Privacy News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on privacy
The New York Times's explanation of its decision to report, after what it said was a one-year delay, that the National Security Agency is eavesdropping domestically without court-approved warrants was woefully inadequate. And I have had unusual difficulty getting a better explanation for readers, despite the paper's repeated pledges of greater transparency. For the first time since I became public editor, the executive editor and the publisher have declined to respond to my requests for information about news-related decision-making. My queries concerned the timing of the exclusive Dec. 16 article about President Bush's secret decision in the months after 9/11 to authorize the warrantless eavesdropping on Americans in the United States. I e-mailed a list of 28 questions to Bill Keller, the executive editor [of the New York Times], on Dec. 19, three days after the article appeared. He promptly declined to respond to them. I then sent the same questions to Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the publisher, who also declined to respond. They held out no hope for a fuller explanation in the future. The top Times people involved in the final decisions [are] refusing to talk and urging everyone else to remain silent.
Imagine a global spying network that can eavesdrop on every single phone call, fax or e-mail, anywhere on the planet. It sounds like science fiction, but it's true. Two of the chief protagonists - Britain and America - officially deny its existence. But the BBC has confirmation from the Australian Government that such a network really does exist. The base is linked directly to the headquarters of the US National Security Agency (NSA) at Fort Mead in Maryland, and it is also linked to a series of other listening posts scattered across the world, like Britain's own GCHQ. The power of the network, codenamed Echelon, is astounding. Every international telephone call, fax, e-mail, or radio transmission can be listened to by powerful computers capable of voice recognition. They home in on a long list of key words, or patterns of messages. The network is so secret that the British and American Governments refuse to admit that Echelon even exists. But another ally, Australia, has decided not to be so coy. The man who oversees Australia's security services, Inspector General of Intelligence and Security Bill Blick, has confirmed to the BBC that their Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) does form part of the network. Asked if they are then passed on to countries like Britain and America, he said: "They might be in certain circumstances." They are looking for evidence of international crime, like terrorism. But the system is so widespread all sorts of private communications, often of a sensitive commercial nature, are hoovered up and analysed.
Note that this is a 1999 article, long before the revelations of Edward Snowden. The capability to monitor all communications has existed for a long time. For a powerful, well documented 20-page paper in the Federal Communications Law Journal providing strong evidence that this program is unconstitutional, click here.
Facebook wants to get up close and personal with its users after a patent was revealed detailing a desire to secretly watch users through their webcam or smartphone camera, spying on your mood in order to sell you tailored content or advertisements. The purpose behind the invasive idea is to analyse people through the camera in real time while they browse online and if it recognises you looking happy, bored or sad, it would deliver an advert fitting your emotion. If you were forlorn, for example, it would be able to serve an ad to perk you up, or know what products you had previously looked at online and put them under your nose at just the right time. The social network has filed several patents over the years on emotion-based technology but this, based on 'passive imaging data' is perhaps the most unnerving, considering it would take control of cameras that weren't even switched on by the user. As described by CB Insights: "This patent proposes capturing images of the user through smartphone or laptop cameras, even when the user is not actively using the camera. By visually tracking a user's facial expression, Facebook aims to monitor the user's emotional reactions to different types of content." Other patents listed by Facebook include a text messaging platform to detect a user's mood by measuring how hard and fast they were typing, then augment the message format, such as adding emojis or changing the font size, to match their emotion.
A safe that tallies the cash that is placed in it. A sniper rifle equipped with advanced computer technology for improved accuracy. A car that lets you stream music from the Internet. All of these innovations sound great, until you learn the risks that this type of connectivity carries. Recently, two security researchers, sitting on a couch and armed only with laptops, remotely took over a Chrysler Jeep Cherokee speeding along the highway ... while a Wired reporter was driving. A hacked car is a high-profile example of what can go wrong with the coming Internet of Things objects equipped with software and connected to digital networks. The selling point ... is added convenience and better safety. In reality, it is a ... train wreck in privacy and security. That smart safe? Hackers can empty it with a single USB stick while erasing all [evidence] of their crime. That high-tech rifle? Researchers managed to remotely manipulate its target selection without the shooters knowing. The Internet of Things is also a privacy nightmare. Databases that already have too much information about us will now be bursting with data on the places weve driven, the food weve purchased and more. Last week, at Def Con, the annual information security conference, researchers set up an Internet of Things Village to show how they could hack everyday objects like baby monitors, thermostats and security cameras. Connecting everyday objects introduces new risks if done at mass scale. Once a hacker is in - she's in everywhere.
Note: Read how a hacked vehicle may have resulted in journalist Michael Hastings' death in 2013. The networked computerization of everyday objects means that these objects can spy on you, accelerating the disappearance of privacy in the name of convenience. What will happen when the "internet of things" expands to include microchip implants in people?
In March I received a call from the White House counsels office regarding a speech I had prepared for my boss at the State Department. The speech was about the impact ... of National Security Agency surveillance practices. The draft stated that if U.S. citizens disagree with congressional and executive branch determinations about the proper scope of signals intelligence activities, they have the opportunity to change the policy through our democratic process. But the White House counsels office told me that no, that wasnt true. I was instructed to amend the line. Some intelligence practices remain so secret, even from members of Congress, that there is no opportunity for our democracy to change them. Public debate about the bulk collection of U.S. citizens data by the NSA has focused largely on Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Based in part on classified facts that I am prohibited by law from publishing, I believe that Americans should be even more concerned about the collection and storage of their communications under Executive Order 12333 than under Section 215. Unlike Section 215, the executive order authorizes collection of the content of communications, not just metadata, even for U.S. persons. It does not require that the affected U.S. persons be suspected of wrongdoing and places no limits on the volume of communications by U.S. persons that may be collected and retained. None of the reforms that Obama announced earlier this year will affect such collection.
Note: The above was written by John Napier Tye, former section chief for Internet freedom in the State Departments Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. A 2014 Washington Post investigation sheds more light on the NSA's legally dubious domestic mass surveillance program. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about intelligence agency corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
Whistle-blower AT&T technician Mark Klein says his effort to reveal alleged government surveillance of domestic Internet traffic was blocked not only by U.S. intelligence officials but also by the top editors of the Los Angeles Times. Klein describes how he stumbled across "secret NSA rooms" being installed at an AT&T switching center in San Francisco and later heard of similar rooms in at least six other cities. Eventually, Klein says he decided to take his documents to the Los Angeles Times, to blow the whistle on what he calls "an illegal and Orwellian project." But after working for two months with LA Times reporter Joe Menn, Klein says he was told the story had been killed at the request of then-Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte and then-director of the NSA Gen. Michael Hayden. Klein says he then took his AT&T documents to The New York Times, which published its exclusive account last April [later removed from NY Times website]. In the court case against AT&T, Negroponte formally invoked the "state secrets privilege," claiming the lawsuit and the information from Klein and others could "cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security of the United States." The Los Angeles Times' decision was made by the paper's editor at the time, Dean Baquet, now the Washington bureau chief of The New York Times. As the new Washington bureau chief of The New York Times, Baquet now oversees the reporters who have broken most of the major stories involving the government surveillance program, often over objections from the government.
Note: This webpage was removed from the ABC website, but is still available through archive.org on thise webpage. So after the NY Times has the guts to report this important story, the man who was responsible for the censorship at the LA Times is transferred to the very position in the NY Times where he can now block future stories there. For why this case of blatant media censorship isn't making headlines, click here.
Imagine a world where wireless devices are as small as a grain of salt. These miniaturized devices have sensors, cameras and communication mechanisms to transmit the data they collect back to a base in order to process. Today, you no longer have to imagine it: microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), often called motes, are real and they very well could be coming to a neighborhood near you. With such a small size, these devices can stay suspended in an environment just like a particle of dust. They can: Collect data including acceleration, stress, pressure, humidity, sound and more from sensors; Process the data with what amounts to an onboard computer system; Store the data in memory; Wirelessly communicate the data to the cloud, a base or other MEMs. Since smart dust devices are miniature sensors they can record anything that they are programmed to record. Since they are so small, they are difficult to detect. Your imagination can run wild regarding the negative privacy implications when smart dust falls into the wrong hands. Once billions of smart dust devices are deployed over an area it would be difficult to retrieve or capture them if necessary. The volume of smart dust that could be engaged by a rogue individual, company or government to do harm would make it challenging for the authorities to control. Many of the applications for smart dust are still in the concept stage. We might not know when it will progress to the point of wide-scale adoption, but ... its a question of when rather than if.
Note: This takes privacy issues to an entirely new level. This AP article states the supermicro chips are "just 0.002 inches by 0.002 inches and look like bits of powder. They're thin enough to be embedded in a piece of paper." They are also small enough to slip into a vaccine unnoticed. And check out another Forbes article titled "Stratospheric Balloons Will Rain Tiny Electronic Spies From The Sky." For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
Bill Gates ... just called for a complete and utter shutdown and quarantining of the entire American nation. Despite urging from public health experts, Gates wrote in a Washington Post opinion piece, some states and counties havent shut down completely. This is a recipe for disaster. Because people can travel freely across state lines, so can the virus. The countrys leaders need to be clear: Shutdown anywhere means shutdown everywhere. Until the case numbers start to go down ... no one can continue business as usual or relax the shutdown. He then added that the impacts of the new coronavirus could linger another 18 months or so, until a vaccine was developed. For the peons of America, work isnt an option. Its food. Its survival. The fate of a hard-earned dream shouldnt rest with a globalist billionaire whos warning of dire coronavirus consequences to come all the while making hands-over-fist coronavirus money. Its a conflict of interest. WHO didnt announce the coronavirus as a pandemic until the very day after Gates ... made a very large donation to a cause that benefits WHO. In a 2017 piece titled, Meet the worlds most powerful doctor: Bill Gates, Politico wrote: Some billionaires are satisfied with buying themselves an island. Bill Gates got a United Nations health agency. Over the past decade, the worlds richest man has become the World Health Organizations second-biggest donor, second only to the United States. This largesse gives him outsized influence over its agenda. The result, say his critics, is that Gates priorities have become the WHOs.
Very Important Note: To understand how the coronavirus is being used to exert more control over humanity, don't miss this incredibly important video focused on how Bill Gates is using fear around the coronavirus to push through his agenda to vaccinate everyone on the planet and then require a "digital certificate" to ensure they've been vaccinated. For other reliable, verifiable informing demonstrating how Gates' vaccine agenda has already harmed hundreds of thousands of children read this excellent article by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
The Biden administration took a public stand last year against the abuse of spyware to target human rights activists, dissidents and journalists: It blacklisted the most notorious maker of the hacking tools, the Israeli firm NSO Group. But the global industry for commercial spyware — which allows governments to invade mobile phones and vacuum up data — continues to boom. Even the U.S. government is using it. The Drug Enforcement Administration is secretly deploying spyware from a different Israeli firm, according to five people familiar with the agency’s operations, in the first confirmed use of commercial spyware by the federal government. The most sophisticated spyware tools — like NSO’s Pegasus — have “zero-click” technology, meaning they can stealthily and remotely extract everything from a target’s mobile phone, without the user having to click on a malicious link to give Pegasus remote access. They can also turn the mobile phone into a tracking and secret recording device, allowing the phone to spy on its owner. But hacking tools without zero-click capability, which are considerably cheaper, also have a significant market. Commercial spyware has been used by intelligence services and police forces to hack phones used by drug networks and terrorist groups. But it has also been abused by numerous authoritarian regimes and democracies to spy on political opponents and journalists. This has led governments to a sometimes tortured rationale for their use.
Note: Read about how NSO Group spyware was used against journalists and activists by the Mexican government. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
Australia's two most populous states are trialling facial recognition software that lets police check people are home during COVID-19 quarantine, expanding trials that have sparked controversy to the vast majority of the country's population. Little-known tech firm Genvis Pty Ltd said on a website for its software that New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria, home to Sydney, Melbourne and more than half of Australia's 25 million population, were trialling its facial recognition products. The Perth, Western Australia-based startup developed the software in 2020 with WA state police to help enforce pandemic movement restrictions. South Australia state began trialling a similar, non-Genvis technology last month, sparking warnings from privacy advocates around the world about potential surveillance overreach. The involvement of New South Wales and Victoria, which have not disclosed that they are trialling facial recognition technology, may amplify those concerns. Under the system being trialled, people respond to random check-in requests by taking a 'selfie' at their designated home quarantine address. If the software, which also collects location data, does not verify the image against a "facial signature", police may follow up with a visit to the location to confirm the person's whereabouts. While the recognition technology has been used in countries like China, no other democracy has been reported as considering its use in connection with coronavirus containment procedures.
Note: On Sept. 21st, thousands of citizens took to the streets to protest policies like this in Melbourne alone, as shown in this revealing video. The police are responding almost like they are at war, as show in this video. Yet the major media outside of Australia are largely ignoring all of this, while the Australian press is highly biased against the protesters. Are we moving towards a police state? For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on the coronavirus and the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
When the man from Hangzhou returned home from a business trip, the local police got in touch. They had tracked his car by his license plate in nearby Wenzhou, which has had a spate of coronavirus cases. Stay indoors for two weeks, they requested. After around 12 days, he was bored and went out early. This time, not only did the police contact him, so did his boss. He had been spotted ... by a camera with facial recognition technology, and the authorities had alerted his company as a warning. I was a bit shocked by the ability and efficiency of the mass surveillance network. They can basically trace our movements ... at any time and any place, said the man, who asked not to be identified for fear of repercussions. Chinese have long been aware that they are tracked by the world's most sophisticated system of electronic surveillance. The coronavirus emergency has brought some of that technology out of the shadows, providing the authorities with a justification for sweeping methods of high tech social control. Artificial intelligence and security camera companies boast that their systems can scan the streets for people with even low-grade fevers, recognize their faces even if they are wearing masks and report them to the authorities. If a coronavirus patient boards a train, the railway's "real name" system can provide a list of people sitting nearby. Mobile phone apps can tell users if they have been on a flight or a train with a known coronavirus carrier, and maps can show them ... where infected patients live.
Note: The New York Times strangely removed this article. Yet it is also available here. Is there something they don't want us to know? Read an excellent article showing how this virus scare is being used to test China's intense surveillance technologies in very disturbing ways. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption and the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
As white supremacists have carried out a growing number of deadly attacks in recent years, the FBI has come under mounting criticism for its failure to address the threat posed by far-right extremist ideologies, whose adherents account for most of the politically motivated violence in the U.S. At the same time, the bureau has also been heavily criticized for devoting large resources to surveilling political dissent by groups and individuals, often of color, who pose no threat but are critical of the government because they oppose official immigration policies or demand police accountability. The FBIs preoccupation with policing nonviolent critical ideologies while neglecting to investigate ideologies tied to real, and increasing, violence was perhaps best captured in an infamous 2017 threat assessment report warning law enforcement agencies of the supposed rise of a black identity extremist movement targeting police. The black identity extremism category was a product of the FBIs imagination. Last year ... bureau officials told legislators that they were doing away with a set of earlier domestic terrorism categories in favor of four larger ones. The FBIs fictional black identity extremists would now be lumped together with white supremacists under a new racially motivated violent extremism category. That false equivalence made it virtually impossible for the public to know whether the FBI was devoting resources to investigating real threats of racist violence or social and racial justice groups critical of government.
Note: Read a revealing essay on COINTELPRO, the FBI program that targeted civil rights and anti-war activists from 1965-1975. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on civil liberties from reliable major media sources.
The Newborn Genetic Screening test is required in all 50 states. Nearly every baby born in the United States gets a heel prick shortly after birth. Their newborn blood fills six spots on a special filter paper card. It is used to test baby for dozens of congenital disorders. Some states destroy the blood spots after a year, 12 states store them for at least 21 years. California, however, is one of a handful of states that stores the remaining blood spots for research indefinitely in a state-run biobank. The child's leftover blood spots become property of the state and may be sold to outside researchers without the parent's knowledge or consent. "I just didn't realize there was a repository of every baby born in the state. It's like fingerprints," new mom Soniya Sapre responded. In California ... you do have the right to ask the biobank to destroy the leftovers after the fact, though the agency's website states it "may not be able to comply with your request." You also have the right to find out if your child's blood spots have been used for research, but you would have to know they were being used in the first place and we've discovered that most parents don't. But researchers with the California Genetic Disease Screening Program aren't the only ones with access to samples stored in the biobank. Blood spots are given to outside researchers for $20 to $40 per spot. According to biobank records, the program sold about 16,000 blood spots over the past five years, totaling a little more than $700,000.
Over the last two years, researchers in China and the United States have begun demonstrating that they can send hidden commands that are undetectable to the human ear to Apples Siri, Amazons Alexa and Googles Assistant. Researchers have been able to secretly activate the artificial intelligence systems on smartphones and smart speakers, making them dial phone numbers or open websites. In the wrong hands, the technology could be used to unlock doors, wire money or buy stuff online - simply with music playing over the radio. A group of students from University of California, Berkeley, and Georgetown University showed in 2016 that they could hide commands in white noise played over loudspeakers and through YouTube videos to get smart devices to turn on airplane mode or open a website. This month, some of those Berkeley researchers published a research paper that went further, saying they could embed commands directly into recordings of music or spoken text. So while a human listener hears someone talking or an orchestra playing, Amazons Echo speaker might hear an instruction to add something to your shopping list. There is no American law against broadcasting subliminal messages to humans, let alone machines. The Federal Communications Commission discourages the practice as counter to the public interest, and the Television Code of the National Association of Broadcasters bans transmitting messages below the threshold of normal awareness.
Note: Read how a hacked vehicle may have resulted in journalist Michael Hastings' death in 2013. A 2015 New York Times article titled "Why Smart Objects May Be a Dumb Idea" describes other major risks in creating an "Internet of Things". Vulnerabilities like those described in the article above make it possible for anyone to spy on you with these objects, accelerating the disappearance of privacy.
The National Security Agency maintains a page on its website that outlines its mission statement. Since at least May 2016, the surveillance agency had featured honesty as the first of four core values listed on NSA.gov, alongside respect for the law, integrity, and transparency. On January 12, however, the NSA removed the mission statement page which can still be viewed through the Internet Archive and replaced it with a new version. Now, the parts about honesty and the pledge to be truthful have been deleted. The agencys new top value is commitment to service, which it says means excellence in the pursuit of our critical mission. Those are not the only striking alterations. All references to trust, honor, and openness have disappeared. The agency previously stated on its website that it embraced transparency and claimed that all of its activities were aimed at ensuring the safety, security, and liberty of our fellow citizens. That has also been discarded. The new list of values includes the additions respect for people and accountability. But the section on respecting people is a reference to diversity within the NSA workforce, not a general commitment to members of the public. Accountability is defined as taking responsibility for our decisions. The one core value that remains essentially unchanged is respect for the law, which the agency says means it is grounded in our adherence to the U.S. Constitution and compliance with the U.S. laws, regulations and policies that govern our activities.
I Googled mainstream media is And there it was. Googles autocomplete suggestions: mainstream media is dead, dying, fake news, fake, finished. Googles first suggested link ... leads to a website called CNSnews.com and an article: The Mainstream media are dead. How had it, an obscure site Id never heard of, dominated Googles search algorithm on the topic? In the About us tab, I learn CNSnews is owned by the Media Research Center. It receives a large bulk of its funding more than $10m in the past decade from a single source, the hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer. Robert Mercer is the money behind an awful lot of things. He was Trumps single biggest donor. Since 2010, Mercer has donated $45m to different political campaigns all Republican and another $50m to non-profits all rightwing, ultra-conservative. This is a billionaire who is ... trying to reshape the world according to his personal beliefs. He is reported to have a $10m stake in the [Cambridge Analytica], which was spun out of a bigger British company called SCL Group. It specialises in election management strategies and messaging and information operations, refined over 25 years. In military circles this is known as psyops psychological operations. Cambridge Analytica makes the astonishing boast that it has psychological profiles based on 5,000 separate pieces of data on 220 million American voters. With this, a computer ... can predict and potentially control human behaviour. Its incredibly dangerous.
"There's really only two types of companies or two types of people which are those who have been hacked and realize it and those who have been hacked and haven't." That's what mobile security expert John Hering tells 60 Minutes correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi about the danger of cellphone hacking. To prove his point, Hering assembled a group of ace hackers. Jon Oberheide showed 60 Minutes an app he created that looks legitimate but allows him to take control of a phone and suck out ... information [such as] contacts, recent purchases and text messages. Another hacker, Adam Laurie, uses radio frequency identification to hack phones. "He didn't need my phone number," Alfonsi explains. "All he had to do was physically touch my phone." He demonstrated by brushing by her in the lobby of her hotel. When he did ... her phone [automatically] dialed Laurie, allowing him to listen in on anything discussed in the room with Alfonsi's phone. A so-called "CryptoPhone" ... alerts the user when someone is trying to attack or hack into his or her phone. "Certain government facilities will try to get into your phone if you get too close to them," Alfonsi explains. To demonstrate, Les Goldsmith, CEO of ESD America, a company that specializes in countersurveillance technologies, took Alfonsi for a ride ... near a secure government facility. As they were driving past, a red line appeared on the CryptoPhone, indicating that ... if she were using a regular phone, the government agency could hear her call and read her text messages.
The sneak-and-peek provision of the Patriot Act that was alleged to be used only in national security and terrorism investigations has overwhelmingly been used in narcotics cases. Now the New York Times reports that National Security Agency data will be shared with other intelligence agencies like the FBI without first applying any screens for privacy. The ACLU of Massachusetts blog Privacy SOS explains [that] domestic law enforcement officials now have access to huge troves of American communications, obtained without warrants, that they can use to put people in cages. This basically formalizes what was already happening. Weve known for a couple of years now that the Drug Enforcement Administration and the IRS were getting information from the NSA. Because that information was obtained without a warrant, the agencies were instructed to engage in parallel construction when explaining to courts and defense attorneys how the information had been obtained. It certainly isnt the only time that that national security apparatus has let law enforcement agencies benefit from policies that are supposed to be reserved for terrorism investigations in order to get around the Fourth Amendment, then instructed those law enforcement agencies to misdirect, fudge and outright lie about how they obtained incriminating information. This isnt just a few rogue agents. The lying has been a matter of policy.
Scores of low-flying planes circling American cities are part of a civilian air force operated by the FBI and obscured behind fictitious companies. The aircraft are equipped with high-tech cameras, and ... technology capable of tracking thousands of cellphones. The surveillance equipment is used for ongoing investigations, the FBI says, generally without a judge's approval. The Drug Enforcement Administration has its own planes, also registered to fake companies, according to a 2011 Justice Department ... report. At the time, the DEA had 92 aircraft in its fleet. And since 2007, the U.S. Marshals Service has operated an aerial surveillance program with its own fleet equipped with technology that can capture data from thousands of cellphones. "These are not your grandparents' surveillance aircraft," said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union. Evolving technology can record higher-quality video from long distances, even at night, and can capture certain identifying information from cellphones using a device known as a "cell-site simulator" [to] trick pinpointed cellphones into revealing identification numbers of subscribers, including those not suspected of a crime. The Obama administration [has] been directing local authorities through secret agreements not to reveal their own use of the devices. During the past few weeks, the AP tracked planes from the FBI's fleet on more than 100 flights over at least 11 states plus the District of Columbia.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about the corrupt intelligence agencies that facilitate the erosion of privacy rights in the U.S. and elsewhere.
At least 50 U.S. law enforcement agencies have secretly equipped their officers with radar devices that allow them to effectively peer through the walls of houses to see whether anyone is inside. Those agencies, including the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service, began deploying the radar systems more than two years ago with little notice to the courts and no public disclosure of when or how they would be used. The technology raises legal and privacy issues because the U.S. Supreme Court has said officers generally cannot use high-tech sensors to tell them about the inside of a person's house without first obtaining a search warrant. The radars work like finely tuned motion detectors, using radio waves to zero in on movements as slight as human breathing from a distance of more than 50 feet. They can detect whether anyone is inside of a house, where they are and whether they are moving. The device the Marshals Service and others are using [was] first designed for use in Iraq and Afghanistan. They represent the latest example of battlefield technology finding its way home to civilian policing and bringing complex legal questions with it. Those concerns are especially thorny when it comes to technology that lets the police determine what's happening inside someone's home.
Note: This technology is not new. Working as interpreter in Washington, DC, WantToKnow.info founder Fred Burks witnessed this technology being used by the police there in the late 1980s. Explore an informative ACLU report detailing the many surveillance technologies used by police which are often used illegally. For more along these lines, see this deeply revealing summarized NPR report about The Pentagon's massive Program 1033 to widely distribute military hardware to domestic police forces.
The U.S. government threatened to fine Yahoo $250,000 a day in 2008 if it failed to comply with a broad demand to hand over user communications a request the company believed was unconstitutional according to court documents unsealed [on September 11] that illuminate how federal officials forced American tech companies to participate in the National Security Agencys controversial PRISM program. The documents ... outline a secret and ultimately unsuccessful legal battle by Yahoo to resist the governments demands. The companys loss required Yahoo to become one of the first to begin providing information to PRISM, a program that gave the NSA extensive access to records of online communications by users of Yahoo and other U.S.-based technology firms. The ruling by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review became a key moment in the development of PRISM, helping government officials to convince other Silicon Valley companies that unprecedented data demands had been tested in the courts and found constitutionally sound. Eventually, most major U.S. tech companies, including Google, Facebook, Apple and AOL, complied. Microsoft had joined earlier, before the ruling, NSA documents have shown. PRISM was first revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden last year. Documents made it clear that the program allowed the NSA to order U.S.-based tech companies to turn over e-mails and other communications to or from foreign targets without search warrants for each of those targets. Other NSA programs gave even more wide-ranging access to personal information of people worldwide, by collecting data directly from fiber-optic connections.
Note: For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing government surveillance news articles from reliable major media sources.
The US governments web of surveillance is vast and interconnected. You can be pulled into the National Security Agencys database quietly and quickly. Through ICREACH, a Google-style search engine created for the intelligence community, the NSA provides data on private communications to 23 government agencies. More than 1,000 analysts had access to that information. It was confirmed earlier this month that the FBI shares its master watchlist, the Terrorist Screening Database, with at least 22 foreign governments, countless federal agencies, state and local law enforcement, plus private contractors. The watchlist [is] based on [low] standards and secret evidence, which ensnares innocent people. Indeed, the standards are so low that the US governments guidelines specifically allow for a single, uncorroborated source of information including a Facebook or Twitter post to serve as the basis for placing you on its master watchlist. Of the 680,000 individuals on that FBI master list, roughly 40% have no recognized terrorist group affiliation, according to the Intercept. These individuals dont even have a connection as the government loosely defines it to a designated terrorist group, but they are still branded as suspected terrorists. The US [government uses] a loose standard so-called reasonable suspicion in determining who, exactly, can be watchlisted. ["Reasonable suspicion"] requires neither concrete evidence nor irrefutable evidence. Instead, an official is permitted to consider reasonable inferences and to draw from the facts in light of his/her experience.
Note: For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing terrorism news articles from reliable major media sources.
The former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden said in a wide-ranging interview ... that the oversight of surveillance programs was so weak that members of the United States military working at the spy agency sometimes shared sexually explicit photos they intercepted. He also said the British government often pioneered the most invasive surveillance programs because its intelligence services operate with fewer restrictions intended to protect individual privacy than its counterparts in the United States and other allies. In the course of their daily work they stumble across something that is completely unrelated to their work, for example an intimate nude photo of someone in a sexually compromising situation but theyre extremely attractive, he said. So what do they do? They turn around in their chair and they show a co-worker. And their co-worker says: Oh, hey, thats great. Send that to Bill down the way. Mr. Snowden said that type of sharing ... was seen as the fringe benefits of surveillance positions. He said that this was never reported and that the system for auditing surveillance programs was incredibly weak. Mr. Snowden had particularly stark criticism for the British governments surveillance programs, because in Britain the respect for individual privacy, he said, is not strongly encoded in law or policy. Because it has fewer restrictions, British intelligence platforms are used as a testing ground for programs of all five intelligence partners, a group referred to as Five Eyes, which includes Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States.
Note: For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing privacy news articles from reliable major media sources.
British spies have developed "dirty tricks" ... that include releasing computer viruses, spying on journalists and diplomats, jamming phones and computers, and using sex to lure targets into "honey traps." Documents taken from the National Security Agency by Edward Snowden ... describe techniques developed by a secret British spy unit called the Joint Threat Research and Intelligence Group (JTRIG). According to the documents ... the agency's goal was to "destroy, deny, degrade [and] disrupt" enemies by "discrediting" them, planting misinformation and shutting down their communications. The propaganda campaigns use deception, mass messaging and "pushing stories" via Twitter, Flickr, Facebook and YouTube. JTRIG also uses "false flag" operations, in which British agents carry out online actions that are designed to look like they were performed by one of Britain's adversaries. Other documents ... show that JTRIG ... used a DDOS attack to shut down Internet chat rooms used by members of the hacktivist group known as Anonymous. A computer virus called Ambassadors Reception was "used in a variety of different areas" and was "very effective." When sent to adversaries ... the virus will "encrypt itself, delete all emails ... and block the computer user from logging on. Spies have long used sexual "honey traps" to snare, blackmail and influence targets. Most often, a male target is led to believe he has an opportunity for a romantic relationship or a sexual liaison with a woman, only to find that the woman is actually an intelligence operative.
Note: You can read the documents released by Snowden at this link and this one. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on intelligence agency corruption from reliable major media sources.
The British government can tap into the cables carrying the worlds web traffic at will and spy on what people are doing on some of the worlds most popular social media sites ... without the knowledge or consent of the companies. Documents taken from the National Security Agency by Edward Snowden and obtained by NBC News detail how British cyber spies demonstrated a pilot program to their U.S. partners in 2012 in which they were able to monitor YouTube in real time and collect addresses from the billions of videos watched daily, as well as some user information, for analysis. At the time the documents were printed, they were also able to spy on Facebook and Twitter. Called Psychology A New Kind of SIGDEV" (Signals Development), the presentation includes a section that spells out Broad real-time monitoring of online activity of YouTube videos, URLs liked on Facebook, and Blogspot/Blogger visits. The monitoring program is called Squeaky Dolphin. Experts told NBC News the documents show the British had to have been either physically able to tap the cables carrying the worlds web traffic or able to use a third party to gain physical access to the massive stream of data. Representatives of Facebook and Google, which owns YouTube, said they ... were unaware the collection had occurred. The NSA does analysis of social media similar to that in the GCHQ demonstration. In 2010 ... GCHQ exploited unencrypted data from Twitter to identify specific users around the world and target them with propaganda.
Note: Read an article diving deeper and showing how online reputations are ruthlessly destroyed by powerful groups. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about questionable intelligence agency practices and the erosion of privacy.
The National Security Agency is winning its long-running secret war on encryption, using supercomputers, technical trickery, court orders and behind-the-scenes persuasion to undermine the major tools protecting the privacy of everyday communications in the Internet age, according to newly disclosed documents. The agency has circumvented or cracked much of the encryption, or digital scrambling, that guards global commerce and banking systems, protects sensitive data like trade secrets and medical records, and automatically secures the e-mails, Web searches, Internet chats and phone calls of Americans and others around the world, the documents show. Many users assume or have been assured by Internet companies that their data is safe from prying eyes, including those of the government, and the N.S.A. wants to keep it that way. The agency treats its recent successes in deciphering protected information as among its most closely guarded secrets, restricted to those cleared for a highly classified program code-named Bullrun, according to the documents, provided by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor. Beginning in 2000, as encryption tools were gradually blanketing the Web, the N.S.A. invested billions of dollars in a clandestine campaign to preserve its ability to eavesdrop. Having lost a public battle in the 1990s to insert its own back door in all encryption, it set out to accomplish the same goal by stealth. The agency ... deployed custom-built, superfast computers to break codes, and began collaborating with technology companies in the United States and abroad to build entry points into their products [called "backdoors"].
[The] fact that a car is not a simple machine of glass and steel but a hackable network of computers, is what [Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek] have spent the last year trying to demonstrate. Miller, a 40-year-old security engineer at Twitter, and Valasek, the 31-year-old director of security intelligence at the Seattle consultancy IOActive, received an $80,000-plus grant last fall from [the] Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to root out security vulnerabilities in automobiles. The need for scrutiny is growing as cars are increasingly automated and connected to the Internet. Practically every American carmaker now offers a cellular service or Wi-Fi network like General Motors OnStar, Toyotas Safety Connect and Fords SYNC. Without better security its all potentially vulnerable, and automakers are remaining mum or downplaying the issue. As I drove their vehicles for more than an hour, Miller and Valasek showed that theyve reverse-engineered enough of the software of the [Ford] Escape and the Toyota Prius (both the 2010 model) to demonstrate a range of nasty surprises: everything from annoyances like uncontrollably blasting the horn to serious hazards like slamming on the Prius brakes at high speeds. They sent commands from their laptops that killed power steering, spoofed the GPS and made pathological liars out of speedometers and odometers. Finally they directed me out to a country road, where Valasek showed that he could violently jerk the Prius steering at any speed, threatening to send us into a cornfield or a head-on collision.
Note: Don't miss the unbelievable video at the above link which shows how a good hacker can take control of your car's steering, brakes, and much more. For more on the OnStar system in most GM cars now and how it allows spying on you, read the CNN article titled "OnStar's 'brazen' data tracking comes under fire" at this link. For more on government and corporate digital security invasions, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
New documents prove what was once dismissed as paranoid fantasy: totally integrated corporate-state repression of dissent. It was more sophisticated than we had imagined: new documents show that the violent crackdown on Occupy last fall so mystifying at the time was not just coordinated at the level of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and local police. The crackdown, which involved, as you may recall, violent arrests, group disruption, canister missiles to the skulls of protesters, people held in handcuffs so tight they were injured, people held in bondage till they were forced to wet or soil themselves was coordinated with the big banks themselves. The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, in a groundbreaking scoop that should once more shame major US media outlets (why are nonprofits now some of the only entities in America left breaking major civil liberties news?), filed this request. The document reproduced here in an easily searchable format shows a terrifying network of coordinated DHS, FBI, police, regional fusion center, and private-sector activity so completely merged into one another that the monstrous whole is, in fact, one entity: in some cases, bearing a single name, the Domestic Security Alliance Council. And it reveals this merged entity to have one centrally planned, locally executed mission. The documents, in short, show the cops and DHS working for and with banks to target, arrest, and politically disable peaceful American citizens.
Note: For analysis of these amazing documents revealing the use of joint government and corporate counterterrorism structures against peaceful protestors of financial corruption, click here and here. For a Democracy Now! video segment on this, click here.
Undercover police officers routinely adopted a tactic of "promiscuity" with the blessing of senior commanders, according to a former agent who worked in a secretive unit of the Metropolitan police for four years. The former undercover policeman claims that sexual relationships with activists were sanctioned for both men and women officers infiltrating anarchist, leftwing and environmental groups. Sex was a tool to help officers blend in, the officer claimed, and was widely used as a technique to glean intelligence. He said undercover officers, particularly those infiltrating environmental and leftwing groups, viewed having sex with a large number of partners "as part of the job". His comments contradict claims last week from the Association of Chief Police Officers that operatives were absolutely forbidden to sleep with activists. The claims follow the unmasking of undercover PC Mark Kennedy, who had sexual relationships with several women during the seven years he spent infiltrating a ring of environmental activists. Another two covert officers have been named in the past fortnight who also had sex with the protesters they were sent to spy on, fuelling allegations that senior officers had authorised sleeping around as a legitimate means of gathering intelligence.
Note: For a comprehensive overview of the still-ongoing revelations about police provocateur Mark Kennedy and his cohorts in the UK police infiltration of environmental and related activist groups, click here.
Law enforcement is tracking Americans' cell phones in real timewithout the benefit of a warrant. Amid all the furor over the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program a few years ago, a mini-revolt was brewing over another type of federal snooping that was getting no public attention at all. Federal prosecutors were seeking what seemed to be unusually sensitive records: internal data from telecommunications companies that showed the locations of their customers' cell phonessometimes in real time, sometimes after the fact. Prosecutors "were using the cell phone as a surreptitious tracking device," said Stephen W. Smith, a federal magistrate in Houston. "And I started asking the U.S. Attorney's Office, 'What is the legal authority for this? What is the legal standard for getting this information?'" Those questions are now at the core of a constitutional clash between President Obama's Justice Department and civil libertarians alarmed by what they see as the government's relentless intrusion into the private lives of citizens. There are numerous other fronts in the privacy warsabout the content of e-mails, for instance, and access to bank records and credit-card transactions. The Feds now can quietly get all that information. But cell-phone tracking is among the more unsettling forms of government surveillance, conjuring up Orwellian images of Big Brother secretly following your movements through the small device in your pocket.
Note: For many key reports from major media sources on the disturbing trend toward increasing government and corporate surveillance, click here.
The Transportation Security Administration ... has on its web site a mythbuster that tries to reassure the public. Myth: The No-Fly list includes an 8-year-old boy. Buster: No 8-year-old is on a T.S.A. watch list. Meet Mikey Hicks, said Najlah Feanny Hicks, introducing her 8-year-old son, a New Jersey Cub Scout and frequent traveler who has seldom boarded a plane without a hassle because he shares the name of a suspicious person. Its not a myth. Hickss mother initially sensed trouble when he was a baby and she could not get a seat for him on their flight to Florida at an airport kiosk; airline officials explained that his name was on the list, she recalled. The first time he was patted down, at Newark Liberty International Airport, Mikey was 2. He cried. After years of long delays and waits for supervisors at every airport ticket counter, this years vacation to the Bahamas badly shook up the family. Mikey was frisked on the way there, then more aggressively on the way home. Up your arms, down your arms, up your crotch someone is patting your 8-year-old down like hes a criminal, Mrs. Hicks recounted. It is true that Mikey is not on the federal governments no-fly list, which includes about 2,500 people, less than 10 percent of them from the United States. But his name appears to be among some 13,500 on the larger selectee list, which sets off a high level of security screening.
Note: For many reports from major media sources on the extreme loss of liberties brought about by the highly touted "war on terrorism," click here.
Every phone call, text message, email and website visit made by private citizens is to be stored for a year and will be available for monitoring by government bodies. All telecoms companies and internet service providers will be required by law to keep a record of every customer’s personal communications, showing who they have contacted, when and where, as well as the websites they have visited. Despite widespread opposition to the increasing amount of surveillance in Britain, 653 public bodies will be given access to the information, including police, local councils, the Financial Services Authority, the ambulance service, fire authorities and even prison governors. They will not require the permission of a judge or a magistrate to obtain the information, but simply the authorisation of a senior police officer or the equivalent of a deputy head of department at a local authority. The Government announced yesterday it was pressing ahead with privately held “Big Brother” databases that opposition leaders said amounted to “state-spying” and a form of “covert surveillance” on the public. It is doing so despite its own consultation showing that it has little public support. The new rules ... will not only force communications companies to keep their records for longer, but to expand the type of data they keep to include details of every website their customers visit.
Note: For many more reports from major media sources on the disturbing trend toward increasing government and corporate surveillance and loss of privacy, click here.
OLBERMANN: It has taken less than 24 hours after the Bush presidency ended for a former analyst at the National Security Agency to come forward to reveal new allegations about how this nation was spied on by its own government. Russell Tice [reveals] that under the collar of fighting terrorism, the Bush administration was also targeting specific groups of Americans for surveillance. TICE: The National Security Agency had access to all Americans communications, faxes, phone calls, and their computer communications. They monitored all communications. What was done was a sort of an ability to look at the meta data, the signaling data for communications, and ferret that information to determine what communications would ultimately be collected. Basically, filtering out sort of like sweeping everything with that meta data, and then cutting down ultimately what you are going to look at and what is going to be collected, and in the long run have an analyst look at, you know, needles in a haystack for what might be of interest. OLBERMANN: I mention that you say specific groups were targeted. What group or groups can you tell us about? TICE: [Some of the groups they] collected on were U.S. news organizations and reporters and journalists. The collection ... was 24/7, and you know, 365 days a year, and it made no sense.
Outside the convention hall, New York City police plan to control protesters using a device that directs sound for up to 1,500 feet in a spotlight-like beam. Meanwhile, a display of former Republican presidents inside the hall will feature campaign speeches that are funneled to listeners through highly focused audio beams. Both technologies feature unprecedented manipulation of sound, but for very different purposes. And while both technologies have unique, "gee-whiz" factors, some remain uneasy with the idea of using sound to control crowds. When in weapon mode, LRAD blasts a tightly controlled stream of caustic sound that can be turned up to high enough levels to trigger nausea or possibly fainting. LRAD ... has been used by the U.S. military in Iraq and at sea as a non-lethal force. In these settings, operators can use the device not only to convey orders, but also as a weapon. In tests, police have shown how they can convey orders in a normal voice to someone as far as four blocks away. The sound beam is even equipped with a viewfinder so the operator can precisely target the audio by finding a person in cross hairs. Rather than using pure volume to throw sound far, the LRAD reaches distant ears by focusing the audio beam. Wherever the beam makes contact with air, the air molecules interact in a way that isolates the original audible sound. So if you're standing in front of the ultrasonic sound wave, you can hear the sound. If you're a few inches away, you hear nothing. Already, some Coca-Cola machines in Japan are equipped with the technology so passers-by hear the enticing sound of soda being poured into a glass of ice.
Note: For more reliable information on these "non-lethal weapons," click here.
Whats more devilishly un-American than launching one of the most massive government surveillance programs of private citizens in U.S. history, all under the guise of protecting people from the coronavirus? Thats the COVID-19 Testing, Reaching, And Contacting Everyone (TRACE) Act in all its $100 billion grant giveaway glory. According to H.R. 6666s text: The taxpayer funds will be used to trace and monitor the contacts of infected individuals, and to support the quarantine of such contacts, through mobile health units and, as necessary ... at [citizens] residences. That means government comes to your home, taps on your door and demands you take a COVID-19 test. And if you test positive, that means the government makes sure you stay at home. The top dogs at the Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are in control of disbursing the $100 billion to local governments to carry out the COVID-19 testing more specifically, to hire, train, compensate and pay the expenses of individuals to staff mobile health units and to knock on citizens doors and to enforce compliance with quarantining. This is nothing but a massive government surveillance program cloaked in a cure-the-coronavirus label. A petition at Change.org to stop the nonsense has generated about 28,000 signatures. HR 6666 violates inalienable rights to ones person, home and property, to ones life, freedoms, privacy and security, the petition states.
Note: Why the huge price tag of $100 billion, which is more than the entire 2019 budget for the US Dept. of Health and Human Services? Explore this bill which greatly threatens privacy and civil rights on the website of the US Congress at this link. This excellent and well researched video leaves little doubt that some people will be taken from their homes and children taken from their mothers. For those concerned about being traced and quarantined, this article has good information on who is behind it all. Sign a petition opposing this bill on this webpage.
Did you know that the United States, Canada, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand participate together in an electronic eavesdropping cooperative called "The Five Eyes Alliance"? Or that Britain "has secretly gained access to the network of cables which carry the world's phone calls and internet traffic and has started to process vast streams of sensitive personal information which it is sharing with its American partner, the National Security Agency"? One key innovation has been GCHQ's ability to tap into and store huge volumes of data drawn from fibre-optic cables for up to 30 days so that it can be sifted and analysed. GCHQ and the NSA are consequently able to access and process vast quantities of communications between entirely innocent people, as well as targeted suspects. This includes recordings of phone calls, the content of email messages, entries on Facebook and the history of any internet user's access to websites - all of which is deemed legal, even though the warrant system was supposed to limit interception to a specified range of targets. Say you're the NSA. By law, there are certain sorts of spying you're not lawfully allowed to do on Americans. (And agency rules constraining you too.) But wait. Allied countries have different laws and surveillance rules. Put bluntly, intelligence agencies have an incentive to make themselves complicit in foreign governments spying on their own citizens.
As China encourages people to return to work despite the coronavirus outbreak, it has begun a bold mass experiment in using data to regulate citizens lives by requiring them to use software on their smartphones that dictates whether they should be quarantined or allowed into subways, malls and other public spaces. The system does more than decide in real time whether someone poses a contagion risk. It also appears to share information with the police, setting a template for new forms of automated social control that could persist long after the epidemic subsides. The Alipay Health Code, as Chinas official news media has called the system, was first introduced in the eastern city of Hangzhou ... with the help of Ant Financial, a sister company of the e-commerce giant Alibaba. People in China sign up through Ants popular wallet app, Alipay, and are assigned a color code green, yellow or red that indicates their health status. The system is already in use in 200 cities and is being rolled out nationwide, Ant says. As soon as a user grants the software access to personal data, a piece of the program labeled reportInfoAndLocationToPolice sends the persons location, city name and an identifying code number to a server. The software does not make clear to users its connection to the police. In the United States, it would be akin to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention using apps from Amazon and Facebook to track the coronavirus, then quietly sharing user information with the local sheriffs office.
Note: Learn in this revealing article how China is blacklisting certain citizens using this system and "banning them from any number of activities, including accessing financial markets or travelling by air or train, as the use of the governments social credit system accelerates." Learn more about the serious risk of the Coronavirus increasing the surveillance state in this excellent article. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption and the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
Should the government have to get a warrant before using a drone to spy on your home and backyard? We think so, and in an amicus brief filed last Friday in Long Lake Township v. Maxon, we urged the Michigan Supreme Court to find that warrantless drone surveillance of a home violates the Fourth Amendment. In this case, Long Lake Township hired private operators to repeatedly fly drones over Todd and Heather Maxon’s home to take aerial photos and videos of their property in a zoning investigation. The Township did this without a warrant and then sought to use this documentation in a court case against them. In our brief, we argue that the township’s conduct was governed by and violated the Fourth Amendment and the equivalent section of the Michigan Constitution. Drone prevalence has soared in recent years, fueled by both private and governmental use. We have documented more than 1,471 law enforcement agencies across the United States that operate drones. In some cities, police have begun implementing “drone as first responder” programs, in which drones are constantly flying over communities in response to routine calls for service. Authorities have routinely used aerial surveillance technologies against individuals participating in racial justice movements. Under this backdrop, states like Florida, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, North Dakota, and Virginia have enacted statutes requiring warrants for police use of drones.
The United States government has been secretly amassing a "large amount" of "sensitive and intimate information" on its own citizens, a group of senior advisers informed Avril Haines, the director of national intelligence. The government effort to accumulate data revealing the minute details of Americans' lives [is] described soberly and at length by the director's own panel of experts in a newly declassified report. The report states that the government believes it can "persistently" track the phones of "millions of Americans" without a warrant, so long as it pays for the information. It is often trivial "to deanonymize and identify individuals" from data that was packaged ... for commercial use. Such data may be useful, it says, to "identify every person who attended a protest or rally based on their smartphone location or ad-tracking records." Such civil liberties concerns are prime examples of how "large quantities of nominally 'public' information can result in sensitive aggregations." What's more, information collected for one purpose "may be reused for other purposes," which may "raise risks beyond those originally calculated," an effect called "mission creep." "In the wrong hands," [Office of the Director of National Intelligence] advisers warn, the same mountain of data the government is quietly accumulating could be turned against Americans to "facilitate blackmail, stalking, harassment, and public shaming." These are all offenses that have been committed by intelligence agencies and White House administrations in the past.
A young African American man, Randal Quran Reid, was pulled over by the state police in Georgia. He was arrested under warrants issued by Louisiana police for two cases of theft in New Orleans. The arrest warrants had been based solely on a facial recognition match, though that was never mentioned in any police document; the warrants claimed "a credible source" had identified Reid as the culprit. The facial recognition match was incorrect and Reid was released. Reid ... is not the only victim of a false facial recognition match. So far all those arrested in the US after a false match have been black. From surveillance to disinformation, we live in a world shaped by AI. The reason that Reid was wrongly incarcerated had less to do with artificial intelligence than with ... the humans that created the software and trained it. Too often when we talk of the "problem" of AI, we remove the human from the picture. We worry AI will "eliminate jobs" and make millions redundant, rather than recognise that the real decisions are made by governments and corporations and the humans that run them. We have come to view the machine as the agent and humans as victims of machine agency. Rather than seeing regulation as a means by which we can collectively shape our relationship to AI, it becomes something that is imposed from the top as a means of protecting humans from machines. It is not AI but our blindness to the way human societies are already deploying machine intelligence for political ends that should most worry us.
U.S. citizens are being subjected to a relentless onslaught from intrusive technologies that have become embedded in the everyday fabric of our lives, creating unprecedented levels of social and political upheaval. These widely used technologies ... include social media and what Harvard professor Shoshanna Zuboff calls "surveillance capitalism"—the buying and selling of our personal info and even our DNA in the corporate marketplace. But powerful new ones are poised to create another wave of radical change. Under the mantle of the "Fourth Industrial Revolution," these include artificial intelligence or AI, the metaverse, the Internet of Things, the Internet of Bodies (in which our physical and health data is added into the mix to be processed by AI), and my personal favorite, police robots. This is a two-pronged effort involving both powerful corporations and government initiatives. These tech-based systems are operating "below the radar" and rarely discussed in the mainstream media. The world's biggest tech companies are now richer and more powerful than most countries. According to an article in PC Week in 2021 discussing Apple's dominance: "By taking the current valuation of Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and others, then comparing them to the GDP of countries on a map, we can see just how crazy things have become… Valued at $2.2 trillion, the Cupertino company is richer than 96% of the world. In fact, only seven countries currently outrank the maker of the iPhone financially."
The secret contract was finalized on Nov. 8, 2021, a deal between a company that has acted as a front for the United States government and the American affiliate of a notorious Israeli hacking firm. Under the arrangement, the Israeli firm, NSO Group, gave the U.S. government access to one of its most powerful weapons — a geolocation tool that can covertly track mobile phones around the world without the phone user’s knowledge or consent. Only five days earlier, the Biden administration had announced it was taking action against NSO, whose hacking tools for years had been abused by governments around the world to spy on political dissidents, human rights activists and journalists. The White House placed NSO on a Commerce Department blacklist, declaring the company a national security threat. The secret contract ... violates the Biden administration’s public policy, and still appears to be active. The contract, reviewed by The Times, stated that the “United States government” would be the ultimate user of the tool, although it is unclear which government agency authorized the deal and might be using the spyware. Elements of America’s expansive national security apparatus in recent years have bought the weapons, deployed them against drug traffickers, and have quietly pushed to consolidate control of them into the hands of the United States and its closest allies. The F.B.I. purchased access in 2019 to NSO’s most powerful hacking tool, known as Pegasus, which invades mobile phones and mines their contents.
Note: Read how journalists and activists have been targeted with NSO Group spyware. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption and the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
Human rights activists, journalists and lawyers across the world have been targeted by authoritarian governments using hacking software sold by the Israeli surveillance company NSO Group, according to an investigation into a massive data leak. The investigation by the Guardian and 16 other media organisations suggests widespread and continuing abuse of NSO’s hacking spyware, Pegasus. Pegasus is a malware that infects iPhones and Android devices to enable operators of the tool to extract messages, photos and emails, record calls and secretly activate microphones. The leak contains a list of more than 50,000 phone numbers that, it is believed, have been identified as those of people of interest by clients of NSO since 2016. The numbers of more than 180 journalists are listed in the data, including reporters, editors and executives at the Financial Times, CNN, the New York Times, France 24, the Economist, Associated Press and Reuters. The phone number of a freelance Mexican reporter, Cecilio Pineda Birto, was found in the list, apparently of interest to a Mexican client in the weeks leading up to his murder, when his killers were able to locate him at a carwash. He was among at least 25 Mexican journalists apparently selected as candidates for surveillance. The broad array of numbers in the list belonging to people who seemingly have no connection to criminality suggests some NSO clients are breaching their contracts with the company, spying on pro-democracy activists and journalists.
Note: Read more about how NSO Group spyware was used against journalists and activists by the Mexican government. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on intelligence agency corruption and the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
The Covid-19 pandemic is now giving Russian authorities an opportunity to test new powers and technology, and the country's privacy and free-speech advocates worry the government is building sweeping new surveillance capabilities. Perhaps the most well-publicized tech tool in Russia's arsenal for fighting coronavirus is Moscow's massive facial-recognition system. Rolled out earlier this year, the surveillance system had originally prompted an unusual public backlash, with privacy advocates filing lawsuits over unlawful surveillance. Coronavirus, however, has given an unexpected public-relations boost to the system. Last week, Moscow police claimed to have caught and fined 200 people who violated quarantine and self-isolation using facial recognition and a 170,000-camera system. Some of the alleged violators who were fined had been outside for less than half a minute before they were picked up by a camera. And then there's the use of geolocation to track coronavirus carriers. Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin earlier this week ordered Russia's Ministry of Communications to roll out a tracking system based on "the geolocation data from the mobile providers for a specific person" by the end of this week. According to a description in the government decree, information gathered under the tracking system will be used to send texts to those who have come into contact with a coronavirus carrier, and to notify regional authorities so they can put individuals into quarantine.
Like the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the U.S., the coronavirus pandemic is a crisis of such magnitude that it threatens to change the world in which we live, with ramifications for how leaders govern. Governments are locking down cities with the help of the army, mapping population flows via smartphones and jailing or sequestering quarantine breakers using banks of CCTV and facial recognition cameras backed by artificial intelligence. The restrictions are unprecedented in peacetime and made possible only by rapid advances in technology. And while citizens across the globe may be willing to sacrifice civil liberties temporarily, history shows that emergency powers can be hard to relinquish. A primary concern is that if the public gives governments new surveillance powers to contain Covid-19, then governments will keep these powers after the public health crisis ends, said Adam Schwartz ... at the non-profit Electronic Frontier Foundation. Nearly two decades after the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government still uses many of the surveillance technologies it developed in the immediate wake. In part, the Chinese Communist Partys containment measures at the virus epicenter in Wuhan set the tone, with what initially seemed shocking steps to isolate the infected being subsequently adopted in countries with no comparable history of Chinas state controls. For Gu Su ... at Nanjing University, Chinas political culture made its people more amenable to the draconian measures.
Mr. Ton-That an Australian techie and onetime model did something momentous: He invented a tool that could end your ability to walk down the street anonymously. His tiny company, Clearview AI, devised a groundbreaking facial recognition app. You take a picture of a person, upload it and get to see public photos of that person, along with links to where those photos appeared. The system whose backbone is a database of more than three billion images that Clearview claims to have scraped from Facebook, YouTube, Venmo and millions of other websites goes far beyond anything ever constructed by the United States government or Silicon Valley giants. Without public scrutiny, more than 600 law enforcement agencies have started using Clearview in the past year. The computer code underlying its app ... includes programming language to pair it with augmented-reality glasses; users would potentially be able to identify every person they saw. The tool could identify activists at a protest or an attractive stranger on the subway, revealing not just their names but where they lived, what they did and whom they knew. And its not just law enforcement: Clearview has also licensed the app to at least a handful of companies for security purposes. Because the police upload photos of people theyre trying to identify, Clearview possesses a growing database of individuals who have attracted attention from law enforcement. The company also has the ability to manipulate the results that the police see.
Note: For lots more on this disturbing new technology, read one writer's personal experience with it. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
A new generation of technology such as the Beware software being used in Fresno has given local law enforcement officers unprecedented power to peer into the lives of citizens. But the powerful systems also have become flash points for civil libertarians and activists, who say they represent a troubling intrusion on privacy, have been deployed with little public oversight and have potential for abuse or error. This is something thats been building since September 11, said Jennifer Lynch ... at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. First funding went to the military to develop this technology, and now it has come back to domestic law enforcement. Its the perfect storm of cheaper and easier-to-use technologies and money from state and federal governments to purchase it. Perhaps the most controversial and revealing technology is the threat-scoring software Beware. Fresno is one of the first departments in the nation to test the program. As officers respond to calls, Beware automatically runs the address. The searches return the names of residents and scans them against a range of publicly available data to generate a color-coded threat level for each person or address: green, yellow or red. Exactly how Beware calculates threat scores is something that its maker, Intrado, considers a trade secret, so it is unclear how much weight is given to a misdemeanor, felony or threatening comment on Facebook. The fact that only Intrado not the police or the public knows how Beware tallies its scores is disconcerting.
Note: Learn more in this informative article. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on police corruption and the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
During New York Gov. Andrew Cuomos daily coronavirus briefing on Wednesday, the somber grimace that has filled our screens for weeks was briefly replaced by something resembling a smile. The inspiration ... was a video visit from former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who joined the governors briefing to announce that he will be heading up a blue-ribbon commission to reimagine New York states post-Covid reality, with an emphasis on permanently integrating technology into every aspect of civic life. Just one day earlier, Cuomo had announced a similar partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a smarter education system. It has taken some time to gel, but something resembling a coherent Pandemic Shock Doctrine is beginning to emerge. Call it the Screen New Deal. Far more high-tech than anything we have seen during previous disasters, the future that is being rushed into being as the bodies still pile up treats our past weeks of physical isolation not as a painful necessity to save lives, but as a living laboratory for a permanent and highly profitable no-touch future. This is a future in which, for the privileged, almost everything is home delivered, either virtually via streaming and cloud technology, or physically via driverless vehicle or drone, then screen shared on a mediated platform. Its a future in which our every move, our every word, our every relationship is trackable, traceable, and data-mineable by unprecedented collaborations between government and tech giants.
On Sept. 7, 2017, the world heard an alarming announcement from credit ratings giant Equifax: In a brazen cyberattack, somebody had stolen sensitive personal information from more than 140 million people, nearly half the population of the U.S. The information included Social Security numbers, driver's license numbers, information from credit disputes and other personal details. Then, something unusual happened. The data disappeared. Completely. CNBC talked to eight experts. All of them agreed that a breach happened, and personal information from 143 million people was stolen. But none of them knows where the data is now. Security experts haven't seen the data used in any of the ways they'd expect in a theft like this not for impersonating victims, not for accessing other websites, nothing. Most experts familiar with the case now believe that the thieves were working for a foreign government and are using the information not for financial gain, but to try to identify and recruit spies. One former senior intelligence official ... summarized the prevailing expert opinion on how the foreign intelligence agency is using the data. First, he said, the foreign government is probably combining this information with other stolen data, then analyzing it using artificial intelligence or machine learning to figure out who's likely to be or to become a spy for the U.S. government. Second, credit reporting data provides compromising information that can be used to turn valuable people into agents of a foreign government.
Even before he became director of the FBI, [J. Edgar] Hoover was conducting secret intelligence operations against U.S. citizens he suspected were anarchists, radical leftists or communists. After a series of anarchist bombings went off across the United States in 1919, Hoover sent five agents to infiltrate the newly formed Communist Party. "From that day forward, he planned a nationwide dragnet of mass arrests to round up subversives, round up communists, round up Russian aliens," [author Tim] Weiner says. On Jan. 1, 1920, Hoover sent out the arrest orders, and at least 6,000 people were arrested and detained throughout the country. "When the dust cleared, maybe 1 in 10 was found guilty of a deportable offense," says Weiner. Hoover, Attorney General Mitchell Palmer and Secretary of the Navy Franklin Delano Roosevelt all came under attack for their role in the raids. Hoover started amassing secret intelligence on "enemies of the United States" — a list that included terrorists, communists, spies — or anyone Hoover or the FBI had deemed subversive. Later on, anti-war protesters and civil rights leaders were added to Hoover's list. "Hoover saw the civil rights movement from the 1950s onward and the anti-war movement from the 1960s onward, as presenting the greatest threats to the stability of the American government since the Civil War," [Weiner] says. "These people were enemies of the state, and in particular Martin Luther King [Jr.] was an enemy of the state."
Note: Read more about the FBI's COINTELPRO program. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on intelligence agency corruption and the erosion of civil liberties from reliable major media sources.
China’s ambition to collect a staggering amount of personal data from everyday citizens is more expansive than previously known. Phone-tracking devices are now everywhere. The police are creating some of the largest DNA databases in the world. And the authorities are building upon facial recognition technology to collect voice prints from the general public. The Times’ Visual Investigations team and reporters in Asia spent over a year analyzing more than a hundred thousand government bidding documents. The Chinese government’s goal is clear: designing a system to maximize what the state can find out about a person’s identity, activities and social connections. In a number of the bidding documents, the police said that they wanted to place cameras where people go to fulfill their common needs — like eating, traveling, shopping and entertainment. The police also wanted to install facial recognition cameras inside private spaces, like residential buildings, karaoke lounges and hotels. Authorities are using phone trackers to link people’s digital lives to their physical movements. Devices known as WiFi sniffers and IMSI catchers can glean information from phones in their vicinity. DNA, iris scan samples and voice prints are being collected indiscriminately from people with no connection to crime. The government wants to connect all of these data points to build comprehensive profiles for citizens — which are accessible throughout the government.
Note: For more on this disturbing topic, see the New York Times article “How China is Policing the Future.” For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption and the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
Even if you have never set foot in China, Hikvision’s cameras have likely seen you. By 2017, Hikvision had captured 12 percent of the North American market. Its cameras watched over apartment buildings in New York City, public recreation centers in Philadelphia, and hotels in Los Angeles. Police departments used them to monitor streets in Memphis, Tennessee, and in Lawrence, Massachusetts. London and more than half of Britain’s 20 next-largest cities have deployed them. A recent search for the company’s cameras, using Shodan, a tool that locates internet-connected devices, yielded nearly 5 million results, including more than 750,000 devices in the United States. Among the policies that Hikvision’s products have supported is China’s wide-ranging crackdown against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other minority groups in the western province of Xinjiang. Far from being appalled by Hikvision’s role in China’s atrocities, however, plenty of foreign leaders are intrigued. They see an opportunity to acquire tools that could reduce crime and spur growth. Of course, the authoritarian-leaning among them also see a chance to monitor their domestic challengers and cement their control. The use of military language ... heightens the sense that these tools can easily become weapons. Cameras can be set to “patrol.” “Intrusion detection” sounds like a method for defending a bank or a military base. Hikvision’s cameras do not check identities. They “capture” faces.
Note: For more, see this Bloomberg article titled “Blacklisted Chinese Tech Found Inside Top Secret UK Lab.” For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption and the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
A video showing a mobile device snapping infrared images of an iPhone user is circulating around the internet. In the Tik Tok shared by user Brie Thomason, a digital camera using an infrared lens is seen filming an iPhone user observing their home screen. As the iPhone user stares blatantly at the device, Thomason’s digital camera captures the iPhone snapping multiple infrared images every 5-10 seconds. While this discovery may cause some users to panic, Apple claims this is actually just an aspect of the iPhone that allows users to control their face ID and Animoji (the animated emoji function). According to Apple, this feature was first debuted as the iPhone X’s most groundbreaking function; since it is not even discernible at first glance, even though it literally stares you in the face. The company calls this feature: the new TrueDepth IR camera. This camera, housed in the black notch at the top of the display, includes a number of high-tech components such as a “flood illuminator,” infrared (IR) camera, and an infrared emitter. Officials say as an iPhone is used, the latter emits 30,000 infrared dots in a known pattern when a face is detected, enabling the iPhone X to generate a 3D map of a user’s face. According to the team, this TrueDepth IR camera can also do this fast enough to support the creation of 3D motion data as well. So, yes, your iPhone is essentially taking “invisible” photos of you, but not for the reasons you would think.
Netflixs brilliant new 90-minute docu-drama, The Social Dilemma ... might be the most important watch of recent years. The film, which debuted at Sundance Film Festival in January, takes a premise thats unlikely to set the world alight ... ie that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram et al arent exactly creating a utopia. Its masterstroke is in recruiting the very Silicon Valley insiders that built these platforms to explain their terrifying pitfalls which theyve realised belatedly. You dont get a much clearer statement of social medias dangers than an ex-Facebook executives claim that: In the shortest time horizon Im most worried about civil war. The commonly held belief that social media companies sell users data is quickly cast aside the data is actually used to create a sophisticated psychological profile of you. What theyre selling is their ability to manipulate you, or as one interviewee puts it: Its the gradual, slight, imperceptible change in your own behaviour and perception. Its the only thing for them to make money from: changing what you do, how you think, who you are. Despite it being public knowledge that Vote Leave and Trumps 2016 election campaign harvested voters Facebook data on a gigantic scale, The Social Dilemma still manages to find fresh and vital tales of how these platforms destabilise modern politics. Russias Facebook hack to influence the 2016 US election? The Russians didnt hack Facebook. They used the tools that Facebook made for legitimate advertisers, laments one of the companys ex-investors.
A secret British spy unit created to mount cyber attacks on Britains enemies has waged war on the hacktivists of Anonymous and LulzSec, according to documents taken from the National Security Agency by Edward Snowden and obtained by NBC News. The blunt instrument the spy unit used to target hackers, however, also interrupted the web communications of political dissidents who did not engage in any illegal hacking. It may also have shut down websites with no connection to Anonymous. A division of Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the British counterpart of the NSA, shut down communications among Anonymous hacktivists by launching a denial of service (DDOS) attack the same technique hackers use to take down bank, retail and government websites making the British government the first Western government known to have conducted such an attack. The documents ... show that the unit known as the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group, or JTRIG, boasted of using the DDOS attack which it dubbed Rolling Thunder - and other techniques to scare away 80 percent of the users of Anonymous internet chat rooms. Among the methods listed in the document were jamming phones, computers and email accounts and masquerading as an enemy in a "false flag" operation. A British hacktivist known as T-Flow, who was prosecuted for hacking, [said] no evidence of how his identity was discovered ever appeared in court documents.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on intelligence agency corruption from reliable major media sources.
A MintPress News investigation has found dozens of ex-U.S. State Department officials working in key positions at TikTok. Many more individuals with backgrounds in the FBI, CIA and other departments of the national security state also hold influential posts at the social media giant, affecting the content that over one billion users see. The influx of State Department officials into TikTok’s upper ranks is a consequence of “Project Texas,” an initiative the company began in 2020 in the hopes of avoiding being banned altogether in the United States. During his time in office, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo led the charge to shut the platform down, frequently labeling it a “spying app” and a “propaganda tool for the Chinese Communist Party.” It was widely reported that the U.S. government had forced the sale of TikTok to Walmart and then Microsoft. But in late 2020, as Project Texas began, those deals mysteriously fell through, and the rhetoric about the dangers of TikTok from officials evaporated. Project Texas is a $1.5 billion security operation to move the company’s data to Austin. In doing so, it announced that it was partnering with tech giant Oracle, a corporation that, as MintPress has reported on, is the CIA in all but name. Evidently, Project Texas also secretly included hiring all manner of U.S. national security state personnel to oversee the company’s operations – and not just from the State Department. Virtually every branch of the national security state is present at TikTok.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corruption in intelligence agencies and in the corporate world from reliable major media sources.
A controversial facial recognition database, used by police departments across the nation, was built in part with 30 billion photos the company scraped from Facebook and other social media users without their permission. The company, Clearview AI, boasts of its potential for identifying rioters at the January 6 attack on the Capitol, saving children being abused or exploited, and helping exonerate people wrongfully accused of crimes. But critics point to privacy violations and wrongful arrests fueled by faulty identifications made by facial recognition, including cases in Detroit and New Orleans, as cause for concern over the technology. Once a photo has been scraped by Clearview AI, biometric face prints are made and cross-referenced in the database, tying the individuals to their social media profiles and other identifying information forever — and people in the photos have little recourse to try to remove themselves. CNN reported Clearview AI last year claimed the company's clients include "more than 3,100 US agencies, including the FBI and Department of Homeland Security." BBC reported Miami Police acknowledged they use the technology for all kinds of crimes, from shoplifting to murder. The risk of being included in what is functionally a "perpetual police line-up" applies to everyone, including people who think they have nothing to hide, [said] Matthew Guariglia, a senior policy analyst for the international non-profit digital rights group Electronic Frontier Fund.
Note: Read about the rising concerns of the use of Clearview AI technology in Ukraine, with claims to help reunite families, identify Russian operatives, and fight misinformation. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corporate corruption and the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
In March 2003, the newly christened Department of Homeland Security, or DHS, opened its doors. The department took everything from immigration enforcement and counterterrorism to airport security and disaster response under one gargantuan bureaucracy. Despite these wide-ranging missions, the department's unifying logic in the post 9/11 era has been to wage the so-called war on terror at home. The result has been systemic abuse of minority communities, a dangerous militarization of American life, and a massive waste of money that sapped resources from addressing the real threats to our homeland. DHS agencies have militarized U.S. streets, sending officers in tactical gear to respond to civilian protests and conducting surveillance of U.S. citizens engaged in constitutionally protected activities. There are stories of DHS drones surveilling Indigenous water and land protectors and DHS forces spying on Black Lives Matter protesters. DHS even monitored journalists who reported on the department's tactics. None of these abuses have come cheap. Since its founding in 2003, the U.S. has spent $1.4 trillion on the agency. That's more than seven times what the government spent over the same period on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including the CDC's COVID-19 pandemic response—and more than five times more than on the Environmental Protection Agency. The [DHS] was supposed to be about making the U.S. safer. But it has failed.
Note: A thorough investigation reveals details on the DHS "Disinformation Governance Board," an unsuccessful effort in 2022 to police online speech it considers inaccurate and dangerous. Now, the DHS board and its key subcommittees are undergoing sweeping changes as public concern grows over social media censorship and government overreach.
The recent launch of a new mobile phone service introduced significant new privacy protections into the mobile phone system. This exciting new approach highlights the failure of the existing mobile phone infrastructure to protect privacy, and points the way forward for a wide variety of technologies. Today’s cellphones are generally a privacy disaster. Partly that’s the result of the two companies that control the operating system software on the vast majority of the world’s pocket computers. In order for your carrier to route calls and data to your phone, the network needs to constantly know which cell tower your phone is near. And when you make a call or use data, the provider can see where that traffic is going. Cell carriers track and store this accidental byproduct of the technology in order to record people’s location history and network activity for marketing purposes and, in certain circumstances, for sharing with law enforcement. The new phone service, called Pretty Good Phone Privacy (PGPP), uses encryption techniques to deliberately blind itself so that it can’t know that the user of a mobile device is you, or what data you are sending from that phone. You connect to the PGPP service for payment, and that’s all. With PGPP’s approach, the carrier simply does not have the data to turn over to anyone. It cannot be sold, leaked, or hacked, let alone offered to overreaching law enforcement agencies. Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, and their smaller competitors could be offering such a privacy-protecting service, but don’t want to.
Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
The fingerprints of unvaccinated New York City teachers were reportedly sent to the FBI with "problem code" flags, prompting outrage from former educators who lost their jobs over the mandate. Earlier this month, John Bursch, who is representing teachers who are suing the city over the mandate, said teachers who refused the shot now have a "flag in their file," which will impact their ability to get another job. "When the city puts these problem codes on employees who have been terminated because of their unconstitutional policies, not only do they have this flag in their files, but their fingerprints are sent with that flag to the FBI and the New York Criminal Justice Services, so it impacts their ongoing ability to get employment at other places," Bursch said Feb. 8. Investigative journalist Betsy Combier wrote an affidavit uncovering how the Education Department was allegedly able to "flag" certain teachers without sufficient evidence of wrongdoing. "I found out that the DOE has right now an agency called the Office of Personnel Investigation, and what they do is they have employees of the DOE who, forgive me, call themselves investigators, but they're not," Combier said. "So they work for OPI, and when they get an accusation from anybody, it doesn't matter who, well, the principals send it to them, but the original complaint against somebody could be made by anybody that this employee, that employee did something wrong."
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on coronavirus vaccines from reliable major media sources.
Google wants to know where you go so badly that it records your movements even when you explicitly tell it not to. An Associated Press investigation found that many Google services on Android devices and iPhones store your location data even if you've used privacy settings that say they will prevent it from doing so. Computer-science researchers at Princeton confirmed these findings at the AP's request. Storing your minute-by-minute travels carries privacy risks. So the company will let you "pause" a setting called Location History. Google's support page on the subject states: "You can turn off Location History at any time. With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored." That isn't true. Even with Location History paused, some Google apps automatically store time-stamped location data without asking. For example, Google stores a snapshot of where you are when you merely open its Maps app. And some searches that have nothing to do with location, like "chocolate chip cookies," or "kids science kits," pinpoint your precise latitude and longitude - accurate to the square foot - and save it to your Google account. Since 2014, Google has let advertisers track the effectiveness of online ads at driving foot traffic, a feature that Google has said relies on user location histories. The company is pushing further into such location-aware tracking to drive ad revenue, which rose 20 percent last year to $95.4 billion.
Note: This article instructs you how to effectively delete Google's tracking of your movements. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corporate corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
Research unveiled today shows how vulnerabilities in smart city technology could be compromised by hackers. Bugs were found in major cities in the U.S. and Europe, with teams from IBM and Threatcare disclosing a series of disturbing scenarios that could soon play out for real. These included the abuse of flood warnings, radiation alarms and, yes, traffic networks. If someone ... were to abuse vulnerabilities like the ones we documented in smart city systems, the effects could range from inconvenient to catastrophic, a report said. The experts were inspired by the recent incident in Hawaii in which an alert warned citizens that a ballistic missile was inbound. The blaring island alarms, made in error, caused mass panic. Research found 17 major flaws in four smart city systems, eight of which were labeled critical. They spotted basic errors, including weak passwords and basic authentication flaws. Security around these sensors and controls must be a lot more stringent, wrote IBMs Daniel Crowley. Attackers could manipulate water level sensor responses to report flooding in an area where there is none - creating panic, evacuations and destabilization, Crowley wrote. In another example, he said: Controlling additional systems could enable an attacker to set off a string of building alarms or trigger gunshot sounds on audio sensors across town, further fueling panic.
Note: This 2015 New York Times article calls 'smart' devices, "a train wreck in privacy and security." Watch an excellent documentary uncovering the serious dangers of smart meters. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corruption in government and the disappearance of privacy.
[Here's] how much of your information ... Facebook and Google store about you. Google stores your location ... every time you turn on your phone. You can see a timeline of where youve been from the very first day you started using Google on your phone. Google stores search history across all your devices. Even if you delete your search history and phone history on one device, it may still have data saved from other devices. Google creates an advertisement profile based on your information, including your location, gender, age, hobbies, career, interests, relationship status, possible weight ... and income. Google offers an option to download all of the data it stores about you. Ive requested to download it and the file is 5.5GB big, which is roughly 3m Word documents. Facebook offers a similar option to download all your information. Mine was roughly 600MB, which is roughly 400,000 Word documents. Facebook also stores what it thinks you might be interested in based off the things youve liked and what you and your friends talk about. The data they collect includes tracking where you are, what applications you have installed, when you use them, what you use them for, access to your webcam and microphone at any time, your contacts, your emails, your calendar, your call history, the messages you send and receive, the files you download, the games you play, your photos and videos, your music, your search history, your browsing history, even what radio stations you listen to.
Sitting in a hotel bar, Alexander Nix, who runs the political data firm Cambridge Analytica, had a few ideas for a prospective client looking for help in a foreign election. The firm could send an attractive woman to seduce a rival candidate and secretly videotape the encounter, Mr. Nix said, or send someone posing as a wealthy land developer to pass a bribe. We have a long history of working behind the scenes, Mr. Nix said. The prospective client, though, was actually a reporter. The encounter was secretly filmed as part of a monthslong investigation into Cambridge Analytica, the data firm with ties to President Trumps 2016 campaign. The results of Channel 4s work were broadcast ... days after reports ... that the firm had harvested the data from more than 50 million Facebook profiles in its bid to develop techniques for predicting the behavior of individual American voters. Less noticed has been the work that Cambridge Analytica and its parent company, the SCL Group, have done outside the United States. Many of our clients dont want to be seen to be working with a foreign company, he told the Channel 4 reporter. We can set up fake IDs and websites. Mr. Nix ... boasted that Cambridge Analytica employs front companies and former spies on behalf of political clients. The information that is uncovered ... is then put into the bloodstream to the internet, said Mark Turnbull, another Cambridge executive. Then watch it grow, he added. It has to happen without anyone thinking, Thats propaganda.
Note: Watch an astounding video revealing how Cambridge Analytica has successfully manipulated national elections around the world using sleazy tactics like pretty women to entrap candidates and offering major bribes while recording the exchange. And here is a video featuring the whistleblower who exposed this.
Regulators have approved the first drug with a sensor that alerts doctors when the medication has been taken. The digital pill combines two existing products: the former blockbuster psychiatric medication Abilify - long used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder - with a sensor tracking system first approved in 2012. Experts say the technology could be a useful tool, but it will also change how doctors relate to their patients as theyre able to see whether they are following instructions. The pill has not yet been shown to actually improve patients medication compliance, a feature insurers are likely to insist on before paying for the pill. Additionally, patients must be willing to allow their doctors and caregivers to access the digital information. The technology carries risks for patient privacy, too, if there are breaches of medical data or unauthorized use as a surveillance tool, said James Giordano, a professor of neurology at Georgetown University Medical Center. Could this type of device be used for real-time surveillance? The answer is of course it could, said Giordano. The new pill, Abilify MyCite, is embedded with a digital sensor that is activated by stomach fluids, sending a signal to a patch worn by the patient and notifying a digital smartphone app that the medication has been taken.
Note: In 2010, it was quietly reported that Novartis AG would be seeking regulatory approval for such "chip-in-a-pill technology". For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on microchip implants and the disappearance of privacy.
WikiLeaks has alleged that the CIA looked into vehicle interference methods that could potentially enable it to assassinate people without detection. According to the whistle-blowing organisation, the CIA explored the tactic in October 2014. It hasnt included any more details about the alleged practice. WikiLeaks included the claim in its release announcing Vault 7, a huge batch of documents, which Julian Assange claims to account for the CIAs entire hacking capacity. As of October 2014 the CIA was also looking at infecting the vehicle control systems used by modern cars and trucks, reads a passage in the release. The purpose of such control is not specified, but it would permit the CIA to engage in nearly undetectable assassinations. The CIA has also been accused of using malware and hacking tools to turn TVs into covert microphones and remotely break into smartphones. The latter, according to WikiLeaks, allowed it to bypass encryption on a number of popular messaging apps, including WhatsApp. WikiLeaks describes Vault 7 as the largest intelligence publication in history and says that the initial batch of 8,761 files is just the first in a series of releases.
Note: See the wikileaks webpage summarizing this most important leak. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about intelligence agency corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
AT&T runs a secret program called Project Hemisphere that that searches millions and millions of call records and analyzes cellular data to help law enforcement spy on Americans, according to documents obtained by The Daily Beast. Police use the data to solve crimes by monitoring if specific cellular towers in the vicinity of wrongdoings picked up a known suspects cell phone. The surveillance project comes to light as the company is on the verge of acquiring Time Warner in one of the biggest media mergers in memory. Law enforcement agencies pay from $100,000 to over $1 million a year for Hemisphere access. Back in 2013, The New York Times called Hemisphere a partnership between AT&T and the government, but Daily Beast says its actually a product AT&T developed, marketed, and sold at a cost of millions of dollars per year to taxpayers. No warrant is required to access Hemisphere, but it does require a promise not to publicly disclose Hemisphere. AT&T owns significant shares in both the landline and cell phone space, which allows the company to possess information that is used by at least 28 intelligence centers. Documents show that AT&T wants to keep Hemisphere a secret, but suspects and anyone charged with a crime have the right to know the evidence against them. The Government agency agrees not to use the data as evidence in any judicial or administrative proceedings unless there is no other available and admissible probative evidence, documents obtained by the Beast said.
For more than a decade, professional snoops have been able to search troves of ... addresses, DMV records, photographs of a persons car - and condense them into comprehensive reports costing as little as $10. Now they can combine that information with the kinds of things marketers know about you, such as which politicians you donate to, what you spend on groceries, and whether its weird that you ate in last night, to create a portrait of your life and predict your behavior. IDI, a year-old company in the so-called data-fusion business, is the first to centralize and weaponize all that information for its customers. Chief Executive Officer Derek Dubner says the system isnt waiting for requests from clients - its already built a profile on every American adult, including young people who wouldnt be swept up in conventional databases, which only index transactions. These personal profiles include all known addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses; every piece of property ever bought or sold, plus related mortgages; past and present vehicles owned; criminal citations, from speeding tickets on up; voter registration; hunting permits; and names and phone numbers of neighbors. The reports also include photos of cars taken by private companies using automated license plate readers - billions of snapshots tagged with GPS coordinates and time stamps to help PIs surveil people or bust alibis. IDI also runs two coupon websites ... that collect purchasing and behavioral data.
The secretive British spy agency GCHQ has developed covert tools to seed the internet with false information, including the ability to manipulate the results of online polls, artificially inflate pageview counts on web sites, amplif[y] sanctioned messages on YouTube, and censor video content judged to be extremist. The capabilities, detailed in documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, even include an old standby for pre-adolescent prank callers everywhere: A way to connect two unsuspecting phone users together in a call. The tools were created by GCHQs Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG), and constitute some of the most startling methods of propaganda and internet deception contained within the Snowden archive. Previously disclosed documents have detailed JTRIGs use of fake victim blog posts, false flag operations, honey traps and psychological manipulation to target online activists, monitor visitors to WikiLeaks, and spy on YouTube and Facebook users. A newly released top-secret GCHQ document called JTRIG Tools and Techniques provides a comprehensive, birds-eye view of just how underhanded and invasive this units operations are. The documentavailable in full hereis designed to notify other GCHQ units of JTRIGs weaponised capability when it comes to the dark internet arts, and serves as a sort of hackers buffet for wreaking online havoc.
Note: For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing intelligence agency operations news articles from reliable major media sources.
Ordinary Internet users, American and non-American alike, far outnumber legally targeted foreigners in the communications intercepted by the National Security Agency from U.S. digital networks, according to a four-month investigation by The Washington Post. [90% of] account holders found in a large cache of intercepted conversations, which former NSA contractor Edward Snowden provided in full to The Post, were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else. Many of them were Americans. [Many] files, described as useless by the analysts but nonetheless retained, have a startlingly intimate, even voyeuristic quality. They tell stories of love and heartbreak, illicit sexual liaisons, mental-health crises, political and religious conversions, financial anxieties and disappointed hopes. The daily lives of more than 10,000 account holders who were not targeted are catalogued and recorded nevertheless. The cache Snowden provided came from domestic NSA operations under the broad authority granted by Congress in 2008 with amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. FISA content is generally stored in closely controlled data repositories, and for more than a year. The files offer an unprecedented vantage point on the changes wrought by Section 702 of the FISA amendments, which enabled the NSA to make freer use of methods that for 30 years had required probable cause and a warrant from a judge.
Note: For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing government surveillance news articles from reliable major media sources.
Britain's surveillance agency GCHQ, with aid from the US National Security Agency, intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of wrongdoing, secret documents reveal. GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 explicitly state that a surveillance program codenamed Optic Nerve collected still images of Yahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to agency databases, regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence target or not. In one six-month period in 2008 alone, the agency collected webcam imagery including substantial quantities of sexually explicit communications from more than 1.8 million Yahoo user accounts globally. Yahoo ... denied any prior knowledge of the program, accusing the agencies of "a whole new level of violation of our users' privacy". Optic Nerve, the documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden show, began as a prototype in 2008 and was still active in 2012. The system, eerily reminiscent of the telescreens evoked in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, was used for experiments in automated facial recognition, to monitor GCHQ's existing targets, and to discover new targets of interest. Such searches could be used to try to find terror suspects or criminals making use of multiple, anonymous user IDs. Rather than collecting webcam chats in their entirety, the program saved one image every five minutes from the users' feeds ... to avoid overloading GCHQ's servers. The documents describe these users as "unselected" intelligence agency parlance for bulk rather than targeted collection.
Note: For more on government surveillance, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
The U.S. National Security Agency is involved in industrial espionage and will grab any intelligence it can get its hands on regardless of its value to national security, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden told a German TV network. ARD TV quoted Snowden saying the NSA does not limit its espionage to issues of national security and he cited German engineering firm, Siemens as one target. "If there's information at Siemens that's beneficial to U.S. national interests - even if it doesn't have anything to do with national security - then they'll take that information nevertheless," Snowden said. Snowden's claim the NSA is engaged in industrial espionage follows a New York Times report earlier this month that the NSA put software in almost 100,000 computers around the world, allowing it to carry out surveillance on those devices and could provide a digital highway for cyberattacks. The NSA planted most of the software after gaining access to computer networks, but has also used a secret technology that allows it entry even to computers not connected to the Internet, the newspaper said, citing U.S. officials, computer experts and documents leaked by Snowden. Frequent targets of the programme, code-named Quantum, included units of the Chinese military and industrial targets.
Note: For more on the realities of intelligence agency operations, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
The White House's expert NSA panel may have made headlines ... for telling President Barack Obama to knock off the collection of Americans' meta-data, but surveillance experts said they were surprised that the panel also took to task some controversial non-NSA-related spy tactics as well. One recommendation was to impose much stricter oversight on the FBI's ability to issue National Security Letters (NSLs), which have been used to obtain telephone call records and credit reports in terrorism and espionage cases. Another even more peculiar recommendation by the five national security experts ... was their advice that "governments" shouldn't hack into bank accounts and drain funds. "Governments should not use their offensive cyber capabilities to change the amounts held in financial accounts or otherwise manipulate the financial systems," the unanimous Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies report warned Obama. "That was a strangely specific recommendation for something nobody was talking about," Kel McClanahan, executive director of government transparency group National Security Counselors, told ABC News. Michelle Richardson, the American Civil Liberties Union's legislative council in Washington, also said the findings on "NSLs" and government hacking were unexpected -- but welcomed.
Note: The fact that this expert panel would even mention governments manipulating financial accounts suggests that if it hasn't already happened, some were seriously considering this. For lots more on this strange news, click here. For more on the realities of intelligence agency activities, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
British and American intelligence agencies had a comprehensive list of surveillance targets that included the EU's competition commissioner, German government buildings in Berlin and overseas, and the heads of institutions that provide humanitarian and financial help to Africa, top-secret documents reveal. The papers show GCHQ [and the NSA were] targeting organisations such as the United Nations development programme, the UN's children's charity Unicef and Mdecins du Monde, a French organisation that provides doctors and medical volunteers to conflict zones. The head of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) also appears in the documents, along with text messages he sent to colleagues. One GCHQ document, drafted in January 2009, makes clear that the agencies were targeting an email address listed as belonging to another important American ally the "Israeli prime minister". Ehud Olmert was in office at the time. Three further Israeli targets appeared on GCHQ documents, including another email address understood to have been used to send messages between the then Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak, and his chief of staff, Yoni Koren. The names and details are the latest revelations to come from documents leaked by the whistleblower Edward Snowden. They provoked a furious reaction. The disclosures reflect the breadth of targets sought by the agencies, which goes far beyond the desire to intercept the communications of potential terrorists and criminals, or diplomats and officials from hostile countries.
Note: Later reports revealed that GHCQ also targeted the global human rights organization Amnesty International. For more on the realities of intelligence agency activities, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
Its not just the NSA that has been caught spying on Americans. Some of our nations largest corporations have been conducting espionage as well, against civic groups. Thats the lesson of a new report on corporate espionage against nonprofit organizations by ... Essential Information. The title of the report is Spooky Business, and it is apt. Spooky Business is like a Canterbury Tales of corporate snoopery: Hiring investigators to pose as volunteers and journalists. Hacking. Wiretapping. Information warfare. Physical intrusion. Investigating the private lives of nonprofit leaders. Dumpster diving using an active duty police officer to gain access to trash receptacles. Electronic surveillance. Many different types of nonprofit civic organizations have been targeted by corporate spies: environmental, public interest, consumer, food safety, animal rights, pesticide reform, nursing home reform, gun control and social justice. A diverse constellation of corporations has planned or executed corporate espionage against these nonprofit civic organizations. Food companies like Kraft, Coca-Cola, Burger King, McDonalds and Monsanto. Oil companies like Shell, BP and Chevron. Chemical companies like Dow and Sasol. Also involved are the retailers (Wal-Mart), banks (Bank of America), and, of course, the nations most powerful trade association: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Plenty of mercenary spooks have joined up to abet them, including former officials at the FBI, CIA, NSA, Secret Service and U.S. military. Sometimes even government contractors are part of the snooping.
Note: For more on corporate corruption, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
When Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, sat down with President Obama at the White House in April to discuss Syrian chemical weapons, Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and climate change, it was a cordial, routine exchange. The National Security Agency nonetheless went to work in advance and intercepted Mr. Bans talking points for the meeting, a feat the agency later reported as an operational highlight in a weekly internal brag sheet. It was emblematic of an agency that for decades has operated on the principle that any eavesdropping that can be done on a foreign target of any conceivable interest now or in the future should be done. After all, American intelligence officials reasoned, whos going to find out? From thousands of classified documents, the National Security Agency emerges as an electronic omnivore of staggering capabilities, eavesdropping and hacking its way around the world to strip governments and other targets of their secrets, all the while enforcing the utmost secrecy about its own operations. It spies routinely on friends as well as foes, as has become obvious in recent weeks; the agencys official mission list includes using its surveillance powers to achieve diplomatic advantage over such allies as France and Germany and economic advantage over Japan and Brazil, among other countries. The scale of eavesdropping by the N.S.A., with 35,000 workers and $10.8 billion a year, sets it apart.
Note: For more on the realities of intelligence agency operations, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
The National Security Agency monitored the phone conversations of 35 world leaders after being given the numbers by an official in another US government department, according to a classified document provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden. The confidential memo reveals that the NSA encourages senior officials in its "customer" departments, such as the White House, State and the Pentagon, to share their "Rolodexes" so the agency can add the phone numbers of leading foreign politicians to their surveillance systems. The document notes that one unnamed US official handed over 200 numbers, including those of the 35 world leaders, none of whom is named. These were immediately "tasked" for monitoring by the NSA. The revelation is set to add to mounting diplomatic tensions between the US and its allies, after the German chancellor Angela Merkel ... accused the US of tapping her mobile phone. The NSA memo obtained by the Guardian suggests that such surveillance was not isolated, as the agency routinely monitors the phone numbers of world leaders and even asks for the assistance of other US officials to do so. The memo, dated October 2006 and which was issued to staff in the agency's Signals Intelligence Directorate (SID), was titled "Customers Can Help SID Obtain Targetable Phone Numbers". In the wake of the Merkel row, the US is facing growing international criticism that any intelligence benefit from spying on friendly governments is far outweighed by the potential diplomatic damage.
Note: For more on the hidden realities of intelligence agency operations, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
The problem and the risk [with surveillance by GCHQ] comes in the area of mass capture of data, or strategic surveillance. This is the kind of intelligence gathering that sucks in data from everyone, everywhere: from phones, internet use from email to website visits, social networking, instant messaging and video calls, and even areas such as video gaming; in short, everything digital. In the US, the Prism programme may have given the NSA access to the servers of companies such as Google and Facebook; in the UK, GCHQ has gained a similar degree of access via its Tempora programme, and the two of them together have a cable- and network-tapping capabilities collectively called Upstream, which have the ability to intercept anything that travels over the internet. This data is fed into a database called XKeyscore, which allows analysts to extract information "in real time", ie immediately. What this adds up to is a new thing in human history: with a couple of clicks of a mouse, an agent of the state can target your home phone, or your mobile, or your email, or your passport number, or any of your credit card numbers, or your address, or any of your log-ins to a web service. Using that "selector", the state can get access to all the content of your communications, via any of those channels; can gather information about anyone you communicate with, can get a full picture of all your internet use, can track your location online and offline. It can, in essence, know everything about you, including thanks to the ability to look at your internet searches what's on your mind.
Note: For an excellent 15-minute BBC Newsnight interview with Glenn Greenwald defending Edward Snowden's release of secret documents, click here. For more on government privacy invasions, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
The owner of the e-mail service [Lavabit, Ladar Levison,] said he closed it down after the government, in pursuit of Edward J. Snowden, sought untrammeled access to the protected messages of all his customers. Mr. Levison was willing to allow investigators with a court order to tap Mr. Snowdens e-mail account; he had complied with similar narrowly targeted requests involving other customers about two dozen times. But they wanted more, he said: the passwords, encryption keys and computer code that would essentially allow the government untrammeled access to the protected messages of all his customers. That, he said, was too much. On Aug. 8, Mr. Levison closed Lavabit rather than, in his view, betray his promise of secure e-mail to his customers. On [October 2], a federal judge unsealed documents in the case, allowing the tech entrepreneur to speak candidly for the first time about his experiences. He had been summoned to testify to a grand jury in Virginia; forbidden to discuss his case; held in contempt of court and fined $10,000 for handing over his private encryption keys on paper and not in digital form; and, finally, threatened with arrest for saying too much when he shuttered his business. While Mr. Levisons struggles have been with the F.B.I., hovering in the background is the N.S.A., which has worked secretly for years to undermine or bypass encrypted services like Lavabit so that their electronic message scrambling cannot obstruct the agencys spying. Mr. Levisons case shows how law enforcement officials can use legal tools to pry open messages, no matter how well protected.
Note: For an excellent 15-minute BBC Newsnight interview with Glenn Greenwald defending Edward Snowden's release of secret documents, click here. For more on government privacy invasions, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
The US National Security Agency spied on civil rights leader Martin Luther King and boxer Muhammad Ali during the height of the Vietnam War protests, declassified documents reveal. The documents show the NSA also tracked journalists from the New York Times and the Washington Post and two senators. Some NSA officials later described the programme as "disreputable if not outright illegal", the documents show. The operation, dubbed "Minaret", was originally exposed in the 1970s. However, the names of those on the phone-tapping "watch list" had been kept secret until now. The secret papers were published after a government panel ruled in favour of researchers at George Washington University. The university's National Security Archive - a research institute that seeks to check government secrecy - described the names on the NSA's watch-list as "eye-popping". The agency eavesdropped on civil rights leaders Martin Luther King and Whitney Young as well as boxing champion Muhammad Ali, New York Times journalist Tom Wicker and Washington Post columnist Art Buchwald. The NSA also monitored the overseas phone calls of two prominent US senators - Democrat Frank Church and Republican Howard Baker. In 1967 the strength of the anti-war campaign led President Lyndon Johnson to ask US intelligence agencies to find out if some protests were being stoked by foreign governments. Many of those targeted were considered to be critics of US involvement in the Vietnam War. The NSA worked with other spy agencies to draw up the "watch lists" of anti-war critics, tapping their phone calls. The programme continued after Richard Nixon entered the White House in 1969.
Note: These names were kept secret until now allegedly for reason of "national security." Note how this term is repeatedly used to cover up illegal government activity solely to protect those who commit these crimes. For more on the hidden realities of intelligence agency operations, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
One of the most overlooked aspects of the NSA reporting in the US has been just how global of a story this has become. Last week it was revealed that Belgium's largest telecom, Belgacom, was the victim of a massive hacking attack which systematically compromised its system for as long as two years. Last week, using documents obtained from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, Laura Poitras and other Der Spiegel journalists reported in that paper that it was the GCHQ, Britain's intelligence agency, that was behind the attack. According to that report, the attack was carried out by targeting individual engineers at the telecom with malware that allowed GCHQ agents to "own" their computer and thus exploit their access to the telecommunications system. As the US and UK run around the world protesting the hacking activities of others and warning of the dangers of cyber-attacks, that duo is one of the most aggressive and malicious, if not the most aggressive and malicious, perpetrators of those attacks of anyone on the planet. Nobody hacks as prolifically and aggressively as the two countries who most vocally warn of the dangers of hacking. A coalition called Stop Watching Us has been formed by privacy and civil liberties groups from across the political spectrum. On October 26, the 12th anniversary of the enactment of the Patriot Act, they will hold an anti-surveillance rally in Washington DC.
Note: For more on the hidden realities of intelligence agency operations, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
Today's high-end televisions are almost all equipped with "smart" PC-like features, including Internet connectivity, apps, microphones and cameras. But a recently discovered security hole in some Samsung Smart TVs shows that many of those bells and whistles aren't ready for prime time. The flaws in Samsung Smart TVs, which have now been patched, enabled hackers to remotely turn on the TVs' built-in cameras without leaving any trace of it on the screen. While you're watching TV, a hacker anywhere around the world could have been watching you. Hackers also could have easily rerouted an unsuspecting user to a malicious website to steal bank account information. Samsung quickly fixed the problem after security researchers at iSEC Partners informed the company about the bugs. Samsung sent a software update to all affected TVs. But the glitches speak to a larger problem of gadgets that connect to the Internet but have virtually no security to speak of. Security cameras, lights, heating control systems and even door locks and windows are now increasingly coming with features that allow users to control them remotely. Without proper security controls, there's little to stop hackers from invading users' privacy, stealing personal information or spying on people. In the case of Samsung Smart TVs, iSEC researchers found that they could tap into the TV's Web browser with ease, according to iSEC security analyst Josh Yavor. That gave hackers access to all the functions controlled by the browser, including the TV's built-in camera. "If there's a vulnerability in any application, there's a vulnerability in the entire TV," said Aaron Grattafiori, also an analyst at iSEC.
GCHQ has received at least 100 million from the US to help fund intelligence gathering, raising questions over American influence on the British agencies. The money was paid across a range of projects over three years and resulted in GCHQ spying on behalf of America, according to leaked documents. It also emerged that the intelligence agency wants the ability to exploit any phone, anywhere, any time and that some staff have raised concerns over the morality and ethics of their operational work. The payments from the US National Security Agency (NSA) are detailed in GCHQs annual investment portfolios, leaked by Mr Snowden to The Guardian. The NSA paid GCHQ 22.9 million in 2009, 39.9 million in 2010 and 34.7 million in 2011/12. The 2010 funding included ... 17.2 million for the agencys Mastering the Internet project, which gathers raw information from the web to be analysed. In return, GCHQ has to have the American view in mind when prioritising work, the papers claim. One strategy briefing disclosed the pressure on GCHQ to meet NSA demands, saying: GCHQ must pull its weight and be seen to pull its weight. In another document, from 2010, GCHQ apparently acknowledged that the US had raised a number of issues with regards to meeting NSAs minimum expectations.
Note: For more on government corruption, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
A top secret National Security Agency program allows analysts to search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals, according to documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden. The NSA boasts in training materials that the program, called XKeyscore, is its "widest-reaching" system for developing intelligence from the internet. The files shed light on one of Snowden's most controversial statements, made in his first video interview published by the Guardian on June 10. "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". Training materials for XKeyscore detail how analysts can use it and other systems to mine enormous agency databases by filling in a simple on-screen form giving only a broad justification for the search. The request is not reviewed by a court or any NSA personnel before it is processed. One presentation claims the program covers "nearly everything a typical user does on the internet", including the content of emails, websites visited and searches, as well as their metadata. Analysts can also use XKeyscore and other NSA systems to obtain ongoing "real-time" interception of an individual's internet activity. XKeyscore provides the technological capability [to target] US persons for extensive electronic surveillance without a warrant provided that some identifying information, such as their email or IP address, is known to the analyst.
Note: For more on government privacy invasions, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
In the era of intense government surveillance and secret court orders, a murky multimillion-dollar market has emerged. Paid for by U.S. tax dollars, but with little public scrutiny, surveillance fees charged in secret by technology and phone companies can vary wildly. AT&T, for example, imposes a $325 "activation fee" for each wiretap and $10 a day to maintain it. Smaller carriers Cricket and U.S. Cellular charge only about $250 per wiretap. But snoop on a Verizon customer? That costs the government $775 for the first month and $500 each month after that. Regardless of price, the surveillance business is growing. The U.S. government long has enjoyed access to phone networks and high-speed Internet traffic under the U.S. Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act to catch suspected criminals and terrorists. More recently, the FBI has pushed technology companies like Google and Skype to guarantee access to real-time communications on their services. As the number of law enforcement requests for data grew and carriers upgraded their technology, the cost of accommodating government surveillance requests increased. AT&T, for example, said it devotes roughly 100 employees to review each request and hand over data. Likewise, Verizon said its team of 70 employees works around the clock, seven days a week to handle the quarter-million requests it gets each year.
Note: For more on government and corporate attacks on privacy, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
Britain's spy agency GCHQ has secretly gained access to the network of cables which carry the world's phone calls and internet traffic and has started to process vast streams of sensitive personal information which it is sharing with its American partner, the National Security Agency (NSA). The sheer scale of the agency's ambition is reflected in the titles of its two principal components: Mastering the Internet and Global Telecoms Exploitation, aimed at scooping up as much online and telephone traffic as possible. This is all being carried out without any form of public acknowledgement or debate. One key innovation has been GCHQ's ability to tap into and store huge volumes of data drawn from fibre-optic cables for up to 30 days so that it can be sifted and analysed. GCHQ and the NSA are consequently able to access and process vast quantities of communications between entirely innocent people, as well as targeted suspects. This includes recordings of phone calls, the content of email messages, entries on Facebook and the history of any internet user's access to websites all of which is deemed legal, even though the warrant system was supposed to limit interception to a specified range of targets. The existence of the programme has been disclosed in documents shown to the Guardian by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Britain's technical capacity to tap into the cables that carry the world's communications ... has made GCHQ an intelligence superpower. A total of 850,000 NSA employees and US private contractors with top secret clearance had access to GCHQ databases.
Note: For solid evidence spy agencies targeted even top politicians, click here. For more on intelligence agency corruption, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
Foreign politicians and officials who took part in two G20 summit meetings in London in 2009 had their computers monitored and their phone calls intercepted on the instructions of their British government hosts. Some delegates were tricked into using internet cafes which had been set up by British intelligence agencies to read their email traffic. The disclosure raises new questions about the boundaries of surveillance by GCHQ [Government Communications Headquarters] and its American sister organisation, the National Security Agency [NSA], whose access to phone records and internet data has been defended as necessary in the fight against terrorism and serious crime. There have often been rumours of this kind of espionage at international conferences, but it is highly unusual for hard evidence to confirm it and spell out the detail. The evidence is contained in documents classified as top secret which were uncovered by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and seen by the Guardian. They reveal that during G20 meetings in April and September 2009 GCHQ used what one document calls "ground-breaking intelligence capabilities" to intercept the communications of visiting delegations. This included: Setting up internet cafes where they used an email interception programme and key-logging software to spy on delegates' use of computers; Penetrating the security on delegates' BlackBerrys to monitor their email messages and phone calls; Supplying 45 analysts with a live round-the-clock summary of who was phoning who at the summit.
Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on the hidden realities of intelligence agencies, click here
Since 9/11, there has been, at first secretly but increasingly openly, a revocation of the bill of rights for which this country fought over 200 years ago. In particular, the fourth and fifth amendments of the US constitution, which safeguard citizens from unwarranted intrusion by the government into their private lives, have been virtually suspended. The United States is not now a police state. But given the extent of this invasion of people's privacy, we do have the full electronic and legislative infrastructure of such a state. These powers are extremely dangerous. There are legitimate reasons for ... secrecy about communications intelligence. But what is not legitimate is to use a secrecy system to hide programs that are blatantly unconstitutional. In 1975, Senator Frank Church spoke of the National Security Agency in these terms: "I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return." The dangerous prospect of which he warned was that America's intelligence gathering capability which is today beyond any comparison with what existed in his pre-digital era "at any time could be turned around on the American people and no American would have any privacy left." That has now happened. That is what [Edward] Snowden has exposed, with official, secret documents. We have fallen into Senator Church's abyss.
Note: The above was written by Daniel Ellsberg, a former US military analyst who in 1971 leaked the Pentagon Papers, showing how the US public had been misled about the Vietnam war. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about questionable intelligence agency practices and the erosion of privacy.
The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs. The program, code-named PRISM, has not been made public until now. It may be the first of its kind. Equally unusual is the way the NSA extracts what it wants, according to the document: Collection directly from the servers of these U.S. Service Providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple. GCHQ, Britains equivalent of the NSA, also has been secretly gathering intelligence from the same internet companies through an operation set up by the NSA. PRISM was launched from the ashes of President George W. Bushs secret program of warrantless domestic surveillance in 2007, after news media disclosures, lawsuits and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court forced the president to look for new authority. Congress obliged with the Protect America Act in 2007 and the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which immunized private companies that cooperated voluntarily with U.S. intelligence collection. Government officials and the document itself made clear that the NSA regarded the identities of its private partners as PRISMs most sensitive secret, fearing that the companies would withdraw from the program if exposed. 98 percent of PRISM production is based on Yahoo, Google and Microsoft; we need to make sure we dont harm these sources, the briefings author wrote in his speakers notes.
Note: For graphs and lots more on the Prism program, see the Guardian article at this link. Technically, U.S. officials are not allowed to mine personal data from U.S. citizens. Yet if U.K. authorities mine data on U.S. citizens, they can share it freely with officials in the U.S. and vice versa. There is evidence that this happens quite frequently, thus circumventing privacy protections. For an excellent article which goes deep into this issue, click here.
Through Freedom of Information Act requests and interviews with officials at numerous agencies, The Wall Street Journal has reconstructed the clash over the counterterrorism program within the administration of President Barack Obama. The attorney general [has] signed the changes into effect. The rules now allow the little-known National Counterterrorism Center to examine the government files of U.S. citizens for possible criminal behavior, even if there is no reason to suspect them. That is a departure from past practice, which barred the agency from storing information about ordinary Americans unless a person was a terror suspect or related to an investigation. Now, NCTC can copy entire government databasesflight records, casino-employee lists, the names of Americans hosting foreign-exchange students and many others. The agency has new authority to keep data about innocent U.S. citizens for up to five years, and to analyze it for suspicious patterns of behavior. Previously, both were prohibited. Data about Americans "reasonably believed to constitute terrorism information" may be permanently retained. "It's breathtaking" in its scope, said a former senior administration official. The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution says that searches of "persons, houses, papers and effects" shouldn't be conducted without "probable cause" that a crime has been committed.
Note: This article requires subscription to view at the link above. To read it for free, click here. For analysis of this sweeping increase in government privacy invasions, click here. For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on government privacy invasions, click here.
Most Americans have gotten used to regular news reports about military and CIA drones attacking terrorist suspects including US citizens in Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere abroad. But picture thousands of drone aircraft buzzing around the United States. By some government estimates, as many as 30,000 drones could be part of intelligence gathering and law enforcement here in the United States within the next ten years. Operated by agencies down to the local level, this would be in addition to the 110 current and planned drone activity sites run by the military services in 39 states, reported this week by the Federation of American Scientists, a non-government research project. Civil libertarians warn that unmanned aircraft carrying cameras raise the prospect of a significant new avenue for the surveillance of American life, as the American Civil Liberties Union put it in a report last December. The technology is quickly becoming cheaper and more powerful, interest in deploying drones among police departments is increasing, and our privacy laws are not strong enough to ensure that the new technology will be used responsibly and consistently with democratic values, reported the ACLU. In short, all the pieces appear to be lining up for the eventual introduction of routine aerial surveillance in American life.
Note: For deeper analysis of the threats posed to American citizens by military and police drones in the skies, click here. For information on a federal recent law compelling the Federal Aviation Administration to allow drones to fly in US skies, click here. For more information on the use of drones by police in the US, click here. For lots more from reliable sources on surveillance in the US, click here.
The Supreme Court on Monday ruled by a 5-to-4 vote that officials may strip-search people arrested for any offense, however minor, before admitting them to jails even if the officials have no reason to suspect the presence of contraband. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, joined by the courts conservative wing, wrote that courts are in no position to second-guess the judgments of correctional officials. The procedures endorsed by the majority are forbidden by statute in at least 10 states. According to a supporting brief filed by the American Bar Association, international human rights treaties also ban the procedures. Justice Stephen G. Breyer, writing for the four dissenters, said the strip searches the majority allowed were a serious affront to human dignity and to individual privacy and should be used only when there was good reason to do so. Justice Breyer said that the Fourth Amendment should be understood to bar strip searches of people arrested for minor offenses not involving drugs or violence, unless officials had a reasonable suspicion that they were carrying contraband. People have been subjected to the humiliation of a visual strip search after being arrested for driving with a noisy muffler, failing to use a turn signal and riding a bicycle without an audible bell. A nun was strip-searched ... after an arrest for trespassing during an antiwar demonstration. In a study of 23,000 people admitted to a correctional facility in Orange County, N.Y., using that standard, there was at most one instance of contraband detected that would not otherwise have been found.
Note: For an abundance of major media articles showing severe erosion of civil liberties, click here.
When Annie Brown's daughter, Isabel, was a month old, her pediatrician asked Brown and her husband to sit down because he had some bad news to tell them: Isabel carried a gene that put her at risk for cystic fibrosis. While grateful to have the information -- Isabel received further testing and she doesn't have the disease -- the Mankato, Minnesota, couple wondered how the doctor knew about Isabel's genes in the first place. After all, they'd never consented to genetic testing. It's simple, the pediatrician answered: Newborn babies in the United States are routinely screened for a panel of genetic diseases. Since the testing is mandated by the government, it's often done without the parents' consent, according to Brad Therrell, director of the National Newborn Screening & Genetics Resource Center. In many states, such as Florida, where Isabel was born, babies' DNA is stored indefinitely, according to the resource center. Many parents don't realize their baby's DNA is being stored in a government lab, but sometimes when they find out, as the Browns did, they take action. Parents in Texas, and Minnesota have filed lawsuits, and these parents' concerns are sparking a new debate about whether it's appropriate for a baby's genetic blueprint to be in the government's possession.
Note: For many reliable reports on the increasing governmental and corporate threats to privacy, click here.
Behind the county hospital's tall cinderblock walls, a 27-year-old tuberculosis patient ... sits in a jail cell equipped with a ventilation system that keeps germs from escaping. Robert Daniels has been locked up indefinitely, perhaps for the rest of his life, since last July. But he has not been charged with a crime. Instead, he suffers from an extensively drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis. It is considered virtually untreatable. County health authorities obtained a court order to lock him up as a danger to the public because ... he did not heed doctors' instructions to wear a mask in public. "I'm being treated worse than an inmate," Daniels said. "I'm all alone. Four walls. Even the door to my room has been locked. I haven't seen my reflection in months." He said sheriff's deputies will not let him take a shower -- he cleans himself with wet wipes -- and have taken away his television, radio, personal phone and computer. His only visitors are masked medical staff members who come in to give him his medication. Though Daniels' confinement is extremely rare, health experts say it is a situation that U.S. public health officials may have to confront more and more because of the spread of drug-resistant TB and the emergence of diseases such as SARS and avian flu.
Note: If the above link fails, click here. What possible reason is there for taking away this man's TV, radio, cell phone, and computer? Are we being prepared for mass quarantines and imprisonment due to disease? For more, click here.
Let's say your teenager is a habitual truant and there is nothing you can do about it. A Washington area politician thinks he might have the solution: Fit the child with a Global Positioning System chip, then have police track him down. "It allows them to get caught easier," said Maryland Delegate Doyle Niemann (D-Prince George's), who recently co-sponsored legislation in the House that would use electronic surveillance as part of a broader truancy reduction plan. "It's going to be done unobtrusively. The chips are tiny and can be put into a hospital ID band or a necklace." Niemann's legislation mirrors a bill sponsored by state Sen. Gwendolyn Britt (D-Prince George's). Both would provide truants and their parents with better access to social services, such as mental health evaluations and help with schoolwork. Electronic monitoring would be a last resort. Still, the prospect of tagging children and using them in some "catch and release" hunt by police casts a pall over everything that's good about the plan. Odd how billions and billions of dollars keep going to a war that almost nobody wants, but there's never enough to fund the educational programs that nearly everybody says are needed. Aimed solely at students in Prince George's the only predominantly black county in the Washington area the truancy effort is called a "pilot program," a first-of-its-kind experiment. It would cost $400,000 to keep track of about 660 students a year.
Note: For more reliable information on the push to microchip the entire population, click here.
When Kevin Warwick enters his office building on the campus of Reading University, strange things happen. As Warwick heads down the main hall, lights turn on. When he turns to the right, an office door unbolts and opens. Each step is clocked and recorded. The building knows who he is, where he is, and what he expects to happen. The building [even] says, Hello Professor Warwick. The structure knows Warwick because of the electrical fuse-sized smart card implanted in his left arm. In Britain, hes been dubbed The Cyborg Man, the first person known to have a microchip implanted in his body for communication with outside machines. Warwick predicts chip implants will one day replace time cards, criminal tracking devices, even credit cards. Capable of carrying huge amounts of data, they may, he says, one day be used to identify individuals by Social Security numbers, blood type, even their banking information. No one knows yet how the body will respond to this type of invasion. Warwick is not blind to the ethical questions of this technology. Implants ostensibly designed to clock workers in and out might be misused to monitor where people are at all times and who they are meeting. Governments could move to use implants instead of I.D. cards and passports, but what would stop them from using this new science to invade privacy? I feel mentally different. When I am in the building I feel much more closely connected with the computer.
Over the last two months, Chinese citizens have had to adjust to a new level of government intrusion. Getting into ones apartment compound or workplace requires scanning a QR code, writing down ones name and ID number, temperature and recent travel history. Telecom operators track peoples movements while social media platforms like WeChat and Weibo have hotlines for people to report others who may be sick. Some cities are offering people rewards for informing on sick neighbours. Chinese companies are meanwhile rolling out facial recognition technology that can detect elevated temperatures in a crowd or flag citizens not wearing a face mask. A range of apps use the personal health information of citizens to alert others of their proximity to infected patients. Experts say the virus ... has given authorities a pretext for accelerating the mass collection of personal data to track citizens. Its mission creep, said Maya Wang, senior China researcher for Human Rights Watch. According to Wang, the virus is likely to be a catalyst for a further expansion of the surveillance regime. Citizens are particularly critical of a system called Health Code, which users can sign up for through Alipay or WeChat, that assigns individuals one of three colour codes based on their travel history, time spent in outbreak hotspots and exposure to potential carriers of the virus. The software, used in more than 100 cities, will soon allow people to check the colours of other residents when their ID numbers are entered.
Note: Learn in this New York Times article how everyone in China is given a red, yellow, or green code which determines how free they are to move about and even enter businesses. This article shows how foreigners are being stopped instantly from making live podcasts from China using facial recognition technology. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on the coronavirus and the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
On the morning of 10 June 2013 ... the journalist Glenn Greenwald and film-maker Laura Poitras published on the Guardian site a video revealing the identity of the NSA whistleblower behind one of the most damning leaks in modern history. It began: "My name is Ed Snowden." William Fitzgerald, then a 27-year-old policy employee at Google, knew he wanted to help. Fitzgerald found himself waiting in the lobby of the Hong Kong W Hotel to meet Greenwald and introduce him to Robert Tibbo and Jonathan Man – the men who became Snowden's legal representatives and hid him in the homes of Tibbo's refugee clients. The Snowden files told a ... sinister story, revealing mass surveillance by the US National Security Agency (NSA). The NSA files suggested that some tech firms, including Google, Facebook and Apple, were aware. Google and other tech firms worked to distance themselves from the NSA's efforts. But over time [Google's] culture appeared to shift, reflecting the changing needs of various governments. Google stopped promoting its transparency report to the media, free expression advocates were replaced by more traditional business-focused executives, and then there was Project Maven – the controversial Department of Defense drone project that Google signed on to build artificial intelligence for. Google isn't alone in vying for government contracts – Microsoft, Amazon, IBM have all since made a play for or struck multimillion-dollar deals to build tools of surveillance for various entities including the Pentagon.
In 2010, the Washington Post reported that "every day, collection systems at the [NSA] intercept and store 1.7 billion emails, phone calls and other type of communications." In 2011, NSA expanded a program to provide real-time location information of every American with a cell phone, acquiring more than a billion cell phone records each day from AT&T. Later, newspapers around the world began publishing confidential documents leaked by [Edward] Snowden. Americans learned that the NSA can tap almost any cell phone in the world, exploit computer games like Angry Birds to poach personal data, access anyone's email and web browsing history [and] remotely penetrate almost all computers. The NSA used Facebook and Google apps to send malware to targeted individuals. NSA filched almost 200,000,000 records a month from private computer cloud accounts. Obama perpetuated perverse Bush-era legal doctrines to totally shield federal surveillance from judicial scrutiny. Obama's Justice Department secretly decreed that all phone records of all Americans were "relevant" to terrorism investigations and that the NSA could therefore justifiably seize everyone's personal data. Snowden revealed how the NSA had covertly carried out "the most significant change in the history of American espionage from the targeted surveillance of individuals to the mass surveillance of entire populations."
In the pandemic’s bewildering early days, millions worldwide believed government officials who said they needed confidential data for new tech tools that could help stop coronavirus’ spread. In return, governments got a firehose of individuals’ private health details, photographs that captured their facial measurements and their home addresses. Now, from Beijing to Jerusalem to Hyderabad, India, and Perth, Australia, The Associated Press has found that authorities used these technologies and data to halt travel for activists and ordinary people, harass marginalized communities and link people’s health information to other surveillance and law enforcement tools. In some cases, data was shared with spy agencies. China’s ultra-strict zero-COVID policies recently ignited the sharpest public rebuke of the country’s authoritarian leadership since ... 1989. Just as the balance between privacy and national security shifted after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, COVID-19 has given officials justification to embed tracking tools in society that have lasted long after lockdowns. What use will ultimately be made of the data collected and tools developed during the height of the pandemic remains an open question. Australia’s intelligence agencies were caught “incidentally” collecting data from the national COVIDSafe app. In the U.S. ... the federal government took the opportunity to build out its surveillance toolkit, including two contracts in 2020 worth $24.9 million to the data mining and surveillance company Palantir Technologies Inc.
Note: Read an essay by constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead on COVID and the surveillance state. Detroit police recently sought COVID relief funds to install ShotSpotter microphones throughout the city. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on the coronavirus and the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
A whistleblower who works in Project Nightingale, the secret transfer of the personal medical data of up to 50 million Americans from one of the largest healthcare providers in the US to Google, has expressed anger to the Guardian that patients are being kept in the dark about the massive deal. The anonymous whistleblower has posted a video on the social media platform Daily Motion that contains a document dump of hundreds of images of confidential files relating to Project Nightingale. The secret scheme ... involves the transfer to Google of healthcare data held by Ascension, the second-largest healthcare provider in the US. The data is being transferred with full personal details including name and medical history and can be accessed by Google staff. Unlike other similar efforts it has not been made anonymous through a process of ... de-identification. The disclosed documents include highly confidential outlines of Project Nightingale, laying out the four stages or pillars of the secret project. By the time the transfer is completed next March, it will have passed the personal data of 50 million or more patients in 21 states to Google, with 10 million or so files already having moved across with no warning having been given to patients or doctors. Google has entered into similar partnerships on a much smaller scale with clients such as the Colorado Center for Personalized Medicine. But in that case all the data handed over to the search giant was encrypted, with keys being held only on the medical side.
Over time, the CIA upper echelon has secretly developed all kinds of policy statements and legal rationales to justify routine, widespread surveillance on U.S. soil of citizens who arent suspected of terrorism or being a spy. Newly declassified documents from 2014 ... reveal the CIA not only intercepted emails of U.S. citizens but they were emails of the most sensitive kind written to Congress and involving whistleblowers reporting alleged wrongdoing within the Intelligence Community. The disclosures, kept secret until now, are two letters of congressional notification from the Intelligence Community inspector general at the time, Charles McCullough. He stated that during routine counterintelligence monitoring of government computer systems, the CIA collected emails between congressional staff and the CIAs head of whistleblowing and source protection. McCullough added that he was concerned about the CIAs potential compromise to whistleblower confidentiality and the consequent chilling effect. The March 2014 intercepts ... happened amid whats widely referred to as the Obama administrations war on whistleblowers and mass surveillance scandals. The evidence points to bad actors targeting candidate Donald Trump and his associates in part to keep them - and us - from learning about and digging into an even bigger scandal: our Intelligence Community increasingly spying on its own citizens, journalists, members of Congress and political enemies for the better part of two decades.
Note: The above article was written by Emmy award winning investigative journalist and former news anchor for CBS and CNN Sharyl Attkisson. She has been attacked numerous times for questioning the safety of vaccines and investigating too deeply into the lives of certain politicians. Her top-selling book Stonewalled describes her fight for truth against powerful political forces. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on intelligence agency corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
It's no secret that computers are insecure. The risks are about to get worse, because computers are being embedded into physical devices and will affect lives, not just our data. Many of todays new computers are not just screens that we stare at, but objects in our world with which we interact. A refrigerator is now a computer that keeps things cold; a car is now a computer with four wheels and an engine. These computers sense us and our environment, and they affect us and our environment. They talk to each other over networks ... and they have physical agency. They drive our cars, pilot our planes, and run our power plants. They control traffic, administer drugs ... and dispatch emergency services. These connected computers and the network that connects them - collectively known as the internet of things - affect the world in a direct physical manner. Computers fail differently than most other machines: It's not just that they can be attacked remotely - they can be attacked all at once. Its impossible to take an old refrigerator and infect it with a virus or recruit it into a denial-of-service botnet, and a car without an internet connection simply cant be hacked remotely. But that computer with four wheels and an engine? It - along with all other cars of the same make and model - can be made to run off the road, all at the same time. Do we want to allow vulnerable automobiles on the streets and highways during the weeks before a new security patch is written, tested, and distributed?
Note: A 2015 New York Times article called the Internet of Things a "train wreck in privacy and security". Read how a hacked vehicle may have resulted in journalist Michael Hastings' death in 2013. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on the disappearance of privacy and the risks of wireless technologies.
At least 75 companies receive anonymous, precise location data from apps whose users enable location services. Several of those businesses claim to track up to 200 million mobile devices in the United States about half those in use last year. The database reviewed by The Times ... reveals peoples travels in startling detail, accurate to within a few yards and in some cases updated more than 14,000 times a day. These companies sell, use or analyze the data to cater to advertisers, retail outlets and even hedge funds. Its a hot market, with sales of location-targeted advertising reaching an estimated $21 billion this year. Businesses say their interest is in the patterns, not the identities, that the data reveals. They note that the information apps collect is tied not to someones name or phone number but to a unique ID. But those with access to the raw data including employees or clients could still identify a person without consent. They could follow someone they knew, by pinpointing a phone that regularly spent time at that persons home address. More than 1,000 popular apps contain location-sharing code from such companies. Googles Android system was found to have about 1,200 apps with such code, compared with about 200 on Apples iOS.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing privacy news articles from reliable major media sources.
By now, almost everyone knows what Edward Snowden did. He leaked top-secret documents revealing that the National Security Agency was spying on hundreds of millions of people. The key to Snowdens effectiveness, according to Thomas Devine, the legal director of the Government Accountability Project (GAP), was that he practised civil disobedience rather than lawful whistleblowing. None of the lawful whistleblowers who tried to expose the governments warrantless surveillance ... had any success, Devine told me. They came forward ... but the government just said, Theyre lying. Were not doing those things. And the whistleblowers couldnt prove their case because the government had classified all the evidence. The NSA whistleblowers were not leftwing peace nuts. They had spent their professional lives inside the US intelligence apparatus devoted, they thought, to the protection of the homeland and defense of the constitution. They were political conservatives, highly educated, respectful of evidence, careful with words. And they were saying, on the basis of personal experience, that the US government was being run by people who were willing to break the law and bend the states awesome powers to their own ends. They were saying that laws and technologies had secretly been put in place that threatened to overturn the democratic governance Americans took for granted and shrink their liberties to a vanishing point.
Note: The article above was is adapted from Mark Hertsgaards book, Bravehearts: Whistle Blowing in the Age of Snowden. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on intelligence agency corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
If you call 911 to report an emergency, the odds are increasing that a drone will be the first unit sent to respond. More than 1,500 departments across the country now use them, “mostly for search and rescue as well as to document crime scenes and chase suspects,” according to ... MIT Technology Review. Generally, police drones don’t carry weapons and are used primarily for video surveillance. It is possible for small drones to deliver chemical irritants like tear gas, however, a technology that police in Israel have used against Palestinians. In a report published on Thursday, American Civil Liberties Union Senior Policy Analyst Jay Stanley worries that these kinds of drone programs may normalize usage and “usher in an era of pervasive, suspicionless, mass aerial surveillance.” He notes far more invasive turns that police drone usage could take, including warrantless surveillance of specific people, crime “hotspots” or even whole neighborhoods or cities. Stanley wonders if drone usage won’t just ... “amplify the problems with the deeply broken U.S. criminal legal system.” Many of the cities using drones in policing are doing so from so-called “real-time crime centers.” These units function as centralized hubs to connect the various bits of surveillance and data that police collect from things like stationary cameras, drones, license plate readers and technology that listens for possible gunshots. Some centers can even integrate police body cameras and video from Ring doorbells.
Note: Police have been using military predator drones for domestic law enforcement since 2011. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on police corruption and the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
An AI-based decoder that can translate brain activity into a continuous stream of text has been developed, in a breakthrough that allows a person’s thoughts to be read non-invasively for the first time. The decoder could reconstruct speech with uncanny accuracy while people listened to a story – or even silently imagined one – using only fMRI scan data. Previous language decoding systems have required surgical implants. Large language models – the kind of AI underpinning OpenAI’s ChatGPT ... are able to represent, in numbers, the semantic meaning of speech, allowing the scientists to look at which patterns of neuronal activity corresponded to strings of words with a particular meaning rather than attempting to read out activity word by word. The decoder was personalised and when the model was tested on another person the readout was unintelligible. It was also possible for participants on whom the decoder had been trained to thwart the system, for example by thinking of animals or quietly imagining another story. Jerry Tang, a doctoral student at the University of Texas at Austin and a co-author, said: “We take very seriously the concerns that it could be used for bad purposes and have worked to avoid that. We want to make sure people only use these types of technologies when they want to and that it helps them.” Prof Tim Behrens, a computational neuroscientist ... said it opened up a host of experimental possibilities, including reading thoughts from someone dreaming.
Note: This technology has advanced considerably since Jose Delgado first stopped a charging bull using radio waves in 1965. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on mind control and the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
Private thoughts may not be private for much longer, heralding a nightmarish world where political views, thoughts, stray obsessions and feelings could be interrogated and punished all thanks to advances in neurotechnology. In a new book, The Battle for Your Brain, Duke University bioscience professor Nita Farahany argues that such intrusions into the human mind by technology are so close that a public discussion is long overdue and lawmakers should immediately establish brain protections as it would for any other area of personal liberty. Farahany, who served on Barack Obama’s commission for the study of bioethical issues, believes that advances in neurotechnology mean that intrusions through the door of brain privacy, whether by way of military programs or by way of well-funded research labs at big tech companies, are at hand via brain-to-computer innovations like wearable tech. “All of the major tech companies have massive investments in multifunctional devices that have brain sensors in them,” Farahany said. “Neural sensors will become part of our everyday technology and a part of how we interact with that technology.” François du Cluzel, a project manager at Nato Act Innovation Hub, issued a report in November 2020 entitled Cognitive Warfare that, it said, “is not limited to the military or institutional world. Since the early 1990s, this capability has tended to be applied to the political, economic, cultural and societal fields.”
Note: Read more about these troubling developments. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation has acknowledged for the first time that it purchased US location data rather than obtaining a warrant. The disclosure came today during a US Senate hearing. Senator Ron Wyden ... put the question of the bureau’s use of commercial data to its director, Christopher Wray: “Does the FBI purchase US phone-geolocation information?” Wray said his agency was not currently doing so. “To my knowledge, we do not currently purchase commercial database information that includes location data derived from internet advertising,” Wray said. “I understand that we previously—as in the past—purchased some such information for a specific national security pilot project. But that’s not been active for some time.” In its landmark Carpenter v. United States decision, the Supreme Court held that government agencies accessing historical location data without a warrant were violating the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee against unreasonable searches. The decision left open a glaring loophole that allows the government to simply purchase whatever it cannot otherwise legally obtain. US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Defense Intelligence Agency are among the list of federal agencies known to have taken advantage of this loophole. The Department of Homeland Security ... purchased the geolocations of millions of Americans from private marketing firms. The data were derived from ... benign sources, such as mobile games and weather apps.
A study published Monday ... outlines how expansive the market for people’s health data has become. After contacting data brokers to ask what kinds of mental health information she could buy, researcher Joanne Kim reported that she ultimately found 11 companies willing to sell bundles of data that included information on what antidepressants people were taking, whether they struggled with insomnia or attention issues, and details on other medical ailments, including Alzheimer’s disease or bladder-control difficulties. Some of the data was offered in an aggregate form that would have allowed a buyer to know, for instance, a rough estimate of how many people in an individual Zip code might be depressed. But other brokers offered personally identifiable data featuring names, addresses and incomes, with one data-broker sales representative pointing to lists named “Anxiety Sufferers” and “Consumers With Clinical Depression in the United States.” Some even offered a sample spreadsheet. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPAA, restricts how hospitals, doctors’ offices and other “covered health entities” share Americans’ health data. But the law doesn’t protect the same information when it’s sent anywhere else, allowing app makers and other companies to legally share or sell the data. Some of the data brokers offered ... opt-out forms. But ... many people probably didn’t realize the brokers had collected their information in the first place. Privacy advocates have for years warned about the unregulated data trade, saying the information could be exploited by advertisers or misused for predatory means. The health-data issue has in some ways gotten worse, in large part because of the increasing sophistication with which companies can collect and share people’s personal information — including not just in defined lists, but through regularly updated search tools and machine-learning analyses.
The House committee investigating the events of January 6, 2021, is nearly finished. Nearly 900 ... criminal prosecutions of alleged rioters remain underway, and one case has shed troubling new light on how the FBI investigated these defendants. The suspect's name is David Rhine. His lawyer is the first to present a potentially successful challenge to the geofencing warrant the FBI used to place some defendants inside the Capitol building during the attack. A previous Wired report last year found 45 federal criminal cases citing the warrant, which required Google to provide the FBI with data on devices using its location services inside a set geographic area. Rhine's case has revealed just how expansive the FBI's request to Google really was. Google initially listed 5,723 devices in response to the warrant, then whittled the tally to exclude likely Capitol staff and police as well as anyone who wasn't "entirely within the geofence, to about a 70 percent probability." The final list of identifying details handed over to the FBI had 1,535 names. It included people whose phones had been turned off or put in airplane mode, and "people who attempted to delete their location data following the attacks were singled out by the FBI for greater scrutiny." It's ... easy to envision geofencing warrants undergoing the usual surveillance mission creep. Left unchecked, law enforcement could decide geofence data would come in handy while looking for a journalist's whistleblowing source, or perhaps at political protests.
The outbreak of Covid-19 has been anathema for most of Chinas economy but the novel coronavirus was a shot in the arm for the states surveillance apparatus, which has expanded rapidly in pursuit of the epidemics spread. Facial recognition cameras, phone tracking technology and voluntary registrations have all been deployed to monitor the flow of people and the possible transmission of disease. The Chinese surveillance systems currently ... has two purposes: the first is to monitor public health and the second is to maintain political control, says Francis Lee, a professor ... at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Once the outbreak is controlled, however, its unclear whether the government will retract its new powers. While facial recognition provides a way to monitor crowds from a distance, governments have deployed close-range means of tracking individuals too. The municipal government of Hangzhou worked with ecommerce giant Alibaba to launch a feature through the companys mobile wallet app, AliPay, that assesses the users risk of infection. The app generates a QR code. Guards at checkpoints in residential buildings and elsewhere can then scan that code to gain details about the user. John Bacon-Shone ... at Hong Kong University thinks that the ongoing threat of outbreaks will provide a constant justification for the new systems. I am rather pessimistic that there will be full rollback of data collection once it has been implemented, Bacon-Shone says.
Note: Remember all of the privacy and freedoms given up after 9/11? How many of those have been given back? Learn more about the serious risk of the Coronavirus increasing the surveillance state in this excellent article. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption and the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
The U.S. Army Cyber Command told defense contractors it planned to surveil global social media use to defend the "NATO brand," according to a 2022 webinar recording reviewed by The Intercept. "NATO is one of our key brands that we are pushing, as far as our national security alliance," [Lt. Col. David Beskow] explained. The mass social media surveillance appears to be just one component of a broader initiative to use private-sector data mining to advance the Army's information warfare efforts. Beskow expressed an interest in purchasing access to nonpublic commercial web data, corporate ownership records, supply chain data, and more. While the U.S. national security establishment frequently warns against other countries' "weaponization" of social media and the broader internet, recent reporting has shown the Pentagon engages in some of the very same conduct. Researchers from Graphika and the Stanford Internet Observatory uncovered a network of pro-U.S. Twitter and Facebook accounts covertly operated by U.S. Central Command, an embarrassing revelation that led to a “sweeping audit of how it conducts clandestine information warfare." Despite years of alarm in Washington over the threat posed by deepfake video fabrications to democratic societies, The Intercept reported last month that U.S. Special Operations Command is seeking vendors to help them make their own deepfakes to deceive foreign internet users.
The precise locations of the U.S. government’s high-tech surveillance towers along the U.S-Mexico border are being made public for the first time as part of a mapping project by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. While the Department of Homeland Security’s investment of more than a billion dollars into a so-called virtual wall between the U.S. and Mexico is a matter of public record, the government does not disclose where these towers are located, despite privacy concerns of residents of both countries — and the fact that individual towers are plainly visible to observers. The surveillance tower map is the result of a year’s work steered by EFF Director of Investigations Dave Maass. As border surveillance towers have multiplied across the southern border, so too have they become increasingly sophisticated, packing a panoply of powerful cameras, microphones, lasers, radar antennae, and other sensors. Companies like Anduril and Google have reaped major government paydays by promising to automate the border-watching process with migrant-detecting artificial intelligence. Opponents of these modern towers, bristling with always-watching sensors, argue the increasing computerization of border security will lead inevitably to the dehumanization of an already thoroughly dehumanizing undertaking. Nobody can say for certain how many people have died attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in the recent age of militarization and surveillance. Researchers estimate that the minimum is at least 10,000 dead.
Note: As the article states, the Department of Homeland Security was "the largest reorganization of the federal government since the creation of the CIA and the Defense Department," and has resulted in U.S. taxpayers funding corrupt agendas that have led to massive human rights abuses. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption and the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
The FBI and the Defense Department were actively involved in research and development of facial recognition software that they hoped could be used to identify people from video footage captured by street cameras and flying drones, according to thousands of pages of internal documents that provide new details about the government's ambitions to build out a powerful tool for advanced surveillance. The documents, revealed in response to an ongoing Freedom of Information Act lawsuit the American Civil Liberties Union filed against the FBI, show how closely FBI and Defense officials worked with academic researchers to refine artificial-intelligence techniques that could help in the identification or tracking of Americans without their awareness or consent. Many of the records relate to the Janus program, a project funded by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency, or IARPA. The improved facial recognition system was ultimately folded into a search tool, called Horus, and made available to the Pentagon's Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office, which helps provide military technologies to civilian police forces. No federal laws regulate how facial recognition systems can be used. The tool's use in domestic mass surveillance would be a "nightmare scenario," said Nathan Wessler, a deputy director at the ACLU. "It could give the government the ability to pervasively track as many people as they want for as long as they want. There's no good outcome for that in a democratic society."
Caleb Kenyon, a defense attorney in Florida, saw a geofence warrant was when a new client received an alarming email from Google in January 2020. Police were requesting personal data from the client, Zachary McCoy, and Kenyon had just seven days to stop Google from turning it over, the email said. The geofence warrant included a map and GPS coordinates, and instructed Google to provide identifying information for every user whose device was found within the radius of that location at a certain date and time. “It was so bizarre that I just didn’t even have a concept for what I was dealing with,” he said. Kenyon is not alone. As tech firms build ever more sophisticated means of surveilling people and their devices – technology that law enforcement is eager to take advantage of – the legal community is scrambling to keep up. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) ... recently created the Fourth Amendment Center, named for the constitutional right against unreasonable searches. The center is one of the few resources available for helping attorneys better understand how new technology is being used against their clients. It can be years before the defense community catches wind of the newest surveillance tools. Unlike other search warrants, geofence warrants don’t require probable cause or a specific suspect in mind; they gather information on anyone within the vicinity of an alleged crime. Advocates argue this violates the fourth amendment.
Under a post-9/11 surveillance program known as “Upstream”, the NSA is systematically searching Americans’ internet communications as they enter and leave the United States. The agency sifts through these streams of data looking for “identifiers” associated with its many thousands of foreign targets – identifiers like email addresses and phone numbers. The NSA does all of this without warrants, without any individual judicial approval, and without showing that any of the people it is surveilling – including countless Americans – have done anything wrong. This surveillance raises serious constitutional concerns, but no court has ever considered a legal challenge to it because the government has claimed that allowing a suit against Upstream surveillance to go forward would implicate “state secrets”. In 2007, for example, an appeals court dismissed a lawsuit filed by Khaled El-Masri claiming that, in a case of mistaken identity, he had been kidnapped and tortured by the CIA. The court acknowledged the public evidence of El-Masri’s mistreatment but held that state secrets were too central to the case to allow it to go forward. And in 2010, a different appeals court dismissed a lawsuit filed by five individuals who claimed that one of Boeing’s subsidiary companies had flown the planes carrying them to the black sites where they were tortured by the CIA. This use of the state secrets privilege – to dismiss cases – departs from the supreme court’s narrow framing of the privilege.
The Central Intelligence Agency has for years been collecting in bulk, without a warrant, some kind of data that can affect Americans’ privacy. At the same time, [the C.I.A.] declared that a report about the same topic, which had prompted the letter, must remain fully classified. That report, called “Deep Dive II,” was part of a set of studies by a watchdog board scrutinizing intelligence community operations under Executive Order 12333. In March 2021, the Senate Intelligence Committee received a copy of the report. Two Democrats on the panel, Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, urged Avril D. Haines, the director of national intelligence, and William J. Burns, the C.I.A. director, to declassify the activity. The senators suggested that its hidden existence cut against Americans’ understanding that various pieces of legislation enacted in recent years “limit and, in some cases, prohibit the warrantless collection of Americans’ records.” In 2015, Congress banned bulk collection of telecommunications metadata under the Patriot Act and limited other types of bulk collection by the F.B.I. under laws governing domestic activities like the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. Yet “the C.I.A. has secretly conducted its own bulk program” under Executive Order 12333, the senators wrote. “It has done so entirely outside the statutory framework that Congress and the public believe govern this collection, and without any of the judicial, congressional or even executive branch oversight.”
MIT researchers have now developed a novel way to record a patient’s vaccination history: storing the data in a pattern of dye, invisible to the naked eye, that is delivered under the skin at the same time as the vaccine. The researchers showed that their new dye, which consists of nanocrystals called quantum dots, can remain for at least five years under the skin, where it emits near-infrared light that can be detected by a specially equipped smartphone. The researchers designed their dye to be delivered by a microneedle patch rather than a traditional syringe and needle. Such patches are now being developed to deliver vaccines for measles, rubella, and other diseases. “It’s possible someday that this ‘invisible’ approach could create new possibilities for data storage, biosensing, and vaccine applications that could improve how medical care is provided, particularly in the developing world,” [study co-author Robert] Langer says. Tests using human cadaver skin showed that the quantum-dot patterns could be detected by smartphone cameras after up to five years of simulated sun exposure. The research was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Koch Institute Support (core) Grant from the National Cancer Institute.
Note: Could these quantum dots be used for tracking and monitoring people? This revealing article shows patents by Moderna suggesting their use in human vaccines. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on vaccines and the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
Note: Read more about Samsung's privacy issues in this 2013 Houston Chronicle article. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
The US National Security Agency (NSA) tried to persuade its British counterpart to stop the Guardian publishing revelations about secret mass data collection from the NSA contractor, Edward Snowden. Sir Iain Lobban, the head of Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) ... rebuffed the suggestion that his agency should act as a censor on behalf of its US partner in electronic spying. British refusal to shut down publication of the leaks ... caused rifts within the Five Eyes signals intelligence coalition [according to] a new book ... by Richard Kerbaj. Kerbaj reports that the US-UK intelligence relationship was further strained when the head of the NSA, Gen Keith Alexander, failed to inform Lobban that the Americans had identified Snowden ... leaving the British agency investigating its own ranks in the search for the leaker. The Five Eyes allies were outraged that a contractor like Snowden, working as a computer systems administrator, could get access to their secrets, and that because of US government outsourcing, there were 1.5 million Americans with top security clearance like Snowden. Allies were not prepared to challenge the Americans out of anxiety that they could be cut off from the flow of intelligence. British officials also decided to bite their tongues ... because of the value of the intelligence and funding provided by the NSA. Sir Kim Darroch, the former UK national security adviser, is quoted ... saying: “The US give us more than we give them so we just have to basically get on with it.”
Note: Read more on how US and UK spy agencies undermine privacy and security in this news article reported by The Guardian. For a guide from The Guardian on how to remain secure against NSA surveillance, click here.
The digital Covid vaccination certification, or “passport,” is a mobile app that instantaneously affirms the vaccinated status, Covid test results, birth date, gender, and/or other identifiers of its holder. The information is usually mosaicked in a QR code, read by a proprietary scanner, and linked to a government registry. Led by New York, California, and Louisiana, as many as 30 states are rolling them out. The Biden administration announced last spring that it would wrangle them under national standards but so far it hasn’t. Internationally, the EU and a growing number of countries are adopting them, from repressive regimes like Bahrain to democracies like Denmark. Twenty U.S. states have banned the passes, and hashtags like #NoVaccinePassports are proliferating. “Spoiler alert,” tweeted British DJ ... Lange. “They are not planning on removing vax passports once introduced. This is just the first step to get you conditioned to accepting government restrictions in your daily life via your mobile phone. This digital ID is going to expand to all aspects of your life.” New York, for one, is not expecting to mothball the technology when Covid wanes. State bureaucrats are “exploring how the platform could be retrofitted to verify other types of records and credentials.” The surveillance technologies of the War on Contagion are inherited from the War on Terror, and the software is encoded with the same forever-war mentality: Both fight risk rather than actual threat.
When the government tracks the location of a cellphone it achieves near perfect surveillance, as if it had attached an ankle monitor to the phones user, wrote John Roberts, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, in a 2018 ruling that prevented the government from obtaining location data from cellphone towers without a warrant. We decline to grant the state unrestricted access to a wireless carriers database of physical location information, Chief Justice Roberts wrote in the decision, Carpenter v. United States. With that judicial intent in mind, it is alarming to read a new report in The Wall Street Journal that found the Trump administration has bought access to a commercial database that maps the movements of millions of cellphones in America and is using it for immigration and border enforcement. The data used by the government comes not from the phone companies but from a location data company, one of many that are quietly and relentlessly collecting the precise movements of all smartphone-owning Americans through their phone apps. Many apps weather apps or coupon apps, for instance gather and record location data without users understanding what the code is up to. That data can then be sold to third party buyers including, apparently, the government. The courts are [an] imperfect venue for protecting Fourth Amendment rights. The Carpenter ruling applies only to location data captured by cellphone towers and not to location data streamed from smartphone apps.
Superpower. Catastrophic. Revolutionary. Irresponsible. Efficiency-creating. Dangerous. These terms have been used to describe artificial intelligence over the past several months. The release of ChatGPT to the general public thrusts AI into the limelight, and many are left wondering: what will happen when the way we do business and live our lives changes entirely? Generative AI may impress us with its ability to produce headshots, plan vacation agendas, create work presentations, and even write new code, but that does not mean it can solve every problem. Despite the technological hype, those deciding how to use AI should first ask community members: “What are your needs?” and “What are your dreams?”. The answers to these questions should drive constraints for developers to implement, and should drive the decision about whether and how to use AI. Whose role is it to balance the design of AI tools with the decision about when to use AI systems, and the need to mitigate harms that AI can inflict? Everyone has a role to play. Technologists and organisational leaders have clear responsibilities in the design and deployment of AI systems. Policymakers have the ability to set guidelines for the development and use of AI ... to direct it in ways that minimise harm to individuals. Funders and investors can support AI systems that centre humans and encourage timelines that allow for community input and community analysis. All these roles must work together.
Note: Another recent Guardian article titled "Fantasy fears about AI are obscuring how we already abuse machine intelligence" questions the ethics behind our use of this new technology. More specifically, how the fears of AI bury conversations about the governments and corporations that run and deploy the for political ends.
An effort by United States lawmakers to prevent government agencies from domestically tracking citizens without a search warrant is facing opposition internally from one of its largest intelligence services. Officials at the National Security Agency (NSA) have approached lawmakers charged with its oversight about opposing an amendment that would prevent it from paying companies for location data instead of obtaining a warrant in court. Introduced by US representatives Warren Davidson and Sara Jacobs, the amendment ... would prohibit US military agencies from "purchasing data that would otherwise require a warrant, court order, or subpoena" to obtain. The ban would cover more than half of the US intelligence community, including the NSA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the newly formed National Space Intelligence Center, among others. A government report declassified by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence last month revealed that US intelligence agencies were avoiding judicial review by purchasing a "large amount" of "sensitive and intimate information" about Americans, including data that can be used to trace people's whereabouts over extended periods of time. The sensitivity of the data is such that "in the wrong hands," the report says, it could be used to "facilitate blackmail," among other undesirable outcomes. The report also acknowledges that some of the data being procured is protected under the US Constitution's Fourth Amendment.
These blank-looking warehouses are home to an artificial intelligence (AI) company used by the Government to monitor people’s posts on social media. Logically has been paid more than £1.2 million of taxpayers’ money to analyse what the Government terms “disinformation” – false information deliberately seeded online – and “misinformation”, which is false information that has been spread inadvertently. It does this by “ingesting” material from more than hundreds of thousands of media sources and “all public posts on major social media platforms”, using AI to identify those that are potentially problematic. It has a £1.2 million deal with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), as well as another worth up to £1.4 million with the Department of Health and Social Care to monitor threats to high-profile individuals within the vaccine service. Other blue-chip clients include US federal agencies, the Indian electoral commission, and TikTok. It also has a “partnership” with Facebook, which appears to grant Logically’s fact-checkers huge influence over the content other people see. A joint press release issued in July 2021 suggests that Facebook will limit the reach of certain posts if Logically says they are untrue. “When Logically rates a piece of content as false, Facebook will significantly reduce its distribution so that fewer people see it, apply a warning label to let people know that the content has been rated false, and notify people who try to share it,” states the press release.
The Pentagon’s intelligence branch is developing new tech to help it track the mass movement of people around the globe and flag “anomalies.” The project is called the Hidden Activity Signal and Trajectory Anomaly Characterization (HAYSTAC) program and it “aims to establish ‘normal’ movement models across times, locations, and populations and determine what makes an activity atypical,” according to a press release from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI). HAYSTAC will be run by the DNI’s Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA). It’s kind of like DARPA, the Pentagon’s blue-sky research department, but with a focus on intelligence projects. According to the agency, the project will analyze data from internet-connected devices and “smart city” sensors using AI. “An ever-increasing amount of geospatial data is created every day,” Jack Cooper, HAYSTAC’s program manager, said. Cooper also mentioned privacy, or rather a lack of it. “Today you might think that privacy means going to live off the grid in the middle of nowhere,” he said. “That’s just not realistic in today’s environment. Sensors are cheap. Everybodys got one. There’s no such thing as living off the grid.” In one project, [contractor] AIS simulated a cyber attack. “Devices included traditional desktop systems, laptops, tablets, and mobile platforms,” the firm said. “The technology tracks users through biometric features, including keystroke biometrics, mouse movement behavior, and gait detection.”
Recent reports about the Secret Service and Immigration and Customs Enforcement playing fast and loose with rules regarding cellphone tracking and the FBI purchasing phone location data from commercial sources constitute an important wake-up call. They remind us that those handy mobile devices many people tote around are the most cost-effective surveillance system ever invented. "The United States Secret Service and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations (ICE HSI) did not always adhere to Federal statute and cellsite simulator (CSS) policies when using CSS during criminal investigations," the Department of Homeland Security's Office of the Inspector General reported last month. "Separately, ICE HSI did not adhere to Department privacy policies and the applicable Federal privacy statute when using CSS." The OIG report referred to the use of what is commonly called "stingray" technology—devices that simulate cellphone towers and trick phones within range into connecting and revealing their location. "They also gather information about the phones of countless bystanders who happen to be nearby," the ACLU warns. Even the most precise phone company location data remains available with court approval. The courts are currently mulling multiple cases involving "geofence warrants" whereby law enforcement seeks data not on individuals, but on whoever was carrying a device in a designated area at a specified time.
New details about the FBI’s failures to comply with restrictions on the use of foreign intelligence for domestic crimes have emerged. Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) ... grants the government the ability to intercept the electronic communications of overseas targets who are unprotected by the Fourth Amendment. That authority is set to expire at the end of the year. But errors in the FBI’s secondary use of the data—the investigation of crimes on US soil—are likely to inflame an already fierce debate over whether law enforcement agents can be trusted with such an invasive tool. Central to this tension has been a routine audit by the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) national security division and the office of the director of national intelligence (ODNI) ... which unearthed new examples of the FBI failing to comply with rules limiting access to intelligence ostensibly gathered to protect US national security. Such “errors,” they said, have occurred on a “large number” of occasions. A report on the audit, only recently declassified, found that in the first half of 2020, FBI personnel unlawfully searched raw FISA data on numerous occasions. In one incident, agents reportedly sought evidence of foreign influence linked to a US lawmaker. In another, an inappropriate search pertained to a local political party. In what privacy and civil liberties lawyers have termed a “backdoor search,” the FBI regularly searches through unminimized data during investigations, and routinely prior to launching them.
Since Buzzfeed reported in June that employees of TikTok’s Chinese parent company ByteDance had access to US consumer data, TikTok has been the focus of rare bipartisan calls for regulation and inquiry. Those inquiries became more pressing when in July, the FBI director, Christopher Wray, called Chinese espionage the “greatest long-term threat to our nation’s ... economic vitality”. TikTok is a relatively new player in the arena of massive global social media platforms but it’s already caught the eye of regulators in Europe. New laws around child safety and general internet safety in the UK and the EU have forced the company to become more transparent about the way it operates and the way content spreads on its platform. In the US, moves to rein in the video platform have gained momentum only relatively recently, although there’s little debate that the round of regulatory pressure is warranted. With 1 billion users, the platform, which uses an algorithmic feed to push users short-form videos, has had its fair share of run-ins with misinformation, data privacy and concerns about child safety. Experts the Guardian spoke with did not question the cybersecurity threat China posed. However, some said they worried regulators’ hyper-focus on TikTok’s China connection could distract from other pressing concerns, including TikTok’s algorithm and how much user data the company collects, stores and shares. There are currently no federal regulations that protect such information.
The web browser used within the TikTok app can track every keystroke made by its users, according to new research that is surfacing as the Chinese-owned video app grapples with U.S. lawmakers’ concerns over its data practices. The research from Felix Krause, a privacy researcher and former Google engineer, did not show how TikTok used the capability, which is embedded within the in-app browser that pops up when someone clicks an outside link. But Mr. Krause said the development was concerning because it showed TikTok had built in functionality to track users’ online habits if it chose to do so. Collecting information on what people type on their phones while visiting outside websites, which can reveal credit card numbers and passwords, is often a feature of malware and other hacking tools. Apps sometimes use in-app browsers to prevent people from visiting malicious sites or to make online browsing easier with the auto-filling of text. But while Facebook and Instagram can use in-app browsers to track data like what sites a person visited ... TikTok goes further by using code that can track each character entered by users. As with many apps, TikTok offers few chances for people to click away from its service. Instead of redirecting to mobile web browsers like Safari or Chrome, an in-app browser appears when users click on ads or links embedded within the profiles of other users. These are often the moments people enter key information like credit card details or passwords.
NSO Group [is] the world’s most notorious maker of spyware. The F.B.I. had bought a version of Pegasus, NSO’s premier spying tool. It could ... crack the encrypted communications of any iPhone or Android smartphone. Since NSO had introduced Pegasus to the global market in 2011, it had helped Mexican authorities capture Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the drug lord known as El Chapo. European investigators have quietly used Pegasus to thwart terrorist plots, fight organized crime and, in one case, take down a global child-abuse ring. Mexico deployed the software not just against gangsters but also against journalists and political dissidents. The United Arab Emirates used the software to hack the phone of a civil rights activist. Saudi Arabia used it against women’s rights activists. During a presentation to officials in Washington, the company demonstrated a new system, called Phantom, that could hack any number in the United States that the F.B.I. decided to target. A slick brochure ... says that Phantom allows American law enforcement and spy agencies to get intelligence “by extracting and monitoring crucial data from mobile devices.” It is an “independent solution” that requires no cooperation from AT&T, Verizon, Apple or Google. The system, it says, will “turn your target’s smartphone into an intelligence gold mine.” The Phantom presentation triggered a discussion among government lawyers. Last summer ... the F.B.I. finally decided not to deploy the NSO weapons.
Note: Read more about how NSO Group spyware was used against journalists and activists by the Mexican government. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on intelligence agency corruption and the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
Bloomberg Businessweek published an alarming story: Operatives working for China’s People’s Liberation Army had secretly implanted microchips into motherboards made in China and sold by U.S.-based Supermicro. This allegedly gave Chinese spies clandestine access to servers belonging to over 30 American companies, including Apple, Amazon, and various government suppliers, in an operation known as a “supply chain attack,” in which malicious hardware or software is inserted into products before they are shipped to surveillance targets. U.S. spy agencies ... assessed that China was adept at corrupting the software bundled closest to a computer’s hardware at the factory, threatening some of the U.S. government’s most sensitive machines, according to documents provided by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. The documents also detail how the U.S. and its allies have themselves systematically targeted and subverted tech supply chains, with the NSA conducting its own such operations, including in China, in partnership with the CIA and other intelligence agencies. The documents also disclose supply chain operations by German and French intelligence. Computer hardware can be altered at various points along the supply chain, from design to manufacturing to storage to shipment. The U.S. is among the small number of countries that could, in theory, compromise devices at many different points in this pipeline, thanks to its resources and geographic reach.
A review of hundreds of Facebooks patent applications reveals that the company has considered tracking almost every aspect of its users lives: where you are, who you spend time with, whether youre in a romantic relationship, which brands and politicians youre talking about. The company has even attempted to patent a method for predicting when your friends will die. Taken together, Facebooks patents show a commitment to collecting personal information, despite widespread public criticism of the companys privacy policies and a promise from its chief executive to do better. A patent portfolio is a map of how a company thinks about where its technology is going, said Jason M. Schultz, a law professor at New York University. One patent application discusses predicting whether youre in a romantic relationship using information such as how many times you visit another users page [and] the number of people in your profile picture. Another proposes using your posts and messages to infer personality traits ... then using those characteristics to select which news stories or ads to display. Another patent application discusses tracking your weekly routine and sending notifications to other users of deviations from the routine. In addition, it describes using your phones location in the middle of the night to establish where you live. As long as Facebook keeps collecting personal information, we should be wary.
Last year an American company microchipped dozens of its workers. Of the 90 people who work at [Three Square Market] headquarters, 72 are now chipped. Two months ago, the company ... started chipping people with dementia. If someone wanders off and gets lost, police can scan the chip and they will know all their medical information, what drugs they can and cant have, theyll know their identity. So far, Three Square Market has chipped 100 people, but plans to do 10,000. The company has just launched a mobile phone app that pairs the chip with the phones GPS, enabling the implantees location to be tracked. Last week, it started using it with people released from prison on probation. Some Chinese companies are using sensors in helmets and hats to scan workers brainwaves. There are tech companies selling products that can ... monitor keystrokes and web usage, and even photograph [employees] using their computers webcams. All this can be done remotely. Monitoring is built into many of the jobs that form the so-called gig economy. Its not easy to object to the constant surveillance when youre desperate for work. What has surprised [Cass Business School professor Andr Spicer] is how willingly people in better-paid jobs have taken to it. Spicer has watched the shift away from monitoring something like emails to monitoring peoples bodies the rise of bio-tracking basically. The monitoring of your vital signs, emotions, moods.
Note: Author James Bloodworth describes the high tech monitoring of workers at Amazon warehouses in his new book, "Hired: Six Months Undercover in Low-Wage Britain". For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on microchip implants and the disappearance of privacy.
Chinese companies are picking their employees brains - literally - with mind-reading devices designed to improve efficiency and performance. Workers are being outfitted with safety helmet-like caps that monitor brain waves and send the information to computers that use artificial intelligence algorithms to detect emotional spikes, like depression, anxiety and rage. The Orwellian technology has been used on factory employees, train conductors and workers at State Grid Zhejian Electric Power. State Grid, which has 40,000 employees ... said the companys profits have increased by about $315 million since it implemented the surveillance caps in 2014. The government-funded brain-monitoring project, called Neuro Cap, has been implemented in more than a dozen factories and businesses. Jin Jia, an associate professor of brain science and cognitive psychology at Ningbo University, which is hosting the project, said the brain caps allow workers to be better managed. Qiao Zhian, professor of management psychology at Beijing Normal University, said the devices could give companies a competitive boost - but warned they could also violate privacy in the worst way. There is no law or regulation to limit the use of this kind of equipment in China. The employer may have a strong incentive to use the technology for higher profit, and the employees are usually in too weak a position to say no, he said. The selling of Facebook data is bad enough. Brain surveillance can take privacy abuse to a whole new level.
At 24, [Christopher Wylie] came up with an idea that led to the foundation of a company called Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm that went on to claim a major role in the Leave campaign for Britains EU membership referendum, and later became a key figure in digital operations during Donald Trumps election campaign. In 2014, Steve Bannon ... was Wylies boss. And Robert Mercer, the secretive US hedge-fund billionaire and Republican donor, was Cambridge Analyticas investor. The idea they bought into was to bring big data and social media to an established military methodology information operations then turn it on the US electorate. By , Steve Bannon had become Trumps chief strategist. Cambridge Analyticas parent company, SCL, had won contracts with the US State Department and was pitching to the Pentagon, and Wylie was genuinely freaked out. Its insane, he told me one night. The company has created psychological profiles of 230 million Americans. And now they want to work with the Pentagon? Its like Nixon on steroids. He ended up showing me a tranche of documents that laid out the secret workings behind Cambridge Analytica. Wylie ... came up with a plan to harvest the Facebook profiles of millions of people in the US, and to use their private and personal information to create sophisticated psychological and political profiles. And then target them with political ads designed to work on their particular psychological makeup.
Note: Billionaire Robert Mercer used this new new technology to build a corporate empire capable of swinging elections by using military propaganda strategies on civilian populations. The above article further details how mass media is being combined with Big Data to produce powerful new forms of mind control. Watch an astounding video revealing how Cambridge Analytica has successfully manipulated national elections around the world.
New smart energy meters that the Government wants to be installed in millions of homes will leave householders vulnerable to cyber attacks. The intelligence agency GCHQ ... raised concerns over the security of the meters, which could enable hackers to steal personal details and defraud consumers by tampering with their bills. The Government wants every home in the country to have a smart meter, but only 8 million out of 27 million households have so far signed up to the 11 billion scheme. Cyber security experts say that making the meters universal will make them more attractive to hackers because the potential returns are so much greater if they can hack every meter using the same software. In some foreign countries hackers have already attacked smart meter networks to defraud customers. Criminals are able to artificially inflate meter readings, making bills higher. They then try to intercept payments, and if they simply skim off the difference between the real reading and the false reading, energy companies will think the bill has been paid normally. Another potential problem is the meters being used as a Trojan horse to access other computers and gadgets around the home if the meters are able to talk to the other devices. That would potentially give hackers the ability to steal personal information that could be sold on to other criminals.
Note: This 2015 New York Times article calls 'smart' devices like these meters, "a train wreck in privacy and security." The networked computerization of everyday objects often means that these objects can spy on you, accelerating the disappearance of privacy in the name of convenience. Watch an excellent documentary uncovering the serious dangers of smart meters.
The National Security Agency has apparently been way ahead of Apple or Amazon. The agency has at its disposal voice recognition technology that it employs to identify terrorists, government spies, or anyone they choose with just a phone call, according to a report by The Intercept. By using recorded audio, the NSA is able to create a "voiceprint," or a map of qualities that mark a voice as singular, and identify the person speaking. According to a classified memo ... the agency has employed this technology since at least 2006, with the document referencing technology "that identifies people by the sound of their voices." In fact, the NSA used such technology during Operation Iraqi Freedom, when analysts were able to verify audio thought to be of Saddam Hussein speaking. It suggests that national security operatives had access to high-level voice technology long before Amazon, Apple and Google's solutions became cultural touchstones. A "voiceprint" is "a dynamic computer model of the individual's vocal characteristics," the publication explained, created by an algorithm analyzing features like pitch and mouth shape. Then, using the NSA's formidable bank of recorded audio files, the agency is able to match the speaker to an identity. Identifying people through their voiceprints is a skill at which the "NSA reigns supreme," according to a leaked document from 2008. And, they're only getting better.
Note: As this BBC article from 1999 shows, mass surveillance systems with voice recognition capability have been in use for many years. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on intelligence agency corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
Two New York Times reporters learned in 2004 that the George W. Bush administration was secretly wiretapping Americans, and collecting their phone and email records. The reporters attempt to publish their findings were thwarted by the administrations intense and successful lobbying of their editors. That effort ... had an unlikely ally: Rep. Jane Harman of Los Angeles, the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. Details of the far-reaching, legally unauthorized surveillance program remained secret until the Times published the article in late 2005. The newspapers interactions with administration officials, and Harmans role, were described by former Times reporter James Risen this month in the Intercept, the investigative publication where he now works. The story on the program known as Stellar Wind was ready for publication before the November 2004 election, when Bush was on the ballot, but NSA Director Michael Hayden and other administration officials told Times editors, in phone calls and face-to-face meetings, that publication would damage national security and endanger lives, Risen said. He said the officials were joined in that effort by Harman, one of a handful of congressional leaders who had been briefed on the program and were enlisted by the White House to contact the Times. Members of Congress learned later that the NSA had not been seeking warrants from a secret court, as required by law, before wiretapping calls.
Note: James Risen is a courageous hero who shared two Pulitzer Prizes for his reporting around 9/11 and massive government surveillance. His recent article in The Intercept describes how a "marketplace of secrets in Washington" supports the US national security apparatus, and is used by corrupt government officials to manipulate the news.
Forget swiping a credit card or badge to buy food at work. One Wisconsin-based tech firm is offering to install rice-size microchips in its employees' hands. Three Square Market will be the first firm in the U.S. to use the device, which was approved by the FDA in 2004, CEO Todd Westby told CNBC on Monday. "We think it's the right thing to do for advancing innovation just like the driverless car basically did in recent months," he said. The company, which provides technology for break-room markets or mini-market kiosks, is anticipating over 50 employees to be voluntarily chipped. Westby said he and his family will be chipped, too. The chip, which costs $300 per implant, is inserted with a needle between the thumb and forefinger. Once an employee has the chip installed, he or she can purchase food in the break room, open doors and log into computers. And for those who may be concerned about Big Brother watching, Westby said there is no way for employees to be tracked. "Unlike your cell phone that is trackable and traceable pretty much no matter where you are, this device is only readable if you're within six inches of a proximity reader," he said. Three Square Market's partner, BioHax International in Sweden, has already started using the microchips in about 150 of its employees.
Note: A Swedish company's chief executive was recently "chipped" live on stage to promote this dubious technology. And do you really think they are not trackable? Read about the agenda to chip all people in this powerful essay and these news articles.
Forty-five states and the District of Columbia are mounting a bipartisan rebellion against President Donald Trumps commission on vote fraud by either declining to release any of the requested data or by providing only limited information to the panel. The Presidential Advisory Commission on Voter Integrity's request for extensive personal information about voters has ignited a firestorm in many states, including from both Republican and Democrat officials who oversee elections. The panel is seeking "dates of birth, political party (if recorded in your state), last four digits of social security number if available, voter history (elections voted in) from 2006 onward, active/inactive status, cancelled status, information regarding any felony convictions, information regarding voter registration in another state, information regarding military status, and overseas citizen information." Nineteen states - both red and blue - and D.C. are flat-out refusing to comply with the request, citing privacy concerns and some claiming the 15-member vote fraud panel is politically-motivated. Many officials have expressed disbelief and outrage at the commission's call to hand over a staggering amount of voter data, some of which they say is confidential or sensitive. It is unclear how the commission plans to move forward after the backlash. The panel is slated to meet later this month.
Note: After several lawsuits, the voting panel is now telling states to hold off on sending data. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing elections corruption news articles from reliable major media sources. And don't miss the critically important information provided in our Elections Information Center.
Sensitive personal details relating to almost 200 million US citizens have been accidentally exposed by a marketing firm contracted by the Republican National Committee. The 1.1 terabytes of data includes birthdates, home addresses, telephone numbers and political views of nearly 62% of the entire US population. The data was available on a publicly accessible Amazon cloud server. Anyone could access the data. The information seems to have been collected from a wide range of sources - from posts on controversial banned threads on the social network Reddit, to committees that raised funds for the Republican Party. The information was stored in spreadsheets uploaded to a server owned by Deep Root Analytics. It had last been updated in January. Although it is known that political parties routinely gather data on voters, this is the largest breach of electoral data in the US to date and privacy experts are concerned about the sheer scale of the data gathered. "This is not just sensitive, it's intimate information, predictions about people's behaviour, opinions and beliefs that people have never decided to disclose to anyone," [said] Privacy International's policy officer Frederike Kaltheuner. However, the issue of data collection and using computer models to predict voter behaviour is not just limited to marketing firms - Privacy International says that the entire online advertising ecosystem operates in the same way.
Note: Elites like hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer have been backing a major effort to produce powerful new forms of mind control by combining mass media with Big Data. As the data collected for this purpose becomes increasingly accessible, privacy disappears.
The C.I.A. developed tools to spy on Mac computers by injecting software into the chips that control the computers fundamental operations, according to the latest cache of classified government documents published on Thursday by WikiLeaks. All of the surveillance tools that have been disclosed were designed to be installed on individual phones or computers. But the effects could be much wider. Cisco Systems, for example, warned customers this week that many of its popular routers, the backbone of computer networks, could be hacked using the C.I.A.s techniques. Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has offered to share the precise software code used by the C.I.A.s cyberweapons with the affected companies. But major tech companies have been reluctant to directly engage with him for fear of violating American laws. The spy software described in the latest documents was designed to be injected into a Macs firmware, a type of software preloaded in the computers chips. It would then act as a listening post, broadcasting the users activities to the C.I.A. whenever the machine was connected to the internet. Tools that operate at the chip level can hide their existence and avoid being wiped out by routine software updates. Under an agreement struck during the Obama administration, intelligence agencies were supposed to share their knowledge of most security vulnerabilities with tech companies. The C.I.A. documents suggest that some key vulnerabilities were kept secret.
In a heavily protected military base some 15 miles south of Washington, D.C., sits the massive headquarters of a spy agency few know exists. The [National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, or] NGA remains by far the most shadowy member of the Big Five spy agencies, which include the CIA and the National Security Agency. Despite its lack of name recognition, the NGAs headquarters is the third-largest building in the Washington metropolitan area. The NGA is to pictures what the NSA is to voices. Its principal function is to analyze the billions of images and miles of video captured by drones ... and spy satellites. The agency has never been involved in domestic spy scandals. However, theres reason to believe that this will change. In March 2016, the Pentagon released the results of an investigation initiated by the Department of Defenses Office of Inspector General to examine military spy drones in the United States. The report ... revealed that the Pentagon used unarmed surveillance drones over American soil. The investigation also quoted from an Air Force law review article pointing out the growing concern that technology designed to spy on enemies abroad may soon be turned around to spy on citizens at home. In 2016, unbeknownst to many city officials, police in Baltimore began conducting persistent aerial surveillance using a system developed for military use in Iraq. Few civilians have any idea how advanced these military eye-in-the-sky drones have become.
Note: This article was written by former ABC News producer James Bamford, whose 2001 article on Operation Northwoods revealed that the top Pentagon generals signed off on top-secret plans which stated, "We could blow up a U.S. ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba," and, "casualty lists in U.S. newspapers would cause a helpful wave of national indignation." And showing the level of major media complicity, only ABC News reported on this. For more, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on intelligence agency corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
British journalist Julia Breen's scoop about racism at her local police force didn't just get her on the front page, it got her put under surveillance. Investigators logged her calls, those of her colleague Graeme Hetherington and even their modest-sized newspaper's busy switchboard in an effort to unmask their sources. The [Northern Echo newspaper] has often provided painful reading for Cleveland Police, a department responsible for a Chicago-sized patch of England's industrial northeast. The small force has weathered a series of scandals. A minority officer, Sultan Alam, was awarded 800,000 pounds ... after allegedly being framed by colleagues in retaliation for a discrimination lawsuit. The judgment made national headlines. Cleveland Police issued a statement insisting the force wasn't racist. The next day, an anonymous caller told Breen an internal police report suggested otherwise. The following morning her byline was across the front page beneath the words: "Institutional racism uncovered within Cleveland Police." Breen ... eventually forgot the episode. Cleveland Police didn't. The force secretly began logging calls to and from Breen, Hetherington and a third journalist from another newspaper. It was later calculated that the surveillance covered over 1 million minutes of calling time. The Echo isn't unique. Britain's wiretapping watchdog ... revealed in 2015 that 82 journalists' communications records had been seized as part of leak investigations across the country over a three-year period.
Over his two terms, Obama has created the most powerful surveillance state the world has ever seen. From 22,300 miles in space, where seven Advanced Orion [spy satellites] now orbit; to a 1-million-square-foot building in the Utah desert that stores data intercepted from personal phones, emails, and social media accounts; to taps along the millions of miles of undersea cables that encircle the Earth like yarn, U.S. surveillance has expanded exponentially since Obamas inauguration on Jan. 20, 2009. The effort to wire the world ... has cost American taxpayers more than $100 billion. Yet has the presidents blueprint for spying succeeded on its own terms? An examination of the unprecedented architecture reveals that the Obama administration may only have drowned itself in data. Privacy hasnt been traded for security, but for the government hoarding more data than it knows how to handle. A panel set up by Obama [in 2013] to review the NSAs operations concluded that the agency had stopped no terrorist attacks. Beyond failures to create security, there is the matter of misuse or abuse of U.S. spying, the effects of which extend well beyond violations of Americans constitutional liberties. Obama, meanwhile, has taken virtually no steps to fix what ails his spying apparatus, [but] has gone after people blowing the whistle on intelligence abuses. The Justice Department has charged eight leakers more than double the number under all previous presidents combined.
Note: The above was written by James Bamford, whistleblower and author of "The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA From 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America." Former US Senator Frank Church warned of the dangers of creating a surveillance state in 1975. By 2013, it had become evident that the US did not heed his warning. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about intelligence agency corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
A photo circulating online of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's personal laptop has ignited a conversation about data security. The photo shows a smiling Zuckerberg sitting next to his laptop. His computer's camera and microphone are covered with tape. Tape? Yes, tape. Covering a computer's camera doesn't protect the device from being hacked, but it does prevent a hacker from being able to see whatever the camera sees. Covering a laptop's microphone can muffle the audio enough to prevent a hacker from listening in, uninvited. Security experts say it's not paranoid - it's good sense. A hacker can get access to your entire computer, without your knowledge, relatively easily. [Security professional Dave] Lewis said he's been able to breach a system and take control of a person's laptop camera without their knowledge. "And it doesn't even always trip the light that shows the camera is live," he added. Unsurprisingly to many, women tend to be targets for this kind of hacking. It's more common than we think, said John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at the ... University of Toronto. Scott-Railton said this practice is called "ratting," adding sometimes hackers will trade access to hacked computers. He said the same kind of software used to hack women's webcams is used to hack political dissidents, members of activist groups, and journalists. "These are people that are regularly targeted by different hacking groups because of their work. We have evidence that they're spied on through their webcams," he said.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on the disappearance of privacy.
From 2013 to 2015, the NSA and CIA doubled the number of warrantless searches they conducted for Americans data in a massive NSA database ostensibly collected for foreign intelligence purposes, according to a new intelligence community transparency report. The estimated number of search terms concerning a known U.S. person to get contents of communications within what is known as the 702 database was 4,672 - more than double the 2013 figure. And that doesnt even include the number of FBI searches on that database. A recently released ... court ruling confirmed that the FBI is allowed to run any number of searches it wants on that database, not only for national security probes but also to hunt for evidence of traditional crimes. No estimates have ever been released of how often that happens. The missing data from the FBI is of great concern to privacy advocates. The USA Freedom Act, passed in June 2015, conspicuously exempts the FBI from disclosing how often it searches the 702 database, the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) wrote in a letter to the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, in October 2015. There is every reason to believe the number of FBI queries far exceeds those of the CIA and NSA, POGO wrote. It is essential that you work with the attorney general to release statistics on the FBIs use of U.S. person queries. The new report also leaves unanswered how many Americans communications are collected in the first place.
The Obama administration on Thursday announced new rules that will let the NSA share vast amounts of private data gathered without warrant, court orders or congressional authorization with 16 other agencies, including the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the Department of Homeland Security. The new rules allow ... those agencies to sift through raw data collected under a broad, Reagan-era executive order that gives the NSA virtually unlimited authority to intercept communications abroad. Previously, NSA analysts would filter out information they deemed irrelevant and mask the names of innocent Americans before passing it along. The last-minute adoption of the procedures is one of many examples of the Obama administration making new executive powers established by the Bush administration permanent, on the assumption that the executive branch could be trusted to police itself. Executive Order 12333 ... serves as authorization for the NSAs most massive surveillance programs. In 2014, a former state department official described NSA surveillance under 12333 as a universe of collection and storage beyond what Congress has authorized. This massive database inevitably includes vast amount of Americans communications swept up when they speak to people abroad, when they go abroad themselves, or even if their domestic communications are simply routed abroad. Thats why access was previously limited to data that had already been screened to remove unrelated information and information identifying U.S. persons.
Note: For an important viewpoint on the real complexities going on with recent reporting on Trump links to Russia, CIA involvement in Syria, and media manipulations, don't miss this provocative article by Glenn Greenwald and this interview he gave to Fox News. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about intelligence agency corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the NSA under President Obama targeted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his top aides for surveillance. In the process, the agency ended up eavesdropping on ... U.S. lawmakers and American-Jewish groups. People who spent many years cheering for and defending ... programs of mass surveillance are suddenly indignant now that they know the eavesdropping included them. Long-time GOP chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and unyielding NSA defender Pete Hoekstra last night was truly indignant: "WSJ report that NSA spied on Congress and Israel communications very disturbing. Actually outrageous. Maybe unprecedented abuse of power ... NSA and Obama officials need to be investigated and prosecuted. NSA loses all credibility. Scary." This pattern - whereby political officials who are vehement supporters of the Surveillance State transform overnight into crusading privacy advocates once they learn that they themselves have been spied on - is one that has repeated itself over and over. So now, with yesterdays WSJ report, we witness the tawdry spectacle of large numbers of people who for years were fine with, responsible for, and even giddy about NSA mass surveillance suddenly objecting. Overnight, privacy is of the highest value because now its their privacy, rather than just yours, that is invaded.
Note: Read the full Wall Street Journal article on how the US government is secretly spying on Israeli leaders and more. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about intelligence agency corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
Its a wretched yet predictable ritual after each new terrorist attack: Certain politicians and government officials waste no time exploiting the tragedy for their own ends. The remarks on Monday by John Brennan, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, took that to a new and disgraceful low ... after coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris killed 129. Mr. Brennan complained about ... the sustained national outrage following the 2013 revelations by Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, that the agency was using provisions of the Patriot Act to secretly collect information on millions of Americans phone records. It is hard to believe anything Mr. Brennan says. Last year, he bluntly denied that the C.I.A. had illegally hacked into the computers of Senate staff members conducting an investigation into the agencys detention and torture programs when, in fact, it did. In 2011 ... he claimed that American drone strikes had not killed any civilians, despite clear evidence that they had. And his boss, James Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, has admitted lying to the Senate on the N.S.A.s bulk collection of data. Even putting this lack of credibility aside, its not clear what extra powers Mr. Brennan is seeking. Most of the men who carried out the Paris attacks were already on the radar of intelligence officials in France and Belgium, where several of the attackers lived. The problem in this case was not a lack of data. In fact, indiscriminate bulk data sweeps have not been useful.
Note: The above is an excellent article by the New York Times editorial board. Yet the role of the largely subservient media, which strongly supported Bush's campaign to go to war in Iraq is ignored. Read this analysis to go even deeper. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about government corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
The National Security Agencys ability to spy on vast quantities of Internet traffic passing through the United States has relied on its extraordinary, decades-long partnership with a single company: the telecom giant AT&T. The N.S.A.s top-secret budget in 2013 for the AT&T partnership was more than twice that of the next-largest such program, [and] the company installed surveillance equipment in at least 17 of its Internet hubs on American soil, far more than its similarly sized competitor, Verizon. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, AT&T ... began turning over emails and phone calls within days after the warrantless surveillance began in October 2001. In 2011, AT&T began handing over 1.1 billion domestic cellphone calling records a day to the N.S.A. after a push to get this flow operational prior to the 10th anniversary of 9/11, according to an internal agency newsletter. In a 2006 lawsuit, a retired AT&T technician named Mark Klein claimed that ... he had seen a secret room in a company building in San Francisco where the N.S.A. had installed equipment. Mr. Klein claimed that AT&T was providing the N.S.A. with access to Internet traffic that AT&T transmits for other telecom companies. Such cooperative arrangements, known in the industry as peering, mean that communications from customers of other companies could end up on AT&Ts network.
Note: The story of Klein's lawsuit was initially suppressed by the NSA and major media including the L.A. Times. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about questionable intelligence agency practices and the erosion of privacy.
Retailers have the ability to scan your face digitally, and use that identification to offer you special prices or even recognize you as a prior shoplifter. But should they use it? Should they get your permission first? Privacy advocates announced Tuesday they have walked away from a government-run effort with industry intended to ... hash out voluntary protocols for facial recognition technology in a way that doesn't hurt consumers. The Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration, or NTIA, was acting as mediator. The two sides had been meeting for 16 months ... until the nine major privacy groups said they had hit a dead end and that "people deserve more protection than they are likely to get in this forum. At a base minimum, people should be able to walk down a public street without fear that companies they've never heard of are tracking their every movement and identifying them by name using facial recognition technology," the groups said. "We have been unable to obtain agreement even with that basic, specific premise." The ability to apply a unique signature to a person's face, even if you don't identify them by name, is particularly invasive, according to privacy advocates. "You can change your password and your credit card number; you cannot change your fingerprints or the precise dimensions of your face. Through facial recognition, these immutable, physical facts can be used to identify you, remotely and in secret, without any recourse."
Note: Read this article for more in this matter. Remember, the same technologies that lead to the disappearance of privacy rights for individuals are also used by corrupt corporations against nonprofit civic organizations to undermine democracy.
Last summer ... I spent three days in Moscow hanging out with Edward Snowden for a Wired cover story. He told me that what finally drove him to leave his country and become a whistleblower was his conviction that the National Security Agency was conducting illegal surveillance on every American. Thursday, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ... ruled that the NSA program that secretly intercepts the telephone metadata of every American who calls whom and when was illegal. Its now up to Congress to vote on whether or not to modify the law ... by June 1, when they need to reauthorize the Patriot Act. A PEW survey in March revealed that 52 percent of the public is now concerned about government surveillance, while 46 percent is not. There is now a sort of acceptance of highly intrusive surveillance as the new normal, [while] the American public [remains] unaware of many of the agencys long list of abuses. It is little wonder that only slightly more than half the public is concerned. For that reason, I agree with Frederick A. O. Schwartz Jr., the former chief counsel of the Church Committee, which conducted a yearlong probe into intelligence abuses in the mid-1970s, that we need a similarly thorough ... investigation today. Now it is time for a new committee to examine our secret government closely again, he wrote in a recent Nation magazine article, particularly for its actions in the post-9/11 period.
Note: The author of this excellent article is James Bamford, the former ABC News producer who broke the story on Operation Northwoods and has written landmark books on the NSA. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about intelligence agency corruption and the erosion of privacy rights from reliable major media sources.
Edward Snowdens most famous leak has just been vindicated. Since June 2013, when he revealed that the telephone calls of Americans are being logged en masse, his critics have charged that he took it upon himself to expose a lawful secret. They insisted that Congress authorized the phone dragnet when it passed the U.S.A. Patriot Act. A panel of judges on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that the program Snowden exposed was never legal. The Patriot Act does not authorize it, contrary to the claims of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Michael Hayden, Keith Alexander, and James Clapper. Statutes to which the government points have never been interpreted to authorize anything approaching the breadth of the sweeping surveillance at issue here, Judge Gerard E. Lynch declared. Consider what this means. For many years, the executive branch carried out a hugely consequential policy change that the legislature never approved. Tens of millions of innocent U.S. citizens were thus subject to invasions of privacy that no law authorized. Officials classified the program as a state secret, keeping it out of Article III courts. By doing so, they prevented the judiciary from reviewing the statutory legitimacy of NSA surveillance, subverting a core check in our system of government. The consequence: An illegal program persisted for years. This is a perfect illustration of why secret government programs are an abomination in our democracy.
American and British spies hacked into the internal computer network of the largest manufacturer of SIM cards in the world, stealing encryption keys used to protect the privacy of cellphone communications across the globe, according to top-secret documents provided to The Intercept by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. The hack was perpetrated by a joint unit consisting of operatives from the NSA and its British counterpart Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ. The breach, detailed in a secret 2010 GCHQ document, gave the surveillance agencies the potential to secretly monitor a large portion of the worlds cellular communications, including both voice and data. The company targeted by the intelligence agencies, Gemalto, is a multinational firm incorporated in the Netherlands. With these stolen encryption keys, intelligence agencies can monitor mobile communications without seeking or receiving approval from telecom companies and foreign governments. Possessing the keys also sidesteps the need to get a warrant or a wiretap, while leaving no trace on the wireless providers network that the communications were intercepted.
Note: In an article that updates the story above, The Intercept reports that Gemalto has now acknowledged this security breach, but is misrepresenting its significance to prevent client and investor fears from harming the company's profitability. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about corruption in intelligence agencies and government.
The US justice department is reportedly using electronic equipment on aircraft to simulate cellphone towers so it can collect phone location and identifying information on a mass scale from users on the ground below. The US Marshals Service has for seven years flown Cessna aircraft ... that mimic cellular towers, permitting the collection of thousands of unique IDs and location data from users. The planes operate from at least five metropolitan airports, permitting a flying range covering most of the US population. [This] indiscriminate collection would permit ... justice department agencies to avoid having to seek records from the phone companies themselves, especially in criminal investigations where a court order may be required. The legal basis for the previously undisclosed program is unclear. It is not reportedly a national security or counterterrorism program. Michael German, a former FBI agent now with New York University Law School, said: The governments attitude seems to be if it can, it should, without regard to the violation of Americans rights, so long as nobody knows. This program is being kept secret so that the thousands of innocent Americans whose data is being collected improperly wont complain. We shouldnt have to just trust that the government will handle the data it intercepts about our communications properly.
Prime Minister John Key ... has denied that New Zealands spy agency GCSB engages in mass surveillance, mostly as a means of convincing the country to enact a new law vesting the agency with greater powers. Let me be clear: any statement that mass surveillance is not performed in New Zealand, or that the internet communications are not comprehensively intercepted and monitored, or that this is not intentionally and actively abetted by the GCSB, is categorically false. If you live in New Zealand, you are being watched. At the NSA I routinely came across the communications of New Zealanders in my work with a mass surveillance tool we share with GCSB, called XKEYSCORE. It allows total, granular access to the database of communications collected in the course of mass surveillance. It is not limited to or even used largely for the purposes of cybersecurity, as has been claimed, but is instead used primarily for reading individuals private email, text messages, and internet traffic. I know this because it was my full-time job in Hawaii, where I worked every day in an NSA facility with a top secret clearance. The prime ministers claim to the public, that there is no and there never has been any mass surveillance is false. The GCSB, whose operations he is responsible for, is directly involved in the untargeted, bulk interception and algorithmic analysis of private communications sent via internet, satellite, radio, and phone networks. It means they have the ability see every website you visit, every text message you send, every call you make, every ticket you purchase, every donation you make, and every book you order online. From Im headed to church to I hate my boss to Shes in the hospital, the GCSB is there. Your words are intercepted, stored, and analyzed by algorithms long before theyre ever read by your intended recipient.
Note: New Zealand's prime minister has acknowledged that Snowden may be right, as reported in this article. For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing government surveillance news articles from reliable major media sources.
Throughout the last year, the U.S. government has repeatedly insisted that it does not engage in economic and industrial espionage, in an effort to distinguish its own spying from Chinas infiltrations of Google, Nortel, and other corporate targets. [But] the NSA was caught spying on plainly financial targets such as the Brazilian oil giant Petrobras; economic summits; international credit card and banking systems; the EU antitrust commissioner investigating Google, Microsoft, and Intel; and the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. In response, the U.S. modified its denial to acknowledge that it does engage in economic spying, but unlike China, the spying is never done to benefit American corporations. But a secret 2009 report issued by [Director of National Intelligence James Clapper's] office explicitly contemplates doing exactly that. The document, the 2009 Quadrennial Intelligence Community Reviewprovided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowdenis a fascinating window into the mindset of Americas spies. One of the principal threats raised in the report is a scenario in which the United States technological and innovative edge slips in particular, that the technological capacity of foreign multinational corporations could outstrip that of U.S. corporations. How could U.S. intelligence agencies solve that problem? The report recommends a multi-pronged, systematic effort to gather open source and proprietary information through overt means, clandestine penetration (through physical and cyber means), and counterintelligence.
Note: For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing intelligence agency operations news articles from reliable major media sources.
Les Goldsmith, the CEO of ESD America [marketers of the Crytophone 500], points me to a map that he and his customers have created, indicating 17 different phony cell towers known as interceptors, detected by the CryptoPhone 500 around the United States during the month of July alone. Interceptors look to a typical phone like an ordinary tower. Once the phone connects with the interceptor, a variety of over-the-air attacks become possible, from eavesdropping on calls and texts to pushing spyware to the device. Interceptor use in the U.S. is much higher than people had anticipated, Goldsmith says. One of our customers took a road trip from Florida to North Carolina and he found 8 different interceptors on that trip. We even found one at South Point Casino in Las Vegas. Who is running these interceptors and what are they doing with the calls? Goldsmith says we cant be sure, but he has his suspicions. Are some of them U.S. government interceptors? [asks] Goldsmith. Interceptors vary widely in expense and sophistication but in a nutshell, they are radio-equipped computers with software that can use arcane cellular network protocols and defeat the onboard encryption. For governments or other entities able to afford a price tag of less than $100,000, says Goldsmith, high-quality interceptors are quite realistic. Some interceptors are limited, only able to passively listen to either outgoing or incoming calls. But full-featured devices like the VME Dominator, available only to government agencies, can not only capture calls and texts, but even actively control the phone, sending out spoof texts, for example.
Note: Do you think the government might have put up fake cell towers to nab more data? For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing government surveillance news articles from reliable major media sources.
The National Security Agency is secretly providing data to nearly two dozen U.S. government agencies with a Google-like search engine built to share more than 850 billion records about phone calls, emails, cellphone locations, and internet chats, according to classified documents obtained by The Intercept. The documents provide the first definitive evidence that the NSA has for years made massive amounts of surveillance data directly accessible to domestic law enforcement agencies. ICREACH [as the search engine is called] contains information on the private communications of foreigners and, it appears, millions of records on American citizens who have not been accused of any wrongdoing. Details about its existence are contained in the archive of materials provided to The Intercept by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Earlier revelations sourced to the Snowden documents have exposed a multitude of NSA programs for collecting large volumes of communications. The NSA has acknowledged that it shares some of its collected data with domestic agencies like the FBI, but details about the method and scope of its sharing have remained shrouded in secrecy. ICREACH has been accessible to more than 1,000 analysts at 23 U.S. government agencies that perform intelligence work, according to a 2010 memo. Information shared through ICREACH can be used to track peoples movements, map out their networks of associates, help predict future actions, and potentially reveal religious affiliations or political beliefs.
Note: For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing government surveillance news articles from reliable major media sources.
A classified 2010 legal certification and other documents indicate the NSA has been given a far more elastic authority than previously known, one that allows it to intercept through U.S. companies not just the communications of its overseas targets but any communications about its targets as well. The certification approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and included among a set of documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden lists 193 countries that would be of valid interest for U.S. intelligence. The certification also permitted the agency to gather intelligence about entities including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the International Atomic Energy Agency. The documents underscore the remarkable breadth of potential foreign intelligence collection. An affidavit in support of the 2010 foreign-government certification said the NSA believes that foreigners who will be targeted for collection possess, are expected to receive and/or are likely to communicate foreign intelligence information concerning these foreign powers. That language could allow for surveillance of academics, journalists and human rights researchers. A Swiss academic who has information on the German governments position in the run-up to an international trade negotiation, for instance, could be targeted if the government has determined there is a foreign-intelligence need for that information. If a U.S. college professor e-mails the Swiss professors e-mail address or phone number to a colleague, the Americans e-mail could be collected as well, under the programs court-approved rules.
Note: For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing intelligence agency news articles from reliable major media sources.
The Obama administration has been quietly advising local police not to disclose details about surveillance technology they are using to sweep up basic cellphone data from entire neighborhoods. Citing security reasons, the U.S. has intervened in routine state public records cases and criminal trials regarding use of the technology. This has resulted in police departments withholding materials or heavily censoring documents in rare instances when they disclose any [information] about the purchase and use of such powerful surveillance equipment. One well-known type of this surveillance equipment is known as a Stingray. The equipment tricks cellphones into identifying some of their owners' account information, like a unique subscriber number, and transmitting data to police as if it were a phone company's tower. That allows police to obtain cellphone information without having to ask for help from service providers ... and can locate a phone without the user even making a call or sending a text message. The Obama administration is asking agencies to withhold common information about the equipment, such as how the technology is used and how to turn it on. "These extreme secrecy efforts are in relation to very controversial, local government surveillance practices using highly invasive technology," said Nathan Freed Wessler, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, which has fought for the release of these types of records. "People should have the facts about what the government is doing to them."
Government agencies are able to listen to phone conversations live and even track the location of citizens without warrants using secret cables connected directly to network equipment, admits Vodafone today. The company said that secret wires have been connected to its network and those belonging to competitors, giving government agencies the ability to tap in to phone and broadband traffic. In many countries this is mandatory for all telecoms companies, it said. Vodafone is today publishing its first Law Enforcement Disclosure Report which will describe exactly how the governments it deals with are eavesdropping on citizens. It is calling for an end to the use of direct access eavesdropping and transparency on the number of warrants issued giving access to private data. Gus Hosein, executive director of Privacy International, said: "Vodafone is taking a commendable step by taking this issue on at an international scale. And they are trying to identify the legal basis for governments' claimed powers. Governments around the world are unashamedly abusing privacy by demanding access to communications and data, and alarmingly, sometimes granting themselves direct access to the networks. Now that Vodafone has been more open, the entire industry has cover to take the necessary next step of pushing back. Pushing back against bad requests is a start, pushing back against bad laws is the next step. The usefulness of transparency reports hinges on governments abiding by the rule of law. We now know that these reports only provide a limited picture of what is going on.
Note: For more on government surveillance of the world's population, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
The National Security Agency has never said what it was seeking when it invaded the computers of Petrobras, Brazils huge national oil company, but angry Brazilians have guesses: the companys troves of data on Brazils offshore oil reserves, or perhaps its plans for allocating licenses for exploration to foreign companies. Nor has the N.S.A. said what it intended when it got deep into the computer systems of China Telecom, one of the largest providers of mobile phone and Internet services in Chinese cities. But documents released by Edward J. Snowden, the former agency contractor now in exile in Russia, leave little doubt that the main goal was to learn about Chinese military units, whose members cannot resist texting on commercial networks. The agencys interest in Huawei, the giant Chinese maker of Internet switching equipment, and Pacnet, the Hong Kong-based operator of undersea fiber optic cables, is more obvious: Once inside those companies proprietary technology, the N.S.A. would have access to millions of daily conversations and emails that never touch American shores. The [US] government does not deny it routinely spies to advance American economic advantage, which is part of its broad definition of how it protects American national security. While the N.S.A. cannot spy on Airbus and give the results to Boeing, it is free to spy on European or Asian trade negotiators and use the results to help American trade officials and, by extension, ... American industries.
Note: For more on the realities of intelligence agency operations, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
Britains electronic surveillance agency, Government Communications Headquarters [GCHQ], has long presented its collaboration with the National Security Agencys massive electronic spying efforts as proportionate, carefully monitored, and well within the bounds of privacy laws. But according to a top-secret document in the archive of material provided to The Intercept by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, GCHQ secretly coveted the NSAs vast troves of private communications and sought unsupervised access to its data as recently as last year. The document, dated April 2013, reveals that GCHQ requested broad new authority to tap into data collected under a law that authorizes a variety of controversial NSA surveillance initiatives, including the PRISM program. PRISM is a system used by the NSA and the FBI to obtain the content of personal emails, chats, photos, videos, and other data processed by nine of the worlds largest internet companies, including Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, and Skype. The arrangement GCHQ proposed would also have provided the British agency with greater access to millions of international phone calls and emails that the NSA siphons directly from phone networks and the internet. The Snowden files do not indicate whether NSA granted GCHQs request, but they do show that the NSA was supportive of the idea, and that GCHQ was permitted extensive access to PRISM during the London Olympics in 2012. The request for the broad access was communicated at leadership level.
Note: For more on the construction of a total surveillance state, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
US intelligence chiefs have confirmed that the National Security Agency has [performed] warrantless searches on Americans communications. The NSA's collection programs are ostensibly targeted at foreigners, but in August the Guardian revealed a secret rule change allowing NSA analysts to search for Americans' details within the databases. Now, in a letter to Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat on the intelligence committee, the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, has confirmed the use of this legal authority to search for data related to US persons. The legal authority to perform the searches, revealed in top-secret NSA documents provided ... by Edward Snowden, was denounced by Wyden as a backdoor search loophole. Many of the NSA's most controversial programs collect information under the law affected by the so-called loophole. These include Prism, which allows the agency to collect data from Google, Apple, Facebook, Yahoo and other tech companies, and the agency's Upstream program a huge network of internet cable taps. Confirmation that the NSA has searched for Americans communications in its phone call and email databases complicates President Barack Obamas initial defenses of the broad surveillance in June. Wyden and Udall [said] Todays admission by the Director of National Intelligence is further proof that meaningful surveillance reform must include closing the back-door searches loophole and requiring the intelligence community to show probable cause before deliberately searching through ... the communications of individual Americans."
The National Security Agency has built a surveillance system capable of recording 100 percent of a foreign countrys telephone calls, enabling the agency to rewind and review conversations as long as a month after they take place, according to people with direct knowledge of the effort and documents supplied by former contractor Edward Snowden. A senior manager for the program compares it to a time machine one that can replay the voices from any call without requiring that a person be identified in advance for surveillance. The voice interception program, called MYSTIC, began in 2009. Its RETRO tool, short for retrospective retrieval, and related projects reached full capacity against the first target nation in 2011. Planning documents two years later anticipated similar operations elsewhere. In the initial deployment, collection systems are recording every single conversation nationwide, storing billions of them in a 30-day rolling buffer that clears the oldest calls as new ones arrive, according to a classified summary. Analysts listen to only a fraction of 1 percent of the calls, but the absolute numbers are high. Each month, they send millions of voice clippings, or cuts, for processing and long-term storage. At the request of U.S. officials, The Washington Post is withholding details that could be used to identify the country where the system is being employed or other countries where its use was envisioned.
Note: Though technically it is illegal for the NSA to snoop on Americans without good cause, all they have to do is to share this technology with another country like the UK, and then ask the UK to do the snooping and send the results back to them, thereby circumventing the law. For more on NSA surveillance, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
The list of those caught up in the global surveillance net cast by the National Security Agency and its overseas partners, from social media users to foreign heads of state, now includes another entry: US lawyers. A top-secret document, obtained by former NSA contractor Edward J. Snowden, shows that a US law firm was monitored while representing a foreign government in trade disputes with the United States. The disclosure offers a rare glimpse of a specific instance of Americans ensnared by the eavesdroppers and is of particular interest because US lawyers with clients overseas have expressed growing concern that their confidential communications could be compromised by such surveillance. The government of Indonesia had retained the law firm for help in trade talks, according to the February 2013 document. The NSAs Australian counterpart, the Australian Signals Directorate, notified the agency that it was conducting surveillance of the talks, including communications between Indonesian officials and the US law firm, and offered to share information. The NSA is banned from targeting Americans, including businesses, law firms, and other organizations based in the United States, for surveillance without warrants, and intelligence officials have repeatedly said the NSA does not use spy services of its partners in the so-called Five Eyes alliance Australia, Britain, Canada, and New Zealand to skirt the law. The Australians told officials at an NSA liaison office in Canberra, that information covered by attorney-client privilege may be included in the intelligence gathering. Most attorney-client conversations do not get special protections under US law from NSA eavesdropping.
Note: For more on intense deception perpetrated by the intelligence community, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
An independent federal privacy watchdog has concluded that the National Security Agencys program to collect bulk phone call records has provided only minimal benefits in counterterrorism efforts, is illegal and should be shut down. The findings are laid out in a 238-page report [that represents] the first major public statement by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, which Congress made an independent agency in 2007 and only recently became fully operational. The Obama administration has portrayed the bulk collection program as useful and lawful. But in its report, the board lays out what may be the most detailed critique of the governments once-secret legal theory behind the program: that a law known as Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows the F.B.I. to obtain business records deemed relevant to an investigation, can be legitimately interpreted as authorizing the N.S.A. to collect all calling records in the country. The program lacks a viable legal foundation under Section 215, implicates constitutional concerns under the First and Fourth Amendments, raises serious threats to privacy and civil liberties as a policy matter, and has shown only limited value, the report said. As a result, the board recommends that the government end the program. The report also sheds light on the history of the once-secret bulk collection program. It contains the first official acknowledgment that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court produced no judicial opinion detailing its legal rationale for the program until last August, even though it had been issuing orders to phone companies for the records and to the N.S.A. for how it could handle them since May 2006.
Note: The PCLOB report is titled "Report on the Telephone Records Program Conducted under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act and on the Operations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court," and is available here. For more on government attacks to privacy, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
The National Security Agency has collected almost 200 million text messages a day from across the globe, using them to extract data including location, contact networks and credit card details, according to top-secret documents. The NSA program, codenamed Dishfire, collects pretty much everything it can, according to GCHQ documents, rather than merely storing the communications of existing surveillance targets. The NSA has made extensive use of its vast text message database to extract information on peoples travel plans, contact books, financial transactions and more including of individuals under no suspicion of illegal activity. On average, each day the NSA was able to extract: More than 5 million missed-call alerts, for use in contact-chaining analysis (working out someones social network from who they contact and when) Details of 1.6 million border crossings a day, from network roaming alerts More than 110,000 names, from electronic business cards, which also included the ability to extract and save images. Over 800,000 financial transactions, either through text-to-text payments or linking credit cards to phone users The agency was also able to extract geolocation data from more than 76,000 text messages a day, including from requests by people for route info and setting up meetings.
Note: For more on government surveillance, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
As a key part of a campaign to embed encryption software that it could crack into widely used computer products, the U.S. National Security Agency arranged a secret $10 million contract with RSA, one of the most influential firms in the computer security industry. Documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden show that the NSA created and promulgated a flawed formula for generating random numbers to create a "back door" in encryption products, the New York Times reported in September. Reuters later reported that RSA became the most important distributor of that formula by rolling it into a software tool called Bsafe that is used to enhance security in personal computers and many other products. Undisclosed until now was that RSA received $10 million in a deal that set the NSA formula as the preferred, or default, method for number generation in the BSafe software, according to two sources familiar with the contract. Although that sum might seem paltry, it represented more than a third of the revenue that the relevant division at RSA had taken in during the entire previous year. The RSA deal shows one way the NSA carried out what Snowden's documents describe as a key strategy for enhancing surveillance: the systematic erosion of security tools. NSA documents released in recent months called for using "commercial relationships" to advance that goal, but did not name any security companies as collaborators.
Note: For more on the realities of intelligence agency activities, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
A 36-year NSA veteran, William Binney resigned from the agency and became a whistleblower after discovering that elements of a data-monitoring program he had helped develop - nicknamed ThinThread - were being used to spy on Americans. So 2005, December, The New York Times article comes out. ... How important was it? "It touched on that real issues," [said Binney]. "The warrantless wiretapping was not really a major component of it, but it touched on the data mining, which is really, really the big issue, data mining of the metadata and content. That was really the big issue, because that's how you can monitor the entire population simultaneously, whereas the warrantless wiretaps were isolated cases. You could pick an isolated number of them and do them, whereas in the mining process, you would do the entire population." The administration [used] this article to start an aggressive whistleblowing hunt. "[On July 22, 2005] the FBI was in my house ... pointing a gun at me when I was coming out of the shower. The raid took about seven hours. At the time we didn't know that Tom Drake had gone to The Baltimore Sun," [said Binney]. "Material [Tom Drake was indicted for] was clearly marked unclassified, and all they did was draw a line through it and classified that material, and then they charged him with having classified material. It's like framing him. The judge in the court ... knew they were framing him," [said Biney].
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. One source described the cache of still unpublished material as Snowden's "insurance policy" against arrest or physical harm. U.S. officials and other sources said only a small proportion of the classified material Snowden downloaded during stints as a contract systems administrator for NSA has been made public. Some Obama Administration officials have said privately that Snowden downloaded enough material to fuel two more years of news stories. "The worst is yet to come," said one former U.S. official who follows the investigation closely. Snowden ... is believed to have downloaded between 50,000 and 200,000 classified NSA and British government documents. [It is] estimated that the total number of Snowden documents made public so far is over 500. Glenn Greenwald, who met with Snowden in Hong Kong and was among the first to report on the leaked documents for the Guardian newspaper, said the former NSA contractor had "taken extreme precautions to make sure many different people around the world have these archives to insure the stories will inevitably be published."
The German, French, Spanish and Swedish intelligence services have all developed methods of mass surveillance of internet and phone traffic over the past five years in close partnership with Britain's GCHQ eavesdropping agency. The bulk monitoring is carried out through direct taps into fibre optic cables and the development of covert relationships with telecommunications companies. A loose but growing eavesdropping alliance has allowed intelligence agencies from one country to cultivate ties with corporations from another to facilitate the trawling of the web, according to GCHQ documents leaked by the former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden. The files also make clear that GCHQ played a leading role in advising its European counterparts how to work around national laws intended to restrict the surveillance power of intelligence agencies. US intelligence officials have insisted the mass monitoring was carried out by the security agencies in the countries involved and shared with the US. The Guardian revealed the existence of GCHQ's Tempora programme, in which the electronic intelligence agency tapped directly into the transatlantic fibre optic cables to carry out bulk surveillance. GCHQ officials expressed admiration for the technical capabilities of German intelligence to do the same thing, [saying] the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) had "huge technological potential and good access to the heart of the internet they are already seeing some bearers running at 40Gbps and 100Gbps". Bearers is the GCHQ term for the fibre optic cables, and gigabits per second (Gbps) measures the speed at which data runs through them.
What are we to make of Edward Snowden? I know what I once made of him. He was no real whistleblower, I wrote, but ridiculously cinematic and narcissistic as well. As time has proved, my judgments were just plain wrong. Whatever Snowden is, he is curiously modest and has bent over backward to ensure that the information he has divulged has done as little damage as possible. As a traitor, he lacks the requisite intent and menace. But traitor is what Snowden has been roundly called. Harry Reid: I think Snowden is a traitor. John Boehner: Hes a traitor. Rep. Peter King: This guy is a traitor; hes a defector. And Dick Cheney not only denounced Snowden as a traitor but also suggested that he might have shared information with the Chinese. This innuendo, as with Saddam Husseins weapons of mass destruction, is more proof of Cheneys unerring determination to be cosmically wrong. The early denunciations of Snowden now seem both over the top and beside the point. If he is a traitor, then which side did he betray and to whom does he now owe allegiance? Snowden seems to have sold out to no one. In fact, a knowledgeable source says that Snowden has not even sold his life story and has rebuffed offers of cash for interviews. Maybe his most un-American act is passing up a chance at easy money. Someone ought to look into this. Snowdens residency in Russia has been forced upon him he had nowhere else to go. Snowden insists that neither the Russians nor, before them, the Chinese have gotten their grubby hands on his top-secret material.
Note: For more on the hidden realities of intelligence agency operations, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
Federal grants of $7 million, initially intended to help thwart terror attacks at the port in Oakland, Calif., are instead going to a police initiative that will collect and analyze reams of surveillance data. The new system ... is the latest example of how cities are compiling and processing large amounts of information, known as big data, for routine law enforcement. And the system underscores how technology has enabled the tracking of people in many aspects of life. Like the Oakland effort, other pushes to use new surveillance tools in law enforcement are supported with federal dollars. The New York Police Department, aided by federal financing, has a big data system that links 3,000 surveillance cameras with license plate readers, radiation sensors, criminal databases and terror suspect lists. Police in Massachusetts have used federal money to buy automated license plate scanners. And police in Texas have bought a drone with homeland security money. [Critics] of the Oakland initiative, formally known as the Domain Awareness Center, [say] the program, which will create a central repository of surveillance information, will also gather data about the everyday movements and habits of law-abiding residents. Oakland has a contract with the Science Applications International Corporation, or SAIC, to build its system. That company has earned the bulk of its $12 billion in annual revenue from military contracts.
Note: For more on government privacy invasions, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
US and British intelligence agencies have successfully cracked much of the online encryption relied upon by hundreds of millions of people to protect the privacy of their personal data, online transactions and emails, according to top-secret documents revealed by former contractor Edward Snowden. The files show that the National Security Agency and its UK counterpart GCHQ have broadly compromised the guarantees that internet companies have given consumers to reassure them that their communications, online banking and medical records would be indecipherable to criminals or governments. The agencies, the documents reveal, have adopted a battery of methods in their systematic and ongoing assault on what they see as one of the biggest threats to their ability to access huge swathes of internet traffic "the use of ubiquitous encryption across the internet". Those methods include covert measures to ensure NSA control over setting of international encryption standards, the use of supercomputers to break encryption with "brute force", and the most closely guarded secret of all collaboration with technology companies and internet service providers themselves. Through these covert partnerships, the agencies have inserted secret vulnerabilities known as backdoors or trapdoors into commercial encryption software. "Backdoors are fundamentally in conflict with good security," said Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist and senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union. "Backdoors expose all users of a backdoored system, not just intelligence agency targets, to heightened risk of data compromise."
The New York Police Department has secretly labeled entire mosques as terrorism organizations, a designation that allows police to use informants to record sermons and spy on imams, often without specific evidence of criminal wrongdoing. Designating an entire mosque as a terrorism enterprise means that anyone who attends prayer services there is a potential subject of an investigation and fair game for surveillance. Since the 9/11 attacks, the NYPD has opened at least a dozen "terrorism enterprise investigations" into mosques, according to interviews and confidential police documents. Many TEIs stretch for years, allowing surveillance to continue even though the NYPD has never criminally charged a mosque or Islamic organization with operating as a terrorism enterprise. The documents show in detail how, in its hunt for terrorists, the NYPD investigated countless innocent New York Muslims and put information about them in secret police files. As a tactic, opening an enterprise investigation on a mosque is so potentially invasive that while the NYPD conducted at least a dozen, the FBI never did one, according to interviews with federal law enforcement officials. The revelations about the NYPD's massive spying operations are in documents recently obtained by The Associated Press and part of a new book, Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD's Secret Spying Unit... The book ... is based on hundreds of previously unpublished police files and interviews with current and former NYPD, CIA and FBI officials.
Note: For more on the realities of intelligence operations, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
Josh del Sol got curious in the summer of 2011 after a friend linked a serious illness to the recent installation of a "smart meter." Del Sol subsequently learned that electrical utilities across North America had been quietly installing "smart grids" that ... monitor Internet-connected meters and appliances in homes and businesses. Now, del Sol is on the verge of premiering a feature-length documentary ... titled Take Back Your Power, disclosing questionable industry practices in support of implementing networked control systems for power plants. The film links billing mistakes, invasive monitoring, even human illnesses to the rising use of smart grids in the U.S. and Europe. "Take Back Your Power delivers an ominous, powerful message about the energy industry's shift to closely watching how customers use energy in their home in an invasive, controversial manner," says Lee Waterworth, president of Yekra, a video-on-demand company. Del Sol says access to industry sources was tough. "We had a difficult time getting anyone in the industry to talk to us on camera once they found out that we were wanting to get to the bottom of some of these concerns," he says. The filmmaker was surprised by the contrast between the views of industry officials and those of ordinary citizens trying to get to the bottom of safety, privacy and health concerns. Del Sol hopes the documentary helps to prompt the electricity industry "to provide more transparency, accountability and clarity on the issues we explore in the film."
Note: You can find this documentary on the Internet. For more, read how solar providers are using "smart" systems to help their customers save money while traditional utilities use these systems only to cut their own costs. Meanwhile, concerns about the health impacts of wireless tech and the ongoing erosion of privacy rights continue to grow.
A Texas-based encrypted email service recently revealed to be used by Edward Snowden - Lavabit - announced yesterday it was shutting itself down in order to avoid complying with what it perceives as unjust secret US court orders to provide government access to its users' content. "After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations," the company's founder, Ladar Levinson, wrote in a statement to users posted on the front page of its website. He said the US directive forced on his company "a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit." He chose the latter. CNET's Declan McCullagh ... speculates that Lavabit was served "with [a] federal court order to intercept users' passwords" to allow ongoing monitoring of emails; specifically: "the order can also be to install FedGov-created malware." After challenging the order in district court and losing - all in a secret court proceeding, naturally - Lavabit shut itself down to avoid compliance while it appeals to the Fourth Circuit. What is particularly creepy about the Lavabit self-shutdown is that the company is gagged by law even from discussing the legal challenges it has mounted and the court proceeding it has engaged. In other words, the American owner of the company believes his Constitutional rights and those of his customers are being violated by the US Government, but he is not allowed to talk about it. Lavabit has been told that they would face serious criminal sanctions if they publicly discuss what is being done to their company.
Note: For more on government and corporate privacy invasions, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
During last weeks Black Hat computer security conference in Las Vegas, researchers from iSEC Partners demonstrated a vulnerability in 2012 models of Samsungs line of Smart TVs, particularly the ones with that come with cameras designed for teleconferencing. The problem with the Samsung TVs highlights a much larger issue: The number of devices connected to the Internet is growing exponentially, and many of them have little or no security in place. Flaws may be found in almost any application on an Internet-connected platform that, if exploited, could allow access to the entire device, and then the users full network. Many of these unsecured devices can be found with a simple search. In fact, theres a search engine devoted just to scouring the so-called Internet of things called Shadon. Playing around with it is an eye-opener. For example, in late July a writer for Forbes discovered an entire home automation product line with Internet-connected features that could be set up without a default password, and were visible to search engines. This would enable a hacker to search and find these systems on the Net, then access them at will. To prove her point, Kashmir Hill breached the home automation systems of random strangers, called them on the phone and demonstrated the vulnerability by turning their lights on and off.
Note: For more on corporate and government privacy invasions, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
When you're watching TV ... you probably don't think someone could be on the other side watching you back. An alarming security flaw in Samsung's Smart-TVs makes this scenario possible. LAURIE SEGALL [CNN Money/Technology Correspondent]: We've spoken to a lot of folks and they're saying there are major vulnerabilities. YAVOR: One of the things we were able to do with the Smart-TV platform was abuse the browser so that we could actually gain access to the camera that's built into the TV. What we can prove here is that with a little bit of extra code, we can turn the camera on in your browser. This is something we can do invisibly and actually have it run behind the web page you're looking at. I could be sitting at a laptop in a cafe in Paris, and as long as I have a web connection, I would be able to get into your TV and access your camera. AARON GRATTAFIORI [security consultant]: The scary thing about it is that it doesn't give an indication that the camera is on and there is no LED that shows up when the camera is on. So they could actually be watching you and you would never even know. SEGALL: What is a Smart-TV, and why is it a playground, essentially, for hackers? GRATTAFIORI: It's a computer. So instead of being a tube and some other electronics, now it has a web browser and it has a lot of devices running Linux.
Note: To watch this video clip on CNN News, click here.
Computers and networks inherently produce data, and our constant interactions with them allow corporations to collect an enormous amount of intensely personal data about us as we go about our daily lives. Sometimes we produce this data inadvertently simply by using our phones, credit cards, computers and other devices. Sometimes we give corporations this data directly on Google, Facebook, [or] Apples iCloud ... in exchange for whatever free or cheap service we receive from the Internet in return. The NSA is also in the business of spying on everyone, and it has realized its far easier to collect all the data from these corporations rather than from us directly. The result is a corporate-government surveillance partnership, one that allows both the government and corporations to get away with things they couldnt otherwise. There are two types of laws in the U.S., each designed to constrain a different type of power: constitutional law, which places limitations on government, and regulatory law, which constrains corporations. Historically, these two areas have largely remained separate, but today each group has learned how to use the others laws to bypass their own restrictions. The government uses corporations to get around its limits, and corporations use the government to get around their limits. This partnership manifests itself in various ways. The government uses corporations to circumvent its prohibitions against eavesdropping domestically on its citizens. Corporations rely on the government to ensure that they have unfettered use of the data they collect.
Note: For more on government and corporate privacy invasions, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
In more than a dozen classified rulings, the nations surveillance court has created a secret body of law giving the National Security Agency the power to amass vast collections of data on Americans. The rulings, some nearly 100 pages long, reveal that the court has taken on a much more expansive role by regularly assessing broad constitutional questions and establishing important judicial precedents, with almost no public scrutiny. The 11-member Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, known as the FISA court, was once mostly focused on approving case-by-case wiretapping orders. But since major changes in legislation and greater judicial oversight of intelligence operations were instituted six years ago, it has quietly become almost a parallel Supreme Court, serving as the ultimate arbiter on surveillance issues and delivering opinions that will most likely shape intelligence practices for years to come. In one of the courts most important decisions, the judges have expanded the use in terrorism cases of a legal principle known as the special needs doctrine and carved out an exception to the Fourth Amendments requirement of a warrant for searches and seizures. Unlike the Supreme Court, the FISA court hears from only one side in the case the government and its findings are almost never made public.
Note: For more on government secrecy, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
Leslie James Pickering noticed something odd in his mail last September: a handwritten card, apparently delivered by mistake, with instructions for postal workers to pay special attention to the letters and packages sent to his home. Show all mail to supv supervisor for copying prior to going out on the street, read the card. It included Mr. Pickerings name, address and the type of mail that needed to be monitored. The word confidential was highlighted in green. It was a bit of a shock to see it, said Mr. Pickering, who with his wife owns a small bookstore in Buffalo. More than a decade ago, he was a spokesman for the Earth Liberation Front, a radical environmental group labeled eco-terrorists by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. As the world focuses on the high-tech spying of the National Security Agency, the misplaced card offers a rare glimpse inside the seemingly low-tech but prevalent snooping of the United States Postal Service. Mr. Pickering was targeted by a longtime surveillance system called mail covers, a forerunner of a vastly more expansive effort, the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program, in which Postal Service computers photograph the exterior of every piece of paper mail that is processed in the United States about 160 billion pieces last year. It is not known how long the government saves the images. The Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program was created after the anthrax attacks in late 2001. It enables the Postal Service to retrace the path of mail at the request of law enforcement. No one disputes that it is sweeping.
Note: The exposure by whistleblower Edward Snowden of the NSA's massive domestic and global spying operations seems to have triggered a series of other revelations about surveillance of the US population, like this report on the US Postal Service's photographing all mail. Hardly a week goes by without another major revelation, such as a new digital photo-ID database utilized by the FBI and police forces, and the development by US police of a national DNA database on all "potential suspects". Since very few US citizens are terrorists, what is the real purpose behind this total surveillance?
Russ Tice, a former intelligence analyst and Bush-era NSA whistleblower, claimed Wednesday that the intelligence community has ordered surveillance on a wide range of groups and individuals, including high-ranking military officials, lawmakers and diplomats. They went after and I know this because I had my hands literally on the paperwork for these sort of things they went after high-ranking military officers. They went after members of Congress, both Senate and the House, especially on the intelligence committees and on the armed services committees," [said] Tice. But they went after other ones, too. They went after lawyers and law firms. They went after judges. One of the judges is now sitting on the Supreme Court. Two are former FISA court judges. They went after State Department officials. They went after people in the executive service that were part of the White House. Then Tice dropped the bombshell about Obama. "In summer of 2004, one of the papers that I held in my hand was to wiretap a bunch of numbers associated with a 40-something-year-old wannabe senator for Illinois ... thats the president of the United States now. FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds and Tice agreed that such wide-ranging surveillance of officials could provide the intelligence agencies with unthinkable power to blackmail their opponents. I was worried that the intelligence community now has sway over what is going on, Tice said. Tice first blew the whistle on ... domestic spying across multiple agencies in 2005.
Note: Listen to Tice's shocking revelations in this interview. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about corruption in government and throughout intelligence agencies.
Lawyers and intelligence experts with direct knowledge of two intercepted terrorist plots that the Obama administration says confirm the value of the NSA's vast data-mining activities have questioned whether the surveillance sweeps played a significant role, if any, in foiling the attacks. The defence of the controversial data collection operations ... has been led by Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee, and her equivalent in the House, Mike Rogers. The two politicians have attempted to justify the NSA's use of vast data sweeps such as Prism and Boundless Informant by pointing to the arrests and convictions of would-be New York subway bomber Najibullah Zazi in 2009 and David Headley, who is serving a 35-year prison sentence for his role in the 2008 Mumbai attacks. But court documents lodged in the US and UK, as well as interviews with involved parties, suggest that data-mining through Prism and other NSA programmes played a relatively minor role in the interception of the two plots. Conventional surveillance techniques, in both cases including old-fashioned tip-offs from intelligence services in Britain, appear to have initiated the investigations. The Headley case is a peculiar choice for the administration to highlight as an example of the virtues of data-mining. The fact that the Mumbai attacks occurred, with such devastating effect, in itself suggests that the NSA's secret programmes were limited in their value as he was captured only after the event. Headley ... had been an informant working for the Drug Enforcement Administration perhaps as recently as 2005. There are suggestions that he might have then worked in some capacity for the FBI or CIA.
Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on the realities of intelligence agency activity, click here.
In 1982, long before most Americans ever had to think about warrantless eavesdropping, the journalist James Bamford published The Puzzle Palace: A Report on N.S.A., Americas Most Secret Agency, the first book to be written about the National Security Agency. In the book, Bamford describes the agency as free of legal restrictions while wielding technological capabilities for eavesdropping beyond imagination. He concludes with an ominous warning: Like an ever-widening sinkhole, N.S.A.s surveillance technology will continue to expand, quietly pulling in more and more communications and gradually eliminating more and more privacy. Three decades later, this pronouncement feels uncomfortably prescient: we were warned. Incredibly enough, the Department of Justice, under Jimmy Carter, complied with Bamfords Freedom of Information Act requests, supplying him with secret documents related to the Church Committee, the Senate group that, in 1975, investigated American intelligence agencies for potential transgression of their mandates. That the government would hand over sensitive information to Bamford predictably infuriated the N.S.A.; Reagan Administration lawyers tried to bully Bamford into ceding his goods, threatening him with the Espionage Act, while the N.S.A. attempted to sequester the documents hed uncovered. But because he was a lawyer, Bamford knew that he had done nothing wrong.
Note: As a producer for ABC News, Bamford was also the one who obtained startling declassified documents showing that the top Pentagon generals signed off on plans in the early 1960s to blow up a US ship in the Havana harbor or incite violent terrorism in US cities and blame it on Cuba. Strangely, ABC's article "U.S. Military Wanted to Provoke War With Cuba" was the only media report on this incredibly revealing document release. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of revealing news articles on intelligence agency corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
The Guardian [has] released a classified court order requiring Verizon to turn over records of all domestic phone calls to the National Security Agency. The revelation has led to a renewed debate over the legality and policy merits of indiscriminate government surveillance of Americans. The court order, issued by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court, only sought metadata a fancy word for information like what numbers you called, what time you made the calls, and how long the calls were. The order does not seek the audio of calls. Of course, its possible the NSA has other programs collecting the contents of calls. In 2006 a whistleblower reported the existence of a secret, NSA-controlled room in an AT&T switching facility in San Francisco. So its possible the NSA is using rooms like that to listen to everyones phone calls. But all we know for sure is that the NSA has been requesting information about our phone calls. We only have proof of spying on Verizon customers, but its hard to imagine the NSA limiting its surveillance program to one company. There are probably similar orders in effect for AT&T and CenturyLink, the other major telephone companies. The order includes hints that the NSA is also collecting information from cellular customers. In addition to phone numbers and call times, the order seeks information about the specific cell phone tower the customer used to connect to the network during each call. Cellphones make calls using the closest tower. So if the NSA knows you made a call using a specific tower, they can safely assume you were near that tower at the time of the call.
Note: For graphs and lots more on the Prism program, see the Guardian article at this link. Technically, U.S. officials are not allowed to mine personal data from U.S. citizens. Yet if U.K. authorities mine data on U.S. citizens, they can share it freely with officials in the U.S. and vice versa. There is evidence that this happens quite frequently, thus circumventing privacy protections. For an excellent article which goes deep into this issue, click here.
The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative's top executive called a "massive and unprecedented intrusion" into how news organizations gather the news. The records obtained by the Justice Department listed outgoing calls for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, for general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and for the main number for the AP in the House of Representatives press gallery. In all, the government seized the records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012. The government would not say why it sought the records. Officials have previously said in public testimony that the U.S. attorney in Washington is conducting a criminal investigation into who may have provided information contained in a May 7, 2012, AP story about a foiled terror plot. The story disclosed details of a CIA operation in Yemen that stopped an al-Qaida plot in the spring of 2012 to detonate a bomb on an airplane bound for the United States. Prosecutors have sought phone records from reporters before, but the seizure of records from such a wide array of AP offices, including general AP switchboards numbers and an office-wide shared fax line, is unusual.
Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on government corruption, click here.
The Obama administration is drawing up plans to give all U.S. spy agencies full access to a massive database that contains financial data on American citizens and others who bank in the country, according to a Treasury Department document. The proposed plan represents a major step by U.S. intelligence agencies to spot and track down [targeted persons] by bringing together financial databanks, criminal records and military intelligence. Financial institutions that operate in the United States are required by law to file reports of "suspicious customer activity," such as large money transfers or unusually structured bank accounts, to Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). The Federal Bureau of Investigation already has full access to the database. However, intelligence agencies, such as the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, currently have to make case-by-case requests for information to FinCEN. The Treasury plan would give spy agencies the ability to analyze more raw financial data than they have ever had before. Financial institutions file more than 15 million "suspicious activity reports" every year, according to Treasury. Banks, for instance, are required to report all personal cash transactions exceeding $10,000.
Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on the games intelligence agencies play, click here.
Are unmanned aircraft, known to have difficulty avoiding collisions, safe to use in America's crowded airspace? And would their widespread use for surveillance result in unconstitutional invasions of privacy? Experts say neither question has been answered satisfactorily. Yet the federal government is rushing to open America's skies to tens of thousands of the drones - pushed to do so by a law championed by manufacturers of the unmanned aircraft. The 60-member House of Representatives' "drone caucus" - officially, the House Unmanned Systems Caucus - has helped push that agenda. And over the last four years, caucus members have drawn nearly $8 million in drone-related campaign contributions. Domestic use of drones began with limited aerial patrols of the nation's borders by Customs and Border Patrol authorities. But the industry and its allies pushed for more, leading to provisions in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, signed into law on Feb. 14 of this year. The law requires the FAA to fully integrate the unmanned aerial vehicles into national airspace by September 2015. The FAA has predicted that 30,000 drones could be flying in the United States in less than 20 years. House members from California, Texas, Virginia and New York on the bipartisan "drone caucus" received the lion's share of the funds channeled to lawmakers from dozens of firms that are members of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.
Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on drone killings and other war crimes committed by the US in its wars of aggression in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, click here.
The Petraeus scandal is receiving intense media scrutiny. Several of the emerging revelations are genuinely valuable, particularly those involving the conduct of the FBI and the reach of the US surveillance state. The FBI investigation began when Jill Kelley - a Tampa socialite friendly with Petraeus (and apparently very friendly with Gen. John Allen, the four-star U.S. commander of the war in Afghanistan) - received a half-dozen or so anonymous emails that she found vaguely threatening. She then informed a friend of hers who was an FBI agent, and a major FBI investigation was then launched that set out to determine the identity of the anonymous emailer. What is most striking is how sweeping, probing and invasive the FBI's investigation then became, all without any evidence of any actual crime - or the need for any search warrant. The FBI traced all of [Paula] Broadwell's physical locations, learned of all the accounts she uses, ended up reading all of her emails, investigated the identity of her anonymous lover (who turned out to be Petraeus), and then possibly read his emails as well. They also discovered "alleged inappropriate communication" to Kelley from Gen. Allen, who is not only the top commander in Afghanistan but was also just nominated by President Obama to be the Commander of US European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe (a nomination now "on hold"). This is a surveillance state run amok. It also highlights how any remnants of internet anonymity have been all but obliterated by the union between the state and technology companies.
Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on government surveillance, click here.
Rented computers from seven different companies secretly took photographs of their users, US authorities have said. The companies used software made by US company Designerware which could track key strokes and other personal data. The software, called PC Rental Agent, captured people engaging in "intimate acts", including sex. It is believed that PC Rental Agent has been installed in approximately 420,000 computers worldwide. The Federal Trade Commission ruling concerned a feature in the software, called Detective Mode, which would typically become activated if the user was late in returning equipment, or failed to pay for use. Detective Mode would assist the rental store in locating the overdue computer in order to pursue its return. Part of the process involved a pop-up window designed to look like a software registration screen. It would request personal information such as email addresses and telephone numbers that could then be used to pursue the users for payment and/or the return of equipment. In addition, the FTC said the software had access to much more sensitive information, including: usernames and passwords for email accounts, social media websites, and financial institutions. Among the other data collected were social security numbers; medical records; private emails to doctors; bank and credit card statements. Webcam pictures of children, partially undressed individuals, and intimate activities at home were also found. In the FTC's formal complaint document, it said the software had captured "couples engaged in sexual activities".
Note: Do you think other companies or intelligence agencies might be conducting similar monitoring? For more on this, click here.
Last week, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly to unveil a major new police surveillance infrastructure, developed by Microsoft. The Domain Awareness System links existing police databases with live video feeds, including cameras using vehicle license plate recognition software. No mention was made of whether the system plans to use or already uses facial recognition software. But, at present, there is no law to prevent US government and law enforcement agencies from building facial recognition databases. And we know from industry newsletters that the US military, law enforcement, and the department of homeland security are betting heavily on facial recognition technology. As PC World notes, Facebook itself is a market leader in the technology but military and security agencies are close behind. According to Homeland Security Newswire, billions of dollars are being invested in the development and manufacture of various biometric technologies capable of detecting and identifying anyone, anywhere in the world via iris-scanning systems, already in use; foot-scanning technology (really); voice pattern ID software, and so on. What is very obvious is that this technology will not be applied merely to people under arrest, or to people under surveillance in accordance with the fourth amendment. No, the "targets" here [include] everyone. In the name of "national security", the capacity is being built to identify, track and document any citizen constantly and continuously.
Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on civil liberties, click here.
When two senators warned that the Patriot Act is being interpreted in a secret way that would alarm Americans if they knew the details, civil liberties activists could only speculate about what they meant. The activists' fear: that the government is using the anti-terrorism law to collect vast troves of personal information, including cellphone records, on Americans who have no link to terrorism. Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado, both Democrats, proclaimed that the Patriot Act's surveillance powers are being used far more expansively than most Americans realize. "Today the American people do not know how their government interprets the language of the Patriot Act," Wyden said. "Someday they are going to find out, and a lot of them are going to be stunned. Some of them will undoubtedly ask their senators: 'Did you know what this law actually did? Why didn't you know? Wasn't it your job to know, before you voted on it?'" The warnings by two lawmakers with access to secret information underscore the extent to which government surveillance is shielded from view, in an age when nearly every American leaves a digital trail through the Internet and mobile devices. A clue about Wyden's concerns may be found in a separate bill he is proposing, to forbid the government from tracking, without a court order, the location of Americans through the GPS signals given out by their cellphones.
Weeks after generating an uproar for the aggressive screening of a six-year-old child in New Orleans, the TSA is again facing criticism for an enhanced pat-down. Former Miss USA Susie Castillo says she was "molested" by a TSA screener at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport after declining to go through a body scanner due to radiation concerns. According to a detailed account from the Dallas Morning News, Castillo wrote "My private area was grazed four times!" on a complaint card after the screening. Castillo immediately shot a tearful video recounting the episode more explicitly and posted it on YouTube. The Boston Herald quotes from the video: "That's why I'm crying, that's why I'm so upset. They're making me choose to either get molested, because that's what I feel like, or go through this machine that's completely unhealthy and dangerous." TSA spokesman Luis Casanova defended the screening procedure. "Everything [the screener] did was according to protocol," Casanova said.
Note: For key articles on increasing reductions of civil liberties by governments, click here.
Security researchers have discovered that Apple's iPhone keeps track of where you go and saves every detail of it to a secret file on the device which is then copied to the owner's computer when the two are synchronised. The file contains the latitude and longitude of the phone's recorded coordinates along with a timestamp, meaning that anyone who stole the phone or the computer could discover details about the owner's movements using a simple program. For some phones, there could be almost a year's worth of data stored, as the recording of data seems to have started with Apple's iOS 4 update to the phone's operating system, released in June 2010. "Apple has made it possible for almost anybody a jealous spouse, a private detective with access to your phone or computer to get detailed information about where you've been," said Pete Warden, one of the researchers. Only the iPhone records the user's location in this way, say Warden and Alasdair Allan, the data scientists who discovered the file and are presenting their findings at the Where 2.0 conference in San Francisco on [April 20]. "Alasdair has looked for similar tracking code in [Google's] Android phones and couldn't find any," said Warden.
Note: For key reports from reliable sources on threats to privacy, click here.
The US military is developing software that will let it secretly manipulate social media sites by using fake online personas to influence internet conversations and spread pro-American propaganda. A Californian corporation has been awarded a contract with United States Central Command (Centcom), which oversees US armed operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, to develop what is described as an "online persona management service" that will allow one US serviceman or woman to control up to 10 separate identities based all over the world. Critics are likely to complain that it will allow the US military to create a false consensus in online conversations, crowd out unwelcome opinions and smother commentaries or reports that do not correspond with its own objectives. The discovery that the US military is developing false online personalities known to users of social media as "sock puppets" could also encourage other governments, private companies and non-government organisations to do the same. Once developed, the software could allow US service personnel, working around the clock in one location, to respond to emerging online conversations with any number of co-ordinated messages, blogposts, chatroom posts and other interventions.
Note: The Pentagon claims that the "fake persona" software will not be used on social networks in the United States, because that would break laws against using propaganda on US citizens. How much credence should be given to this assurance?
Leaked U.S. diplomatic cables appear to show that the United States has been snooping on NATO's top official using secret sources on his own staff. Confidential cables from the U.S. mission to NATO released [on February 11] by WikiLeaks, ... said American diplomats received information on the private conversations of Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen from "a member of the NATO international staff." Instead of the staffer's name, the phrase "strictly protect" was inserted in a cable dated Sept. 10, 2009. The cable dealt with Fogh Rasmussen's proposal to improve ties with Russia by establishing contacts with the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a Russia-dominated security alliance. The cable was signed off by U.S. ambassador Ivo Daalder. There has been no known [previous] case in the past of a nation spying on the secretary-general.
Nine years after the terrorist attacks of 2001, the United States is assembling a vast domestic intelligence apparatus to collect information about Americans, using the FBI, local police, state homeland security offices and military criminal investigators. The system, by far the largest and most technologically sophisticated in the nation's history, collects, stores and analyzes information about thousands of U.S. citizens and residents, many of whom have not been accused of any wrongdoing. The months-long investigation [by The Washington Post], based on nearly 100 interviews and 1,000 documents, found that: * Technologies and techniques honed for use on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan have migrated into the hands of law enforcement agencies in America. * The FBI is building a database with the names and certain personal information, such as employment history, of thousands of U.S. citizens and residents whom a local police officer or a fellow citizen believed to be acting suspiciously. * Law enforcement agencies have hired as trainers self-described experts whose extremist views on Islam and terrorism are considered inaccurate and counterproductive by the FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies. * The Department of Homeland Security sends its state and local partners intelligence reports with little meaningful guidance, and state reports have sometimes inappropriately reported on lawful meetings.
Note: This report is part of a series, "Top Secret America," by The Washington Post. For more, click here.
Novartis AG plans to seek regulatory approval within 18 months for a pioneering tablet containing an embedded microchip, bringing the concept of "smart-pill" technology a step closer. The initial program will use one of the Swiss firm's established drugs taken by transplant patients to avoid organ rejection. But Trevor Mundel, global head of development, believes the concept can be applied to many other pills. Novartis agreed in January to spend $24 million to secure access to chip-in-a-pill technology developed by privately owned Proteus Biomedical of Redwood City, California, putting it ahead of rivals. The biotech start-up's ingestible chips are activated by stomach acid and send information to a small patch worn on the patient's skin, which can transmit data to a smartphone or send it over the Internet to a doctor. Because the tiny chips are added to existing drugs, Novartis does not expect to have to conduct full-scale clinical trials to prove the new products work. Instead, it aims to do so-called bioequivalence tests to show they are the same as the original. A bigger issue may be what checks should be put in place to protect patients' personal medical data as it is transmitted from inside their bodies by wireless and Bluetooth.
Note: It's interesting that Fox News was the only major media to pick up this revealing Reuters story. This article seriously underplays the privacy concerns raised by this new corporate strategy. For more on this, click here. For many key reports on corporate and governmental threats to privacy, click here. For more on the dangers of microchips from reliable sources, click here.
That photo of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. riding one of the first desegregated buses in Montgomery, Ala.? He took it. The well-known image of black sanitation workers carrying I Am a Man signs in Memphis? His. He was there in Room 306 of the Lorraine Hotel, Dr. Kings room, on the night he was assassinated. But now an unsettling asterisk must be added to the legacy of Ernest C. Withers, one of the most celebrated photographers of the civil rights era: He was a paid F.B.I. informer. On [September 12], The Commercial Appeal in Memphis published the results of a two-year investigation that showed Mr. Withers, who died in 2007 at age 85, had collaborated closely with two F.B.I. agents in the 1960s to keep tabs on the civil rights movement. From at least 1968 to 1970, Mr. Withers, who was black, provided photographs, biographical information and scheduling details to two F.B.I. agents in the bureaus Memphis domestic surveillance program, Howell Lowe and William H. Lawrence, according to numerous reports summarizing their meetings. The reports were obtained by the newspaper under the Freedom of Information Act and posted on its Web site. While he was growing close to top civil rights leaders, Mr. Withers was also meeting regularly with the F.B.I. agents, disclosing details about plans for marches and political beliefs of the leaders, even personal information like the leaders car tag numbers.
Note: For a fascinating CNN interview with civil rights leader and former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young on this issue, click here. For key reports from reliable sources raising unanswered questions about the assassination of Martin Luther King and other major US political leaders, click here.
All dogs are to be compulsorily microchipped so that their owners can be more easily traced under a crackdown on dangerous dogs. Under the scheme a microchip the size of a grain of rice is injected under the skin of the dog between its shoulder blades. The chip contains a unique code number, the dog's name, age, breed and health as well as the owner's name, address and phone number. When the chip is "read" by a handheld scanner the code number is revealed and the details can be checked on a national database. The measures will be set out by the home secretary, Alan Johnson, who will point to rising public concern that "status dogs" are being used by some irresponsible owners to intimidate communities or as a weapon by gangs. If the scheme were made compulsory owners would face a fine for failing to microchip their dogs.
Note: Once all dogs are required to be microchipped, what will come next? To be informed of some disturbing plans to microchip all of us, click here. For lots more on microchipping from reliable sources, click here.
Researchers are already using brain-computer interfaces to aid the disabled, treat diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, and provide therapy for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Work is under way on devices that may eventually let you communicate with friends telepathically, give you superhuman hearing and vision or even let you download data directly into your brain, a la "The Matrix." Researchers are practically giddy over the prospects. "We don't know what the limits are yet," says Melody Moore Jackson, director of Georgia Tech University's BrainLab. At the root of all this technology is the 3-pound generator we all carry in our head. It produces electricity at the microvolt level. But the signals are strong enough to move robots, wheelchairs and prosthetic limbs -- with the help of an external processor. One of the more controversial uses under development is telepathy. It would require at least two people to be implanted with electrodes that send and receive signals. DARPA, the Pentagon's technology research division, is currently working on an initiative called "Silent Talk," which would let soldiers on secret missions communicate with their thoughts alone. This stealth component is attractive, but naysayers fear that such soldiers could become manipulated for evil means.
Note: Remember that secret military research such as that undertaken by DARPA is often years ahead of capabilities publicly acknowledged.
On a remote edge of Utah's dry and arid high desert ... hard-hatted construction workers with top-secret clearances are preparing to build [a] mammoth $2 billion structure. It's being built by the ultra-secret National Security Agency ... to house trillions of phone calls, e-mail messages, and [electronic data trails of all kinds]. The NSA is also completing work on another data archive, this one in San Antonio, Texas, which will be nearly the size of the Alamodome. Just how much information will be stored in these windowless cybertemples? A recent report prepared by the MITRE Corporation, a Pentagon think tank, [states] "Sensor data volume could potentially increase to the level of Yottabytes [10-to-the-24th-power bytes] by 2015." Once vacuumed up and stored in these near-infinite "libraries," the data are then analyzed by powerful infoweapons, supercomputers running complex algorithmic programs, to determine who among us may be or may one day become a terrorist. Emerging [after 9/11] as the most powerful chief the spy world has ever known was the director of the NSA. He is in charge of an organization three times the size of the CIA and empowered in 2008 by Congress to spy on Americans to an unprecedented degree. These new centers in Utah, Texas, and possibly elsewhere will likely become the centralized repositories for the data intercepted by the NSA in America's version of the "big brother database."
Note: James Bamford, the author of this review of a new book on the history of the NSA, has himself written three important books on the agency. For many revealing reports from reliable sources on the developing capacity by government and corporate surveillance to construct a "Big Brother" states, click here.
The Justice Department has indicated that the Obama administration is in support of renewing [three] controversial sections of the USA Patriot Act that expire later this year. The provisions that will expire in December include Section 206, that allows "roving" wiretaps so FBI agents can tap multiple phones or computers (with court authorization) that a specific person (target) may use. Another expiring provision, Section 215, is the so-called "library provision," which allows investigators to obtain [library, medical, business, banking and other] records with approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. And the final provision which was nicknamed the "Lone Wolf" authorization, allows intelligence gathering of people not suspected of being part of a foreign government or known terrorist organization. Critics of the Patriot Act protested loudly that the FBI could obtain individuals' library records under the legislation. [But] section 215 is much more expansive than reviewing a suspected terrorist's summer reading list. [It] allows the FBI to obtain any business record, "any tangible things," like credit card and bank statements and also allows access to medical and mental health records. The provision has been used to obtain communication and subscriber information to help set up surveillance and monitoring of computers and telephones.
Note: The American Library Association, the national organization of professional librarians, was the first and strongest defender of civil liberties after the passage of the PATRIOT Act. For a discussion of the concerns of professional librarians over this decision by the Obama administration, click here.
The National Security Agency has been campaigning to lead the governments rapidly growing cybersecurity programs, raising privacy and civil liberties concerns among some officials who fear that the move could give the spy agency too much control over government computer networks. The security agencys interest in taking over the dominant role has met resistance, including the resignation of the Homeland Security Department official who was until last month in charge of coordinating cybersecurity efforts throughout the government. Rod Beckstrom, who resigned in March as director of the National Cyber Security Center at the Homeland Security Department, said ... that he feared that the N.S.A.s push for a greater role in guarding the governments computer systems could give it the power to collect and analyze every e-mail message, text message and Google search conducted by every employee in every federal agency. Mr. Beckstrom said he believed that an intelligence service that is supposed to focus on foreign targets should not be given so much control over the flow of information within the United States government. To detect threats against the computer infrastructure including hackers, viruses and intrusions by foreign agents and terrorists cybersecurity guardians must have virtually unlimited access to networks. Mr. Beckstrom argues that those responsibilities should be divided among agencies. I have very serious concerns about the concentration of too much power in one agency, he said. Power over information is so important, and it is so difficult to monitor, that we need to have checks and balances.
Note: For further disturbing reports from reliable sources on government efforts to establish total surveillance systems, click here.
The National Security Agency (NSA) is developing a tool that George Orwell's Thought Police might have found useful: an artificial intelligence system designed to gain insight into what people are thinking. The device will be able to respond almost instantaneously to complex questions posed by intelligence analysts. As more and more data is collectedthrough phone calls, credit card receipts, social networks like Facebook and MySpace, GPS tracks, cell phone geolocation, Internet searches, Amazon book purchases, even E-Z Pass toll records - it may one day be possible to know not just where people are and what they are doing, but what and how they think. The system is so potentially intrusive that at least one researcher has quit, citing concerns over the dangers in placing such a powerful weapon in the hands of a top-secret agency with little accountability. Known as Aquaint, which stands for "Advanced QUestion Answering for INTelligence," the project was run for many years by John Prange, an NSA scientist at the Advanced Research and Development Activity. A supersmart search engine, capable of answering complex questions ... would be very useful for the public. But that same capability in the hands of an agency like the NSA - absolutely secret, often above the law, resistant to oversight, and with access to petabytes of private information about Americans - could be a privacy and civil liberties nightmare. "We must not forget that the ultimate goal is to transfer research results into operational use," said ... Prange.
Note: Watch a highly revealing PBS Nova documentary providing virtual proof that the NSA could have stopped 9/11 but chose not to. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on intelligence agency corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
The Justice Department's former top criminal prosecutor says the U.S. government's terror watch list likely has caused thousands of innocent Americans to be questioned, searched or otherwise hassled. Former Assistant Attorney General Jim Robinson would know: he is one of them. Robinson joined [with] the American Civil Liberties Union on Monday to urge fixing the list that's supposed to identify suspected terrorists. "It's a pain in the neck, and significantly interferes with my travel arrangements," said Robinson, the head of the Justice Department's criminal division during the Clinton administration. He believes his name matches that of someone who was put on the list in early 2005, and is routinely delayed while flying despite having his own government top-secret security clearances renewed last year. He [said] "I expect my story is similar to hundreds of thousands of people who are on this list who find themselves inconvenienced." [The watch list] was created after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks to consolidate 12 existing lists. Audits of the watch list over the last several years ... have concluded that it has mistakenly flagged innocent people whose names are similar to those on it. More than 30,000 airline passengers had asked the Homeland Security Department to clear their names from the list as of October 2006. The ACLU predicted the watch list would include 1 million names as early as Monday. The civil liberties group reached that number by citing the 700,000 records on the watch list as of last September and adding 20,000 names each month, as forecast by the Justice Department's inspector general.
Note: For many disturbing reports on threats to civil liberties, click here.
Nearly 40 years ago, the FBI was roundly criticized for investigating Americans without evidence [that] they had broken any laws. Now, critics fear the FBI may be gearing up to do it again. Tentative Justice Department guidelines, to be released later this summer, would let agents investigate people whose backgrounds -- and potentially their race or ethnicity -- match the traits of terrorists. Such profiling ... echoes the FBI's now-defunct COINTELPRO, an operation under Director J. Edgar Hoover in the 1950s and 1960s to monitor and disrupt groups with communist and socialist ties. Before it was shut down in 1971, the domestic spying operation -- formally known as Counterintelligence Programs -- had expanded to include civil rights groups, anti-war activists, ... state legislators and journalists. Among the FBI's targets were Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and John Lennon, along with members of black [political] groups ... and student protesters. The new proposal to allow investigations of Americans with no evidence of wrongdoing is "COINTELPRO for the 21st century," said Barry Steinhardt of the American Civil Liberties Union. "But this is much more insidious because it could involve more people. In the days of COINTELPRO, they were watching only a few people. Now they could be watching everyone."
Note: For many disturbing reports on threats to civil liberties, click here.
The FBI is embarking on a $1 billion effort to build the world's largest computer database of peoples' physical characteristics, a project that would give the government unprecedented abilities to identify individuals in the United States and abroad. Digital images of faces, fingerprints and palm patterns are already flowing into FBI systems. Next month, the FBI intends to award a 10-year contract that would significantly expand the amount and kinds of biometric information it receives. And in the coming years, law enforcement authorities around the world will be able to rely on iris patterns, face-shape data, scars and perhaps even the unique ways people walk and talk, to ... identify [people]. The increasing use of biometrics for identification is raising questions about the ability of Americans to avoid unwanted scrutiny. It is drawing criticism from those who worry that people's bodies will become de facto national identification cards. "It's going to be an essential component of tracking," said Barry Steinhardt, director of the Technology and Liberty Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. "It's enabling the Always On Surveillance Society." The FBI's biometric database ... communicates with the Terrorist Screening Center's database of suspects and the National Crime Information Center database, which is the FBI's master criminal database of felons, fugitives and terrorism suspects. At the West Virginia University Center for Identification Technology Research (CITeR) ... researchers are working on capturing images of people's irises at distances of up to 15 feet, and of faces from as far away as 200 yards. Soon, those researchers will do biometric research for the FBI. Covert iris- and face-image capture is several years away, but it is of great interest to government agencies.
Note: For many important major-media reports on threats to privacy, click here.
Federal agents do not need a search warrant to monitor a suspect's computer use and determine the e-mail addresses and Web pages the suspect is contacting, a federal appeals court ruled Friday. In a drug case from San Diego County, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco likened computer surveillance to the "pen register" devices that officers use to pinpoint the phone numbers a suspect dials, without listening to the phone calls themselves. In Friday's ruling, the court said computer users should know that they lose privacy protections with e-mail and Web site addresses when they are communicated to the company whose equipment carries the messages. The search is no more intrusive than officers' examination of a list of phone numbers or the outside of a mailed package, neither of which requires a warrant, Judge Raymond Fisher said in the 3-0 ruling. Defense lawyer Michael Crowley disagreed. His client, Dennis Alba, was sentenced to 30 years in prison after being convicted of operating a laboratory in Escondido that manufactured the drug ecstasy. Some of the evidence against Alba came from agents' tracking of his computer use. The court upheld his conviction and sentence. Expert evidence in Alba's case showed that the Web addresses obtained by federal agents included page numbers that allowed the agents to determine what someone read online, Crowley said. The ruling "further erodes our privacy," the attorney said. "The great political marketplace of ideas is the Internet, and the government has unbridled access to it."
Note: So now every email you send and read can be monitored legally. Why didn't this make news headlines?
For at least a year before the 2004 Republican National Convention, teams of undercover New York City police officers traveled to cities across the country, Canada and Europe to conduct covert observations of people who planned to protest at the convention, according to police records and interviews. From Albuquerque to Montreal, San Francisco to Miami, undercover New York police officers attended meetings of political groups, posing as sympathizers or fellow activists. They made friends, shared meals, swapped e-mail messages and then filed daily reports with the departments Intelligence Division. In hundreds of reports stamped N.Y.P.D. Secret, the Intelligence Division chronicled the views and plans of people who had no apparent intention of breaking the law. These included members of street theater companies, church groups and antiwar organizations. Three New York City elected officials were cited in the reports. In at least some cases, intelligence on what appeared to be lawful activity was shared with police departments in other cities. In addition to sharing information with other police departments, New York undercover officers were active themselves in at least 15 places outside New York including California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montreal, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Washington, D.C. and in Europe. To date, as the boundaries of the departments expanded powers continue to be debated, police officials have provided only glimpses of its intelligence-gathering.
The Justice Department's inspector general revealed on March 9 that the FBI has been systematically abusing one of the most controversial provisions of the USA Patriot Act: the expanded power to issue "national security letters." It no doubt surprised most Americans to learn that between 2003 and 2005 the FBI issued more than 140,000 specific demands under this provision. It did not, however, come as any surprise to me. Three years ago, I received a national security letter (NSL) in my capacity as the president of a small Internet access and consulting business. The letter ordered me to provide sensitive information about one of my clients. There was no indication that a judge had reviewed or approved the letter, and it turned out that none had. The letter came with a gag provision that prohibited me from telling anyone, including my client, that the FBI was seeking this information. Based on the context of the demand -- a context that the FBI still won't let me discuss publicly -- I suspected that the FBI was abusing its power. Living under the gag order has been stressful and surreal. Under the threat of criminal prosecution, I must hide all aspects of my involvement in the case -- including the mere fact that I received an NSL -- from my colleagues, my family and my friends. When I meet with my attorneys I cannot tell my girlfriend where I am going or where I have been. I hide any papers related to the case in a place where she will not look. When clients and friends ask me whether I am the one challenging the constitutionality of the NSL statute, I have no choice but to look them in the eye and lie. At some point -- a point we passed long ago -- the secrecy itself becomes a threat to our democracy.
Under a secret Bush administration program initiated weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, counterterrorism officials have gained access to financial records from a vast international database and examined banking transactions involving thousands of Americans and others in the United States. The program, run out of the Central Intelligence Agency and overseen by the Treasury Department ... is a significant departure from typical practice in how the government acquires Americans' financial records. Treasury officials did not seek individual court-approved warrants or subpoenas to examine specific transactions, instead relying on broad administrative subpoenas for millions of records. That access to large amounts of confidential data was highly unusual, several officials said, and stirred concerns inside the administration about legal and privacy issues. "The capability here is awesome or, depending on where you're sitting, troubling," said one former senior counterterrorism official who considers the program valuable. While tight controls are in place, the official added, "the potential for abuse is enormous." The program is separate from the National Security Agency's efforts to eavesdrop without warrants and collect domestic phone records, operations that have provoked fierce public debate and spurred lawsuits against the government and telecommunications companies.
The military, technological, security and political classes in this country appear united in their desire to make robot dogs part of our future, and we should all be worried. On 1 February ... the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a press release titled “Robot Dogs Take Another Step Towards Deployment at the Border”. DHS dressed up their statement with the kind of adorable language made to warm the hearts of dog lovers everywhere. A picture of the “four-legged ground drone” accompanied the release. These particular robot dogs are made by Ghost Robotics, which claims that its 100lb machine was “bred” to scale “all types of natural terrain including sand, rocks and hills, as well as human-built environments, like stairs”. Each robot dog is outfitted with a bevy of sensors and able to transmit real-time video and information feeds. A testing and evaluation program is under way in El Paso, Texas. As the Electronic Frontier Foundation notes, “people who live along the border are some of the most heavily surveilled people in the United States. A massive amalgamation of federal, state and local law enforcement and national security agencies are flying drones, putting up cameras and just generally attempting to negate civil liberties – capturing the general goings-on of people who live and work in proximity to the border.” Then there’s the question of lethal force. These specific ground drones may not be armed, but Ghost Robotics is already infamous for the combination of robot dog and robot rifle.
Note: Singapore used robot dogs to enforce pandemic distancing measures. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption and the disappearance from reliable major media sources.
The future of wearable technology, beyond now-standard accessories like smartwatches and fitness tracking rings, is ePANTS, according to the intelligence community. The federal government has shelled out at least $22 million in an effort to develop “smart” clothing that spies on the wearer and its surroundings. Similar to previous moonshot projects funded by military and intelligence agencies, the inspiration may have come from science fiction and superpowers, but the basic applications are on brand for the government: surveillance and data collection. Billed as the “largest single investment to develop Active Smart Textiles,” the SMART ePANTS — Smart Electrically Powered and Networked Textile Systems — program aims to develop clothing capable of recording audio, video, and geolocation data, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence announced in an August 22 press release. Garments slated for production include shirts, pants, socks, and underwear, all of which are intended to be washable. There is already evidence that private industry outside of the national security community are interested in smart clothing. Meta, Facebook’s parent company, is looking to hire a researcher “with broad knowledge in smart textiles and garment construction, integration of electronics into soft and flexible systems, and who can work with a team of researchers working in haptics, sensing, tracking, and materials science.”
Note: Smart objects have been called a "train wreck in privacy and security." For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on intelligence agency corruption and the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
An advisory board to President Biden has recommended limiting the F.B.I.'s ability to use a controversial warrantless surveillance program to hunt for information about Americans, even as it urged lawmakers to renew the law that authorizes it. The panel, known as the President's Intelligence Advisory Board, suggested barring the bureau from searching a database of intercepted information when looking for evidence about Americans in criminal investigations that do not involve foreign intelligence. The board ... delivered the recommendation in a declassified 39-page report. It came as Congress was debating whether to extend the law authorizing the program, known as Section 702. Under Section 702, the government can collect – from American companies like Google and AT&T and without a warrant – the communications of targeted foreigners abroad, even when they are talking to or about Americans. The notion that Section 702 creates a backdoor to the Fourth Amendment by allowing the F.B.I. to read private communications to or from an American without a warrant in ordinary criminal contexts has raised particular alarm. But the board rejected as unjustified the more sweeping reform proposal: to require the government to obtain a court warrant before using Americans' identifiers to search the repository. Requiring a court order before doing so, the board said, would prevent intelligence agencies from discovering threats to the country in a timely manner.
FBI officials repeatedly violated their own standards when they searched a vast repository of foreign intelligence for information related to the January 6 insurrection and racial justice protests in 2020, according court order released Friday. The violations were detailed in a secret court order issued last year by the foreign intelligence surveillance (Fisa) court, which has legal oversight of the US government’s spy powers. At issue are improper queries of foreign intelligence information collected under section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which enables the government to gather the communications of targeted foreigners outside the US. That program, which is set to expire at the end of the year, creates a database of intelligence that US agencies can search. FBI searches must have a foreign intelligence purpose or be aimed at finding evidence of a crime. But congressional critics of the program have long raised alarm about what they say are unjustified searches of the database for information about Americans, along with more general concerns about surveillance abuses. In repeated episodes disclosed on Friday, the FBI’s own standards were not followed. The April 2022 order, for instances, details how the FBI queried the section 702 repository using the name of someone who was believed to have been at the Capitol during the January 6 riot. Officials obtained the information despite it not having any “analytical, investigative or evidentiary purpose”, the order said.
An offshore company that is trusted by the major web browsers and other tech companies to vouch for the legitimacy of websites has connections to contractors for U.S. intelligence agencies and law enforcement, according to security researchers, documents and interviews. Google’s Chrome, Apple’s Safari, nonprofit Firefox and others allow the company, TrustCor Systems, to act as what’s known as a root certificate authority, a powerful spot in the internet’s infrastructure that guarantees websites are not fake, guiding users to them seamlessly. The company’s Panamanian registration records show that it has the identical slate of officers, agents and partners as a spyware maker identified this year as an affiliate of Arizona-based Packet Forensics, which ... has sold communication interception services to U.S. government agencies for more than a decade. TrustCor’s products include an email service that claims to be end-to-end encrypted, though experts consulted by The Washington Post said they found evidence to undermine that claim. A test version of the email service also included spyware developed by a Panamanian company related to Packet Forensics. A person familiar with Packet Forensics’ work confirmed that it had used TrustCor’s certificate process and its email service, MsgSafe, to intercept communications and help the U.S. government catch suspected terrorists. The physical address in Toronto given in [TrustCor's] auditor’s report, 371 Front St. West, houses a UPS Store mail drop.
I participated in an online forum called US CBDC—A Disaster in the making? We had a very productive discussion about the policy aspect of central bank digital currencies (CBDCs). I believe that the Fed should not launch a CBDC. Ever. And I think that Congress should amend the Federal Reserve Act, just to be on the safe side. I want to distinguish between a wholesale CBDC and retail CBDC. With a wholesale CBDC, banks can electronically transact with each other using a liability of the central bank. That is essentially what banks do now. But retail CBDCs are another animal altogether. Retail CBDCs allow members of the general public to make electronic payments of all kinds with a liability of the central bank. This feature–making electronic transactions using a liability of the Federal Reserve–is central to why Congress should make sure that the Fed never issues a retail CBDC. The problem is that the federal government, not privately owned commercial banks, would be responsible for issuing deposits. And while this fact might seem like a feature instead of bug, it’s a major problem for anything that resembles a free society. The problem is that there is no limit to the level of control that the government could exert over people if money is purely electronic and provided directly by the government. A CBDC would give federal officials full control over the money going into–and coming out of–every person’s account. This level of government control is not compatible with economic or political freedom.
Note: The above was written by Norbert Michel, Vice President and Director of the Cato Institute's Center for Monetary and Financial Alternatives. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on financial system corruption from reliable major media sources.
The digital Covid vaccination certification, or “passport,” is a mobile app that instantaneously affirms the vaccinated status, Covid test results, birth date, gender, and/or other identifiers of its holder. The information is usually mosaicked in a QR code, read by a proprietary scanner, and linked to a government registry. Led by New York, California, and Louisiana, as many as 30 states are rolling them out. The Biden administration announced last spring that it would wrangle them under national standards but so far it hasn’t. Internationally, the EU and a growing number of countries are adopting them, from repressive regimes like Bahrain to democracies like Denmark. Twenty U.S. states have banned the passes, and hashtags like #NoVaccinePassports are proliferating on both sides of the Atlantic. “Spoiler alert,” tweeted British DJ ... Lange. “They are not planning on removing vax passports once introduced. This is just the first step to get you conditioned to accepting government restrictions in your daily life via your mobile phone. This digital ID is going to expand to all aspects of your life.” Evidence supports the detractors’ suspicions. Every government introducing a vaccine certification vows that their use is voluntary and no personal information will be held beyond its necessity. But governments are far from unanimous even on such basics as ... how long and by whom our intimate information will be held, owned, or overseen. New York, for one, is not expecting to mothball the technology when Covid wanes.
The federal government has ramped up security and police-related spending in response to the coronavirus pandemic, including issuing contracts for riot gear, disclosures show. The purchase orders include requests for disposable cuffs, gas masks, ballistic helmets, and riot gloves, along with law enforcement protective equipment for federal police assigned to protect Veterans Affairs facilities. The orders were expedited under a special authorization in response to Covid-19 outbreak. Between 2005 and 2014, VA police departments acquired millions of dollars worth of body armor, chemical agents, night vision equipment, and other weapons and tactical gear, The Intercept reported last year. But an Inspector General report in December 2018 found there was little oversight. The CARES Act, the $2.2 trillion stimulus legislation passed in late March, also authorized $850 million for the Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding program, a federal grant program to prepare law enforcement, correctional officers, and police for the crisis. The funds have been dispensed to local governments to pay for overtime costs, purchase protective supplies, and defray expenses related to emergency policing. The grants may also be used for the purchase of unmanned aerial aircraft and video security cameras for law enforcement. Motorola Solutions, a major supplier of police technology, has encouraged local governments to use the new money to buy a range of command center software and video analytics systems.
India has just 144 police officers for every 100,000 citizens. In recent years, authorities have turned to facial recognition technology to make up for the shortfall. India's government now ... wants to construct one of the world's largest facial recognition systems. The project envisions a future in which police from across the country's 29 states and seven union territories would have access to a single, centralized database. The daunting scope of the proposed network is laid out in a detailed 172-page document published by the National Crime Records Bureau, which requests bids from companies to build the project. The project would match images from the country's growing network of CCTV cameras against a database encompassing mug shots of criminals, passport photos and images collected by [government] agencies. It would also recognize faces on closed-circuit cameras and "generate alerts if a blacklist match is found." Security forces would be equipped with hand-held mobile devices enabling them to capture a face in the field and search it instantly against the national database, through a dedicated app. For privacy advocates, this is worrying. "India does not have a data protection law," says [Apar] Gupta [of the Internet Freedom Foundation]. "It will essentially be devoid of safeguards." It might even be linked up to Aadhaar, India's vast biometric database, which contains the personal details of 1.2 billion Indian citizens, enabling India to set up "a total, permanent surveillance state," he adds.
Note: Read an excellent article by The Civil Liberties Union for Europe about the 7 biggest privacy issues that concern facial recognition technology. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption and the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
Apple contractors regularly hear confidential medical information, drug deals, and recordings of couples having sex, as part of their job providing quality control, or grading, the companys Siri voice assistant. Although Apple does not explicitly disclose it in its consumer-facing privacy documentation, a small proportion of Siri recordings are passed on to contractors working for the company around the world. Apple says the data is used to help Siri and dictation ... understand you better and recognise what you say. But the company does not explicitly state that that work is undertaken by humans who listen to the pseudonymised recordings. A whistleblower working for the firm, who asked to remain anonymous due to fears over their job, expressed concerns about this lack of disclosure, particularly given the frequency with which accidental activations pick up extremely sensitive personal information. The whistleblower said: There have been countless instances of recordings featuring private discussions. These recordings are accompanied by user data showing location, contact details, and app data. Although Siri is included on most Apple devices, the contractor highlighted the Apple Watch and the companys HomePod smart speaker as the most frequent sources of mistaken recordings. As well as the discomfort they felt listening to such private information, the contractor said they were motivated to go public about their job because of their fears that such information could be misused.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
Apple and Google on Wednesday released long-awaited smartphone technology to automatically notify people if they might have been exposed to the coronavirus. The companies said 22 countries and several U.S. states are already planning to build voluntary phone apps using their software. It relies on Bluetooth wireless technology to detect when someone who downloaded the app has spent time near another app user who later tests positive for the virus. Many governments have already tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to roll out their own phone apps to fight the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of those apps have encountered technical problems on Apple and Android phones and haven’t been widely adopted. They often use GPS to track people’s location, which Apple and Google are banning from their new tool because of privacy and accuracy concerns. Public health agencies from Germany to the states of Alabama and South Carolina have been waiting to use the Apple-Google model, while other governments have said the tech giants’ privacy restrictions will be a hindrance because public health workers will have no access to the data. The companies said they’re not trying to replace contact tracing, a pillar of infection control that involves trained public health workers reaching out to people who may have been exposed to an infected person. But they said their automatic “exposure notification” system can augment that process and slow the spread of COVID-19.
Note: Watch an excellent video explanation of the dangers of contract tracing by a woman who applied to do this work. She shows how the claims of it being voluntary are far from the truth. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on the coronavirus and the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
The CIA's chief technology officer outlined the agency's endless appetite for data in a far-ranging speech. Ira "Gus" Hunt said that the world is increasingly awash in information from text messages, tweets, and videos - and that the agency wants all of it. "The value of any piece of information is only known when you can connect it with something else that arrives at a future point in time," Hunt said. "Since you can't connect dots you don't have, it drives us into a mode of, we fundamentally try to collect everything and hang on to it forever." Hunt's comments come two days after Federal Computer Week reported that the CIA has committed to a massive, $600 million, 10-year deal with Amazon for cloud computing services. "It is really very nearly within our grasp to be able to compute on all human generated information," Hunt said. After that mark is reached, Hunt said, the agency would also like to be able to save and analyze all of the digital breadcrumbs people don't even know they are creating. "You're already a walking sensor platform," he said, noting that mobiles, smartphones and iPads come with cameras, accelerometers, light detectors and geolocation capabilities. "Somebody can know where you are at all times, because you carry a mobile device, even if that mobile device is turned off," he said. Hunt also spoke of mobile apps that will be able to control pacemakers - even involuntarily - and joked about a "dystopian" future. Hunt's speech barely touched on privacy concerns.
Note: The Internet of Things makes mass surveillance even easier. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on intelligence agency corruption and the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
When Edward Snowden blew the whistle on mass surveillance by the US government, he traded a comfortable existence in Hawaii, the paradise of the Pacific, for indefinite exile in Russia, now a pariah in much of the world. But 10 years after Snowden was identified as the source of the biggest National Security Agency (NSA) leak in history, it is less clear whether America underwent a similarly profound transformation in its attitude to safeguarding individual privacy. Was his act of self-sacrifice worth it – did he make a difference? On 6 June 2013, the Guardian published the first story based on Snowden's disclosures, revealing that a secret court order was allowing the US government to get Verizon to share the phone records of millions of Americans. The impact was dramatic. James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, who earlier that year had testified to Congress that the NSA did not collect data on millions of Americans, was forced to apologise and admit that his statement had been "clearly erroneous". The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a constitutional lawsuit in federal court. It eventually led to a ruling that held the NSA telephone collection program was and always had been illegal, a significant breakthrough given that national security surveillance programs had typically been insulated from judicial review. You will not find any coherent statement by any US security official that says clearly what harm was done by these disclosures.
Footprints left on a beach. Air breathed in a busy room. Ocean water. Scientists have been able to collect and analyze detailed genetic data from human DNA from all these places, raising thorny ethical questions about consent, privacy and security when it comes to our biological information. The researchers from the University of Florida, who were using environmental DNA found in sand to study endangered sea turtles, said the DNA was of such high quality that the scientists could ... determine the genetic ancestry of populations living nearby. They could also match genetic information to individual participants who had volunteered to have their DNA recovered. Human DNA that has seeped into the environment through our spit, skin, sweat and blood could be used to help find missing persons, aid in forensic investigations to solve crimes, locate sites of archaeological importance, and for health monitoring. However, the ability to capture human DNA from the environment could have a range of unintended consequences — both inadvertent and malicious. These included privacy breaches, location tracking, data harvesting, and genetic surveillance of individuals or groups. [Researchers] retrieved DNA from footprints made in sand by four volunteers. They were able to sequence part of the participants’ genomes. Next, the researchers took samples of air from a ... room in an animal clinic. The team recovered DNA that matched the staff volunteers [and] animal patients.
Note: This research was published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
Frank Forrester Church sat in the US Senate for 24 years. He battled for civil rights and came to oppose the Vietnam war. He believed Americans were citizens, not subjects. Chairing the intelligence select committee was his most enduring accomplishment. James Risen, a Pulitzer-winning reporter now with the Intercept, sees him as a hero. The Last Honest Man is both paean and lament. “For decades ... the CIA’s operations faced only glancing scrutiny from the White House, and virtually none from Congress,” Risen writes. “True oversight would have to wait until 1975, and the arrival on the national stage of a senator from Idaho, Frank Church.” For 16 months, Church and his committee scrutinized the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency and their many abuses. Political assassinations, covert operations and domestic surveillance finally received scrutiny and oversight. A plot to kill Fidel Castro, with an assist from organized crime, made headlines. So did the personal ties that bound John F Kennedy, mob boss Sam Giancana and their shared mistress, Judith Campbell Exner. Giancana was murdered before he testified. Before John Rosselli, another mobster, could make a third appearance, his decomposed body turned up in a steel fuel drum near Miami. Against this grizzly but intriguing backdrop, Risen’s book is aptly subtitled: The CIA, the FBI, the Mafia, and the Kennedys – And One Senator’s Fight to Save Democracy.
Note: Read more about James Risen's courageous reporting on the intelligence community. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on intelligence agency corruption from reliable major media sources.
The Georgia Army National Guard plans to combine two deeply controversial practices — military recruiting at schools and location-based phone surveillance — to persuade teens to enlist, according to contract documents reviewed by The Intercept. The federal contract materials outline plans by the Georgia Army National Guard to geofence 67 different public high schools throughout the state, targeting phones found within a one-mile boundary of their campuses with recruiting advertisements “with the intent of generating qualified leads of potential applicants for enlistment while also raising awareness of the Georgia Army National Guard.” Geofencing refers generally to the practice of drawing a virtual border around a real-world area. The ad campaign will make use of a variety of surveillance advertising techniques, including capturing the unique device IDs of student phones, tracking pixels, and IP address tracking. It will also plaster recruiting solicitations across Instagram, Snapchat, streaming television, and music apps. The campaign plans not only call for broadcasting recruitment ads to kids at school, but also for pro-Guard ads to follow these students around as they continue using the internet and other apps, a practice known as retargeting. While the state’s plan specifies targeting only high school juniors and seniors ages 17 and above, demographic ad targeting is known to be error prone, and experts told The Intercept it’s possible the recruiting messages could reach the phones of younger children.
The reptilian annual World Economic Forum at Davos, where the masters of the universe meet to congratulate themselves on their benevolent dictatorship, is home to many sinister ideas. This year, one of the creepiest discussions of all was delivered under the guise of progress and productivity. Nita Farahany, a Duke University professor and futurist, gave a presentation at Davos about neurotechnology that is creating “brain transparency.” The new technologies, which Farahany says are being deployed in workplaces around the world ... include a variety of wearable sensors that read the brain’s electrical impulses and can show how fatigued you are, whether you’re focused on the task at hand or if your attention is wandering. According to Farahany, thousands of companies have hooked workers ranging from train drivers to miners up to these devices already, in the name of workplace safety. But what we are really discussing is workplace surveillance. Farahany paints a picture of a near future in which every office worker could be fitted with a small wearable that would constantly record brain activity, creating an omnipotent record of your thoughts, attention and energy that the boss could study at leisure. Farahany acknowledges that there could be drawbacks here: “Done poorly, it could become the most oppressive technology we’ve ever introduced on a wide scale.” All of this raises the question: what exactly is your employer buying when they give you a paycheck? For bosses, the answer is simple: “Everything.”
Note: Tune into a fascinating, 17 min. conversation about this issue that raises important questions about the overreliance on technology as a tool of control, under the guise of workplace safety. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corporate corruption from reliable major media sources.
The internet has come a long way since Tim Berners-Lee invented the world wide web in 1989. Now, in an era of growing concern over privacy, he believes it’s time for us to reclaim our personal data. Through their startup Inrupt, Berners-Lee and CEO John Bruce have created the “Solid Pod” — or Personal Online Data Store. It allows people to keep their data in one central place and control which people and applications can access it, rather than having it stored by apps or sites all over the web. Users can get a Pod from a handful of providers. Not only is user data safe from corporations, and governments, it’s also less likely to be stolen by hackers, Bruce says. Launched in 2017, Inrupt reportedly raised $30 million in December 2021 and Berners-Lee says it will help deliver the next iteration of the web — “Web 3.” Paul Brody, a blockchain expert for analysts Ernst and Young, believes Web 3 could change the way we use the internet. “You’ll hear people talk about Web 3 and decentralization as being very similar in ideas and goals,” he says. “Owning your own data and really controlling your own commerce infrastructure is something that Web 3 will enable. It will be ultimately really transformational for users.” Berners-Lee hopes his platform will give control back to internet users. “I think the public has been concerned about privacy — the fact that these platforms have a huge amount of data, and they abuse it,” he says. “You need to get back to a situation where you have autonomy, you have control of all your data.”
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on the erosion of privacy from reliable major media sources.
In a cheerfully animated promotional video, a woman narrates Cubic Transportation Systems’ vision for the future. Travelers will pay fares using a ticket-free mobile account. Real-time data will be aggregated, linked, and shared. “The more information that is gathered, the more powerful the system becomes,” the narrator tells us. “The piece of the puzzle missing ... is you.” Over the past decade, Cubic has taken the first steps toward actualizing its vision by snapping up contracts for the development of mobile-based, contactless fare collection systems in eight of America’s 10 largest public transit networks. Transit authorities have embraced tap-to-pay technology for its convenience and speed, but privacy advocates are worried that the new fare collection systems pose serious surveillance and security risks. In addition to its transit operation, Cubic is a vast military contractor doing hundreds of millions of dollars in business with the U.S. military and sales to foreign militaries. The company supplies surveillance technologies, training simulators, satellite communications equipment, computing and networking platforms, and other military hardware and software. As Cubic’s quiet grip on fare collection takes hold in more cities, the company’s ability to process rider data grows with it, creating a sprawling corporate apparatus that has the extraordinary potential to gather up reams of information on the very people it is supposed to serve.
As protesters around the country have marched against police brutality and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, activists have spotted a recurring presence in the skies: mysterious planes and helicopters hovering overhead, apparently conducting surveillance on protesters. A press release ... revealed that the Drug Enforcement Agency and U.S. Marshals Service were asked by the Justice Department to provide unspecified support to law enforcement during protests. A few days later, a memo obtained by BuzzFeed News ... revealed that shortly after protests began in various cities, the DEA had sought special authority from the Justice Department to covertly spy on Black Lives Matter protesters on behalf of law enforcement. Both the DEA and the Marshals possess airplanes outfitted with so-called stingrays or dirtboxes: powerful technologies capable of tracking mobile phones or, depending on how theyre configured, collecting data and communications from mobile phones in bulk. That data can be used to identify people protesters, for example and track their movements during and after demonstrations, as well as to identify others who associate with them. They also can inject spying software onto specific phones. Stingrays are routinely used to target suspects in drug and other criminal investigations, but activists also believe the devices were used during protests against the Dakota Access pipeline, and against Black Lives Matter protesters over the last three months.
Note: Read more about invasive "stingray" technology and the secrecy surrounding its use. Learn how Google is siphoning all information about you it can get. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption and the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
Spies for centuries have trained their sights on those who shape destinies of nations: presidents, prime ministers, kings. And in the 21st century, most of them carry smartphones. Such is the underlying logic for some of the most tantalizing discoveries for an international investigation that in recent months scrutinized a list of more than 50,000 phone numbers that included — according to forensic analyses of dozens of iPhones — at least some people targeted by Pegasus spyware licensed to governments worldwide. The list contained the numbers of politicians and government officials by the hundreds. But what of heads of state and governments, arguably the most coveted of targets? Fourteen. Or more specifically: three presidents, 10 prime ministers and a king. Forensic testing that might have revealed infection by NSO’s signature spyware, Pegasus, was not possible. Nor was it possible to determine whether any NSO client attempted to deliver Pegasus to the phones of these country leaders — much less whether any succeeded in turning these highly personal devices into pocket spies capable of tracking a national leader’s nearly every movement, communication and personal relationship. According to NSO marketing materials and security researchers, Pegasus is designed to collect files, photos, call logs, location records, communications and other private data from smartphones, and can activate cameras and microphones as well for real-time surveillance at key moments.
Note: Read how this Pegasus spyware was used to target activists and journalists in Mexico. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption and the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
The US government’s new mobile app for migrants to apply for asylum at the US-Mexico border is blocking many Black people from being able to file their claims because of facial recognition bias in the tech, immigration advocates say. The app, CBP One, is failing to register many people with darker skin tones, effectively barring them from their right to request entry into the US. People who have made their way to the south-west border from Haiti and African countries, in particular, are falling victim to apparent algorithm bias in the technology that the app relies on. The government announced in early January that the new CBP One mobile app would be the only way migrants arriving at the border can apply for asylum and exemption from Title 42 restrictions. Racial bias in face recognition technology has long been a problem. Increasingly used by law enforcement and government agencies to fill databases with biometric information including fingerprints and iris scans, a 2020 report by Harvard University called it the “least accurate” identifier, especially among darker-skinned women with whom the error rate is higher than 30%. Emmanuella Camille, a staff attorney with the Haitian Bridge Alliance ... said the CBP One app has helped “lighter-skin toned people from other nations” obtain their asylum appointments “but not Haitians” and other Black applicants. Besides the face recognition technology not registering them ... many asylum seekers have outdated cellphones – if they have cellphones at all – that don’t support the CBP One app.
The FBI has come under intense criticism after a 2017 leak exposed that its counterterrorism division had invented a new, unfounded domestic terrorism category it called black identity extremism. A number of civil rights groups have filed public records requests to try to better understand who exactly the FBI is investigating under that designation. The latest batch of FBI documents ... reveals that between 2015 and 2018, the FBI dedicated considerable time and resources to opening a series of assessments into the activities of individuals and groups it mostly labeled black separatist extremists. This designation was eventually folded into the category of black identity extremism. Assessments differ from full-blown investigations - or predicated investigations, in the bureaus lingo - because they do not need to be predicated on a factual basis. As a new report by the civil liberties group Defending Rights & Dissent notes, when choosing targets for an assessment, agents are allowed to use ethnicity, religion, or speech protected by the First Amendment as a factor, as long as it is not the only one. As the report notes, Even though the standards for opening an assessment are extraordinarily low, the FBI is allowed to use extremely intrusive investigative techniques in performing them, including physical surveillance, use of informants, and pretextual interviews. The bureau has in recent years shifted its target from those espousing separatist views to the much larger group of those protesting police violence.
Note: Read more about the FBI's use of "Black Identity Extremism" as a label in its terrorism investigations. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption and the erosion of civil liberties from reliable major media sources.
Not only is Alexa listening when you speak to an Echo smart speaker, an Amazon employee is potentially listening, too. Amazon (AMZN) employs a global team that transcribes the voice commands captured after the wake word is detected and feeds them back into the software ... Bloomberg reports. Amazon reportedly employs thousands of full-time workers and contractors in several countries, including the United States, Costa Rica and Romania, to listen to as many as 1,000 audio clips in shifts that last up to nine hours. The audio clips they listen to were described as "mundane" and even sometimes "possibly criminal," including listening to a potential sexual assault. In a response to the story, Amazon confirmed to CNN Business that it hires people to listen to what customers say to Alexa. Amazon doesn't "explicitly" tell Alexa users that it employs people to listen to the recordings. Amazon said in its frequently asked question section that it uses "requests to Alexa to train our speech recognition and natural language understanding systems." People can opt out of Amazon using their voice recordings to improve the software in the privacy settings section of the Alexa app. Alexa auditors don't have access to the customers' full name or address, but do have the device's serial number and the Amazon account number associated with the device. Amazon previously has been embroiled in controversy for privacy concerns regarding Alexa.
It is widely regarded as the world’s most potent spyware, capable of reliably cracking the encrypted communications of iPhone and Android smartphones. The software, Pegasus, made by an Israeli company, NSO Group, has been able to track terrorists and drug cartels. It has also been used against human rights activists, journalists and dissidents. Now, an investigation published Friday by The New York Times Magazine has found that Israel, which controls the export of the spyware ... has made Pegasus a key component of its national security strategy, using it to advance its interests around the world. The F.B.I. bought and tested NSO software for years with plans to use it for domestic surveillance until the agency finally decided last year not to deploy the tools. The F.B.I., in a deal never previously reported, bought the spyware in 2019. It also spent two years discussing whether to deploy a newer product, called Phantom, inside the United States. The discussions at the Justice Department and the F.B.I. continued until last summer. But Pegasus equipment is still in a New Jersey building used by the F.B.I. And the company also gave the agency a demonstration of Phantom, which could hack American phone numbers. A brochure ... says that Phantom allows American law enforcement and spy agencies to “turn your target’s smartphone into an intelligence gold mine.” In 2018 ... the C.I.A. bought Pegasus to help Djibouti, an American ally, fight terrorism, despite longstanding concerns about human rights abuses there.
Note: Read about how NSO Group spyware was used against journalists and activists by the Mexican government. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on intelligence agency corruption and the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
Vice-premier Sun Chunlan, one of the most senior government officials to visit the centre of the coronavirus outbreak [was] heckled by residents who yelled fake, fake, everything is fake as she inspected the work of a neighbourhood committee charged with taking care of quarantined residents. Videos posted online showed Sun and a delegation walking along the grounds while residents appeared to shout from their apartment windows, fake, fake, its all fake, as well as we protest. Since 12 February, all residential compounds in Wuhan have been put under lockdown, barring most residents from leaving their homes. In an unusual turn of events, on Friday various Chinese state media outlets reported the videos showing public discontent. Such videos are frequently censored. Yet, the Peoples Daily posted a video subtitled in English showing one person shouting fake, fake, which has since been removed. A government-affiliated account on WeChat ... said in an essay posted on Thursday that all the facts of the incident were basically true. According to state broadcaster CCTV, Sun held a meeting immediately after the incident to deal with the complaints. Staff have been dispatched to visit the residents one by one. Observers say state media may be trying to co-opt discussion of the videos, which circulated widely online, and provide their own narrative of events. Elsewhere in China, schools in provinces reporting no new cases for a number of days, started to set their opening dates in a sign of the country returning to normal. Wuhan reported 126 new coronavirus cases on Thursday but the wider province of Hubei excluding the capital recorded none for the first time during the outbreak.
Note: Remember all of the privacy and freedoms given up after 9/11? How many of those have been given back? Learn more about the serious risk of the Coronavirus increasing the surveillance state in this excellent article. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption and the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
From 2008 to 2010, as Edward Snowden has revealed, the National Security Agency (NSA) collaborated with the British Government Communications Headquarters to intercept the webcam footage of over 1.8 million Yahoo users. The agencies were analyzing images they downloaded from webcams and scanning them for known terrorists who might be using the service to communicate, matching faces from the footage to suspects with the help of a new technology called face recognition. In attempting to find faces, the Pentagon's Optic Nerve program recorded webcam sex by its unknowing targets—up to 11 percent of the material the program collected was "undesirable nudity" that employees were warned not to access. And that's just the beginning of what face recognition technology might mean for us in the digital era. The U.S. government is in the process of building the world's largest cache of face recognition data, with the goal of identifying every person in the country. The creation of such a database would mean that anyone could be tracked wherever his or her face appears, whether it's on a city street or in a mall. Today's laws don't protect Americans from having their webcams scanned for facial data. "If cameras connected to databases can do face recognition, it will become impossible to be anonymous in society," [attorney Jennifer] Lynch says. That means every person in the U.S. would be passively tracked at all times.
More than 60 years ago, in his “Foundation” series, the science fiction novelist Isaac Asimov invented a new science — psychohistory — that combined mathematics and psychology to predict the future. Now social scientists are trying to mine the vast resources of the Internet — Web searches and Twitter messages, Facebook and blog posts, the digital location trails generated by billions of cellphones — to do the same thing. The government is showing interest in the idea. This summer a little-known intelligence agency began seeking ideas from academic social scientists and corporations for ways to automatically scan the Internet in 21 Latin American countries for “big data,” according to a research proposal. The three-year experiment ... is being financed by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, or Iarpa. The automated data collection system is to focus on patterns of communication, consumption and movement of populations. It will use publicly accessible data, including Web search queries, blog entries, Internet traffic flow, financial market indicators, traffic webcams and changes in Wikipedia entries. It is intended to be an entirely automated system, a “data eye in the sky” without human intervention. Some social scientists and advocates of privacy rights are deeply skeptical of the project, saying it evokes queasy memories of Total Information Awareness, a post-9/11 Pentagon program that proposed hunting for potential attackers by identifying patterns in vast collections of public and private data.
Spit into a cup when you land in an airport, and your DNA is stored. Every phone in every city talks to every other nearby device. Cross-border travel is enabled only by governments sharing data about millions of private movements. These are all possible visions of a future that the coronavirus pandemic has rushed on us. But a lurch into an even more intense era of mass data-collection - the vast hoovering up of who went near whom and when, who is healthy to travel, and even scraps of personal DNA languishing in databases - appears to be on the verge of becoming the new reality. It took the attacks of September 11, 2001 to shove aside the previous decade's phobia of mass surveillance ... in exchange for keeping us safe from terror. Over the next 15 years, billions of people agreed to a tacit deal where Facebook or Google were permitted to learn a staggering amount about them. But the challenge presented by Covid-19 - and the urgent need to trace contacts and movements - is of another scale of intimacy. South Korea located over 10,000 cellphones near the latest outbreak and texted them. The UK government has toyed with a centralized database of movements and health records, secured by government cyber-spies, able potentially to see who has been sick and who they have been near. Russia and many others have issued QR codes. China is putting surveillance cameras right outside people's doors. Will we look back at 2020 as the moment privacy finally evaporated?
School librarians [will] have less freedom to choose books and schoolchildren [will have] less ability to read books they find intriguing, experts say. In the past two years, six states have passed laws that mandate parental involvement in reviewing books, making it easier for parents to remove books or restrict the texts available at school, according to a tally kept by nonprofit EveryLibrary. Policies are proliferating at the district level, too. A Texas system will divide its library into "juvenile," "young adult" and "adult" sections, with parents choosing the "level" their child can access. "This is a state-sponsored purging of ideas and identities that has no precedent in the United States of America," said John Chrastka, EveryLibrary's executive director. "We're witnessing the silencing of stories and the suppressing of information [that will make] the next generation less able to function in society." A flurry of parent-staffed websites reviewing books for inappropriate content have appeared – including "Between the Book Covers," whose website says "professional review sites cannot be entrusted," and BookLook.info, "a place for taking a closer look at the books in our children's hands." There are also Facebook groups like Utah's "LaVerna in the Library," which "collects naughty children's books." As states and districts adjust their reading rules, parents and students are working to change things, too. Teens in Texas, for example, have formed "banned book clubs" – while in Missouri, students are suing their district to restore eight pulled books.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of the disappearance of privacy in our society. Whether in our schools, on social media, or in our news, read about the increasing issue of censorship that undermines democracy in our Mass Media Information Center.
“Would you like to sign in with your palm?” That was the question a cheerful Amazon employee posed when greeting me last week at the opening of a Whole Foods Market in Washington’s Glover Park neighborhood. For the next 30 minutes, I shopped. Then I simply walked out, no cashier necessary. Whole Foods — or rather Amazon — would bill my account later. More than four years ago, Amazon bought Whole Foods for $13 billion. Now the Amazon-ification of the grocery chain is physically complete. Amazon designed my local grocer to be almost completely run by tracking and robotic tools for the first time. The technology, known as Just Walk Out, consists of hundreds of cameras with a god’s-eye view of customers. Sensors are placed under each apple, carton of oatmeal and boule of multigrain bread. Deep-learning software analyzes the shopping activity to detect patterns and increase the accuracy of its charges. The Whole Foods in Glover Park ... has sparked a spirited local debate, with residents sparring on the Nextdoor community app and a neighborhood email list over the store’s “dystopian” feeling versus its “impressive technology.” Some ... said they had found errors in their bills and complained about the end of produce by the pound. Everything is now offered per item, bundle or box. Some mourned the disappearance of the checkout line, where they perused magazines. Many were suspicious of the tracking tech. “It’s like George Orwell’s ‘1984,’” said Allen Hengst, 72, a retired librarian.
It was an unusual forearm tattoo that the police said led them to Luis Reyes, a 35-year-old man who was accused of stealing packages from a Manhattan building’s mailroom in 2019. But the truth was more complicated: Mr. Reyes had first been identified by the New York Police Department’s powerful facial recognition software as it analyzed surveillance video of the crime. His guilty plea this year ... was part of the sprawling legacy of one of the city’s darkest days. Since the fall of the World Trade Center, the security apparatus born from the Sept. 11 attack on the city has fundamentally changed the way the country’s largest police department operates, altering its approach to finding and foiling terrorist threats, but also to cracking minor cases like Mr. Reyes’s. New Yorkers simply going about their daily lives routinely encounter post-9/11 digital surveillance tools like facial recognition software, license plate readers or mobile X-ray vans that can see through car doors. Surveillance drones hover above mass demonstrations and protesters say they have been questioned by antiterrorism officers after marches. The department’s Intelligence Division, redesigned in 2002 to confront Al Qaeda operatives, now uses antiterror tactics to fight gang violence and street crime. The department’s budget for intelligence and counterterrorism has more than quadrupled, spending more than $3 billion since 2006, and more through funding streams that are difficult to quantify, including federal grants and the secretive Police Foundation.
Few pause to think that their phones can be transformed into surveillance devices, with someone thousands of miles away silently extracting their messages, photos and location, activating their microphone to record them in real time. Such are the capabilities of Pegasus, the spyware manufactured by NSO Group, the Israeli purveyor of weapons of mass surveillance. The Guardian will be revealing the identities of many innocent people who have been identified as candidates for possible surveillance by NSO clients in a massive leak of data. Without forensics on their devices, we cannot know whether governments successfully targeted these people. But the presence of their names on this list indicates the lengths to which governments may go to spy on critics, rivals and opponents. Journalists across the world were selected as potential targets by these clients prior to a possible hack using NSO surveillance tools. People whose phone numbers appear in the leak ... include lawyers, human rights defenders, religious figures, academics, businesspeople, diplomats, senior government officials and heads of state. One phone that has contained signs of Pegasus activity belonged to our esteemed Mexican colleague Carmen Aristegui, whose number was in the data leak and who was targeted following her expos© of a corruption scandal involving her country's former president Enrique Pe±a Nieto. At least four of her journalist colleagues appear in the leak
For a second year, the nation’s surveillance court has pointed with concern to “widespread violations” by the F.B.I. of rules intended to protect Americans’ privacy when analysts search emails gathered without a warrant. In a 67-page ruling ... James E. Boasberg, the presiding judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, recounted several episodes uncovered by an F.B.I. audit where the bureau’s analysts improperly searched for Americans’ information in emails that the National Security Agency collected without warrants. Still, Judge Boasberg said he was willing to issue a legally required certification for the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance program to operate for another year. [The program] grew out of the once-secret Stellarwind project, which President George W. Bush started after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. In 2008, Congress legalized the practice. The surveillance is carried out by the National Security Agency, but three other entities — the C.I.A., the National Counterterrorism Center and the F.B.I. — also receive access to streams of “raw” messages. The F.B.I. receives only a small portion of the messages that the National Security Agency vacuums up: The bureau gets copies of intercepts to and from targets who are deemed relevant to a full and active F.B.I. national security investigation. In 2019, the most recent year for which data is public, the program had more than 200,000 targets.
Back in June, the World Economic Forum, best known for its annual Davos summit, kicked off a lunge for organizational relevance. The effort was called ... the Great Reset. And through articles, videos, webinars, podcasts, and a book by WEF founder Klaus Schwab, it provided a coronavirus-themed rebranding of all the things Davos does anyway, now hastily repackaged as a blueprint for reviving the global economy post-pandemic by “seeking a better form of capitalism.” The Great Reset was a place to hawk for-profit technofixes to complex social problems; to hear heads of transnational oil giants opine about the urgent need to tackle climate change; to listen to politicians say the things they say during crises: that this is a tragedy but also an opportunity. In short, the Great Reset encompasses some good stuff that won’t happen and some bad stuff that certainly will and, frankly, nothing out of the ordinary in our era of “green” billionaires readying rockets for Mars. None of this is to say that Schwab’s Reset push is benign and unworthy of scrutiny. All kinds of dangerous ideas are lurking under its wide brim, from a reckless push toward more automation in the midst of a joblessness crisis, to the steady move to normalize mass surveillance and biometric tracking tools, to the very real (though not new) problem of Bill Gates’s singular power over global health policy.
Note: The author of this article is courageous journalist Naomi Klein, who wrote the seminal book “The Shock Doctrine.” For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on the coronavirus from reliable major media sources.
Previous vaccines have taken a decade or more to develop, and more than half of the past 20 years have failed in clinical trials. However, four [COVID-19] vaccine candidates have entered the final phase of clinical trials prior to approval by the Food and Drug Administration. Operation Warp Speed ... organized government agencies and private companies with the goal of developing, manufacturing and distributing hundreds of millions of vaccine doses, with starting doses to be available by early 2021. At the head of the operation is Moncef Slaoui, a Moroccan-born Belgian-American scientist. Operation Warp Speed … has invested in six vaccine candidates (Moderna, Pfizer / BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, Novavax, and Sanofi / GSK) with the hope that at least one ... will prove safe and effective in clinical trials. Four of the six vaccine candidates have already been shown to be safe and effective in the first two test phases, which test whether the vaccinations produce so-called neutralizing antibodies. Serious health problems regularly arise during vaccination attempts. "We know how to distribute vaccines to any location in the US," says Slaoui. "It happens every year for flu and shingles." Tracking systems need to be "incredibly precise" to ensure that patients are each given two doses of the same vaccine and to monitor them for adverse health effects. Operation Warp Speed … has selected medical distributor McKesson and cloud operators Google and Oracle to collect and track vaccine data.
Note: The above article is also available here. Don't miss this excellent article which raises many important questions about this operation. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on the coronavirus and vaccines from reliable major media sources.
Seven years after former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the mass surveillance of Americans' telephone records, an appeals court has found the program was unlawful. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said the warrantless telephone dragnet that secretly collected millions of Americans' telephone records violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and may well have been unconstitutional. Snowden, who fled to Russia in the aftermath of the 2013 disclosures and still faces U.S. espionage charges, said on Twitter that the ruling was a vindication of his decision to go public with evidence of the National Security Agency's domestic eavesdropping operation. "I never imagined that I would live to see our courts condemn the NSA's activities as unlawful and in the same ruling credit me for exposing them," Snowden said. Evidence that the NSA was secretly building a vast database of U.S. telephone records ... was the first and arguably the most explosive of the Snowden revelations published by the Guardian newspaper in 2013. Up until that moment, top intelligence officials publicly insisted the NSA never knowingly collected information on Americans at all. After the program's exposure, U.S. officials fell back on the argument that the spying had played a crucial role in fighting domestic extremism. But the Ninth Circuit ruled Wednesday that those claims were "inconsistent with the contents of the classified record."
It's a fairly ordinary evening on TikTok, the video-sharing app. Things do not seem so different on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, where a live streaming boom has minted new social media millionaires. Behind the scenes, however, Chinese streamers are subject to an elaborate regime of automated surveillance and censorship. One system can use facial recognition to scan live streamers' broadcasts and guess their age. Another checks whether users' faces match their state ID cards. Another system assigns streamers, who are expected to uphold "public order and good customs", a "safety rating", similar to a "credit score". If the score dips below a certain level, they are punished automatically. Meanwhile, speech and text recognition is used to ferret out sins such as "feudal superstition" [and] defamation of the Communist Party. These methods are laid bare in a little-known document from TikTok and Douyin's parent company, ByteDance, and unearthed by New York City journalist Izzy Niu, which explains how the apps have adapted China's strict internet censorship laws to the unprecedented speed and chaos of live streaming. The document raises difficult questions for TikTok, which faces privacy probes in the US and UK and has already been banned in India. Some of these methods are common in the West, too. Both Facebook and YouTube use AI to police their services, and have massively expanded their censorship during the pandemic.
The White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are asking Facebook, Google and other tech giants to give them greater access to Americans' smartphone location data in order to help them combat the spread of the coronavirus, according to four people at companies involved in the discussions who are not authorized to speak about them publicly. Federal health officials say they could use anonymous, aggregated user data collected by the tech companies to map the spread of the virus a practice known as "syndromic surveillance" and prevent further infections. They could also use the data to see whether people were practicing "social distancing." The federal effort [was] first reported by The Washington Post. The government officials have held at least two calls in recent days with representatives from the companies, the sources said. Those officials are "very serious" about making this happen, a person at one of the tech companies said. Similar and more aggressive surveillance practices have already been put to use in China, South Korea and Israel. The moves have set off alarm bells among privacy advocates who fear what the government may do with users' data. Facebook already provides health researchers and nongovernmental organizations in some countries with anonymized data to help disease prevention efforts. Representatives from Facebook, Google, Twitter, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, IBM and Cisco all took part in the call with White House and federal health officials.
While we all live under extensive surveillance, for government employees and contractors - especially those with a security clearance - privacy is virtually nonexistent. Everything they do on their work computers is monitored. Even when they try to outsmart their work computer by taking photos directly of their screen, video cameras in their workplace might be recording their every move. Government workers with security clearance promise never [to] divulge classified information to anyone who is not authorized to receive it. But for many whistleblowers, the decision to go public results from troubling insights into government activity, coupled with the belief that as long as that activity remains secret, the system will not change. The growing use of the Espionage Act, a 1917 law that criminalizes the release of national defense information by anyone with intent or reason to believe that it is to be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of a foreign nation, shows how the system is rigged against whistleblowers. Government insiders charged under the law are not allowed to defend themselves by arguing that their decision to share what they know was prompted by an impulse to help Americans confront and end government abuses. The act is blind to the possibility that the publics interest ... might outweigh the governments interest, Jameel Jaffer, head of the Knight First Amendment Institute, wrote recently. It is blind to the difference between whistle-blowers and spies.
Note: The above article includes the stories of four whistleblowers charged under the Espionage act. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on intelligence agency corruption and the disappearance of privacy from reliable major media sources.
Note: For more details, read the entire article at the link above. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing privacy news articles from reliable major media sources.
In the summer of 2015, as Memphis exploded with protests over the police killing of a 19-year-old man, activists began hearing on Facebook from someone called Bob Smith. His profile picture [was] a Guy Fawkes mask, the symbol of anti-government dissent. Smith acted as if he supported the protesters. Over the next three years, dozens of them accepted his friend requests, allowing him to observe private discussions. He described himself as a far-left Democrat, a fellow protester and a man of color. But Smith was not real. He was the creation of a white detective in the Memphis Police Departments Office of Homeland Security whose job was to keep tabs on local activists. The detective, Tim Reynolds, outed himself in August under questioning by the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, which sued the police department for allegedly violating a 1978 agreement that prohibited police from conducting surveillance of lawful protests. The revelation validated many activists distrust of local authorities. It also provided a rare look into the ways American law enforcement operates online. Social media monitoring - including the use of software to crunch data about peoples online activity - illustrates a policing revolution that has allowed authorities to not only track people but also map out their networks, said Rachel Levinson-Waldman, senior counsel at [the] Brennan Center for Justice. But there are few laws governing this kind of monitoring.
Note: Memphis police were recently reported to have systematically spied on community activists. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on police corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
A trove of documents released by the city of Memphis late last week appear to show that its police department has been systematically using fake social media profiles to surveil local Black Lives Matter activists, and that it kept dossiers and detailed power point presentations on dozens of Memphis-area activists. The surveillance project was operated through the Memphis police departments office of homeland security. In a deposition for a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union over the information gathering, officials said it ... began to focus on local individuals or groups that were staging protests [around 2016]. This included the publication of daily joint information briefings on potential protests and known protesters. The briefings regularly included information about meetings on private property, panel discussions, town halls, and even innocuous events like Black Owned Food Truck Sunday. A good deal of that information appears to have been obtained by a fake MPD Facebook profile for a Bob Smith, which the ACLU said was used to view private posts, join private groups, and otherwise pose as a member of the activist community. The briefings, which contained ... photographs, dates of birth, addresses, and mental health histories were distributed beyond the department according to the ACLU lawsuit, to a number of local businesses including the regions largest employer FedEx and the county school district.
All over the western world banks are shutting down cash machines and branches. They are trying to push you into using their digital payments and digital banking infrastructure. Financial institutions ... are trying to nudge us towards a cashless society and digital banking. The true motive is corporate profit. Payments companies such as Visa and Mastercard want to increase the volume of digital payments services they sell, while banks want to cut costs. The nudge requires two parts. First, they must increase the inconvenience of cash. Second, they must vigorously promote the alternative. But a cashless society is not in your interest. It is in the interest of banks and payments companies. Their job is to make you believe that it is in your interest too, and they are succeeding in doing that. The recent Visa chaos, during which millions of people who have become dependent on digital payment suddenly found themselves stranded when the monopolistic payment network crashed, was a temporary setback. Digital systems may be convenient, but they often come with central points of failure. Cash, on the other hand, does not crash. It does not rely on external data centres, and is not subject to remote control or remote monitoring. The cash system allows for an unmonitored off the grid space. This is also the reason why financial institutions and financial technology companies want to get rid of it. Cash transactions are outside the net that such institutions cast to harvest fees and data.
Note: For more on this questionable trend, see this article and this one in the UK's Guardian. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on financial industry corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
China is reversing the commonly held vision of technology as a great democratizer, bringing people more freedom and connecting them to the world. In China, it has brought control. Cameras scan train stations for Chinas most wanted. Billboard-size displays ... list the names of people who dont pay their debts. Facial recognition scanners guard the entrances to housing complexes. Already, China has an estimated 200 million surveillance cameras. Such efforts supplement other systems that track internet use and communications, hotel stays, train and plane trips and even car travel. Invasive mass-surveillance software has been set up in the west to track members of the Uighur Muslim minority and map their relations with friends and family. [At] the intersection south of Changhong Bridge in the city of Xiangyang ... police put up cameras linked to facial recognition technology and a big, outdoor screen. Photos of lawbreakers were displayed alongside their names and government I.D. numbers. Chinas surveillance companies are also looking to test the appetite for high-tech surveillance abroad. At home, China is preparing its people for next-level surveillance technology. A recent state-media propaganda film called Amazing China showed off a ... virtual map that provided police with records of utility use. If there are anomalies, the system sends an alert, a narrator says, as Chinese police officers pay a visit to an apartment with a record of erratic utility use.
Thousands of people pass by the buildings each day and rarely give them a second glance, because their function is not publicly known. They are an integral part of one of the worlds largest telecommunications networks and they are also linked to a controversial National Security Agency surveillance program. Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.. In each of these cities, The Intercept has identified an AT&T facility containing networking equipment that transports large quantities of internet traffic across the United States and the world. A body of evidence including classified NSA documents, public records, and interviews with several former AT&T employees indicates that the buildings are central to an NSA spying initiative that has for years monitored billions of emails, phone calls, and online chats passing across U.S. territory. The NSA considers AT&T to be one of its most trusted partners and has lauded the companys extreme willingness to help. Little known, however, is that its scope is not restricted to AT&Ts customers. According to the NSAs documents, it values AT&T not only because it has access to information that transits the nation, but also because it maintains unique relationships with other phone and internet providers. The NSA exploits these relationships for surveillance purposes, commandeering AT&Ts massive infrastructure and using it as a platform to covertly tap into communications processed by other companies.
Note: The NSA was authorized in 2016 to share communications data it collected without warrants on Americans with 16 intelligence and law enforcement agencies. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on intelligence agency corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
As Facebook sought to become the worlds dominant social media service, it struck agreements allowing phone and other device makers access to vast amounts of its users personal information. Facebook has reached data-sharing partnerships with at least 60 device makers - including Apple, Amazon, BlackBerry, Microsoft and Samsung. The partnerships ... raise concerns about the companys privacy protections and compliance with a 2011 consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission. Facebook allowed the device companies access to the data of users friends without their explicit consent, even after declaring that it would no longer share such information with outsiders. Some device makers could retrieve personal information even from users friends who believed they had barred any sharing. In interviews, several former Facebook software engineers and security experts said they were surprised at the ability to override sharing restrictions. Its like having door locks installed, only to find out that the locksmith also gave keys to all of his friends so they can come in and rifle through your stuff without having to ask you for permission, said Ashkan Soltani, a research and privacy consultant who formerly served as the F.T.C.s chief technologist.
I downloaded a copy of my Facebook data last week. I didnt expect to see much. But when I opened my file, it was like opening Pandoras box. I learned that about 500 advertisers - many that I had never heard of, like Bad Dad, a motorcycle parts store, and Space Jesus, an electronica band - had my contact information, which could include my email address, phone number and full name. Facebook also had my entire phone book, including the number to ring my apartment buzzer. The social network had even kept a permanent record of the roughly 100 people I had deleted from my friends list over the last 14 years. Facebook said unfamiliar advertisers might appear [in the file] because they might have obtained my contact information from elsewhere, compiled it into a list of people they wanted to target and uploaded that list into Facebook. Brands can obtain your information [by] buying ... from a data provider like Acxiom, which has amassed one of the worlds largest commercial databases on consumers. Lets be clear: Facebook is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what information tech companies have collected on me. Knowing this, I also downloaded copies of my Google data with a tool called Google Takeout. The data sets were exponentially larger than my Facebook data. Here was the biggest surprise: In a folder labeled Ads, Google kept a history of many news articles I had read. Be warned: Once you see the vast amount of data that has been collected about you, you wont be able to unsee it.
Note: Those who want to download their own Facebook data can use this link. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corporate corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
Bloomberg Government reports on a FedBizOpps.gov posting by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with the relatively benign-sounding subject Media Monitoring Services. The details of the attached Statement of Work, however, outline a plan to gather and monitor the public activities of media professionals and influencers and are enough to cause nightmares of constitutional proportions, particularly as the freedom of the press is under attack worldwide. As part of its "media monitoring," the DHS seeks to track more than 290,000 global news sources as well as social media. The successful contracting company will have "24/7 access to a password protected, media influencer database" ... in order to "identify any and all media coverage related to the Department of Homeland Security or a particular event." The database will be browsable by "location, beat and type of influencer," and for each influencer, the chosen contractor should "present contact details and ... an overview of the previous coverage published by the media influencer." Increasing government encroachment on the freedom of the press is the sinister backdrop to all of this. Freedom House ... recently concluded that global media freedom has reached its lowest level in the past 13 years. The independent watchdog organization blames "new threats to journalists and media outlets in major democracies" as well as "further crackdowns on independent media in authoritarian countries like Russia and China."
A US court will today hear a request from Monsanto for access to a huge batch of internal communications by Avaaz, in a move that the campaign group says could have grave repercussions for online activism and data privacy. Monsanto is seeking the release of all lobby documents ... where the firm or its herbicide ingredient glyphosate have been mentioned. Avaaz says this would include personal information about its employees, as well as the email addresses of more than four million signatories to petitions against Monsantos GM and glyphosate policies. A victory for Monsanto in todays hearing would cost the online advocacy group thousands of person-hours of work time, and hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to Avaazs lawyers. It could even raise the prospect of a migration out of online activism by campaigners concerned about corporate surveillance. Monsantos [request] demands all documents Avaaz employees have created, maintained, received, sent or copied, where these involve discussion about glyphosate, Monsanto, or the World Health Organizations International Agency for Research on Cancer, which found glyphosate to probably be carcinogenic. Monsanto filed its request shortly after a bitter EU regulatory battle ended with its license for glyphosate the core ingredient in Roundup being extended by just five years, rather than the 15 years originally sought.
Note: Read more on Avaaz and the power of online activism. Major lawsuits are beginning to unfold over Monsanto's lies to regulators and the public on the dangers of its products, most notably Roundup. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corporate corruption and health.
The White House can now direct US intelligence agencies to spend money and take covert action without approval of congressional oversight committees under a provision slipped into the bill that ended the government shutdown, leaders of the Senate intelligence committee say. A provision in the bill - requested by the White House and Pentagon - gives intelligence agencies an exemption from the law that requires them to get authorization from the intelligence committees before they spend taxpayer money, said Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and chairman of the Senate panel. Section 504 of the National Security Act gives the committees the power to withhold money from the intelligence agencies if they object to surveillance programs or other intelligence activities. Burr and [Sen. Mark] Warner said the provision to weaken their oversight power comes just after they promised civil liberties advocates in the Senate that they would ensure that the FBI and other intelligence agencies don't overstep their bounds in carrying out a controversial surveillance program recently renewed by Congress. That surveillance program, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act ... sweeps up emails, text messages, photos and other communication from an unknown number of Americans, and allows federal agents to search that data without a warrant. Burr and Warner both supported a six-year renewal of the program earlier this month.
The use of fake internet domain names to trick consumers into giving up personal information is more widespread than experts originally thought. This is largely because of the heightened use of Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs), which use homographs carefully crafted to look exactly like their English counterparts. Hackers create domain names that replace an English-language character with a look-alike character from another language - replacing the Latin letter a with the Cyrillic letter a, for instance - as a way of luring users to fake websites where theyre prompted to enter their personal information. [A new] report from ... Farsight Security identified 125 different websites, from social networking giants like Facebook and Twitter to luxury brands like Gucci and financial websites like Wells Fargo, being imitated by fake domain addresses. Between Oct. 17 and Jan. 10, the group observed more than 116,000 imitator domains of these sites in real time. Take a popular financial site like BankofAmerica.com. Cybercriminals take this domain and ... create a website that looks strikingly similar to the original Bank of America page. A user types in their login information and password on this fake Bank of America site, automatically giving cybercriminals their credentials to log in to the real thing. Most phishing attempts reach internet users through email, so you should be suspicious of any emails that include ... login links to different accounts combined with demands to update information.
Note: Read the complete Farsight Security report for more information on these common cyberattacks and how to protect yourself from them.
The Trump administration has declared all-out war on leakers. But the administration is battling the wrong enemy with the wrong weapons. Digital secrets stolen from the National Security Agency represent the real ... security problem. More than half a billion pages have been swiped. The stolen data includes some of the NSAs most prized cyber weapons. Most were created by the agencys own hacker team, the Tailored Access Operations (TAO) unit. Government hackers search for ways to crack into widely used computer operating systems, such as Microsoft Windows. When they discover a way in ... rather than notify the companies that their products are dangerously flawed, the NSA often secretly stores these vulnerabilities and later converts them into powerful cyber weapons, known as exploits. Like burglars tools, the exploits can secretly open a crack in a system, such as Windows, and insert an implant containing NSA malware - enabling the agency to take control of any computer using that Windows program. Unknown to the public, the NSA has for years been negligent in protecting its top-secret material, including these cyber weapons. Meanwhile, the Trump administration continues searching for someone who passed a few tidbits about White House bickering to a reporter, rather than focus on the NSA losing potentially deadly cyber weapons.
Note: In 2014, it was reported that the NSA was developing tools to make it relatively easy to hack millions of computers at once. Two years later, a large collection of NSA hacking tools was leaked. Now, these tools are being used by criminals against people all over the world. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about intelligence agency corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
The FBI counterterrorism divisions identification of a movement it calls black identity extremists is the latest addition to the list of protesters and dissidents the agency puts under the domestic terrorism umbrella. But many national security experts say the designation [is] simply a label that allows the FBI to conduct additional surveillance on basically anyone whos black and politically active, said Michael German, who left the FBI in 2004. While the practice of labeling certain protest groups as domestic terrorists is not unique to President Trumps administration, Hina Shamsi ... at the American Civil Liberties Union, said theres concern that abusive and unjustified investigations by the FBI are rising. The problem, Shamsi said, is partly in the overly broad definition of domestic terrorism in the Patriot Act as a violation of the criminal laws ... intended to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion. Eighty-four members of Congress cited that intention to intimidate or coerce in a letter to the Justice Department last week that asked whether the department had labeled Dakota Access Pipeline protesters domestic terrorists. The Justice Department did not respond to questions about the letter. The FBI report that focused on black identity extremists ... had interest groups questioning whether the designation has been used to single out members of Black Lives Matter.
Note: The Department of Homeland Security has reportedly been monitoring the Black Lives Matter movement since 2014, in some cases producing "minute-by-minute reports on protesters movements". For more along these lines, read about Cointelpro, the program used by corrupt intelligence agencies to spy on and attack the U.S. civil rights movement beginning in the 1960's. See also concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about the erosion of civil liberties.
The US government is seeking to unmask every person who visited an anti-Trump website in what privacy advocates say is an unconstitutional fishing expedition for political dissidents. The warrant appears to be an escalation of the Department of Justices (DoJ) campaign against anti-Trump activities, including the harsh prosecution of inauguration day protesters. On 17 July, the DoJ served a website-hosting company, DreamHost, with a search warrant for every piece of information it possessed that was related to a website that was used to coordinate protests during Donald Trumps inauguration. The warrant ... seeks to get the IP addresses of 1.3 million people who visited [the site], as well as the date and time of their visit and information about what browser or operating system they used. The warrant was made public Monday, when DreamHost announced its plans to challenge the government in court. The government has aggressively prosecuted activists arrested during the 20 January protests in Washington DC. In April, the US attorneys office in Washington DC filed a single indictment charging more than 217 people with identical crimes, including felony rioting. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has been advising DreamHost, characterized the warrant as unconstitutional. I cant conceive of a legitimate justification other than casting your net as broadly as possible, senior staff attorney Mark Rumold [said]. What they would be getting is a list of everyone who has ever been interested in attending these protests.
Note: In May, United Nations officials said that the US treatment of activists was increasingly "incompatible with US obligations under international human rights law". For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption and the erosion of privacy.
The Federal Reserves little-known role housing the assets of other central banks comes with a unique benefit to the United States: It serves as a source of foreign intelligence for Washington. Senior officials from the U.S. Treasury and other government departments have turned to these otherwise confidential accounts several times a year to analyze the asset holdings of the central banks of Russia, China, Iraq, Turkey, Yemen, Libya and others, according to more than a dozen current and former senior Fed and Treasury officials. The U.S. central bank keeps a tight lid on information contained in these accounts. But according to the officials interviewed by Reuters, U.S. authorities regularly use a need to know confidentiality exception in the Feds service contracts with foreign central banks. Some 250 foreign central banks and governments keep $3.3 trillion of their assets at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, about half of the worlds official dollar reserves, using a service advertised in a 2015 slide presentation as safe and confidential. Other major central banks and some commercial banks offer similar services. But only the Fed offers direct access to U.S. debt markets and to the worlds reserve currency, the dollar. In all, the people interviewed by Reuters identified seven instances in the last 15 years in which the accounts gave U.S. authorities insights into the actions of foreign counterparts or market movements, at times leading to a specific U.S. response.
Note: It's quite telling that no other major media picked up this important piece. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on financial industry corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
As grocery shoppers work to digest Amazons massive acquisition of Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, the digital storefront recently scored a victory that aims to reinforce the companys growing investments in brick-and-mortar retail. Amazon was awarded a patent May 30 that could help it choke off a common issue faced by many physical stores: Customers use of smartphones to compare prices even as they walk around a shop. But Amazon now has the technology to prevent that type of behavior when customers enter any of its physical stores and log onto the WiFi networks there. Titled Physical Store Online Shopping Control, Amazons patent describes a system that can identify a customers Internet traffic and sense when the smartphone user is trying to access a competitors website. When that happens, Amazon may take one of several actions. It may block access to the competitors site, preventing customers from viewing comparable products from rivals. It might redirect the customer to Amazons own site or to other, Amazon-approved sites. It might notify an Amazon salesperson to approach the customer. Or it might send the customers smartphone a text message, coupon or other information designed to lure the person back into Amazons orbit.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing corporate corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
Your perceptions of the outside world arise through brain activity. Scientists in China have managed to reverse-engineer this process, using brain activity to guess what people are looking at. Their algorithm, which analyses functional MRI brain scans collected while volunteers gaze at digits and letters, is able to furnish uncannily clear depictions of the original images. It has been termed a mind-reading algorithm; a more accurate, though less catchy, description would be a reconstruction of visual field algorithm. The algorithm, called the Deep Generative Multiview Model, was highlighted this month by MIT Technology Review as an emerging technology to watch. What is true for the visual cortex is also true for our auditory systems: if you hear a song, the auditory part of your brain whirrs into action. Scientists in the US have developed a programme that can turn the associated firing of neurons back into real sounds. These technologies are turning thoughts into pictures and sounds. In short, science is coming remarkably close to being able to access what is inside our heads. If such algorithms were to find their way into advertising, we may find ourselves digitally stalked not only by images of hotels and consumer goods that we once clicked on, but also by pictures we glanced at or by songs that we streamed. This requires access to brain signals, but who would bet against such a future? Millions of people, by wearing fitness bands, sign up to having their physiological signals charted round the clock.
Note: Software breakthroughs like this have many potential benefits. But these new technologies may also be used for electronic harassment or mind control. And a 2008 US Defense Intelligence Agency report described the brain as the "battlefield of future".
Cybersecurity experts were shocked Tuesday when a sixth grader showed them just how easy it would be to hack their mobile devices and weaponize a seemingly innocuous item - in this case, his smart teddy bear. At a cyber safety conference in the Hague, Netherlands, 11-year-old prodigy Reuben Paul used a small computer called a "raspberry pi" to hack into audience members' bluetooth devices and download phone numbers. Paul then reportedly used one of the numbers to hack into the teddy bear, which connects to the Internet via Bluetooth or WiFi, and used the toy to record a message from the audience by using a computer language program called Python. "I basically showed how I could connect to [a remote Internet-connected device], and send commands to it," Paul told AFP. He warned that Internet-enabled everyday objects "can be used and weaponized to spy on us or harm us," for example by scraping private information like passwords. Toys could even be programmed to say "meet me at this location and I will pick you up," he added. Though not yet a teenager, Paul is already well known among his community in Austin, Texas, and beyond. In 2014, the wunderkind founded his own company, an educational gaming website called PrudentGames. Paul is now the company's CEO.
Note: An internet-connected toy doll was recently banned in Germany because it operates "as an espionage device". A 2015 New York Times article called "smart objects" a "train wreck in privacy and security". For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on corporate corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
Approximately half of adult Americans photographs are stored in facial recognition databases that can be accessed by the FBI, without their knowledge or consent, in the hunt for suspected criminals. About 80% of photos in the FBIs network are non-criminal entries, including pictures from drivers licenses and passports. The algorithms used to identify matches are inaccurate about 15% of the time, and are more likely to misidentify black people than white people. These are just some of the damning facts presented at last weeks House oversight committee hearing, where politicians and privacy campaigners criticized the FBI and called for stricter regulation of facial recognition technology at a time when it is creeping into law enforcement and business. The FBI first launched its advanced biometric database ... in 2010, augmenting the old fingerprint database with further capabilities including facial recognition. The bureau did not inform the public ... nor did it publish a privacy impact assessment, required by law, for five years. The FBI made arrangements with 18 different states to gain access to their databases of drivers license photos. Last year, the US government accountability office (GAO) analyzed the FBIs use of facial recognition technology and found it to be lacking in accountability, accuracy and oversight. It doesnt know how often the system incorrectly identifies the wrong subject, explained the GAOs Diana Maurer. Innocent people could bear the burden of being falsely accused.
WikiLeaks on Tuesday released a significant cache of documents that it said came from a high-security network inside the Central Intelligence Agency. WikiLeaks called the documents Vault 7, and they lay out the capabilities of the agencys global covert hacking program. By the end of 2016, the C.I.A. program had 5,000 registered users, including government employees and contractors, [and] had produced more than a thousand hacking systems. The files have circulated among former United States government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner, one of whom provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive, WikiLeaks said. The software targeted by the hacking program included the most popular smartphone operating systems. Apples iPhone software ... was a particular target, including the development of several zero day exploits - a term for attacking coding flaws the company would not have known about. Googles Android ... received even more attention. By 2016, the C.I.A. had 24 weaponized Android zero day software programs. The C.I.A. also targeted ... internet-connected computers and home and industrial devices running the Linux operating system. In 2010, the Obama administration promised to disclose newly discovered vulnerabilities to companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft. But the WikiLeaks documents indicate that the agency found security flaws, kept them secret and then used them for surveillance and intelligence gathering.
Note: See the wikileaks webpage summarizing this most important leak. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about intelligence agency corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
Foreign travelers will now be asked to provide links to their social media accounts before they enter the U.S. after the government implemented a new policy designed to identify potential threats. The request to provide links to accounts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Google+ and LinkedIn is optional. But privacy advocates and some technology companies oppose the move on the grounds it violates civil liberties and freedom of expression. The new policy, which was originally proposed this summer, was adopted Dec. 19 for people arriving via the ... Electronic System for Travel Authorization, which now asks about social media accounts in its online form. There is no clear indication of how the information gathered will be used. An open-ended inquiry into online presence would give DHS a window into applicants private lives, a coalition of 28 civil rights and technology groups wrote in a letter in August in opposition to the proposal. Scrutiny of their sensitive or controversial online profiles would lead many visa-waiver applicants to self-censor or delete their accounts, with consequences for personal, business, and travel-related activity. The risk of discrimination based on analysis of social media content and connections is great and will fall hardest on Arab and Muslim communities, the letter said. It also poses significant risks to journalists, whose profession requires confidentiality and whose social media networks may convey a profile that, taken out of context, could be misconstrued.
In the trove of documents provided by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden is a treasure. It begins with a riddle: “What do the President of Pakistan, a cigar smuggler, an arms dealer, a counterterrorism target, and a combatting proliferation target have in common? They all used their everyday GSM phone during a flight.” This riddle appeared in 2010 in SIDtoday, the internal newsletter of the NSA’s Signals Intelligence Directorate, or SID, and it was classified “top secret.” It announced the emergence of a new field of espionage that had not yet been explored: the interception of data from phone calls made on board civil aircraft. In a separate internal document from a year earlier, the NSA reported that 50,000 people had already used their mobile phones in flight as of December 2008, a figure that rose to 100,000 by February 2009. In a 2012 presentation, Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ ... disclosed a program called “Southwinds,” which was used to gather all the cellular activity, voice communication, data, metadata, and content of calls on board commercial aircraft. To spy on a telephone, all that was required was that the aircraft be cruising at an altitude above 10,000 feet. Today, approximately 100 companies permit in-flight use of telephones. This will further extend the scope of espionage by providing a pool of potential targets comprising several hundreds of thousands of people. This implies a population that goes far beyond terrorist targets.
Investigators pursuing what they believe to be the largest case of mishandling classified documents in United States history have found that the huge trove of stolen documents in the possession of a National Security Agency contractor included top-secret N.S.A. hacking tools that two months ago were offered for sale on the internet. They have been hunting for electronic clues that could link those cybertools - computer code posted online for auction by an anonymous group calling itself the Shadow Brokers - to the home computers of the contractor, Harold T. Martin III, who was arrested in late August. But so far, the investigators have been frustrated in their attempt to prove that Mr. Martin deliberately leaked or sold the hacking tools. Mr. Martin ... has insisted that he got in the habit of taking material home so he could improve his skills and be better at his job. The material the F.B.I. found in his possession added up to many terabytes of information ... which would make it by far the largest unauthorized leak of classified material from the classified sector. That volume dwarfs the hundreds of thousands of N.S.A. documents taken by Edward J. Snowden. [Mr. Martin] long held a high-level clearance and for a time worked with the N.S.A.s premier hacking unit, called Tailored Access Operations, which breaks into the computer networks of foreign countries and which developed the hacking tools.
Note: It was reported in 2014 that the NSA had developed specialized tools to covertly hack into computers on a mass scale by using automated systems. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about intelligence agency corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
Years before anyone had ever heard of [Edward] Snowden, [Bill] Binney, a gifted cryptologist and mathematician, was pushing back against the NSAs spying overreach. In October 2001 ... he resigned rather than participate in a clandestine, massively overpriced and questionably legal electronic spying system code-named Trailblazer. Eventually, the government came after him. [Binney] was thrilled by [Oliver] Stones powerful biopic of Snowden, who astounded the world with his massive exposure of the NSAs global spying programs. "I think it will help people understand what is really going on behind the scenes. They are invading the privacy of everyone," he says. "They can turn on your cellphone and listen to you. They can turn on your camera and watch you." In 2013 ... James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, [lied] under oath during a congressional hearing about the NSAs spying programs. Snowden was watching. He had also seen what had happened to Binney and fellow NSA executives Thomas Drake, Ed Loomis and Kirk Wiebe, whose homes were raided by FBI agents after The New York Times exposed the NSAs secret spying programs in 2005. Drake, prosecuted under the 1917 Espionage Act, was eventually acquitted ... but his career was ruined. [Snowden's] critics insist he should have pursued his complaints internally, despite the persuasive examples of Binney and his comrades that such resistance is futile, even risky.
Note: Watch a free trailer or rent the whole documentary on this webpage. Read a revealing, detailed New York Times article on Oliver Stone and his profound work to expose corruption and manipulation through film. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on intelligence agency corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
Oliver Stone has taken aim at the US government for deceiving people about the levels of surveillance that exist in the country. His new film Snowden, about the controversial NSA informant Edward Snowden, received its world premiere. The drama ... tells of the former CIA employees discovery that the agency had constructed a system to spy on the public. Americans dont know anything about it because the government lies about it all the time, Stone said at a press conference. Whats going on now is pretty shocking. This story not only deals with eavesdropping but mass eavesdropping, drones and cyberwarfare. As Snowden said himself the other day, Its out of control, the world is out of control. The film also features a cameo from Snowden himself, who still resides at an undisclosed location in Russia while he searches for asylum elsewhere. Stone hopes that he may return to US ground but is doubtful. Obama could pardon him and we hope so, he said. But he has vigorously prosecuted eight whistleblowers under the espionage act, which is an all-time record for an American president, and hes been one of the most efficient managers of this surveillance world. It is the most extensive and invasive surveillance state that has ever existed and hes built it up. The film-maker ... likens [the current situation] to a George Orwell novel. I never thought this could happen, he said. But from 2001 on, its very clear that something radical has changed. Theres more to it that meets the eye and whatever they tell you, youve got to look beyond.
June 6 will be the third anniversary of The Guardians publication of top-secret documents provided by [Edward] Snowden that showed that the National Security Agency was collecting the telephone records of tens of millions of Americans. Mr. Snowden [has been] denounced ... as a traitor. [Former Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton said in a Democratic presidential debate [that], He could have gotten all of the protections of being a whistle-blower. Thomas Drake would disagree. Mr. Drake was a senior N.S.A. official who had also complained, 12 years earlier, about warrantless surveillance. He went up the chain of command [to] the Defense Departments Office of Inspector General. Things did not go well. F.B.I. agents raided his house. He was forced to resign and was indicted on 10 felony charges arising from an alleged scheme to improperly retain and disclose classified information. He ultimately pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for exceeding authorized use of a government computer in exchange for the governments dropping the other charges. He now works at an Apple store. Mr. Snowden followed the Drake case closely in the news media and drew the obvious conclusion: Going through [official] channels was worse than a dead end. [John] Crane, a former assistant inspector general in the Defense Department who oversaw the whistle-blower program, has now come forward alleging that Mr. Drake was persecuted by the very officials in his office who were supposed to protect him.
Note: John Crane was forced out of the Pentagon in 2013. His story is told in a new book, titled, Bravehearts: Whistle Blowing In The Age of Snowden by Mark Hertsgaard. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about intelligence agency corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
Edward Snowden has called for a complete overhaul of US whistleblower protections after a new source from deep inside the Pentagon came forward with a startling account of how the system became a trap for those seeking to expose wrongdoing. The account of John Crane ... appears to undermine Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and [others] who argue that there were established routes for Snowden other than leaking to the media. Crane, a longtime assistant inspector general at the Pentagon, has accused his old office of retaliating against a major surveillance whistleblower, Thomas Drake. Not only did Pentagon officials provide Drakes name to criminal investigators, Crane told the Guardian, they destroyed documents relevant to his defence. Thomas Drakes legal ordeal ruined him financially. His case served as a prologue to Snowdens. In 2002, Drake and NSA colleagues contacted the Pentagon inspector general to blow the whistle on [a] tool, Trailblazer, for mass-data analysis. Crane, head of the offices whistleblower unit, assigned investigators. For over two years, with Drake as a major source, they ... prepared a lengthy secret report [that] eventually [helped] to kill the program. As far as Crane was concerned, the whistleblower system was working. But after an aspect of the NSAs warrantless mass surveillance leaked to the New York Times, Drake himself came under investigation and eventually indictment [for] hoarding documentation exactly what inspector-general investigators tell their whistleblowers to do.
Note: John Crane was forced out of the Pentagon in 2013. His story is told in a new book, titled, Bravehearts: Whistle Blowing In The Age of Snowden by Mark Hertsgaard. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about intelligence agency corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
A national debate has played out over mass surveillance by the National Security Agency. [Meanwhile], a new generation of technology ... has given local law enforcement officers unprecedented power to peer into the lives of citizens. The powerful systems also have become flash points for civil libertarians and activists. This is something thats been building since September 11, said Jennifer Lynch, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. First funding went to the military to develop this technology, and now it has come back to domestic law enforcement. Its the perfect storm of cheaper and easier-to-use technologies and money from state and federal governments to purchase it. But perhaps the most controversial and revealing technology is the threat-scoring software Beware. As officers respond to calls, Beware automatically runs the address. The searches return the names of residents and scans them ... to generate a color-coded threat level for each person or address: green, yellow or red. Exactly how Beware calculates threat scores is something that its maker, Intrado, considers a trade secret, so ... only Intrado - not the police or the public - knows how Beware tallies its scores. The system might mistakenly increase someones threat level by misinterpreting innocuous activity on social media, like criticizing the police, and trigger a heavier response by officers.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has used a secretive authority to compel Internet and telecommunications firms to hand over customer data including an individuals complete web browsing history and records of all online purchases, a court filing released Monday shows. The documents are believed to be the first time the government has provided details of its so-called national security letters, which are used by the FBI to conduct electronic surveillance without the need for court approval. National security letters have been available as a law enforcement tool since the 1970s, but their frequency and breadth expanded dramatically under the USA Patriot Act, which was passed shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. They are almost always accompanied by an open-ended gag order barring companies from disclosing the contents of the demand for customer data. The secretive orders have long drawn the ire of tech companies and privacy advocates, who argue NSLs allow the government to snoop on user content without appropriate judicial oversight. Last year, the Obama administration announced it would permit Internet companies to disclose more about the number of NSLs they receive. But they can still only provide a range such as between 0 and 999 requests. Twitter has sued in federal court seeking the ability to publish more details in its semi-annual transparency reports. Several thousand NSLs are now issued by the FBI every year. At one point that number eclipsed 50,000 letters annually.
Note: Read more about the FBI's use of these controversial secret letters. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing civil liberties news articles from reliable major media sources.
An elite group of security technologists has concluded that the American and British governments cannot demand special access to encrypted communications without putting the worlds most confidential data and critical infrastructure in danger. With security breaches and awareness of nation-state surveillance at a record high and data moving online at breakneck speeds, encryption has emerged as a major issue in the debate over privacy rights. Technology companies ... have been moving to encrypt more of their corporate and customer data after learning that the National Security Agency and its counterparts were siphoning off digital communications and hacking into corporate data centers. In Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron threatened to ban encrypted messages altogether. In the United States, Michael S. Rogers, the director of the N.S.A., proposed that technology companies be required to create a digital key to unlock encrypted data. The [technology group's] new paper is the first in-depth technical analysis of government proposals by leading cryptographers and security thinkers. In the report, the group said any effort to give the government exceptional access to encrypted communications ... would leave confidential data and critical infrastructure like banks and the power grid at risk. With government agency breaches now the norm, the security specialists said authorities could not be trusted to keep such keys safe from hackers and criminals.
Three days after the New York Times revealed that the U.S. government was secretly monitoring the calls and emails of people inside the United States without court-approved warrants, the National Security Agency issued a top-secret assessment of the damage done to intelligence efforts by the story. The conclusion: the information could lead terrorists to try to evade detection. Yet the agency gave no specific examples of investigations that had been jeopardized. The December 2005 bombshell story, by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, set off a debate about the George W. Bush administration's expansion of spying powers after the 9/11 attacks, and also about the Times editors' decision to delay its publication for a year. White House officials had warned the Times that revealing the program would have grave consequences for national security. "To this day we've never seen any evidence despite all the claims they made to keep us from publishing that it did any tangible damage to national security, " Lichtblau told The Intercept. "The reality was that the story ... didn't tell terrorists anything that they didn't know," he said. The NSA's damage assessment on the article ... is among the files provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The memo recounts meetings in 2004 and 2005 in which administration officials disclosed "certain details of the special program to select individuals from the New York Times to dissuade them from publishing a story on the program at that time."
Note: You can read the revealing memo mentioned at the link above. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on civil liberties from reliable major media sources. Then explore the excellent, reliable resources provided in our Media Information Center.
The National Security Agency and its closest allies planned to hijack data links to Google and Samsung app stores to infect smartphones with spyware, a top-secret document reveals. The surveillance project was launched by a joint electronic eavesdropping unit called the Network Tradecraft Advancement Team, which includes spies from each of the countries in the Five Eyes alliance the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia. The top-secret document, obtained from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden ... outlines a series of tactics that the NSA and its counterparts in the Five Eyes were [using, which included] a method to hack and hijack phone users connections to app stores so that they would be able to send malicious implants to targeted devices. The implants could then be used to collect data from the phones without their users noticing. The agencies ... were also keen to find ways to hijack [app stores] as a way of sending selective misinformation to the targets handsets as part of so-called effects operations that are used to spread propaganda or confuse adversaries. Moreover, the agencies wanted to gain access to companies app store servers so they could secretly use them for harvesting information about phone users. The revelations are the latest to highlight tactics adopted by the Five Eyes agencies. Last year, The Intercept reported that the NSA ... was shown to have masqueraded as a Facebook server in order to hack into computers.
Human rights campaigners have prepared a federal lawsuit aiming to permanently shut down the bulk collection of billions of US phone records not, this time, by the National Security Agency, but by the Drug Enforcement Agency. The program ... served as a template for the NSAs gigantic and ongoing bulk surveillance of US phone data after 9/11. The revelation of mass phone-records collection in the so-called war on drugs raises new questions about whether the Obama administration or its successors believe US security agencies continue to have legal leeway for warrantless bulk surveillance on American citizens. Starting in 1992, the so-called USTO effort operated without judicial approval, despite the US constitutions warrant requirement. Attorney general Eric Holder ended USTO in September 2013 out of fear of scandal following Snowdens disclosures. While Snowden did not expose USTO, several NSA programs he has exposed referenced the DEA as an NSA partner, giving the DEA another secret pathway to massive amounts of US communications records. The warrantless bulk records collection provides prosecutors the ability to enter into evidence incriminating material that could otherwise be thrown out of court, [and] has not stopped the upward growth of domestic narcotics consumption.
Note: In order to deny due process to people accused of crimes, the DEA's Special Operations Division constructs lies about the origins of data obtained from warrantless mass surveillance. Award-winning journalists have presented powerful evidence of direct DEA and CIA involvement in and support of drug running and drug cartels. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about corruption in government and in the intelligence community.
A powerful new surveillance tool being adopted by police departments across the country comes with an unusual requirement: To buy it, law enforcement officials must sign a nondisclosure agreement preventing them from saying almost anything about the technology. Any disclosure about the technology, which tracks cellphones and is often called StingRay, could allow criminals and terrorists to circumvent it, the F.B.I. has said in an affidavit. But the tool is adopted in such secrecy that communities are not always sure what they are buying or whether the technology could raise serious privacy concerns. What has opponents particularly concerned about StingRay is that the technology, unlike other phone surveillance methods, can also scan all the cellphones in the area where it is being used, not just the target phone. Its scanning the area. What is the government doing with that information? said Linda Lye, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, which in 2013 sued the Justice Department to force it to disclose more about the technology. In November, in a response to the lawsuit, the government said it had asked the courts to allow the technology to capture content, not just identify subscriber location.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about the erosion of privacy rights from reliable major media sources.
Many Samsung "SmartTVs" come equipped with voice recognition, which allows you to bark commands at your TV. Since the television is always listening for your voice, Samsung has warned its SmartTV customers that every word is being captured and sent over the Internet. Samsung says it needs to send your voice commands to a third-party, because that company converts your speech to text. But Samsung also collects your voice commands to perform research and determine whether it needs to make improvements to the feature. Samsung noted that a microphone appears on the screen when the voice recognition feature is turned on, notifying customers that their voice is being captured. You can opt-out of the SmartTV voice recognition feature. But even if you opt out, your voice commands will still be captured. The SmartTV has a set of pre-programmed commands that it recognizes even if you opt out of voice recognition. Samsung will collect the text of those pre-programmed voice commands (though not your voice itself) and analyze how much you're using certain commands. "Samsung does not retain voice data or sell it to third parties," the company said in a statement. "If a consumer consents and uses the voice recognition feature ... the voice data is sent to a server, which searches for the requested content then returns the desired content to the TV."
Former CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson has sued the Justice Department over the hacking of her computers, officially accusing the Obama administration of illegal surveillance while she was reporting on administration scandals. In a series of legal filings that seek $35 million in damages, Attkisson alleges that three separate computer forensic exams showed that hackers used sophisticated methods to surreptitiously monitor her work between 2011 and 2013. The intruders installed and periodically refreshed software to steal data and obtain passwords on her home and work computers. She also charges that the hackers monitored her audio using a Skype account. The award-winning reporter says she and her attorneys have "pretty good evidence" that these efforts were "connected" to the Justice Department. She said she was caught in a "Catch-22," forcing her to use the lawsuit and an administrative complaint to discover more about the surveillance through the discovery process and to learn the identities of the "John Does" named in the complaints. Attkisson learned through a Freedom of Information request that the FBI opened an investigation of the hacking case in May 2013, but says the bureau never interviewed her or even notified her of the probe. Attkisson resigned from CBS last March after complaining that she was increasingly unable to get her investigative stories on the air. She has published a best-selling book, "Stonewalled," about her battles against the network and the administration.
Note: Fox News was the only major media to cover this important case. Read a judge's supportive comments about this important case on Ms. Attkisson's website. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about government corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
The director of the FBI savaged tech companies for their recent embrace of end-to-end encryption and suggested rewriting laws to ensure law enforcement access to customer data in a speech on Thursday. James Comey said data encryption such as that employed on Apples latest mobile operating system would deprive police and intelligence companies. Privacy advocates contend Comey is demagoguing the issue. It took a June supreme court ruling, they point out, for law enforcement to abandon its contention that it did not require warrants at all to search through smartphones or tablets, and add that technological vulnerabilities can be exploited by hackers and foreign intelligence agencies as well as the US government. Tech companies contend that their newfound adoption of encryption is a response to overarching government surveillance, much of which occurs ... without a warrant, subject to a warrant broad enough to cover indiscriminate data collection, or under a gag order following a non-judicial subpoena. Comey did not mention such subpoenas, often in the form of National Security Letters, in his remarks. Comey acknowledged that the Snowden disclosures caused justifiable surprise among the public about the breadth of government surveillance, but hoped to mitigate it through greater transparency and advocacy. Yet the FBI keeps significant aspects of its surveillance reach hidden even from government oversight bodies. Intelligence officials said in a June letter to a US senator that the FBI does not tally how often it searches through NSAs vast hoards of international communications, without warrants, for Americans identifying information. Comey frequently described himself as being technologically unprepared to offer specific solutions, and said he meant to begin a conversation, even at the risk of putting American tech companies at a competitive disadvantage.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing stories about questionable intelligence agency practices from reliable sources.
[National security letters], the reach of which was expanded under the Patriot Act in 2001, let the FBI get business records from telephone, banking, and Internet companies with just a declaration that the information is relevant to a counterterrorism investigation. The FBI can get such information with a subpoena or another method with some judicial oversight. Can the government make demands for data entirely in secret? That was the question yesterday before a federal appeals court in San Francisco, where government lawyers argued that National Security Letters FBI requests for information that are so secret they cant be publicly acknowledged by the recipients were essential to counterterrorism investigations. One of the judges seemed to question why there was no end-date on the gag orders, and why the burden was on the recipients of NSLs to challenge them. It leaves it to the poor person who is subject to those requirements to just constantly petition the government to get rid of it, said the judge, N. Randy Smith. The FBI sends out thousands of NSLs each year 21,000 in fiscal year 2012. Google, Yahoo, Facebook and Microsoft filed a brief in support of the NSL challenge, arguing that they want to publish more detailed aggregate statistics about the volume, scope and type of NSLs that the government uses to demand information about their users. Twitter also announced this week that it was suing the U.S. government over restrictions on how it can talk about surveillance orders. Tech companies can currently make public information about the number of NSLs or Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court orders they receive in broad ranges, but Twitter wants to be more specific.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing civil liberties news articles from reliable major media sources.
Could your smartphone be recording video of you without you knowing it? And if so, who is on the other end watching it? A new Facebook Messenger App could be violating your privacy. If you download and install the social network's new messenger app to an android device, you're giving Facebook permission to call or text people from your phone, delete your personal data even access your camera microphone. Facebook says it only needs that access to make your messaging experience better, and that these terms have been in place for months. So why are we telling you about it now? That's because some mobile Facebook users are about to find out you won't be able to access your messages through the Facebook app anymore. Instead if you want to read a message from a friend or coworker you'll have to download the messenger app and consent to any fine print. The messenger app has over 6000 reviews on the iTunes app store. Most of them are not too positive. The real question is will people still download it? And as for the people who did download it, it seems a lot are just choosing to disconnect.
Note: Many apps have terms and conditions that people never read before downloading the allow the app developer to access and even change phone logs, record conversations, and much more. Learn more in this eye-opening video. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about the erosion of privacy rights from reliable major media sources.
Development of a U.S. counterattack for cyberterrorism that could do more harm than good was one of the final events that drove Edward Snowden to leak government secrets, the former National Security Agency contractor tells Wired magazine. Snowden ... said the MonsterMind program was designed to detect a foreign cyberattack and keep it from entering the country. But it also would automatically fire back. The problem, he said, is malware can be routed through an innocent third-party country. "These attacks can be spoofed," he told Wired. MonsterMind for example ... could accidentally start a war. And it's the ultimate threat to privacy because it requires the NSA to gain access to virtually all private communications coming in from overseas. "The argument is that the only way we can identify these malicious traffic flows and respond to them is if we're analyzing all traffic flows," he said. "And if we're analyzing all traffic flows, that means we have to be intercepting all traffic flows. That means violating the Fourth Amendment, seizing private communications without a warrant, without probable cause or even a suspicion of wrongdoing. For everyone, all the time. You get exposed to a little bit of evil, a little bit of rule-breaking, a little bit of dishonesty, a little bit of deceptiveness, a little bit of disservice to the public interest, and you can brush it off, you can come to justify it," Snowden told Wired. "But if you do that, it creates a slippery slope that just increases over time. And by the time you've been in 15 years, 20 years, 25 years, you've seen it all and it doesn't shock you. And so you see it as normal."
Note: Read the cover story from Wired magazine with a deep inside report on Snowden.
Bill Binney worked at the National Security Agency [for] nearly three decades as one of its leading crypto-mathematicians. He then became one of its leading whistleblowers. The NSA is overseen by Congress, the courts and other government departments. It's also supposed to be watched from the inside by its own workers. But over the past dozen years, whistleblowers like Binney have had a rough track record. Those who tried unsuccessfully to work within the system say Edward Snowden the former National Security Agency contractor who shared top-secret documents with reporters learned from their bitter experience. For Binney, the decision to quit the NSA and become a whistleblower began a few weeks after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when he says he discovered the spy agency had begun using software he'd created to scoop up information on Americans all without a court order. "I had to get out of there, because they were using the program I built to do domestic spying, and I didn't want any part of it, I didn't want to be associated with it," he says. "I look at it as basically treason. They were subverting the Constitution." Binney says he and two other NSA colleagues who also quit tried sounding the alarm with congressional committees. But because they did not have documents to prove their charges, nobody believed them. Snowden, he says, did not repeat that mistake. "He recognized right away, it was very clear to me, that if he wanted anybody to believe him, he'd have to take a lot of documentation with him which is what he did," Binney says.
Note: For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing intelligence agency operations news articles from reliable major media sources.
When Australia's Susie O'Neill claimed the gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, she dedicated her victory to Scott Volkers, the swimming coach who had taken over her training two years earlier. By this time, three women who had been Volkers' students were losing belief in themselves and the swimming community. Julie Gilbert, Kylie Rogers and Simone Boyce took the stand at the royal commission into child abuse in Sydney this week to describe their mental breakdowns, eating disorders, anxiety and isolation from a swimming hierarchy that refused to believe them or failed to explore the possibility that Volkers molested them as girls aged 12 to 18 in the 1980s. Volkers remained on the payroll of elite Australian swimming institutions until 2010, when he was finally forced to move to Brazil, where he still works as a leading coach. Was it Australia's win-at-all-costs swimming culture that kept him in the presence of young athletes? An exasperated Andrew Boe, the lawyer representing Gilbert, Rogers and Boyce, pointed out: "This is not an examination of whether he was a good swimming coach or not." Nor is it an examination of the guilt or innocence of Volkers against whom charges concerning these three alleged victims were dropped in 2002 or other swimming coaches. It is an inquiry into the institutional responses to abuse. Swimming Australia's association with Volkers [ended] in 2005, when the coach's fourth accuser came forward with claims that Volkers had groped her breasts and attempted to stimulate her vagina in the late 1990s, when she was 15. The allegations were very similar to the earlier cases.
Note: For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing sexual abuse scandals news articles from reliable major media sources.
The Supreme Court unequivocally ruled [on June 25] that privacy rights are not sacrificed to 21st-century technology, saying unanimously that police generally must obtain a warrant before searching the cellphone of someone they arrest. While the specific protection may not affect the average American, the court made a bold statement that the same concern about government prying that animated the nations birth applies to the abundance of digital information about an individual in the modern world. Modern cellphones hold for many Americans the privacies of life, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for a court united behind the opinions expansive language. The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought. Roberts said that in most cases when police seize a cellphone from a suspect, the answer is simple: Get a warrant. The ruling has no impact on National Security Agency data-collection programs revealed in the past year or law enforcement use of aggregated digital information. But lawyers involved in those issues said the emphatic declarations signaled the justices interest in the dangers of government overreach. Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at American University, said the decision is more than simply a warning to government officials employing high-tech forms of government surveillance. This is a cruise missile across the bow of lawyers defending warrantless search programs, Vladeck said.
Note: For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing privacy news articles from reliable major media sources.
The National Security Agency is harvesting huge numbers of images of people from communications that it intercepts through its global surveillance operations for use in sophisticated facial recognition programs, according to top-secret documents. The spy agencys reliance on facial recognition technology has grown significantly over the last four years as the agency has turned to new software to exploit the flood of images included in emails, text messages, social media, videoconferences and other communications. Agency officials believe that technological advances could revolutionize the way that the N.S.A. finds intelligence targets around the world. The agencys ambitions for this highly sensitive ability and the scale of its effort have not previously been disclosed. The agency intercepts millions of images per day including about 55,000 facial recognition quality images which translate into tremendous untapped potential, according to 2011 documents obtained from the former agency contractor Edward J. Snowden. It is not clear how many people around the world, and how many Americans, might have been caught up in the effort. Neither federal privacy laws nor the nations surveillance laws provide specific protections for facial images. Civil-liberties advocates and other critics are concerned that the power of the improving technology, used by government and industry, could erode privacy. Facial recognition can be very invasive, said Alessandro Acquisti, a researcher on facial recognition technology at Carnegie Mellon University.
Note: For another New York Times article showing how the NSA is using mobile phone apps to "snatch data revealing the players location, age, sex and other personal information," see this article.
The National Security Agency is secretly intercepting, recording, and archiving the audio of virtually every cell phone conversation on the island nation of the Bahamas. According to documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the surveillance is part of a top-secret system code-named SOMALGET that was implemented without the knowledge or consent of the Bahamian government. SOMALGET is part of a broader NSA program called MYSTIC, which ... is being used to secretly monitor the telecommunications systems of the Bahamas and several other countries, including Mexico, the Philippines, and Kenya. But while MYSTIC scrapes mobile networks for so-called metadata information that reveals the time, source, and destination of calls SOMALGET is a cutting-edge tool that enables the NSA to vacuum up and store the actual content of every conversation in an entire country. The program raises profound questions about the nature and extent of American surveillance abroad. The U.S. intelligence community routinely justifies its massive spying efforts by citing the threats to national security posed by global terrorism and unpredictable rival nations like Russia and Iran. But the NSA documents indicate that SOMALGET has been deployed in the Bahamas to locate international narcotics traffickers and special-interest alien smugglers traditional law-enforcement concerns, but a far cry from derailing terror plots or intercepting weapons of mass destruction.
The opportunity those in power have to characterise political opponents as "national security threats" or even "terrorists" has repeatedly proven irresistible. In the past decade, the government ... has formally so designated environmental activists, broad swaths of anti-government rightwing groups, anti-war activists, and associations organised around Palestinian rights. One document from the Snowden files, dated 3 October 2012, chillingly underscores the point. It revealed that the agency has been monitoring the online activities of individuals it believes express "radical" ideas and who have a "radicalising" influence on others. Among the information collected about the individuals, at least one of whom is a "US person", are details of their online sex activities and "online promiscuity." The agency discusses ways to exploit this information to destroy their reputations and credibility. The record is suffused with examples of groups and individuals being placed under government surveillance by virtue of their dissenting views and activism Martin Luther King, the civil rights movement, anti-war activists, environmentalists. The NSA's treatment of Anonymous ... is especially troubling and extreme. Gabriella Coleman, a specialist on Anonymous at McGill University, said that [Anonymous] "is not a defined" entity but rather "an idea that mobilises activists to take collective action and voice political discontent. It is a broad-based global social movement with no centralised or official organised leadership structure. Some have rallied around the name to engage in digital civil disobedience, but nothing remotely resembling terrorism."
When NSA contractor Edward Snowden downloaded tens of thousands of top-secret documents from a highly secure government network, it led to the largest leak of classified information in history and sparked a fierce debate over privacy, technology and democracy in the post-9/11 world. Now, in "United States Of Secrets," FRONTLINE goes behind the headlines to reveal the dramatic inside story of how the U.S. government came to monitor and collect the communications of millions of people around the worldincluding ordinary Americansand the lengths they went to trying to hide the massive surveillance program from the public. This is as close to the complete picture as anyone has yet put together and its bigger and more pervasive than we thought, says veteran FRONTLINE filmmaker Michael Kirk. In part one ... Kirk [pieces] together the secret history of the unprecedented surveillance program that began in the wake of September 11 and continues today even after the revelations of its existence by Edward Snowden. Then, in part two, premiering Tuesday, May 20 ..., veteran FRONTLINE filmmaker Martin Smith continues the story, exploring the secret relationship between Silicon Valley and the National Security Agency, and investigating how the government and tech companies have worked together to gather and warehouse your data. Through in-depth interviews with more than 60 whistleblowers, elected officials, journalists, intelligence insiders and cabinet officials, we have woven together the secret narrative that reveals the scale and scope of the governments spying program, says Kirk.
On Sunday 9 June 2013, the Guardian published the story that revealed [Edward] Snowden to the world. The article told Snowden's story, conveyed his motives, and proclaimed that "Snowden will go down in history as one of America's most consequential whistleblowers, alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley [now Chelsea] Manning." We quoted [a note from Snowden that said:] "I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions but I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant." The reaction to the article and the video was more intense than anything I had experienced as a writer. Ellsberg himself, writing the following day in the Guardian, proclaimed that "there has not been in American history a more important leak than Edward Snowden's release of NSA material and that definitely includes the Pentagon Papers 40 years ago". Several hundred thousand people posted the link to their Facebook accounts in the first several days alone. Almost three million people watched the interview on YouTube. Many more saw it on the Guardian's website. The overwhelming response was shock and inspiration at Snowden's courage.
Note: Don't miss the full, exciting story of how Snowden originally came to leak his stunning information at the link above. This excerpt is from the new book No Place to Hide by Glenn Greenwald. For more on government surveillance, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
Two news organizations' stories about National Security Agency surveillance, based upon documents leaked by Edward Snowden, have been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for public service, often described as the highest prize in American journalism. The Washington Post and ... The Guardian each received the prize on [April 14]. The recognition of the NSA reporting was most significant because of the questions raised by Snowden's leaks and the reaction to them. Snowden, who has been living in Russia while seeking asylum from U.S. prosecution, said in a statement that the Pulitzer board's recognition of the coverage was "vindication for everyone who believes that the public has a role in government." "We owe it to the efforts of the brave reporters and their colleagues who kept working in the face of extraordinary intimidation, including the forced destruction of journalistic materials, the inappropriate use of terrorism laws, and so many other means of pressure to get them to stop what the world now recognizes was work of vital public importance." While Snowden provided a trove of documents, reporters including Glenn Greenwald, working for the Guardian; Barton Gellman, working for The Post; and Laura Poitras, who worked with both, pored over the raw information, decided with their editors what parts were ethical to publish, and turned the information into stories that stunned readers around the world.
Note: For more on the historic Snowden revelations, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
This week, the Associated Press exposed a secret program run by the U.S. Agency for International Development to create a Twitter-like Cuban communications network run through secret shell companies in order to create the false appearance of being a privately owned operation. Unbeknownst to the services Cuban users was the fact that American contractors were gathering their private data in the hope that it might be used for political purposesspecifically, to manipulate those users in order to foment dissent in Cuba and subvert its government. This sort of operation is frequently discussed at western intelligence agencies, which have plotted ways to covertly use social media for propaganda, deception, mass messaging, and pushing stories. One previously undisclosed top-secret documentprepared by GCHQ for the 2010 annual SIGDEV gathering of the Five Eyes surveillance alliance comprising the UK, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the U.S.explicitly discusses ways to exploit Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other social media as secret platforms for propaganda. Those programs, carried out in secrecy and with little accountability ... threaten the integrity of the internet itself, as state-disseminated propaganda masquerades as free online speech and organizing. There is thus little or no ability for an internet user to know when they are being covertly propagandized by their government, which is precisely what makes it so appealing to intelligence agencies, so powerful, and so dangerous.
The National Security Agency has reportedly used automated systems to infect user computers with malware since 2010. At times the agency pretended to be Facebook to install its malware. The NSA has been using a program codenamed TURBINE to contaminate computers and networks with malware "implants" capable of spying on users, according to the Intercept, which cited documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden. Between 85,000 and 100,000 of these implants have been deployed worldwide thus far. To infect computers with malware, the NSA has relied on various tactics, including posing as Facebook. The federal agency performed what is known as a "man-on-the-side" attack in which it tricked users computers into thinking that they were accessing real Facebook servers. Once the user had been fooled, the NSA hacked into the user's computer and extracted data from their hard drive. Facebook said it had no knowledge of the NSA"s TURBINE program. However, [Facebook] said it is no longer possible for the NSA or hackers to attack users that way, but Facebook warned that other websites and social networks may still be vulnerable to those types of attacks. "This method of network level disruption does not work for traffic carried over HTTPS, which Facebook finished integrating by default last year," Facebook told the National Journal.
Note: For more on NSA surveillance, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
A federal judge in Newark has thrown out a lawsuit against the New York Police Department for spying on New Jersey Muslims, saying if anyone was at fault, it was the Associated Press for telling people about it. In his ruling ... U.S. District Court Judge William J. Martini simultaneously demonstrated the willingness of the judiciary to give law enforcement alarming latitude in the name of fighting terror, greenlighted the targeting of Muslims based solely on their religious beliefs, and blamed the media for upsetting people by telling them what their government was doing. The NYPDs clandestine spying on daily life in Muslim communities in the region with no probable cause, and nothing to show for it was exposed in a Pulitzer-Prize winning series of stories by the AP. The stories described infiltration and surveillance of at least 20 mosques, 14 restaurants, 11 retail stores, two grade schools, and two Muslim student associations in New Jersey alone. In a cursory, 10-page ruling issued before even hearing oral arguments, Martini essentially said that what the targets didnt know didnt hurt them: "None of the Plaintiffs injuries arose until after the Associated Press released unredacted, confidential NYPD documents and articles expressing its own interpretation of those documents. Nowhere in the Complaint do Plaintiffs allege that they suffered harm prior to the unauthorized release of the documents by the Associated Press. This confirms that Plaintiffs alleged injuries flow from the Associated Presss unauthorized disclosure of the documents. The harms are not fairly traceable to any act of surveillance."
Note: For more on government corruption, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
The National Security Agency has implanted software in nearly 100,000 computers around the world that allows the United States to conduct surveillance on those machines and can also create a digital highway for launching cyberattacks. While most of the software is inserted by gaining access to computer networks, the N.S.A. has increasingly made use of a secret technology that enables it to enter and alter data in computers even if they are not connected to the Internet, according to N.S.A. documents, computer experts and American officials. The technology, which the agency has used since at least 2008, relies on a covert channel of radio waves that can be transmitted from tiny circuit boards and USB cards inserted surreptitiously into the computers. In some cases, they are sent to a briefcase-size relay station that intelligence agencies can set up miles away from the target. In most cases, the radio frequency hardware must be physically inserted by a spy, a manufacturer or an unwitting user. Among the most frequent targets of the N.S.A. and its Pentagon partner, United States Cyber Command, have been units of the Chinese Army, which the United States has accused of launching regular digital probes and attacks on American industrial and military targets, usually to steal secrets or intellectual property. But the program, code-named Quantum, has also been successful in inserting software into Russian military networks and systems used by the Mexican police and drug cartels, trade institutions inside the European Union, and sometime partners against terrorism like Saudi Arabia, India and Pakistan.
Note: For more on government surveillance, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden wrote in a lengthy open letter to the people of Brazil that he has been inspired by the global debate ignited by his release of thousands of documents and that the NSAs culture of indiscriminate global espionage is collapsing. In the letter, Snowden commended the Brazilian government for its strong stand against U.S. spying. He wrote that he would be willing to help the South American nation investigate NSA spying on its soil but could not fully participate in doing so without being granted political asylum, because the U.S. government will continue to interfere with my ability to speak. The documents revealed that Brazil is the top NSA target in Latin America, in spying that has included the monitoring of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseffs cellphone and hacking into the internal network of the state-run oil company Petrobras. In his letter, Snowden dismissed U.S. explanations to the Brazilian government and others that the bulk metadata gathered on billions of e-mails and calls was more data collection than surveillance. There is a huge difference between legal programs, legitimate spying ... and these programs of dragnet mass surveillance that put entire populations under an all-seeing eye and save copies forever, he wrote. These programs were never about terrorism: theyre about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. Theyre about power. Brazilian senators have asked for Snowdens help during hearings about the NSAs targeting of Brazil, an important transit hub for transatlantic fiber-optic cables that are hacked.
Note: To read Snowden's full, inspiring letter, click here.
A participant in a White House-sponsored review of surveillance activities described as shameful an apparent decision to leave most of the National Security Agencys controversial bulk spying intact. Sascha Meinrath, director of the Open Technology Institute, said [on December 13] that ... The review group was searching for ways to make the most modest pivot necessary to continue business as usual. Should the review groups report resemble descriptions that leaked ... the report does nothing to alter the lack of trust the global populace has for what the US is doing, and nothing to restore our reputation as an ethical internet steward, said Meinrath, who met with the advisory panel and White House officials twice to discuss the bulk surveillance programs that have sparked international outrage. Leaks about the review groups expected recommendations to the New York Times and Wall Street Journal strengthened Meinrath and other participants long-standing suspicions that much of the NSAs sweeping spy powers would survive. The Times quoted an anonymous official familiar with the group saying its report says we cant dismantle these programs, but we need to change the way almost all of them operate. According to the leaks, the review group will recommend that bulk collection of every Americans phone call data continue, possibly by the phone companies instead of the NSA, with tighter restrictions than the reasonable, articulable suspicion standard for searching through them that the NSA currently employs.
Note: For more on massive government intrusions of citizens' privacy, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
The National Security Agency isn't the only government entity secretly collecting data from people's cellphones. Local police are increasingly scooping it up, too. Armed with new technologies, including mobile devices that tap into cellphone data in real time, dozens of local and state police agencies are capturing information about thousands of cellphone users at a time, whether they are targets of an investigation or not. The records, from more than 125 police agencies in 33 states, reveal [that] about one in four law-enforcement agencies have used a tactic known as a "tower dump," which gives police data about the identity, activity and location of any phone that connects to the targeted cellphone towers over a set span of time, usually an hour or two. A typical dump covers multiple towers, and wireless providers, and can net information from thousands of phones. At least 25 police departments own a Stingray, a suitcase-size device that costs as much as $400,000 and acts as a fake cell tower. The system, typically installed in a vehicle so it can be moved into any neighborhood, tricks all nearby phones into connecting to it and feeding data to police. In some states, the devices are available to any local police department via state surveillance units. Organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Privacy Information Center say the swelling ability by even small-town police departments to easily and quickly obtain large amounts of cellphone data raises questions about the erosion of people's privacy as well as their Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure.
Note: For more on massive government intrusions of citizens' privacy, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
Canada allowed the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) to conduct widespread surveillance during the 2010 Group of 20 summit in Toronto, according to a media report that cited documents from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The report by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp ... cited briefing notes it said showed the United States turned its Ottawa embassy into a security command post during a six-day spying operation by the top-secret U.S. agency as President Barack Obama and other world leaders met that June. One of the bylines on the CBC report was Glenn Greenwald, the U.S. journalist who has worked with Snowden on several other NSA stories. CBC ... quoted an NSA briefing note describing the operation as "closely coordinated with the Canadian partner". The Canadian equivalent of the NSA is the Communications Security Establishment Canada, or CSEC. CBC said the documents did not reveal the targets of the NSA operation, but described part of the U.S. eavesdropping agency's mandate at the Toronto summit as "providing support to policymakers". CSEC, which has a very low public profile, employs about 2,000 people. It is part of the so-called Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network that also includes the United States, Britain, New Zealand and Australia. Last month, Brazil angrily demanded an explanation for media reports which said CSEC agents had targeted its mines and energy industry.
Note: For more on the realities of intelligence agency activities, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
The phone, internet and email records of UK citizens not suspected of any wrongdoing have been analysed and stored by America's National Security Agency under a secret deal that was approved by British intelligence officials, according to documents from the whistleblower Edward Snowden. In the first explicit confirmation that UK citizens have been caught up in US mass surveillance programs, an NSA memo describes how in 2007 an agreement was reached that allowed the agency to "unmask" and hold on to personal data about Britons that had previously been off limits. The memo ... says the material is being put in databases where it can be made available to other members of the US intelligence and military community. Until now, it had been generally understood that the citizens of each country were protected from surveillance by any of the others. But the Snowden material reveals that: In 2007, the rules were changed to allow the NSA to analyse and retain any British citizens' mobile phone and fax numbers, emails and IP addresses swept up by its dragnet. These communications were "incidentally collected" by the NSA, meaning the individuals were not the initial targets of surveillance operations and therefore were not suspected of wrongdoing. The NSA has been using the UK data to conduct so-called "pattern of life" or "contact-chaining" analyses, under which the agency can look up to three "hops" away from a target of interest examining the communications of a friend of a friend of a friend. Three hops for a typical Facebook user could pull the data of more than 5 million people into the dragnet.
Note: For more on government threats to privacy, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
A secret court order that authorised a massive trawl by the National Security Agency of Americans' email and internet data was published for the first time on [November 18], among a trove of documents that also revealed a judge's concern that the NSA "continuously" and "systematically" violated the limits placed on the program. Another later court order found that what it called "systemic overcollection" had taken place. In a heavily redacted opinion Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, the former presiding judge of the FISA court, placed legal weight on the methods of surveillance employed by the NSA, which had never before collected the internet data of an enormous volume of communications. The methods, known as pen registers and trap-and-trace devices, record the incoming and outgoing routing information of communications. Kollar-Kotelly ruled that acquiring the metadata, and not the content, of email and internet usage in bulk was harmonious with the purpose of Congress and prior court rulings even though no surveillance statute ever authorized it and top officials at the Justice Department and the FBI threatened to resign in 2004 over what they considered its dubious legality. The type of data collected under the program included information on the "to", "from" and "bcc" lines of an email rather than the content. Metadata, wrote Kollar-Kotelly, enjoyed no protection under the fourth amendment to the US constitution, a precedent established by the Supreme Court in 1979 in a single case on which the NSA relies currently.
Note: For more on government corruption, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, said in an extensive interview this month that he did not take any secret N.S.A. documents with him to Russia when he fled there in June, assuring that Russian intelligence officials could not get access to them. He also asserted that he was able to protect the documents from Chinas spies because he was familiar with that nations intelligence abilities, saying that as an N.S.A. contractor he had targeted Chinese operations and had taught a course on Chinese cybercounterintelligence. Theres a zero percent chance the Russians or Chinese have received any documents, he said. Mr. Snowden added that inside the spy agency theres a lot of dissent. But he said that people were kept in line through fear and a false image of patriotism, which he described as obedience to authority. He said he believed that if he tried to question the N.S.A.s surveillance operations as an insider, his efforts would have been buried forever, and he would have been discredited and ruined. Mr. Snowden said he finally decided to act when he discovered a copy of a classified 2009 inspector generals report on the N.S.A.s warrantless wiretapping program during the Bush administration. After reading about the program, which skirted the existing surveillance laws, he concluded that it had been illegal, he said. If the highest officials in government can break the law without fearing punishment or even any repercussions at all, he said, secret powers become tremendously dangerous.
Since 2010, the National Security Agency has been exploiting its huge collections of data to create sophisticated graphs of some Americans social connections that can identify their associates, their locations at certain times, their traveling companions and other personal information, according to newly disclosed documents and interviews with officials. The spy agency began allowing the analysis of phone call and e-mail logs in November 2010 to examine Americans networks of associations for foreign intelligence purposes after N.S.A. officials lifted restrictions on the practice, according to documents provided by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor. The agency was authorized to conduct large-scale graph analysis on very large sets of communications metadata without having to check foreignness of every e-mail address, phone number or other identifier, the document said. The agency can augment the communications data with material from public, commercial and other sources, including bank codes, insurance information, Facebook profiles, passenger manifests, voter registration rolls and GPS location information, as well as property records and unspecified tax data, according to the documents. They do not indicate any restrictions on the use of such enrichment data, and several former senior Obama administration officials said the agency drew on it for both Americans and foreigners. Almost everything about the agencys operations is hidden, and the decision to revise the limits concerning Americans was made in secret, without review by the nations intelligence court or any public debate.
Note: For an excellent 15-minute BBC Newsnight interview with Glenn Greenwald defending Edward Snowden's release of secret documents, click here. For more on government surveillance, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
Guardian editors on [August 20] revealed why and how the newspaper destroyed computer hard drives containing copies of some of the secret files leaked by Edward Snowden. The decision was taken after a threat of legal action by the government that could have stopped reporting on the extent of American and British government surveillance revealed by the documents. It resulted in one of the stranger episodes in the history of digital-age journalism. On Saturday 20 July, in a deserted basement of the Guardian's King's Cross offices, a senior editor and a Guardian computer expert used angle grinders and other tools to pulverise the hard drives and memory chips on which the encrypted files had been stored. As they worked they were watched by technicians from Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) who took notes and photographs, but who left empty-handed. The editor of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, had earlier informed government officials that other copies of the files existed outside the country and that the Guardian was neither the sole recipient nor steward of the files leaked by Snowden, a former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor. But the government insisted that the material be either destroyed or surrendered. The British government has attempted to step up its pressure on journalists, with the detention in Heathrow on Sunday of David Miranda, the partner of Glenn Greenwald, who has led the Guardian's US reporting on the files.
Note: For more on government attacks on civil liberties, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
The partner of the Guardian journalist [Glenn Greenwald], who has written a series of stories revealing mass surveillance programmes by the US National Security Agency, was held for almost nine hours ... by UK authorities as he passed through London's Heathrow airport on his way home to Rio de Janeiro. David Miranda ... was returning from a trip to Berlin when he was stopped by officers at 8.05am and informed that he was to be questioned under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000. The controversial law, which applies only at airports, ports and border areas, allows officers to stop, search, question and detain individuals. The 28-year-old was held for nine hours, the maximum the law allows before officers must release or formally arrest the individual. According to official figures, most examinations under schedule 7 over 97% last less than an hour, and only one in 2,000 people detained are kept for more than six hours. Miranda was released, but officials confiscated electronics equipment including his mobile phone, laptop, camera, memory sticks, DVDs and games consoles. "This is a profound attack on press freedoms and the news gathering process," Greenwald said. "To detain my partner for a full nine hours while denying him a lawyer, and then seize large amounts of his possessions, is clearly intended to send a message of intimidation to those of us who have been reporting on the NSA and GCHQ. The actions of the UK pose a serious threat to journalists everywhere. But the last thing it will do is intimidate or deter us in any way from doing our job as journalists. Quite the contrary: it will only embolden us more to continue to report aggressively."
Note: For more on government attacks on civil liberties, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
Two US senators on the intelligence committee said [that] thousands of annual violations by the National Security Agency on its own restrictions were "the tip of the iceberg." "The executive branch has now confirmed that the rules, regulations and court-imposed standards for protecting the privacy of Americans' have been violated thousands of times each year," said senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, two leading critics of bulk surveillance, who responded [to] a Washington Post story based on documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden. "We have previously said that the violations of these laws and rules were more serious than had been acknowledged, and we believe Americans should know that this confirmation is just the tip of a larger iceberg." On July 31, Wyden, backed by Udall, vaguely warned other senators in a floor speech that the NSA and the director of national intelligence were substantively misleading legislators by describing improperly collected data as a matter of innocent and anodyne human or technical errors. In keeping with their typically cautious pattern when discussing classified information, Wyden and Udall did not provide details about their claimed "iceberg" of surveillance malfeasance. But they hinted that the public still lacks an adequate understanding of the NSA's powers to collect data on Americans under its controversial interpretation of the Patriot Act. "We believe the public deserves to know more about the violations of the secret court orders that have authorized the bulk collection of Americans' phone and email records under the Patriot Act," [they] said.
Note: For more on massive surveillance, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans. Documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly beginnot only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges. The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to "recreate" the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant's constitutional right to a fair trial. If defendants don't know how an investigation began, they cannot know to ask to review potential sources of exculpatory evidenceinformation that could reveal entrapment, mistakes or biased witnesses. "I have never heard of anything like this at all," said Nancy Gertner, a Harvard Law School professor who served as a federal judge from 1994 to 2011. Gertner and other legal experts said the program sounds more troubling than recent disclosures that the National Security Agency has been collecting domestic phone records. The NSA effort is geared toward stopping terrorists; the DEA program targets common criminals, primarily drug dealers. "It is one thing to create special rules for national security," Gertner said. "Ordinary crime is entirely different. It sounds like they are phonying up investigations."
Glenn Greenwald the reporter who broke the story about the National Security Agencys surveillance programs claimed that those NSA programs allowed even low-level analysts to search the private emails and phone calls of Americans. The NSA has trillions of telephone calls and emails in their databases that theyve collected over the last several years, Greenwald told ABC News George Stephanopoulos. All an analyst has to do is enter an email address or an IP address, and [the program] searches that database and lets them listen to the calls or read the emails of everything that the NSA has stored, or look at the browsing histories or Google search terms that youve entered. Greenwald explained that ... these programs still allow analysts to search through data with little court approval or supervision. Greenwald said "these systems allow analysts to listen to whatever emails they want, whatever telephone calls, browsing histories, Microsoft Word documents. And its all done with no need to go to a court, with no need to even get supervisor approval on the part of the analyst, he added. Greenwald said the existence of these analyst search programs are in line with the claims of Edward Snowden, who first leaked details of the NSAs surveillance programs last month. Its an incredibly powerful and invasive tool, exactly of the type that Mr. Snowden described, Greenwald said. NSA officials are going to be testifying before the Senate on Wednesday, and I defy them to deny that these programs work exactly as I just said, Greenwald said.
Note: For more on government privacy invasions, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
As the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington approaches ... where Martin Luther King Jr gave his famous "I have a dream" speech, it is important to recall the extent to which King was targeted by the government. The FBI operation against King is one of the most shameful episodes in the long history of our government's persecution of dissenters. In a heavily redacted, classified FBI memo dated 4 January 1956 just a little more than a month after Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger stated that an agent "had been assigned ... to find out all he could about Reverend Martin L King, colored minister in Montgomery and leader in the bus boycott to uncover all the derogatory information he could about King." [FBI] director, J Edgar Hoover ... was deploying the vast resources he controlled against any and all perceived critics of the United States. The far-reaching clandestine surveillance, infiltration and disruption operation Hoover ran was dubbed "COINTELPRO", for counterintelligence program. The FBI's COINTELPRO activities ... were thoroughly investigated in 1975 by the Church Committee, [which] reported that the FBI "conducted a sophisticated vigilante operation aimed squarely at preventing the exercise of first amendment rights of speech and association." Among COINTELPRO's perverse activities was an FBI effort to threaten Martin Luther King Jr with exposure of an alleged extramarital affair, including the suggestion, made by the FBI to King, that he avoid embarrassment by killing himself. Deeply concerned about the crackdown on dissent happening under Obama, scholar Cornel West ... wondered if [King] "would not be invited to the very march in his name."
Note: This article fails to mention a key fact. At a 1999 court trial held in Memphis, the family of Rev. King accused elements of the U.S. government of complicity in King's death. After one month of hearings from 70 witnesses, a jury composed of six white and six black jurors took only one hour to find the U.S. government, the state of Tennessee, the city of Memphis, the Memphis police, and several individuals guilty of murdering King. Yet the mainstream media completely boycotted this trial. Thankfully, CBC (Canada's PBS) gave it some coverage. To see a six-minute CBC clip of this highly revealing trial, click here.
[There is] a growing debate over a little-known but increasingly important piece of equipment buried deep inside a car: the event data recorder, more commonly known as the black box. About 96 percent of all new vehicles sold in the United States have the boxes, and in September 2014, if the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has its way, all will have them. Data stored in the devices is increasingly being used to identify safety problems in cars and as evidence in traffic accidents and criminal cases. And the trove of data inside the boxes has raised privacy concerns, including questions about who owns the information, and what it can be used for, even as critics have raised questions about its reliability. To consumer advocates, the data is only the latest example of governments and companies having too much access to private information. Once gathered, they say, the data can be used against car owners, to find fault in accidents or in criminal investigations. These cars are equipped with computers that collect massive amounts of data, said Khaliah Barnes of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a Washington-based consumer group. Without protections, it can lead to all kinds of abuse. In  states, lawyers may subpoena the data for criminal investigations and civil lawsuits, making the information accessible to third parties, including law enforcement or insurance companies that could cancel a drivers policy or raise a drivers premium based on the recorders data.
Note: For more on government and corporate privacy invasions, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
The American Civil Liberties Union is warning that law enforcement officials are using license plate scanners to amass massive and unregulated databases that can be used to track law-abiding citizens as their go about their daily lives. In a new report, "You Are Being Tracked: How License Plate Readers Are Being Used to Record Americans' Movements," the ACLU discusses the data culled from license plate scanners - cameras mounted on patrol cars, overpasses and elsewhere to record your license plate number and location at a given time. There are tens of thousands such cameras now in operation, according to the group, with the data in some cases being stored indefinitely. The ACLU report is the result of an analysis of 26,000 pages of documents from police departments around the country, obtained through nearly 600 [FOIA] requests. It finds that while some jurisdictions keep the information gleaned from the scanners for a short time ... many hold onto the data for years. The organization complains that there are "virtually no rules in place" to keep officials from tracking "everybody all the time." The ACLU also warns that the data is being fed into larger databases, with the private National Vehicle Location Service now holding more than 800 million license plate records. The group's database is used by more than 2,200 law enforcement customers. The [ACLU] report warns that the data can be used in an official capacity to spy on protesters or target communities based on their religious beliefs, or unofficially by a police officer who wants to keep an eye on a romantic rival.
Note: For more on privacy, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
Have you noticed anything missing in the political discourse about the National Security Administration's unprecedented mass surveillance? There's at least been some conversation about the intelligence community's potential criminality and constitutional violations. But there have only been veiled references to how cash undoubtedly tilts the debate against those who challenge the national security state. Those indirect references have come in stories about Booz Allen Hamilton, the security contractor that employed Edward Snowden. CNN/Money notes that 99 percent of the firm's multibillion-dollar annual revenues now come from the federal government. Those revenues are part of a larger and growing economic sector within the military-industrial complex - a sector that, according to author Tim Shorrock, is "a $56 billion-a-year industry." Yet few in the Washington press corps mention that politicians' attacks on surveillance critics may have nothing to do with principle and everything to do with shilling for campaign donors. For a taste of what that kind of institutionalized corruption looks like, peruse the Influence Explorer site to see how much Booz Allen Hamilton and its parent company, the Carlyle Group, spend. As you'll see, from Barack Obama to John McCain, many of the politicians publicly defending the surveillance state have taken huge sums of money from the firms. Simply put, there are corporate forces with a vested financial interest in making sure the debate over security is tilted toward the surveillance state and against critics of that surveillance state.
Note: Tim Shorrock, quoted above, is the author of Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing.
FBI Director Robert Mueller acknowledged [to the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 19 that] the law enforcement agency uses drone aircraft in the United States for surveillance. He did not say how many unmanned surveillance vehicles (UAVs) the FBI has or how often they have been used. But a law enforcement official told CNN the FBI has used them a little more than a dozen times but did not say when that started. The official said drones are useful in hostage and barricade situations because they operate more quietly and are less visible than traditional aircraft such as helicopters. Bureau spokesman Paul Bresson said their use allows "us to learn critical information that otherwise would be difficult to obtain without introducing serious risk to law enforcement personnel." Bresson said the aircraft can only be used to perform surveillance on stationary subjects and the FBI must first get approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly in a "very confined geographic area." Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein expressed concern over drone use domestically. "I think the greatest threat to the privacy of Americans is the drone and the use of the drone, and the very few regulations that are on it today and the booming industry of commercial drones," the California Democrat said. The FAA forecasts some 10,000 civilian drones will be in use in the United States within five years, including those for law enforcement and commercial purposes.
When a National Security Agency contractor revealed top-secret details this month on the government's collection of Americans' phone and Internet records, one select group of intelligence veterans breathed a sigh of relief. Thomas Drake, William Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe belong to a select fraternity: the NSA officials who paved the way. For years, the three whistle-blowers had told anyone who would listen that the NSA collects huge swaths of communications data from U.S. citizens. They had spent decades in the top ranks of the agency, designing and managing the very data-collection systems they say have been turned against Americans. When they became convinced that fundamental constitutional rights were being violated, they complained first to their superiors, then to federal investigators, congressional oversight committees and, finally, to the news media. They have been investigated as criminals and forced to give up careers, reputations and friendships built over a lifetime. Today, they feel vindicated. They say the documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old former NSA contractor who worked as a systems administrator, proves their claims of sweeping government surveillance of millions of Americans not suspected of any wrongdoing. They say those revelations only hint at the programs' reach. On [June 15], USA TODAY brought Drake, Binney and Wiebe together for the first time since the story broke to discuss the NSA revelations. With their lawyer, Jesselyn Radack of the Government Accountability Project, they weighed their implications and their repercussions.
Note: See the link above for a great interview of these courageous whistleblowers. For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on the hidden realities of intelligence agencies, click here
CNN's Out Front with Erin Burnett [has been] focused on the possible involvement in the Boston Marathon attack of Katherine Russell, the 24-year-old American widow of the deceased suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Anonymous government officials are claiming that they are now focused on telephone calls between Russell and Tsarnaev that took place both before and after the attack to determine if she had prior knowledge of the plot or participated in any way. Burnett interviewed Tim Clemente, a former FBI counterterrorism agent, about whether the FBI would be able to discover the contents of past telephone conversations between the two. He quite clearly insisted that they could: BURNETT: There's no way they actually can find out what happened, right, unless she tells them? CLEMENTE: No, there is a way. We certainly have ways in national security investigations to find out exactly what was said in that conversation. We certainly can find that out. BURNETT: So they can actually get that? People are saying, look, that is incredible. CLEMENTE: No, welcome to America. All of that stuff is being captured as we speak whether we know it or like it or not. On Thursday night, Clemente again appeared on CNN. He reiterated what he said the night before but added expressly that "all digital communications in the past" are recorded and stored. All digital communications - meaning telephone calls, emails, online chats and the like - are automatically recorded and stored and accessible to the government after the fact. To describe that is to define what a ubiquitous, limitless Surveillance State is.
Note: All of our communications have been monitored by government computers for years. BBC News reported in this this 1999 article about the Echelon network which monitors all communications globally. For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on government and corporate threats to privacy, click here.
The use of drones by domestic US law enforcement agencies is growing rapidly, both in terms of numbers and types of usage. As a result, civil liberties and privacy groups led by the ACLU ... have been devoting increasing efforts to publicizing their unique dangers and agitating for statutory limits. The belief that weaponized drones won't be used on US soil is patently irrational. Police departments are already speaking openly about how their drones "could be equipped to carry nonlethal weapons such as Tasers or a bean-bag gun." The drone industry has already developed and is now aggressively marketing precisely such weaponized drones for domestic law enforcement use. Domestic weaponized drones will be much smaller and cheaper, as well as more agile - but just as lethal [as the large missile-firing drones used by the US military overseas]. The nation's leading manufacturer of small "unmanned aircraft systems" (UAS) ... is AeroVironment, Inc. (AV). AV is now focused on drone products - such as the "Qube" - that are so small that they can be "transported in the trunk of a police vehicle or carried in a backpack." AV's website ... touts a February, 2013 Defense News article describing how much the US Army loves [its] "Switchblade" [drone]. Time Magazine heralded this tiny drone weapon as "one of the best inventions of 2012", gushing: "the Switchblade drone can be carried into battle in a backpack. It's a kamikaze: the person controlling it uses a real-time video feed from the drone to crash it into a precise target. Its tiny warhead detonates on impact."
Note: This important article also discusses drones used by government agencies such as police for purposes of continuous surveillance. But it misses entirely another major dimension: privately owned and controlled drones, which are becoming dirt cheap and within the reach of virtually anyone. Will the new "DroneWorld" in the making combine the worst features of the Police State with the Wild West?
The Federal Bureau of Investigation used counterterrorism agents to investigate the Occupy Wall Street movement, including its communications and planning, according to newly disclosed agency records. The F.B.I. records show that as early as September 2011, an agent from a counterterrorism task force in New York notified officials of two landmarks in Lower Manhattan Federal Hall and the Museum of American Finance that their building was identified as a point of interest for the Occupy Wall Street. In the following months, F.B.I. personnel around the country were routinely involved in exchanging information about the movement with businesses, local law-enforcement agencies and universities. An October 2011 memo from the bureaus Jacksonville, Fla., field office was titled Domain Program Management Domestic Terrorist. The memo said agents discussed past and upcoming meetings of the movement, and its spread. It said agents should contact Occupy Wall Street activists to ascertain whether people who attended their events had violent tendencies. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the F.B.I. has come under criticism for deploying counterterrorism agents to conduct surveillance and gather intelligence on organizations active in environmental, animal-cruelty and poverty issues. The records were obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, a civil-rights organization in Washington, through a Freedom of Information request to the F.B.I.
Note: For analysis of these amazing documents revealing the use of joint government and corporate counterterrorism structures against peaceful protestors of financial corruption, click here and here. For a Democracy Now! video segment on this, click here.
[William] Binney, a 32-year veteran of the National Security Agency turned whistle-blower, ... described details about Stellar Wind, the N.S.A.s top-secret domestic spying program begun after 9/11, which was so controversial that it nearly caused top Justice Department officials to resign in protest, in 2004. The decision must have been made in September 2001, Mr. Binney told me [and] cinematographer Kirsten Johnson. Thats when the equipment started coming in. He resigned over this in 2001 and began speaking out publicly in the last year. [Binney] is among a group of N.S.A. whistle-blowers, including Thomas A. Drake, who have each risked everything their freedom, livelihoods and personal relationships to warn Americans about the dangers of N.S.A. domestic spying. The N.S.A. has technical abilities that are nearly impossible to defend against if you are targeted. The 2008 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which oversees the N.S.A. activities, are up for renewal in December. Two members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado ... have been warning about secret interpretations of laws and backdoor loopholes that allow the government to collect our private communications. Thirteen senators have signed a letter expressing concern about a loophole in the law that permits the collection of United States data. The A.C.L.U. and other groups have also challenged the constitutionality of the law, and the Supreme Court will hear arguments in that case on Oct. 29.
Note: The video about this on the NY Times webpage at the link above is quite revealing. One potent comment of this 32-year NSA veteran in the video is "They wanted to highly classify the extreme impeachable crimes they were committing." For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on government and corporate surveillance, click here.
[Trapwire is] a CCTV surveillance system that recognises people from their face or walk and analyses whether they might be about to commit a terrorist or criminal act. According to documents released online by WikiLeaks [it] is being used in a number of countries to try to monitor people and threats. Founded by former CIA agents, Trapwire uses data from a network of CCTV systems and numberplate readers to figure out the threat level in huge numbers of locations. The documents outlining Trapwire's existence and its deployment in the US were apparently obtained in a hack of computer systems belonging to the intelligence company Stratfor at the end of last year. Documents from the US department of homeland security show that it paid $832,000 to deploy Trapwire in Washington DC and Seattle. Stratfor describes Trapwire as "a unique, predictive software system designed to detect patterns of pre-attack surveillance and logistical planning". It serves "a wide range of law enforcement personnel and public and private security officials domestically and internationally", Stratfor says. Some have expressed doubts that Trapwire could really forecast [future] acts based on data from cameras. The claims might seem overblown, but then the idea that the US could have an international monitoring system seemed absurd until the discovery of the Echelon system, used by the US to eavesdrop on electronic communications internationally.
The days of secrecy at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) may be coming to an end. Its a widely held belief that the agencys hasty embrace of expensive, X-rated x-ray machines has more to do with closed-door lobbying efforts of manufacturers than a deliberate consideration of the devices merits. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) [has] pushed for some transparency by asking the D.C. Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to compel the agency to hold a public notice-and-comment period on the use of pornographic scanners, as the law requires. EPIC has a good case because on July 15, 2011, the D.C. Circuit issued a ruling insisting TSA promptly come into compliance with Administrative Procedure Act requirements regarding public hearings. TSA believed it wasnt subject to such rules because the virtual strip-searching of women, children and the elderly is an essential security operation. The last thing TSA wants is the public-relations disaster of having to collect and publish the horror tales from Americans subjected to humiliation from the nude photography and intrusive pat-down groping sessions. Its time to admit the post-Sept. 11 experiment in having the government take over airport screening duties has been a colossal flop. TSA has defied the Administrative Procedures Act, an appellate court, the public will and common decency. Its not enough just to pull the plug on the scanners; the plug should be pulled on TSA itself.
Note: According to this PBS report, "European Union regulators recently banned any body scanner that uses X-rays, 'in order not to risk jeopardizing citizens' health and safety.'" It also states, "The TSA tested the devices behind closed doors, without scrutiny from independent scientists." For lots more on this topic important to all air travelers, click here.
The Department of Homeland Security will soon be using a laser at airports that can detect everything about you from over 160 feet away. This laser-based scanner ... could read everything from a persons adrenaline levels, to traces of gun powder on a persons clothes, to illegal substances and it can all be done without a physical search. It also could be used on multiple people at a time, eliminating random searches at airports. The scanner is called the Picosecond Programmable Laser. The device works by blasting its target with lasers which vibrate molecules that are then read by the machine that determine what substances a person has been exposed to. The inventor of this invasive technology is Genia Photonics. Active since 2009, they hold 30 patents on laser technology designed for scanning. In 2011, they formed a partnership with In-Q-Tel, a company chartered by the CIA and Congress to build a bridge between the Agency and a new set of technology innovators. Although the technology could be used by Big Brother, Genia Photonics states that the device could be far more beneficial being used for medical purposes to check for cancer in real time, lipids detection, and patient monitoring.
Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on government threats to privacy, click here.
The Obama administration is moving to relax restrictions on how counterterrorism analysts may retrieve, store and search information about Americans gathered by government agencies for purposes other than national security threats. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. [has] signed new guidelines for the National Counterterrorism Center. The guidelines will lengthen to five years from 180 days the amount of time the center can retain private information about Americans when there is no suspicion that they are tied to terrorism, intelligence officials said. The guidelines are also expected to result in the center making more copies of entire databases and data mining them. They also set off civil-liberties concerns among privacy advocates who invoked the Total Information Awareness program. That program, proposed early in the George W. Bush administration and partially shut down by Congress after an outcry, proposed fusing vast archives of electronic records like travel records, credit card transactions, phone calls and more. Were all in the dark, and for all we know it could be a rerun of Total Information Awareness, which would have allowed the government to make a computerized database of everything on everybody, said Kate Martin, the director of the Center for National Security Studies, who criticized the administration for not making the draft guidelines public for scrutiny ahead of time.
A new federal law, signed by the president on [February 14], compels the Federal Aviation Administration to allow drones to be used for all sorts of commercial endeavors. Local police and emergency services will also be freer to send up their own drones. But while businesses, and drone manufacturers especially, are celebrating the opening of the skies to these unmanned aerial vehicles, the law raises new worries about how much detail the drones will capture about lives down below and what will be done with that information. Some questions likely to come up: Can a drone flying over a house pick up heat from a lamp used to grow marijuana inside, or take pictures from outside someones third-floor fire escape? Can images taken from a drone be sold to a third party, and how long can they be kept? The American Civil Liberties Union and other advocacy groups are calling for new protections against what the A.C.L.U. has said could be routine aerial surveillance of American life. The new law, part of a broader financing bill for the F.A.A., came after intense lobbying by drone makers and potential customers. These manufacturers have been awaiting lucrative new opportunities at home. The market for drones is valued at $5.9 billion and is expected to double in the next decade, according to industry figures. Drones can cost millions of dollars for the most sophisticated varieties to as little as $300 for one that can be piloted from an iPhone.
Note: For more information on the use of drones by police in the US, click here. For more on the threats to civil liberties created by this new law, click here. For lots more from reliable sources on surveillance in the US, click here.
In a luxury Washington, DC, hotel last month, governments from around the world gathered to discuss surveillance technology they would rather you did not know about. The annual Intelligence Support Systems (ISS) World Americas conference is a mecca for representatives from intelligence agencies and law enforcement. But to the media or members of the public, it is strictly off limits. Behind the cloak of secrecy at the ISS World conference, tips are shared about the latest advanced ... methods used to spy on citizens computer hacking, covert bugging and GPS tracking. The use of such methods is more commonly associated with criminal hacking groups, who have used spyware and trojan viruses to infect computers and steal bank details or passwords. But as the internet has grown, intelligence agencies and law enforcement have adopted similar techniques. "The current method of choice would seem to be spyware, or trojan horses," said Chris Soghoian, a Washington-based surveillance and privacy expert. "When there are five or six conferences held in closed locations every year, where telecommunications companies, surveillance companies and government ministers meet in secret to cut deals, buy equipment, and discuss the latest methods to intercept their citizens' communications that I think meets the level of concern," he said. "Decades of history show that surveillance powers are abused usually for political purposes."
Military researchers are at work on another revolution in the air: shrinking unmanned drones ... to the size of insects and birds. The drones in development ... are designed to replicate the flight mechanics of moths, hawks and other inhabitants of the natural world. Were looking at how you hide in plain sight, said Greg Parker, an aerospace engineer, as he held up a prototype of a mechanical hawk that in the future might carry out espionage or kill. An explosion in aerial drones is transforming the way America fights and thinks about its wars. Predator drones ... are by now a brand name, known and feared around the world. But far less known is the sheer size, variety and audaciousness of a rapidly expanding drone universe, along with the dilemmas that come with it. The Pentagon now has some 7,000 aerial drones, compared with fewer than 50 a decade ago. Within the next decade the Air Force anticipates a decrease in manned aircraft but expects its number of multirole aerial drones like the Reaper the ones that spy as well as strike to nearly quadruple, to 536. Already the Air Force is training more remote pilots, 350 this year alone, than fighter and bomber pilots combined. Its a growth market, said Ashton B. Carter, the Pentagons chief weapons buyer. The Pentagon has asked Congress for nearly $5 billion for drones next year, and by 2030 envisions ever more stuff of science fiction: spy flies equipped with sensors and microcameras to detect enemies
Note: Ashton B. Carter, CIA director John Deutch, and executive director of the 9/11 Commission Philip Zelikow co-authored a 1998 article in the journal of the Council on Foreign Relations, Foreign Affairs, titled "Catastrophic Terrorism". It predicted, years in advance, a massive attack on the World Trade Center that would result in loss of civil liberties, detention without charge, torture, and endless wars abroad. The Pentagon's weapons-buying spree, now including billions of dollars for drones to be used over US soil, and for which Carter is the "chief weapons buyer," would have been impossible without the 9/11 attacks.
The Transportation Security Administration has come under fire for new body scanners and what some say are highly invasive pat-downs. Thomas Sawyer, a bladder cancer survivor, said he was humiliated after a pat-down broke his urostomy bag, leaving the 61-year-old covered in his own urine. Sawyer said he warned the TSA officials twice that the pat-down could break the seal. Cathy Bossi, a long-time flight attendant and breast cancer survivor, said the TSA made her take off her prosthetic breast. "She put her full hand on my breast and said, 'What is this?' I said 'It's a prosthesis because I've had a breast cancer,'" Bossi said. "And she said, 'You'll need to show me that.'" In recent days, several passengers have come forward to tell such shocking stories about their experiences with TSA officers. An ABC News employee said she was subject to a "demeaning" search at Newark Liberty International Airport Sunday morning. "The woman who checked me reached her hands inside my underwear and felt her way around," she said. "It was basically worse than going to the gynecologist. It was embarrassing. It was demeaning. It was inappropriate." The head of the Transportation Security Administration John Pistole ... has said the TSA would not change its pat-down procedures.
Note: For lots more from major media sources on increasing threats to privacy, click here.
Two of the largest pilots' unions in the nation are urging commercial pilots to rebel against current airport screening rules. In late October, the Transport Security Administration implemented more invasive patdown rules. Travelers and pilots were faced with a new dilemma -- have a revealing, full-body scan or what some are calling an X-rated patdown. Pilots are piping mad over the options, saying the full-body scanners emit dangerous levels of radiation and that the alternative public patdown is disgraceful for a pilot in uniform. Some pilots have said they felt so violated after a patdown, they were unfit to fly. The patdowns, implemented Oct. 29, allow TSA officers to pat down passengers with the front of their hands, instead of the backs of their hands. A security expert who demonstrated the new procedure on a mannequin for ABC News explained the changes. "You go down the body and up to the breast portion," said Charles Slepian of the Foreseeable Risk Analysis Center. "If it's a female passenger, you're going to see if there's anything in the bra." The new patdown protocol could be used at any of the nation's 450 airports on passengers who require additional screening. Tens of thousands of passengers are submitted to patdowns and full-body scanners every day. More than 300 full-body scanners are being used at 65 airports across the country.
Note: And what about the general public having to submit to being groped?
It started with a fingerprint of a 25-year-old college professor who opposed the Vietnam War and ended with a search for his remains, 32 years later, in a wooded area near Eveleth, Minn. The FBI's files on Paul and Sheila Wellstone [show that] the FBI initially took interest in Wellstone as part of the broader surveillance of the American left ... and, in the end, [sifted] through the wreckage of the fatal plane crash that killed Wellstone and seven others eight years ago. Wellstone's surviving sons declined to comment on the documents, which were obtained in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by MPR News. The FBI did not include 76 pages related to the National Transportation Safety Board, the agency that investigated the crash. A request for those records is pending. Coleen Rowley, the 9/11 whistleblower and former chief legal advisor in the FBI's Minneapolis office, said the documents from 1970 shed light on the FBI's far-reaching efforts to quash political dissent. "I think this really is valuable because it's basically history repeating what we have right now," she said, noting the recent FBI raids at the homes of several anti-war organizers in Minneapolis. Wellstone's arrest occurred less than a year before the official end of Cointelpro, a series of secret domestic surveillance programs created by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to monitor and disrupt groups deemed to be a threat to national security.
Note: For insights into the deeper implications of Senator Wellstone's mysterious plane crash, click here.
Every email, phone call and website visit is to be recorded and stored after the Coalition Government revived controversial Big Brother snooping plans. It will allow security services and the police to spy on the activities of every Briton who uses a phone or the internet. Moves to make every communications provider store details for at least a year will be unveiled later this year sparking fresh fears over a return of the surveillance state. It comes despite the Coalition Agreement promised to "end the storage of internet and email records without good reason". The plans are expected to involve service providers storing all users details for a set period of time. That will allow the security and police authorities to track every phone call, email, text message and website visit made by the public if they argue it is needed to tackle crime or terrorism. The information will include who is contacting whom, when and where and which websites are visited, but not the content of the conversations or messages. The move was buried in the Government's Strategic Defence and Security Review.
Note: For lots more from major media sources on increasing government and corporate threats to privacy, click here.
Yasir Afifi, a 20-year-old computer salesman and community-college student, took his car in for an oil change earlier this month and his mechanic spotted an odd wire hanging from the undercarriage. The wire was attached to a strange magnetic device that puzzled Afifi and the mechanic. They freed it from the car and posted images of it online, asking for help in identifying it. Two days later, FBI agents arrived at Afifi's Santa Clara apartment and demanded the return of their property a global-positioning-system tracking device now at the center of a raging legal debate over privacy rights. One federal judge wrote that the widespread use of the device was straight out of George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four." By holding that this kind of surveillance doesn't impair an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy, the panel hands the government the power to track the movements of every one of us, every day of our lives," wrote Alex Kozinski, the chief judge of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a blistering dissent in which a three-judge panel from his court ruled that search warrants weren't necessary for GPS tracking. In his dissent, Chief Judge Kozinski noted that GPS technology is far different from tailing a suspect on a public road, which requires the active participation of investigators. "The devices create a permanent electronic record that can be compared, contrasted and coordinated to deduce all manner of private information about individuals," Kozinksi wrote.
Note: For an AP photo of this device, click here.
A privacy watchdog has uncovered a government memo that encourages federal agents to befriend people on a variety of social networks, to take advantage of their readiness to share -- and to spy on them. In response to a Freedom of Information request, the government released a handful of documents, including a May 2008 memo detailing how social-networking sites are exploited by the Office of Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS). Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and Digg had not commented on the report, which details the official government program to spy via social networking. Other websites the government is spying on include ... Craigslist and Wikipedia, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which filed the FOIA request. "Narcissistic tendencies in many people fuel a need to have a large group of 'friends' link to their pages, and many of these people accept cyber-friends that they don't even know," stated one of the documents obtained by the EFF. "This provides an excellent vantage point for FDNS to observe the daily life of [members]," it said. Among the networks specifically cited for analysis "were general social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and Flickr, as well as sites that focus specifically on certain demographic groups such as MiGente and BlackPlanet, news sites such as NPR, and political commentary sites DailyKos," the EFF wrote.
Note: For more information, read the full report at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
News that the US is buying custom-made vans packed with something called backscatter X-ray capacity has riled privacy advocates and sparked internet worries about "feds radiating Americans." American Science & Engineering, a Billerica, Mass.-company, tells Forbes it [has] sold more than 500 ZBVs, or Z Backscatter Vans, to US and foreign governments. The Department of Defense has bought the most for war zone use, but US law enforcement has also deployed the vans to [use] inside the US, according to Joe Reiss, a company spokesman. On [September 28], a counterterror operation snarled truck traffic on I-20 near Atlanta, where Department of Homeland Security teams used mobile X-ray technology to check the contents of truck trailers. Authorities said the inspections weren't prompted by any specific threat. Backscatter X-ray is already part of an ongoing national debate about its use in so-called full body scanners being deployed in many US airports. [Critics] worry that radiating Americans without their knowledge is evidence of gradually eroding constitutional protections in the post-9/11 age. "This is another way in which the government is capturing information they may lose control over. I just have some real problems with the idea of even beginning a campaign of rolling surveillance of American citizens, which is what this essentially is said [Vermont-based privacy expert Frederick Lane, author of American Privacy.]
Note: For further reports from reliable sources on the militarization of US police forces, click here.
Government agents can sneak onto your property in the middle of the night, put a GPS device on the bottom of your car and keep track of everywhere you go. This doesn't violate your Fourth Amendment rights, because you do not have any reasonable expectation of privacy in your own driveway and no reasonable expectation that the government isn't tracking your movements. That is the bizarre and scary rule that now applies in California and eight other Western states. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which covers this vast jurisdiction, recently decided the government can monitor you in this way virtually anytime it wants with no need for a search warrant. It is a dangerous decision one that, as the dissenting judges warned, could turn America into the sort of totalitarian state imagined by George Orwell. It is particularly offensive because the judges added insult to injury with some shocking class bias: the little personal privacy that still exists, the court suggested, should belong mainly to the rich. Plenty of liberals have objected to this kind of spying, but it is the conservative Chief Judge Kozinski who has done so most passionately. "1984 may have come a bit later than predicted, but it's here at last," he lamented in his dissent. And invoking Orwell's totalitarian dystopia where privacy is essentially nonexistent, he warned: "Some day, soon, we may wake up and find we're living in Oceania."
Note: For key reports from reliable souces on increasing government threats to civil liberties, click here.
Mexico's sixth-largest city, Leon, is on the road to ... a future in which everyone is tracked wherever they go. Fast Company reports that U.S. biometrics firm Global Rainmakers and its Mexican partner announced yesterday that they have begun installing iris-scanning technology in the city of more than 1 million in Guanajuato state. The companies aim ... to create "the most secure city in the world." The first phase concentrates on law enforcement and security checkpoints. Then the iris scanners, which the firms say can "identify humans in motion and at a distance while ensuring liveness," will fill malls, pharmacies, mass transit, medical centers and banks, "among other public and private locations," Fast Company writes. "In the future, whether it's entering your home, opening your car, entering your workspace, getting a pharmacy prescription refilled, or having your medical records pulled up, everything will come off that unique key that is your iris," says Jeff Carter, CDO of Global Rainmakers. Before coming to GRI, Carter headed a think tank partnership between Bank of America, Harvard, and MIT. "Every person, place, and thing on this planet will be connected [to the iris system] within the next 10 years," he says.
Note: For lots more from reliable sources on threats to privacy, click here.
At a warehouse in New Jersey, 6,000 used copy machines sit ready to be sold. Almost every one of them holds a secret. Nearly every digital copier built since 2002 contains a hard drive ... storing an image of every document copied, scanned, or emailed by the machine. In the process, it's turned an office staple into a digital time-bomb packed with highly-personal or sensitive data. If you're in the identity theft business it seems this would be a pot of gold. "The type of information we see on these machines with the social security numbers, birth certificates, bank records, income tax forms," John Juntunen said, "that information would be very valuable." Juntunen's Sacramento-based company Digital Copier Security developed software called "INFOSWEEP" that can scrub all the data on hard drives. He's been trying to warn people about the potential risk - with no luck. All the major [digital copier] manufacturers told us they offer security or encryption packages on their products. One product from Sharp automatically erases an image from the hard drive. It costs $500. But evidence keeps piling up in warehouses that many businesses are unwilling to pay for such protection, and that the average American is completely unaware of the dangers posed by digital copiers.
Note: For lots more from reliable sources on threats to privacy, click here.
A federal judge ruled [on March 31] that the National Security Agencys program of surveillance without warrants was illegal, rejecting the Obama administrations effort to keep shrouded in secrecy one of the most disputed counterterrorism policies of former President George W. Bush. In a 45-page opinion, Judge Vaughn R. Walker ruled that the government had violated a 1978 federal statute requiring court approval for domestic surveillance when it intercepted phone calls of Al Haramain, a now-defunct Islamic charity in Oregon, and of two lawyers representing it in 2004. Declaring that the plaintiffs had been subjected to unlawful surveillance, the judge said the government was liable to pay them damages. The ruling by Judge Walker, the chief judge of the Federal District Court in San Francisco, rejected the Justice Departments claim first asserted by the Bush administration and continued under President Obama that the charitys lawsuit should be dismissed without a ruling on the merits because allowing it to go forward could reveal state secrets. The judge characterized that expansive use of the so-called state-secrets privilege as amounting to unfettered executive-branch discretion that had obvious potential for governmental abuse and overreaching.
Note: For illumination of the dark world of state secrecy, click here.
The CIA is to be given broad access to the bank records of millions of Britons under a European Union plan to fight terrorism. The Brussels agreement, which will come into force in two months time, requires the 27 EU member states to grant requests for banking information made by the United States under its terrorist finance tracking programme. The EU said it had agreed that Europeans would be compelled to release the information to the CIA as a matter of urgency. The records will be kept in a US database for five years before being deleted. Critics say the system is lopsided because there is no reciprocal arrangement under which the UK authorities can easily access the bank accounts of US citizens. They also say the plan to sift through cross-border and domestic EU bank accounts gives US intelligence more scope to consult our bank accounts than is granted to law enforcement agencies in the UK or the rest of Europe. This weekend civil liberties groups and privacy campaigners said the surveillance programme, introduced as an emergency measure in 2001, was being imposed on Britain without a proper debate. Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said: The massive scope for transferring personal information from Europe to the United States is extremely worrying, especially in the absence of public debate or parliamentary scrutiny either at EU or domestic level.
Note: For reports from major media sources on erosion of privacy by governments and corporations, click here.
In a case that raises questions about online journalism and privacy rights, the U.S. Department of Justice sent a formal request to an independent news site ordering it to provide details of all reader visits on a certain day. The grand jury subpoena also required the Philadelphia-based Indymedia.us Web site "not to disclose the existence of this request" unless authorized by the Justice Department, a gag order that presents an unusual quandary for any news organization. Kristina Clair, a 34-year old Linux administrator living in Philadelphia who provides free server space for Indymedia.us, said she was shocked to receive the Justice Department's subpoena. The subpoena ... demanded "all IP traffic to and from www.indymedia.us" on June 25, 2008. It instructed Clair to "include IP addresses, times, and any other identifying information," including e-mail addresses, physical addresses, registered accounts, and Indymedia readers' Social Security Numbers, bank account numbers, [and] credit card numbers. Clair [called] the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco, which represented her at no cost. Making this investigation more mysterious is that Indymedia.us is an aggregation site, meaning articles that appear on it were published somewhere else first, and there's no hint about what sparked the criminal probe. Clair, the system administrator, says that no IP (Internet Protocol) addresses are recorded for Indymedia.us, and non-IP address logs are kept for a few weeks and then discarded. "This is the first time we've seen them try to get the IP address of everyone who visited a particular site," [EFF's Kevin] Bankston said. "That it was a news organization was an additional troubling fact that implicates First Amendment rights."
Note: For many reports from major media sources of growing government threats to civil liberties, click here.
Suppose you're returning home from a vacation in Cancun. A customs agent asks you to open your suitcase so he can check its contents. So far, so good. Now, the agent asks you to log on to your laptop so he can read your e-mails and personal files and examine which Web sites you've visited. He makes a copy of your hard drive so the government can comb through its contents. You've done nothing to give the agent any cause for suspicion. That can't be legal - can it? Until recently, it would not have been allowed. Long-standing customs directives prohibited agents from reading travelers' personal documents unless they reasonably suspected them to be merchandise or evidence of illegal activity. Then the Bush administration changed the rules, allowing agents to "review and analyze" the contents of electronic devices, including laptops, cell phones and BlackBerrys "absent individualized suspicion." Agents also could make copies of the devices' contents and share them with other government agencies. In a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in May, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano promised to review the policy. Homeland Security has now released a new policy - and it is the same as the Bush policy in almost every relevant respect. The government may still search electronic devices without reasonable suspicion, retain copies indefinitely to complete its search and share information with other agencies. Both administrations have cited national security to justify suspicionless searches. There's no evidence, however, that a suspicionless search has ever turned up a security threat.
Note: The author of this op-ed, Elizabeth Goitein, is the director of the Liberty and National Security Project at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. For lots more on how politicians use "national security" as a means to protect their own manipulations at the expense of the public good, click here.
Climbing into his Volvo, outfitted with a Matrics antenna and a Motorola reader he'd bought on eBay for $190, Chris Paget cruised the streets of San Francisco with this objective: To read the identity cards of strangers, wirelessly, without ever leaving his car. It took him 20 minutes to strike hacker's gold. Zipping past Fisherman's Wharf, his scanner detected, then downloaded to his laptop, the unique serial numbers of two pedestrians' electronic U.S. passport cards embedded with radio frequency identification, or RFID, tags. Within an hour, he'd "skimmed" the identifiers of four more of the new, microchipped PASS cards from a distance of 20 feet. Paget's February experiment demonstrated something privacy advocates had feared for years: That RFID, coupled with other technologies, could make people trackable without their knowledge or consent. He filmed his drive-by heist, and soon his video went viral on the Web, intensifying a debate over a push by government, federal and state, to put tracking technologies in identity documents and over their potential to erode privacy. With advances in tracking technologies coming at an ever-faster rate, critics say, it won't be long before governments could be able to identify and track anyone in real time, 24-7, from a cafe in Paris to the shores of California. The key to getting such a system to work, these opponents say, is making sure everyone carries an RFID tag linked to a biometric data file. On June 1, it became mandatory for Americans entering the United States by land or sea from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean to present identity documents embedded with RFID tags, though conventional passports remain valid until they expire.
Note: For lots more on corporate and government surveillance, click here.
The National Security Agency is facing renewed scrutiny over the extent of its domestic surveillance program, with critics in Congress saying its recent intercepts of the private telephone calls and e-mail messages of Americans are broader than previously acknowledged, current and former officials said. Since April, when it was disclosed that the intercepts of some private communications of Americans went beyond legal limits in late 2008 and early 2009, several Congressional committees have been investigating. Those inquiries have led to concerns in Congress about the agencys ability to collect and read domestic e-mail messages of Americans on a widespread basis, officials said. Supporting that conclusion is the account of a former N.S.A. analyst who, in a series of interviews, described being trained in 2005 for a program in which the agency routinely examined large volumes of Americans e-mail messages without court warrants. Two intelligence officials confirmed that the program was still in operation. Both the former analysts account and the rising concern among some members of Congress about the N.S.A.s recent operation are raising fresh questions about the spy agency. Representative Rush Holt, Democrat of New Jersey and chairman of the House Select Intelligence Oversight Panel, has been investigating the incidents and said he had become increasingly troubled by the agencys handling of domestic communications. In an interview, Mr. Holt disputed assertions by Justice Department and national security officials that the overcollection was inadvertent. Some actions are so flagrant that they cant be accidental, Mr. Holt said.
Note: For lots more from major media sources on the ever-increasing government and coroporate threats to privacy, click here.
The Pentagon plans to create a new military command for cyberspace ... stepping up preparations by the armed forces to conduct both offensive and defensive computer warfare. White House officials say Mr. Obama has not yet been formally presented with the Pentagon plan. But he is expected to sign a classified order in coming weeks that will create the military cybercommand, officials said. It is a recognition that the United States already has a growing number of computer weapons in its arsenal and must prepare strategies for their use as a deterrent or alongside conventional weapons in a wide variety of possible future conflicts. [A] main dispute has been over whether the Pentagon or the National Security Agency should take the lead in preparing for and fighting cyberbattles. Under one proposal still being debated, parts of the N.S.A. would be integrated into the military command so they could operate jointly. A classified set of presidential directives is expected to lay out the militarys new responsibilities and how it coordinates its mission with that of the N.S.A., where most of the expertise on digital warfare resides today. The decision to create a cybercommand is a major step beyond the actions taken by the Bush administration, which authorized several computer-based attacks but never resolved the question of how the government would prepare for a new era of warfare fought over digital networks. Officials declined to describe potential offensive operations, but said they now viewed cyberspace as comparable to more traditional battlefields.
The National Security Agency intercepted private e-mail messages and phone calls of Americans in recent months on a scale that went beyond the broad legal limits established by Congress last year, government officials said in recent interviews. Several intelligence officials, as well as lawyers briefed about the matter, said the N.S.A. had been engaged in overcollection of domestic communications of Americans. They described the practice as significant and systemic. The legal and operational problems surrounding the N.S.A.s surveillance activities have come under scrutiny from the Obama administration, Congressional intelligence committees and a secret national security court. Congressional investigators say they hope to determine if any violations of Americans privacy occurred. It is not clear to what extent the agency may have actively listened in on conversations or read e-mail messages of Americans without proper court authority, rather than simply obtained access to them. While the N.S.A.s operations in recent months have come under examination, new details are also emerging about earlier domestic-surveillance activities, including the agencys attempt to wiretap a member of Congress, without court approval, on an overseas trip. After a contentious three-year debate that was set off by the disclosure in 2005 of the program of wiretapping without warrants that President George W. Bush approved after the Sept. 11 attacks, Congress gave the N.S.A. broad new authority to collect, without court-approved warrants, vast streams of international phone and e-mail traffic as it passed through American telecommunications gateways.
Note: For further disturbing reports from reliable sources on government efforts to establish total surveillance systems, click here.
The Maryland State Police surveillance of advocacy groups was far more extensive than previously acknowledged, with records showing that troopers monitored -- and labeled as terrorists -- activists devoted to such wide-ranging causes as promoting human rights and establishing bike lanes. Intelligence officers created a voluminous file on Norfolk-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, calling the group a "security threat" because of concerns that members would disrupt the circus. Angry consumers fighting a 72 percent electricity rate increase in 2006 were targeted. The DC Anti-War Network, which opposes the Iraq war, was designated a white supremacist group, without explanation. One of the possible "crimes" in the file police opened on Amnesty International, a world-renowned human rights group: "civil rights." The [surveillance] ... confirmed the fears of civil liberties groups that have warned about domestic spying since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. "No one was thinking this was al-Qaeda," said Stephen H. Sachs, a former U.S. attorney and state attorney general appointed by Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) to review the case. "But 9/11 created an atmosphere where cutting corners was easier." Maryland has not been alone. The FBI and police departments in several cities, including Denver in 2002 and New York before the 2004 Republican National Convention, also responded to [dissent] by spying on activists.
Note: For wide coverage from reliable sources of disturbing threats to civil liberties, click here.
Using technology originally developed for mass disasters, Boston disease trackers are embarking on a novel experiment - one of the first in the country - aimed at eventually creating a citywide registry of everyone who has had a flu vaccination. The resulting vaccination map would allow swift intervention in neighborhoods left vulnerable to the fast-moving respiratory illness. The trial starts this afternoon, when several hundred people are expected to queue up for immunizations at the headquarters of the Boston Public Health Commission. Each of them will get a bracelet printed with a unique identifier code. Information about the vaccine's recipients, and the shot, will be entered into handheld devices similar to those used by delivery truck drivers. Infectious disease specialists in Boston and elsewhere predicted that the registry approach could prove even more useful if something more sinister strikes: a bioterrorism attack or the long-feared arrival of a global flu epidemic. In such crises, the registry could be used to track who received a special vaccine or antidote to a deadly germ. "Anything you can do to better pinpoint who's vaccinated and who's not, that's absolutely vital," said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy at the University of Minnesota. "I wish more cities were doing this kind of thing." When people arrive for their shots, they will get an ID bracelet with a barcode. Next, basic information - name, age, gender, address - will be entered into the patient tracking database. There will be electronic records, too, of who gave the vaccine and whether it was injected into the right arm or the left, and time-stamped for that day.
Procurement documents released by the U.S. Air Force give a rare glimpse into Pentagon plans for developing an offensive cyber-war capacity that can infiltrate, steal data from and, if necessary, take down enemy information-technology networks. The Broad Area Announcement, posted ... by the Air Force Research Laboratory's Information Directorate, outlines a two-year, $11 million effort to develop capabilities to "access ... any remotely located open or closed computer information systems," lurk on them "completely undetected," "stealthily exfiltrate information" from them and ultimately "be able to affect computer information systems through Deceive, Deny, Disrupt, Degrade, Destroy (D5) effects." "Of interest," the announcement says, "are any and all techniques to enable user and/or root-level access to both fixed [and] mobile computing platforms ... [and] methodologies to enable access to any and all operating systems, patch levels, applications and hardware." The announcement is the latest stage in the Air Force's effort to develop a cyber-war capability and establish itself as the service that delivers U.S. military power in cyberspace. Last year, the Air Force announced it was setting up a Cyberspace Command ... and was developing military doctrine for the prosecution of cyber-war operations. The developments highlight the murky legal territory on which the cyber-wars of the future will be fought. More important, because of the difficulties in identifying attackers and immediately quantifying damage from a cyber-attack, it can be hard to determine when such attacks constitute an act of war as opposed to crime or even vandalism.
The FBI has withdrawn a secret administrative order seeking the name, address and online activity of a patron of the Internet Archive after the San Francisco-based digital library filed suit to block the action. It is one of only three known instances in which the FBI has backed off from such a data demand, known as a "national security letter," or NSL, which is not subject to judicial approval and whose recipient is barred from disclosing the order's existence. NSLs are served on phone companies, Internet service providers and other electronic communications service providers, but because of the gag order provision, the public has little way to know about them. FBI officials now issue about 50,000 such orders a year. The order against the Internet Archive was served Nov. 26, and the nonprofit challenged it based on a provision of the reauthorized USA Patriot Act, which protects libraries from such requests. The privacy advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation represented the archive in the suit, which was joined by the American Civil Liberties Union. The archive also alleged that the gag order that accompanied the data demand violated the Constitution. As part of their settlement, the FBI agreed to drop the gag order and the archive agreed to withdraw the complaint. The case was unsealed Monday. Yesterday, redacted versions of key documents were filed, allowing the parties to discuss the case. "We see this as an unqualified success," said Brewster Kahle, the archive's co-founder and digital librarian. "The goal here was to help other recipients of NSLs to understand that you can push back."
Welcome to the new world of border security. Unsuspecting Americans are turning up at the Canadian border expecting clear sailing, only to find that their past -- sometimes their distant past -- is suddenly an issue. There was a time not long ago when a trip across the border from the United States to Canada was accomplished with a wink and a wave of a driver's license. Those days are over. Take the case of 55-year-old Lake Tahoe resident Greg Felsch. Stopped at the border in Vancouver this month at the start of a planned five-day ski trip, he was sent back to the United States because of a DUI conviction seven years ago. Not that he had any idea what was going on when he was told at customs: "Your next stop is immigration." Felsch was ushered into a room. "There must have been 75 people in line," he says. "We were there for three hours. One woman was in tears. A guy was sent back for having a medical marijuana card. I felt like a felon with an ankle bracelet." Or ask the well-to-do East Bay couple who flew to British Columbia this month for an eight-day ski vacation at the famed Whistler Chateau, where rooms run to $500 a night. They'd made the trip many times, but were surprised at the border to be told that the husband would have to report to "secondary" immigration. There, in a room he estimates was filled with 60 other concerned travelers, he was told he was "a person who was inadmissible to Canada." The problem? A conviction for marijuana possession ... in 1975. This is just the beginning. Soon other nations will be able to look into your past when you want to travel there.
Russell Tice, a longtime insider at the National Security Agency, is now a whistleblower the agency would like to keep quiet. For 20 years, Tice worked in the shadows as he helped the United States spy on other people's conversations around the world. "I specialized in what's called special access programs," Tice said of his job. "We called them 'black world' programs and operations." But now, Tice tells ABC News that some of those secret "black world" operations run by the NSA were operated in ways that he believes violated the law. He is prepared to tell Congress all he knows about the alleged wrongdoing in these programs run by the Defense Department and the NSA. Tice says the technology exists to track and sort through every domestic and international phone call...and to search for key words or phrases that a terrorist might use. President Bush has admitted that he gave orders that allowed the NSA to eavesdrop on a small number of Americans without the usual requisite warrants. But Tice disagrees. He says the number of Americans subject to eavesdropping by the NSA could be in the millions. The NSA revoked Tice's security clearance in May of last year based on what it called psychological concerns and later dismissed him. Tice calls that bunk and says that's the way the NSA deals with troublemakers and whistleblowers.
Note: For many years, both the U.S. and U.K. denied the existence of Echelon, which according to the BBC article below is a "spying network that can eavesdrop on every single phone call, fax or e-mail, anywhere on the planet." http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/503224.stm
The FBI, while waging a highly publicized war against terrorism, has spent resources gathering information on antiwar and environmental protesters and on activists who feed vegetarian meals to the homeless, the agency's internal memos show. For years, the FBI's definition of terrorism has included violence against property. That definition has led FBI investigations to online discussion boards, organizing meetings and demonstrations of a wide range of activist groups. The FBI's encounters with activists are described in hundreds of pages of documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union under the Freedom of Information Act after agents visited several activists before the 2004 political conventions. ACLU attorneys acknowledge that the FBI memos are heavily redacted and contain incomplete portraits of some cases. Still, the attorneys say, the documents show that the FBI has monitored groups that were not suspected of any crime. FBI officials respond that there is nothing improper about agents attending a meeting or demonstration.
The first annual National Security Whistleblowers Conference...has to be one of the more unusual gatherings of intelligence veterans in recent years. The nearly 20 current or former officials from the FBI, CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency, and even the supersecret National Security Agency who make up the core of the conference share an unusual distinction: They are all deeply out of favor with their longtime employers. Most cannot discuss the allegations they are making in detail because the specifics are highly classified. The agencies they work for also refuse to answer questions. The current and former officials at the conference said that today's climate in Washington has never been worse for whistleblowers. One of the biggest names of the conference never even uttered a word. Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer is the military intelligence operative who...went public with a controversial claim that a year before September 11, his top-secret task force "Able Danger" was able to identify the man who later turned out to be the lead hijacker [on 9/11]. Shaffer was slated to speak but instead sat quietly by as his lawyer, Mark Zaid, spoke for him. "Tony is not allowed to talk," Zaid said. "He is gagged from talking to Congress." The conference was organized by Sibel Edmonds, a former FBI translator who was pushed out of the bureau after raising accusations of wrongdoing by other FBI translators. She has been barred from discussing the details of her case by the FBI. She created the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition www.nswbc.org to bring whistleblowers like her together to push for legal reforms.
Note: For a detailed article in Vanity Fair on Sibel Edmonds' courageous efforts to expose the truth, click here. For the whistleblowing action which drew international media attention by WantToKnow.info founder Fred Burks, click here.
The only grade school in this rural town is requiring students to wear radio frequency identification badges that can track their every move. Some parents are outraged, fearing it will rob their children of privacy. The badges introduced at Brittan Elementary School on Jan. 18 rely on the same radio frequency and scanner technology that companies use to track livestock and product inventory. The system was imposed, without parental input, by the school as a way to simplify attendance-taking and potentially reduce vandalism and improve student safety. Some parents see a system that can monitor their children's movements on campus as something straight out of Orwell. This latest adaptation of radio frequency ID technology was developed by InCom Corp., a local company co-founded by the parent of a former Brittan student, and some parents are suspicious about the financial relationship between the school and the company. InCom has paid the school several thousand dollars for agreeing to the experiment, and has promised a royalty from each sale if the system takes off, said the company's co-founder, Michael Dobson, who works as a technology specialist in the town's high school.
Scientists have discovered a way of manipulating a gene that turns animals into drones that do not become bored with repetitive tasks. The experiments, conducted on monkeys, are the first to demonstrate that animal behaviour can be permanently changed, turning the subjects from aggressive to "compliant" creatures. The genes are identical in humans and although the discovery could help to treat depression and other types of mental illness, it will raise images of the Epsilon caste from Aldous Huxley's futuristic novel Brave New World. The experiments... involved blocking the effect of a gene called D2 in a particular part of the brain. This cut off the link between the rhesus monkeys' motivation and reward. Instead of speeding up with the approach of a deadline or the prospect of a "treat," the monkeys in the experiment could be made to work just as enthusiastically for long periods. The scientists say the identical technique would apply to humans. [They] found that they could make the monkeys work their hardest and fastest all the time, without any complaint or sign of slacking, just by manipulating D2 so that they forgot about the expectation of reward. Methods of manipulating human physical and psychological traits are just around the corner, and the technology will emerge first as a lucrative add-on available from in vitro fertilization clinics. "There's no doubt we will be able to influence behaviour," said Julian Savulescu, a professor of ethics at Oxford University.