Category Archives: Public service

Headlines of the day I: Spooks, hubris, hacks


We begin with an animation from Mark Fiore:

Li’l NSA Spy Kit

Program notes:

Every week, and sometimes every day, there is a new revelation about the shady practices of the NSA. After the news broke that the spy agency targeted thirty-five heads of state, not to mention the head of the UN, General Keith Alexander and Obama were on the defensive again and the cartoon ideas were frolicking in my head. More at http://www.markfiore.com

Next, a point we’ve made repeatedly in discussions with friends and family now confirmed. From Common Dreams:

Scared Silent: NSA Surveillance has ‘Chilling Effect’ on American Writers

New report published by PEN America found writers self-censoring as a result of spy revelations

Here’s one telling graphic from the report [[PDF]:

BLOG Chilling

From Techdirt, getting some Sense[nbrunner]:

Author Of The PATRIOT Act Goes To EU Parliament To Admit Congress Failed, And The NSA Is Out Of Control

from the didn’t-see-that-coming dept

From EUobserver, hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil:

Tech giants plead innocence to MEPs on US snooping

Executives from three of the world’s biggest IT firms – Facebook, Google and Microsoft – have told MEPs they did not give US intelligence services “unfettered” access to people’s private data.

The Guardian cites Big Brotherly paternalism:

John Kerry: world leaders have been understanding about NSA leaks

US secretary of state says foreign governments understand that Barack Obama did not order all phone and internet surveillance

Making sense of the trade representative’s involvement with Techdirt:

If The NSA Isn’t Engaged In Economic Espionage, Why Is The USTR Considered ‘A Customer’ Of Intelligence?

from the simple-questions dept

Tell us, are you surprised? From Spiegel:

Germans Rejected: US Unlikely to Offer ‘No-Spy’ Agreement

Senior German intelligence officials met with their NSA and CIA counterparts in the US last week to start trust-rebuilding efforts between the estranged allies. While a “no-spy” agreement seems unlikely, Merkel might learn what Snowden could still reveal.

The Guardian covers press-baiting:

Counter-terror chief renews fight for ‘snooper’s charter’

Charles Farr tells MPs that public’s data was never collected by GCHQ and claims Snowden leaks damaged GCHQ’s work

From Spiegel, a Quixotic quest?:

Spy-Proofing: Deutsche Telekom Pushes for All-German Internet

Recent revelations about NSA spying have given fresh impetus to the dream of a purely German Internet. Deutsche Telekom believes it could introduce a system safe from prying foreign surveillance, but some criticize the plan as pointless.

From the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Deeplinks Blog, sinister spin:

The House Intelligence Committee’s Misinformation Campaign About the NSA

Rep. Mike Rogers, Chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), is a busy man. Since June, he (and HPSCI) have been all over the media with press statements, TV appearances, and tweets, relentlessly trying to persuade the public that the National Security Agency (NSA) is merely doing its job when it collects innocent Americans’ calling records, phone calls, and emails.

The Verge encapsulates:

The edge of the abyss: exposing the NSA’s all-seeing machine

We now know that nearly five decades after its creation, the NSA began to operate what would become a global surveillance network of breathtaking scale. Today, it collects records about every phone call placed in the United States. It works with overseas partners and telecommunications companies to directly tap into the arteries of the internet, and scoops up massive amounts of data including emails, chats, VoIP calls, and more. It collects billions of records every year, many belonging to ordinary US citizens with no suspicion of wrongdoing.

From the Moscow Times, a look at the leaker:

Lawyer Says ‘Lonely’ Snowden Living on Donations

U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden has used up most of his money for food, rent and private bodyguards, and is living on donations from public organizations and ordinary Russians, his lawyer said in an interview published Tuesday.

More from Xinhua:

Snowden not paid for revealing information: lawyer

  • Edward Snowden was not paid for revealing classified information, his lawyer Anatoly Kucherena said.

  • The lawyer said Snowden’s financial situation proved he was an altruist.

  • The lawyer said he had to help Snowden “not only legally but in everyday life as well.”

From Ars Technica, reasonable requests:

ACLU to law enforcement: Tell us how you get users’ search history, data

  • More questions: Are warrants required? Can you intercept searches in real time?

  • On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union announced that it had filed a formal request (PDF) under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), asking various federal judicial agencies what “policies, procedures, and practices [are] followed to obtain search queries from search engine operators for law enforcement purposes.” The ACLU also asked if a warrant or another legal process is required to make requests and if requests can be intercepted in real time.

The Irish Times covers tightening of freedom of information laws on the Emerald Isle:

Attempt to postpone changes to FoI regime unsuccessful

Brendan Howlin to introduce additional fees for applications with multiple requests

And the Asahi Shimbun covers another Island’s radpicaly developing security state:

Foreign policy adviser Yachi picked to head NSC secretariat

A foreign policy aide to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has overcome his reluctance and agreed to serve as the first head of the secretariat under the planned National Security Council, sources said. The Abe administration has decided to name Shotaro Yachi, 69, as the first secretariat head of the council that will be established in January, they said. The NSC is designed to chart the course of Japan’s foreign and security policies.

A parallel story, also from the Asahi Shimbun, and notable for being notable:

SDF members on secret duties must undergo rigorous background checks

Self-Defense Forces members tapped for duties involving secrets are required to declare a host of personal background information, such as the people they know and their own thoughts on various issues.

The Daily Dot covers another form of cyber-security:

Anonymous aims to shut down Utah boarding school over abuse allegations

The hacktivist collective Anonymous has launched a campaign against a Utah boarding school for troubled teenagers after testimonies of alleged abuse surfaced four weeks ago online.

From Nextgov, cyber insecurity, Obamacare edition:

CMS Manager Who Approved HealthCare.gov Launch Never Received Key Security Memos

A top Obamacare technology official was not informed of high-level security risks before he recommended the HealthCare.gov launch, according to closed-door congressional testimony released late Monday night.

The Irish Times cover the theft of credit card details of nearly 400,000 people across Europe, plus an additional 1.1 million whose  names, addresses, telephone numbers, and emails were hacked:

Over 1.5 million affected by Ennis data breach

Data Protection Commissioner investigates major security breach at Co Clare-based company which manages customer loyalty schemes across Europe

From the Daily Dot, information insecurity Down Under:

Outdated copyright law makes memes illegal in Australia

Here are a few things you can’t do in Australia: Post a YouTube video of yourself in a homemade Super Mario Brothers costume, stream music from your iPhone during a funeral, or share just about any Internet meme on your Facebook wall.

And for our final item, DVICE covers evasion:

Take on the NSA and Google with arkOS, your own at-home server

The NSA scandal has ruffled the feathers of even the biggest birds in the Internet eyrie. Google slaughters whatever services it sees fit, despite public outcry. These are grave days for the little people of the Internet. But one 23-year-old developer has planted his flag in the ground, hoping to give us all a little of our own online power back.

New media meets old: Greenwald v. Keller


From CNN Internacional, we bring you two interesting conversations about the nature and role of the journalist featuring archetypes of the old and new media news media.

In the first, CNN’s David Folkenflik talks with Bill Keller, who for the last 29 years has drawn a paycheck from the New York Times — about as old school a medium as there is — currently as an op-ed columnist and before that,  executive editor.  As might be expected, Keller advocates for the sober “impartial approach,” while ceding a role to form of advocacy journalism Greenwald practices.

From CNN Internacional:

Keller v Greenwald: Bill’s take

Program note:

NYT columnist Bill Keller tells David Folkenflik about his conversation with Glenn Greenwald on the future of news.

The second segment features Glenn Greenwald, a muckraker extraordinaire who has — with the leads and documents provided by Edward Snowden — changed the consciousness of the world more dramatically than anyone else practicing the art today. He makes a particularly telling point, too: Keller’s own paper effectively advocated for the Bush administrations war on Iraq.

Keller v Greenwald: Glenn’s take

Program note:

Glenn Greenwald tells David Folkenflik about his conversation with NYT columnist Bill Keller on the future of news.

The CNN videos are an extension of a 27 October New York Times op-ed dialogue between Keller and Greenwald.

Interview: Government deception at Fukushima


Jessica Desvarieux of The Real News Network interviews nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen, who, she notes, “holds a nuclear safety patent, was a licensed reactor operator, and is a former nuclear industry senior vice president. During his nuclear power industry career, Arnie also managed and coordinated projects at 70-nuclear power plants in the US.”

Nuclear Engineer: Japan’s PM “Lying to the Japanese People” About Safety of Fukushima

Here’s an excerpt from the transcript:

It’s never happened where three nuclear reactors have blown up in three days. So this is a brand-new event.

But that’s not the biggest problem. The biggest problem is that Tokyo Electric has been allowed to continue to operate this plant and try to clean up the site. They’re an operator, thy’re not an engineering firm, so that you’ve really got the wrong skill set. So you’ve got the wrong people trying to do the cleanup.

There’s one other piece, though, and that piece is the cost. Tokyo Electric doesn’t have enough money to do this. I made some recommendations two years ago to prevent this water from going into the Pacific, and I was told Tokyo Electric didn’t have enough money to do it. Well, if they had done my recommendations years ago, they wouldn’t be in the mess they’re in now.

The money’s got to come from the nation of Japan. And the Japanese government doesn’t want to admit that they’re on the hook for half a trillion — that’s with a T — half a trillion dollars. And they would rather not tell the Japanese people that, because the Japanese government wants to get 50 nuclear plants up and running, and if the people ever realized the liability that they face, I don’t think that would happen.

Berkeley hit by rash of smart phone bandits


A warning notice just received from the Berkeley Police Department:

We saw a large increase in the targeting of Smartphones in the first six months of this year. In 57% of cases, people had their phone visible when approached. The data also showed that robbers prefer targeting lone pedestrians, often at night.

When walking, we believe these measures can make a difference:

  • Put your Smartphone in your pocket.
  • ‘Take off your earphones.
  • Be alert to your surroundings.
  • At night, consider walking with others &/or carrying a flashlight.

John Ralston Saul: It’s Broke how Can We Fix It?


Another of those wonderful extended talks at the Sydney Opera House from Ideas at the House [previously], this time featuring provocative author/philosopher John Ralston Saul.

John Ralston Saul: It’s Broke how Can We Fix It?

The program notes:

Declared a ‘prophet’ by TIME magazine, John Ralston Saul’s critically acclaimed works have been translated into 22 languages in 30 countries, displaying a growing impact on world political and economic thought.

A long-term champion of freedom of expression, watch John Ralston Saul in intimate conversation on the state of the world today; from economic stability, unemployment and poverty to inequality, racism, terrorism and fundamentalism.

It’s a fascinating talk, and his focus is the end of globalism — a concept premised on the impossibility of organizing societies around economics, while rejecting the notion of a society organized around citizens rather than consumers [or, as he calls them, “servants of greed”].

Globalism and democracy are mutually exclusive, he contends, because democracy is based on the local, on making decisions about the communities where citizens live and work.

One of the most pernicious effects of globalism is to disguise the nature and operations of real power, while diverting the discontented into NGOs, organizations which seek to influence rather than wield power.

A self-described optimistic pessimist [expecting the worst while working for the best], he offers an incisive critique of contemporary philosophy, academia, governance, and power.

We particularly like his focus on debt, and on the futility of austerian policies.

Enjoy!

Massive privatization protests rock Latin America


From Oscar León of The Real News Network, two reports on protests, one that ended with a win and the other ending with massive police repression.

First up:

Mexico City Police Violently Crackdown on Occupying Teachers

From the transcript:

OSCAR LEÓN, TRNN PRODUCER: On Friday, September 13, a force of an estimated 3,000 anti riot police cleared El Zócalo Plaza in downtown Mexico City.

CROWD: Solutions, solutions. We don’t want repression.

A public place that tens of thousands of teachers had occupied for five months now, opposing an “Educative Reform” allowed, and among other things it would impose nationally standardized evaluations of teachers that would lead to their automatic firing if they receive negative ratings.

>snip<

Once in control of the plaza, following a script that has become familiar to many cities in the world, the riot police tore the occupation camp down and arrested those who dare resist the government and its policies, even if they are teachers.

Since assuming power, Enrique Peña Nieto had faced opposition from many different sectors, which he has met with a heavy hand, criminalizing unions and student groups, all of which have faced police brutality and arbitrary detentions. Amnesty International reported the detention and violation of human rights of a number of independent journalists. AI called the Mexican government to respect the freedom of the press.

Some of the detainees are charged with “disrupting public peace” and even “attacks to the nation”. Beatings and inhumane treatment were reported by detained teachers and journalists.

In Xalapa, Veracruz, near the Caribbean coast, Sin Embargo, an independent newspaper, reported that police armed with electric knives evicted 300 teachers who had occupied Plaza Lerdo. There was an unreported number of injured and detained.

But further south, another nationwide protest ended in a victory:

National Farmers and Social Strike gets seeds control law 970 suspended

And excerpt from the transcript:

OSCAR LEÓN, TRNN PRODUCER: In Colombia after 21 days of a nationwide strike by thousands of farmers, who were supported by bus and truck drivers, miners, students, and others joining massive demonstrations in cities and towns all around the country in places as far as Boyacá, Cundinamarca, Cauca, Huila, Putumayo, Caldas, Cundinamarca, and Nariño, and blocking more than 40 roads, in an historic moment, protesting farmers forced the Colombian government to negotiate the rejection of a farm bill and the release of detained protesters.

On Sunday, September 8, Vice President Angelino Garzón met with the Strike Negotiating Commission in Popayan and agreed to suspend Law 970, the one that gave control over seeds to the government. They also were promised the release of the 648 arrested during the strike and the creation of a new mining law.

Under this first and provisional agreement, the government will compensate the farmers for their losses when competing with cheaper products imported under as much as ten free market treaties with countries all around the world. In other cases it will suspend the importation of such products.

The strike was ended and negotiations started to discuss the farmers’ proposals. The process of negotiation, as well as the final agreement and its implementation, will be verified by the United Nations.

In Putumayo in the south of the country, farmers leaders and other actors of Colombian society met with President Santos and other authorities and officially started the negotiations after signing the initial document.

The destruction of the farmers’ rice stock seeds, seeds they were keeping for the following year’s planting time, occurred in Campo Alegre and other towns in 2012. For some these images became the symbol of the farmers’ strike fighting for the right to keep their seeds. Seed control was described by President Santos as having Colombia “tune up to international reality”.

Malware tied to Syrian bombing alert email


If you get an email headed “The United States began bombing!,” trash it immediately.

CNBC reports:

Clicking “Full story” after the two-sentence lead triggers the download of a Trojan Downloader and various other malware, computer security company Kaspersky Lab told CNBC. The spam targets older, vulnerable versions of Adobe Reader and Java.