BUSTED – U.S. Tech Giants Knew of NSA Spying Says Agency’s Senior Lawyer

This is why I’ve been so confused and frustrated by the repeated reports of the behavior of the US government. When our engineers work tirelessly to improve security, we imagine we’re protecting you against criminals, not our own government.

The US government should be the champion for the internet, not a threat. They need to be much more transparent about what they’re doing, or otherwise people will believe the worst.

I’ve called President Obama to express my frustration over the damage the government is creating for all of our future. Unfortunately, it seems like it will take a very long time for true full reform.

So it’s up to us — all of us — to build the internet we want. Together, we can build a space that is greater and a more important part of the world than anything we have today, but is also safe and secure. I‘m committed to seeing this happen, and you can count on Facebook to do our part.

- Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg in a post last week

Last week, Mark Zuckerberg made headlines by posting about how he called President Barack Obama to express outrage and shock about the government’s spying activities. Of course, anyone familiar with Facebook and what is going on generally between private tech behemoths and U.S. intelligence agencies knew right away that his statement was one gigantic heap of stinking bullshit. Well now we have the proof.

Earlier today, the senior lawyer for the NSA made it completely clear that U.S. tech companies were fully aware of all the spying going on, including the PRISM program (on that note read my recent post: The Most Evil and Disturbing NSA Spy Practices To-Date Have Just Been Revealed).

So stop the acting all of you Silicon Valley CEOs. We know you are fully on board with extraordinary violations of your fellow citizens’ civil liberties. We know full well that you have been too cowardly to stand up for the values this country was founded on. We know you and your companies are compromised. Stop pretending, stop bullshitting. You’ve done enough harm.

From The Guardian:

The senior lawyer for the National Security Agency stated unequivocally on Wednesday that US technology companies were fully aware of the surveillance agency’s widespread collection of data, contradicting month of angry denials from the firms.

Rajesh De, the NSA general counsel, said all communications content and associated metadata harvested by the NSA under a 2008 surveillance law occurred with the knowledge of the companies – both for the internet collection program known as Prism and for the so-called “upstream” collection of communications moving across the internet.

Asked during at a Wednesday hearing of the US government’s institutional privacy watchdog if collection under the law, known as Section 702 or the Fisa Amendments Act, occurred with the “full knowledge and assistance of any company from which information is obtained,” De replied: “Yes.”

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Edward Snowden Speaking Live Now at SXSW – Watch it Here

Edward Snowden will be speaking at 12 EST in Austin, Texas at SXSW.

This is his first live public speaking engagement since he came forward last year as one of the most famous whistleblowers in history.

Since the event is now over, I have replaced the lifestream with a recording of the talk. Enjoy.

 

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How the Repo Industry is Collecting Data on Virtually Every Car in America

Privacy is being violated from all angles. The government, private corporations, the list is seemingly endless. While there have been many reports of government agencies using license plate scanners under questionable legality, the role of private corporations and the repo industry has received considerably less coverage. Until now.

Beta Boston (part of the Boston Globe) has published an excellent report into this very disturbing trend. Excepts below:

Few notice the “spotter car” from Manny Sousa’s repo company as it scours Massachusetts parking lots, looking for vehicles whose owners have defaulted on their loans. Sousa’s unmarked car is part of a technological revolution that goes well beyond the repossession business, transforming any ­industry that wants to check on the whereabouts of ordinary people.

An automated reader attached to the spotter car takes a picture of every license plate it passes and sends it to a company in Texas that already has more than 1.8 billion plate scans from vehicles across the country.

These scans mean big money for Sousa — typically $200 to $400 every time the spotter finds a vehicle that’s stolen or in default — so he runs his spotter around the clock, typically adding 8,000 plate scans to the database in Texas each day.

“Honestly, we’ve found random apartment complexes and shopping ­plazas that are sweet spots” where the company can impound multiple vehicles, explains Sousa, the president of New England Associates Inc. in Bridgewater. 

But the most significant impact of Sousa’s business is far bigger than locating cars whose owners have defaulted on loans: It is the growing database of snapshots showing where Americans were at specific times, information that everyone from private detectives to ­insurers are willing to pay for.

While public debate about the license reading technology has centered on how police should use it, business has eagerly adopted the $10,000 to $17,000 scanners with remarkably few limits.

At least 10 repossession companies in Massachusetts say they mount the scanners on spotter cars or tow trucks, and Digital Recognition Network of Fort Worth, Texas, claims to collect plate scans of 40 percent of all US vehicles annually.

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Patriot Act Author Prepares Strong Bill to Rein in NSA Abuses…Calls for Prosecution of James Clapper

In an interesting twist of irony, one of the Congressman most instrumental in the destruction of civil liberties in these United States due to his authorship of the Patriot Act, Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), is now leading the charge to rein in NSA abuses. His disgust with the NSA became clear back in early June when he wrote an impassioned letter to Attorney General Eric Holder criticizing the illegal NSA activity happening behind the scenes. The key point here is that Mr. Sensenbrenner strongly believes that these guys are misinterpreting the legislation he wrote to justify everything they are doing. As such, he and others are proposing legislation to make it crystal clear what is and what is not appropriate surveillance.

Not only that, he is also calling for the prosecution of James Clapper the current Director of National Intelligence, who perjured himself in front of Congress earlier this year. Mr. Sensenbrenner said:

Oversight only works when the agency that oversight is directed at tells the truth, and having Mr Clapper say he gave the least untruthful answer should, in my opinion, have resulted in a firing and a prosecution.

This guy means business. More from the Guardian:

The conservative Republican who co-authored America’s Patriot Act is preparing to unveil bipartisan legislation that would dramatically curtail the domestic surveillance powers it gives to intelligence agencies.

Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, who worked with president George W Bush to give more power to US intelligence agencies after the September 11 terrorist attacks, said the intelligence community had misused those powers by collecting telephone records on all Americans, and claimed it was time “to put their metadata program out of business”.

His imminent bill in the House of Representatives is expected to be matched by a similar proposal from Senate judiciary committee chair Patrick Leahy, a Democrat. It pulls together existing congressional efforts to reform the National Security Agency in the wake of disclosures by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

It seeks to limit the collection of phone records to known terrorist suspects; to end “secret laws” by making courts disclose surveillance policies; to create a special court advocate to represent privacy interests; and to allow companies to disclose how many requests for users’ information they receive from the USA. The bill also tightens up language governing overseas surveillance to remove a loophole which it has been abused to target internet and email activities of Americans.

In July, a temporary measure to defund the NSA bulk collection programme was narrowly defeated in a 217 to 205 vote in the House, but Sensenbrenner said the appetite for greater privacy protections had only grown since.

Instead, the main opposition to Sensenbrenner and Leahy’s twin-pronged effort is likely to come from the chair of the Senate intelligence committee, Dianne Feinstein, who is supportive of the NSA but who has proposed separate legislation focusing on greater transparency and checks rather than an outright ban on bulk collection.

Of course Feinstein is going to push to block real NSA restrictions, she is one of the most authoritarian members of Congress, not to mention married to a gigantic crony capitalist, fraud artist. 

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This is What Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia Thinks About Your Privacy Rights…

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia spoke yesterday at the Northern Virginia Technology Council’s (NVTC) Titans breakfast gathering in McLean, Virginia. He discussed the fact that prior to a Supreme Court decision in 1967, there were no constitutional prohibitions on wiretaps because conversations were not explicitly granted privacy protection under the Fourth Amendment. He goes on to imply that he thinks it was better before such privacy rights existed. According to the AP:

Scalia said that before the court’s 1967 opinion on wiretapping, the high court held the view that there were no constitutional prohibitions on wiretaps because conversations were not explicitly granted privacy protection under the Fourth Amendment, which protects against Americans against unreasonable search and seizure of “their persons, houses, papers, and effects.”

But he said then the Warren court stepped in and found that “there’s a generalized right of privacy that comes from penumbras and emanations, blah blah blah, garbage.”

Blah, blah, blah garbage is how a Supreme Court Justice describes privacy protections. Protections that may have prevented FBI surveillance against Martin Luther King Jr., John Lennon and countless other activists. Remember that: All My Heroes Have FBI Files. 

With Justices like this…

Screen Shot 2013-09-26 at 2.27.01 PM*Photo from the AP story.

In Liberty,
Mike

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Meet Xmission: The ISP Focused on Privacy

Earlier this week, I highlighted alternative search engine DuckDuckGo, which focuses on privacy and claims that: “if the NSA demanded data there would be none to hand over.” Today’s article focuses on a little known internet service provider (ISP) called Xmission, which is based in Utah and has 30,000 subscribers. Ironically, it is situated close to the NSA’s new multi-billion dollar spy center and it has received rave reviews from the always excellent Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF). It’s founder, Pete Ashdown is a brave man who, unlike his larger tech peers, has consistently stood up to the government and intelligence services to protect his customers’ Constitutional rights. From The Guardian:

Silicon Valley’s role in US government surveillance has triggered public anxiety about the internet, but it turns out there is at least one tech company you can trust with your data. The only problem: it’s a relative minnow in the field, operating from offices in Utah.

Xmission, Utah’s first independent and oldest internet service provider, has spent the past 15 years resolutely shielding customers’ privacy from government snoops in a way that larger rivals appear to have not.

The company, a comparative midget with just 30,000 subscribers, cited the Fourth Amendment in rebuffing warrantless requests from local, state and federal authorities, showing it was possible to resist official pressure.

“I would tell them I didn’t need to respond if they didn’t have a warrant, that (to do so) wouldn’t be constitutional,” the founder and chief executive, Pete Ashdown, said in an interview at his Salt Lake City headquarters.

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Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak Discusses The Constitution, NSA Spying and Torture

When I was brought up we were taught that Communist Russia were the ones that were going to kill us, bomb our country and all this.  That Communist Russia was so bad because they followed their people, they snooped on them, they arrested them, put them in secret prisons…they disappeared them. These sorts of things were part of Russia.  We’re getting more and more like that.

- Steve Wozniak in the video below

Steve Wozniak is not only co-founder of Apple Computer, he is an extremely thoughtful person and patriot.  In the video below, Steve was approached in an airport and he took the time to provide us with some thoughts about all of the disturbing authoritarian trends happening in these United States today.  He covered a lot of key points in just a few minutes.  Enjoy!

Mayor Bloomberg Compares the NYPD to a Paramilitary Force

“I don’t listen to Washington very much, which is something they’re not thrilled about.  I have my own army in the NYPD, which is the seventh biggest army in the world.”

- NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg in November 2011.

It’s been a few weeks since New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg exhibited one of his all too common public displays of dementia and authoritarianism, so we were long overdue.  While we all already knew that he viewed the city’s police force as his own personal army, he recently decided to reiterate the point.

With Bloomberg’s unethical, racist and highly unconstitutional “stop and frisk” policy coming under legal attack and potential facing a federal monitor, this is what the man had to say in opposition:

“No military organization or paramilitary runs where you have confusion in the command structure. You just cannot have that. Lives are on the line.” 

The man is the poster child for term limits.

More from Reason here.

In Liberty,
Mike

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My Response to David Brooks’ Hit Piece on Edward Snowden

Where does the New York Times find these people?  I used to think Paul Krugman was bad, but David Brooks makes Krugman look like the reincarnation of Nostradamus and Adam Smith. A few minutes ago, I had the unfortunate experience of reading the latest nonsensical, statist drivel from David Brooks in an Op-Ed on Edward Snowden titled “The Solitary Leaker.” I’m not sure if my brain cells will ever forgive me the experience.

It’s one thing to write a hit-piece on Snowden (something we all knew would happen), and I don’t think it comes as a surprise to anyone that the New York Times would be the “paper of record” to bring us such an editorial.  It’s quite another to write one that would only influence the simplest and most ignorant, brainwashed mind.  He sounds like a 15 year old boy arguing in the high school cafeteria.

At this point, I’m convinced that 90% of the people that call Edward Snowden a traitor are merely expressing a subconscious recognition of their own cowardice. The other 10% work for the military-industrial-Federal Reserve-propaganda complex.  David Brooks seems to uniquely fall squarely into both categories.

So let’s get into it.  It appears that David Brooks dusted off his copy of “How to Write a Hit Piece for Dummies” before getting started as he begins with an attempted character assassination.  He writes:

Though obviously terrifically bright, he could not successfully work his way through the institution of high school. Then he failed to navigate his way through community college. 

What drivel.  So many of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs and thinkers failed to thrive in the school system.  They were simply too bright.  Even Albert Einstein was known to have struggled in many high school classes.

Brooks then writes:

He has not been a regular presence around his mother’s house for years. When a neighbor in Hawaii tried to introduce himself, Snowden cut him off and made it clear he wanted no neighborly relationships.

Really David, that’s the best you could do?

So after he completes his ineffective character assassination, he attempts to actually make an argument.  Something David Brooks is not very good at.  He writes:

This lens makes you more likely to share the distinct strands of libertarianism that are blossoming in this fragmenting age: the deep suspicion of authority, the strong belief that hierarchies and organizations are suspect, the fervent devotion to transparency, the assumption that individual preference should be supreme. You’re more likely to donate to the Ron Paul for president campaign, as Snowden did.

But Big Brother is not the only danger facing the country. Another is the rising tide of distrust, the corrosive spread of cynicism, the fraying of the social fabric and the rise of people who are so individualistic in their outlook that they have no real understanding of how to knit others together and look after the common good.

Brooks doesn’t even attempt to explain why Libertarianism is booming.  He sort of just implies that it has sprung out of thin air and then deeply laments its existence. This “deep suspicion of authority” did not spring from the ether.  Rather, it is the quite natural response to a corrupt, criminal and out of control corporate-financial and political oligarchy that has taken too much control and remains subject to zero accountability.  This isn’t about the balance between the individual and the political system we live under.  It is a realization that the “state” is being run to the benefit of the 0.01% at the expense of the 99.9%. It isn’t any more complicated than that.

Then he writes:

For society to function well, there have to be basic levels of trust and cooperation, a respect for institutions and deference to common procedures. By deciding to unilaterally leak secret N.S.A. documents, Snowden has betrayed all of these things.

While I do not disagree with this statement, trust must be earned.  Our leaders have lost the trust of the citizenry and rightly so.  Then he makes another bizarre generational slander:

He betrayed his friends. Anybody who worked with him will be suspect. Young people in positions like that will no longer be trusted with responsibility for fear that they will turn into another Snowden.

That’s not all though.  He follows it with another childish knock on Snowden’s high school performance:

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Department of Homeland Security: We Can Search and Confiscate Electronic Devices Based on a “Hunch”

Regular readers know my complete and total disdain for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). An organization that is quite clearly gearing itself up for confrontation with the American public, rather than offering any meaningful protection from foreign “terrorists.” These folks think that because they have a big budget and a badge they do not have to abide by the Constitution.  They have such little respect for the supreme law of the land that they claim they can search through travelers’ electronic items, and even confiscate them, based on a “hunch.”  No, really.

Terrorists don’t take away freedoms.  Governments take away freedoms…and ours is doing a damn good job of it.

From CBS:

WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — U.S. border agents should continue to be allowed to search a traveler’s laptop, cellphone or other electronic device and keep copies of any data on them based on no more than a hunch, according to an internal Homeland Security Department study. It contends limiting such searches would prevent the U.S. from detecting child pornographers or terrorists and expose the government to lawsuits.

The 23-page report, obtained by The Associated Press and the American Civil Liberties Union under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, provides a rare glimpse of the Obama administration’s thinking on the long-standing but controversial practice of border agents and immigration officers searching and in some cases holding for weeks or months the digital devices of anyone trying to enter the U.S.

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