Anne Frank House” — then and now

The “Anne Frank House” — then and now

I say I was lucky because the cosmic unlikeliness of my Secret Annex visit coinciding with Snowden’s mass surveillance revelations led to some revelations of my own.

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The Good, The Bad and The Robot: Experts Are Trying to Make Machines Be “Moral”

I, Robot coverCoby McDonald Via California Magazine:

Good vs. bad. Right vs. wrong. Human beings begin to learn the difference before we learn to speak—and thankfully so. We owe much of our success as a species to our capacity for moral reasoning. It’s the glue that holds human social groups together, the key to our fraught but effective ability to cooperate. We are (most believe) the lone moral agents on planet Earth—but this may not last. The day may come soon when we are forced to share this status with a new kind of being, one whose intelligence is of our own design.

Robots are coming, that much is sure. They are coming to our streets as self-driving cars, to our military as automated drones, to our homes as elder-care robots—and that’s just to name a few on the horizon (Ten million households already enjoy cleaner floors thanks to a relatively dumb little robot called the Roomba).

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Report Reveals $8.5 Trillion Missing From Pentagon Budget

David B. Gleason (CC BY-SA 2.0)

David B. Gleason (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Via Crooks and Liars:

Yahoo Money’ The Daily Ticker  is reporting that is has discovered a Reuters investigation that reveals$8.5 trillion – that’s trillion with a “T” – in taxpayer money doled out by Congress to the Pentagon since 1996 that has never been accounted for.

You read that right. While Republican politicians rush to slash food stamps for the 47 million Americans living in poverty – the highest amount in nearly two decades –  Republican U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has the audacity to complain that $20 billion dollars in automatic sequester cuts to the massive and secretive $565.8 billion Defense Department budget are ” too steep, too deep, and too abrupt,” all while the Pentagon and the Defense Department are overseeing massive fraud, waste, and abuse.

For anyone wondering, Reuters reports that the D.O.D.’s 2012 budget totaled $565.8 billion, more than the annual defense budgets of the 10 next largest military spenders combined, including Russia and China.

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A Misleading Moment of Celebration for a New Surveillance Program

The morning after final passage of the USA Freedom Act, while some foes of mass surveillance were celebrating, Thomas Drake sounded decidedly glum. The new law, he told me, is “a new spy program.” It restarts some of the worst aspects of the Patriot Act and further codifies systematic violations of Fourth Amendment rights.

[Left to right]: Whistleblowers Kirk Wiebe (NSA), Coleen Rowley (FBI), Raymond McGovern (CIA), Daniel Ellsberg (Pentagon), William Binney (NSA), Jesselyn Radack (Justice Department), and Thomas Drake (NSA)

[Left to right]: Whistleblowers Kirk Wiebe (NSA), Coleen Rowley (FBI), Raymond McGovern (CIA), Daniel Ellsberg (Pentagon), William Binney (NSA), Jesselyn Radack (Justice Department), and Thomas Drake (NSA)

Later on Wednesday, here in Oslo as part of a “Stand Up For Truth” tour, Drake warned at a public forum that “national security” has become “the new state religion.” Meanwhile, his Twitter messages were calling the USA Freedom Act an “itty-bitty step” — and a “stop/restart kabuki shell game” that “starts w/ restarting bulk collection of phone records.”

That downbeat appraisal of the USA Freedom Act should give pause to its celebrants.… Read the rest

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FBI Behind Mysterious Surveillance Flights Over US Cities

AP via Yahoo News reports on the FBI’s latest domestic spying technique:

The FBI is operating a small air force with scores of low-flying planes across the country carrying video and, at times, cellphone surveillance technology — all hidden behind fictitious companies that are fronts for the government, The Associated Press has learned.

The planes’ surveillance equipment is generally used without a judge’s approval, and the FBI said the flights are used for specific, ongoing investigations. In a recent 30-day period, the agency flew above more than 30 cities in 11 states across the country, an AP review found.

Aerial surveillance represents a changing frontier for law enforcement, providing what the government maintains is an important tool in criminal, terrorism or intelligence probes. But the program raises questions about whether there should be updated policies protecting civil liberties as new technologies pose intrusive opportunities for government spying.

U.S. law enforcement officials confirmed for the first time the wide-scale use of the aircraft, which the AP traced to at least 13 fake companies, such as FVX Research, KQM Aviation, NBR Aviation and PXW Services.

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When The Language Of Freedom Dies

When The Language Of Freedom Dies, Freedom Dies With It

Freedom is in peril stencil
Image by Leo Reynolds

Back in March (2015) a UK parliamentary select committee published a report [1] which expounded, amongst other things, its views on the police uploading arrest photographs, including those of people not subsequently convicted, into a facial recognition database. The police started doing this on the quiet, without any public announcement or public debate on their reasons for doing it or its impact on individual freedoms.

Here is what the Select Committee had to say:

“We fully appreciate the positive impact that facial recognition software could have on the detection and prevention of crime. However, it is troubling that the governance arrangements were not fully considered and implemented prior to the software being `switched on’. This appears to be a further example of a lack of oversight by the Government where biometrics is concerned; a situation that could have been avoided had a comprehensive biometrics strategy been developed and published.”

[‘Current and future uses of biometric data and technologies’ report, House of Commons Science and Technology select committee, 2015]

Oh boy, strong words, they must have been pretty annoyed – oh no, hang on a minute – “fully appreciate the positive impact”, “governance arrangements were not fully considered”, “lack of oversight”… There must have been a mistake at the printers, they appear to have accidentally printed a sermon on the merits of doing nothing other than producing yet more administrative red tape.… Read the rest

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1984 Action Day, 8th June – Orwell as Relevant as Ever

On 8th June 1949 George Orwell published his novel ‘1984’. It was a warning of the society that would emerge if the totalitarian thinking he believed had taken root in the minds of intellectuals and policymakers everywhere was left unchecked.

Sixty-six years later we find that Orwell’s novel resonates as strongly as ever.

Democratic governments around the world are enacting laws that enable greater and greater monitoring of the people, curtail freedom of speech and undermine protections once enshrined in our legal systems.

Bill C-51 in Canada, a new pro surveillance law in France, the Counter-Terrorism Legislative Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Act 2014 in Australia, a 1.6M euros system to track social media in Spain… And In the UK the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, a proposed new Counter-Extremism Bill and plans to re-introduce the “snoopers charter” to spy on all communications. To name but a few!

All this removal of freedoms is being done under the guise of protecting those very freedoms using a skewed human rights agenda that justifies anything in the name of “national security”, for example the UK’s so-called ‘Protection of Freedoms Act’.… Read the rest

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NSA’s Big Defenders Cash Big NSA Checks

Kevin Dooley (CC BY 2.0)

Kevin Dooley (CC BY 2.0)

via Lee Fang at The Intercept:

The debate over the NSA’s bulk collection of phone records has reached a critical point after a federal appeals court last week ruled the practice illegal, dramatically raising the stakes for pending Congressional legislation that would fully or partially reinstate the program. An army of pundits promptly took to television screens, with many of them brushing off concerns about the surveillance.

The talking heads have been backstopping the NSA’s mass surveillance more or less continuously since it was revealed. They spoke out to support the agency when NSA contractor Edward Snowden released details of its programs in 2013, and they’ve kept up their advocacy ever since — on television news shows, newspaper op-ed pages, online and at Congressional hearings. But it’s often unclear just how financially cozy these pundits are with the surveillance state they defend, since they’re typically identified with titles that give no clues about their conflicts of interest.

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