Tags: Wikileaks

Obama asks Eric Schmidt if “Bitcoin is Anything He Has to Worry About”

Here’s a story recently related to me by a guest at a White House dinner, which included Google’s Eric Schmidt: The president, whose most important job is surely to protect the integrity of the monetary system, smugly asked Schmidt if Bitcoin, one of many growing challenges to currency hegemony, was anything he had to worry about.

- From a USA Today article titled: How CEOs are Clueless About Technology

If the above is accurate (and I have no reason to suspect it isn’t), it is priceless information on so many levels. First of all, rather than ask about Bitcoin in an inquisitive manner free of prejudice as a enlightened leader surely would, Obama is merely primatively wondering if he needs to “worry about it.”

Actually Barry, if you had any sense and foresight whatsoever you would be looking at it as a great opportunity. An opportunity for the nation to lead the way in growing the Bitcoin economy and shed the archaic, feudalistic monetary system we are currently enslaved under. However, since you work directly for the oligarch money manipulators themselevs, you are clearly and disastrously unable to see things in a more productive and beneficial way.

Second, as I highlighted earlier this year, Eric Schmidt had no clue what Bitcoin was when Julian Assange first mentioned it to him in a lengthy interview in 2011. The initial exchange went as follows:

Assange: On the publishing end, the magnet links and so on are starting to come up. There’s also a very nice little paper that I’ve seen in relation to Bitcoin, that… you know about Bitcoin?

Schmidt: No.

Assange: Okay, Bitcoin is something that evolved out of the cypherpunks a couple of years ago, and it is an alternative… it is a stateless currency.

So Obama is asking Schmidt for his advice about Bitcoin, when Schmidt had no idea what it was two years after it had been created and released into the wild. One bureaucratic control-freak asking another for advice. What could possibly go wrong?

More from the USA Today article:

The president surely believes his important expertise is in matters of policy, law and political machinations. But he is, too, the chief executive of the U.S. government, with its increasing dependence on digital performance. And, in that area, he seems a near-illiterate, or at least a big boob.

Read the Full Article »

Hackers For Government Hire: A Growing and Deeply Disturbing Industry

Wikileaks recently continued the release of what they refer to as the “Spy Files.” These files provide a look into some of the companies behind the rapid commercialization of the spy equipment industry, who’s clients include repressive governments and dictatorial regimes around the world. In a press release announcing these files Wikileaks states:

Across the world, mass surveillance contractors are helping intelligence agencies spy on individuals and ‘communities of interest’ on an industrial scale.

The Wikileaks Spy Files reveal the details of which companies are making billions selling sophisticated tracking tools to government buyers, flouting export rules, and turning a blind eye to dictatorial regimes that abuse human rights.

One of the companies highlighted is an Italian based company called Hacking Team, a firm I had never heard of or read about until I came across an article from The Verge yesterday. What I read was pretty terrifying. The Verge explains that:

In 2001, a pair of Italian programmers wrote a program called Ettercap, a “comprehensive suite for man-in-the-middle attacks” — in other words, a set of tools for eavesdropping, sniffing passwords, and remotely manipulating someone’s computer. Ettercap was free, open source, and quickly became the weapon of choice for analysts testing the security of their networks as well as hackers who wanted to spy on people. One user called it “sort of the Swiss army knife” of this type of hacking.

Ettercap was so powerful that its authors, ALoR and NaGA, eventually got a call from the Milan police department. But the cops didn’t want to bust the programmers for enabling hacker attacks. They wanted to use Ettercap to spy on citizens. Specifically, they wanted ALoR and NaGA to write a Windows driver that would enable them to listen in to a target’s Skype calls.

That’s how a small tech security consultancy ended up transforming into one of the first sellers of commercial hacking software to the police. ALoR’s real name is Alberto Ornaghi and NaGA is Marco Valleri. Their Milan-based company, Hacking Team, now has 40 employees and sells commercial hacking software to law enforcement in “several dozen countries” on “six continents.”

Today, Hacking Team’s flagship product, Da Vinci, enables law enforcement at federal, state, or local levels to collect heaps more data than the National Security Agency’s controversial PRISM program is reportedly capable of gathering. With Da Vinci, the police can monitor a suspect’s cell phone conversations, emails, and Skype calls, and even spy on the target through his or her webcam and microphone. It’s as if the investigator were standing behind a suspect using their computer.

Now check out the Hacking Team’s promotional video. One word: Creepy.

To protects us from the terrorists I’m sure.

Full article here.

In Liberty,
Mike

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Noam Chomsky on the Classification System: “It’s to Protect the State from the Citizens”

I’ve spent quite a lot of time studying declassified internal documents, and written a lot about them. In fact, anybody who’s worked through the declassified record can see very clearly the reason for classification is very rarely to protect the state or the society from enemies.  Most of the time it’s to protect the state from its citizens.  So they don’t know what the government’s doing.

- Noam Chomsky

The interview below is crucial viewing for all Americans on this Memorial Day.  It is also extremely timely.  With journalists now being accused of criminality as a result of reporting on “classified” information, we must ask ourselves; what does “classified” even mean?  Who does such classified information really protect, and is it in the best interests of the citizenry?  The answer may surprise you.  Enjoy!

Julian Assange and Others Sue the U.S. Government Over Secret Courts

Many people exhibited extreme apathy with regard to the aggressive manner in which the U.S. government went after Julian Assange and Wikileaks for merely doing basic journalism.  Now, after the revelations of widespread spying on mainstream journalists in the AP case, and the criminalization of the profession itself in the case of Fox New’s James Rosen, many people are finally starting to wake up as the chickens come home to roost, as they always do eventually.

As such, I think this is a great moment to turn our attention to the Kafkaesque trial about to get underway right here in the “land of the free.”  In this case, I am referring to the trial of Bradley Manning.  If you are still unaware of this case, I suggest you watch this extremely powerful 5 minute micro-doc called Providence. 

Of course, the U.S. government argues that much of Mr. Manning’s trial must be kept secret due to “classified” information.  Sorry, but classified has become one of the most overused, bullshit term in America today.  Classified means nothing when the information is hiding criminal behavior or war crimes.  Believe me, Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot kept much of their information on concentration camps and gulags “classified” as well.  Now from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) we find that:

May 22, 2013, New York –Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a complaint and motion for preliminary injunction asking a federal district court in Baltimore to order the military judge in the court-martial of Bradley Manning to grant the public and press access to the government’s filings, the court’s own orders, and transcripts of the proceedings, none of which have been made public to date.  In addition, the lawsuit challenges the fact that substantive legal matters in the court martial – including a pretrial publicity order – have been argued and decided in secret.

The plaintiffs include CCR itself and journalists Amy Goodman, Jeremy Scahill, Kevin Gosztola, Glenn Greenwald, Julian Assange, and Chase Madar.

Introducing Strongbox: Aaron Swartz’s Last Project

I remain haunted by the death of Aaron Swartz.  In fact, his passing is still one of the first things I mention to people when I want to provide an example of how out of control and drunk on power the government is.  The incredible accomplishments he achieved in his short life are nothing short of extraordinary, and the fact the feds mercilessly attacked him and drove him to suicide epitomizes the unfortunate rapid decline of our culture and civilization. Amazingly, Aaron continues to bless the world with gifts from his brilliant mind even after his passing.  In this case I am referring to Strongbox, an encrypted and more secure way of providing information to journalists.  It was a project Aaron was working on with Kevin Poulsen before his death and was launched by the New Yorker a few days ago.  From Techdirt:

The New Yorker has announced a new anonymous document sharing system called Strongbox, that will allow people to anonymously and securely submit documents to reporters from the New Yorker. Other publications have tried to set up something like this — often inspired by Wikileaks — but for the most part, they’ve been full of security holes, sometimes big and serious ones. What may be more interesting than the fact that this system is being set up is the story behind it. It’s based on DeadDrop, an open source system that was put together by Aaron Swartz and Kevin Poulsen. 

Read the Full Article »

James Goodale: “Obama Worse than Nixon” on Press Freedom

For those of you unaware, James Goodale was chief counsel to the New York Times when they published the Pentagon Papers.  In this excellent interview with the Columbia Journalism Review, he warns all Americans, in particular journalists, about the significance of the U.S. government’s prosecution of Wikileaks.  He notes that what Wikileaks did was no different from what the New York Times did back in the 1970′s.  They broke news that the powerful didn’t want exposed.  That is the heart and soul of journalism, and if that is criminalized, so will be the profession of journalism itself.  It’s a full on attack against free speech.  From the CJR:

James Goodale has a message for journalists: Wake up. In his new book, Fighting for the Press (CUNY Journalism Press, 2013), Goodale, chief counsel to The New York Times when its editors published the Pentagon Papers in 1971, argues that President Obama is worse for press freedom than former President Richard Nixon was.

The Obama administration has prosecuted more alleged leakers of national security information under the 1917 Espionage Act than all previous administrations combined, a course critics say is overly aggressive. Former New York Times executive editor Bill Keller wrote in a March op-ed that the administration “has a particular, chilling intolerance” for those who leak. If the Obama administration indicts WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for conspiracy to violate the Espionage Act, Goodale argues, the president will have succeeded where Nixon failed by using the act to “end-run” the First Amendment.

Could you talk a bit about President Obama’s approach to classified information and press freedom?

Antediluvian, conservative, backwards. Worse than Nixon. He thinks that anyone who leaks is a spy! I mean, it’s cuckoo.

Well, I think it’s very much the same thing. We have a leak of classified information. And by the way — you’ve got to remember [Bradley] Manning’s the leaker. Everyone says Assange is a leaker. He’s not a leaker. He’s the person who gets the information.

Read the Full Article »

Providence: An Incredible 5 Minute Film by Laura Poitras

I first became aware of Laura Poitras when I watched her eye-opening video about NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake.  I was so impressed by her interview that I wrote about it and posted it on my website in the article: The NSA is Completely and Totally Out of Control…Very Important Video.  Well Laura is back, and she absolutely knocks it out of the park with the video that provides clips of Bradley Manning in his own words from a leaked audio recording from his trial.

It has become completely clear to me that the biggest lesson the military-industrial complex learned from Vietnam is that journalists should never be allowed to report genuinely on war.  At the end of the day, that is why what Bradley Manning did was so important and why he is a hero for it.

A Letter from Solitary Confinement

For those unfamiliar with Jeremy Hammond, he is the 28-year-old web developer accused of hacking Stratfor and subsequently leaking the information to Wikileaks.  For this, he faces a 30-years-to-life sentence.  Jeremy is currently being held without bail at the Manhattan Correctional Center, a federal jail in lower Manhattan in solitary confinement. Incredibly, the federal judge who is hearing his case, Lorraine Preska, has refused to step aside despite the fact that her husband was a victim in the hack Hammond is accused of.  Now that’s a justice system!

Well Hammond recently penned a letter from solitary in which he discusses the rampant corruption in the criminal justice system, the very dangerous Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), and the tragic death and over-prosectution of Aaron Swartz.  His character really comes through in the fact that he barely even discusses his own case, despite the awful situation he finds himself in.  So without further ado, below is his entire letter, with my favorite passages highlighted.

February 20, 2013

Jeremy Hammond on Aaron Swartz and the Criminalization of Digital Dissent

The tragic death of internet freedom fighter Aaron Swartz reveals the government’s flawed “cyber security strategy” as well as its systematic corruption involving computer crime investigations, intellectual property law, and government/corporate transparency.  In a society supposedly based on principles of democracy and due process, Aaron’s efforts to liberate the internet, including free distribution of JSTOR academic essays, access to public court records on PACER, stopping the passage of SOPA/PIPA, and developing the Creative Commons, make him a hero, not a criminal. It is not the “crimes” Aaron may have committed that made him a target of federal prosecution, but his ideas – elaborated in his “Guerrilla Open Access Manifesto” – that the government has found so dangerous. The United States Attorney’s aggressive prosecution, riddled with abuse and misconduct, is what led to the death of this hero. This sad and angering chapter should serve as a wake up call for all of us to acknowledge the danger inherent in our criminal justice system.

Aaron’s case is part of the recent aggressive, politically-motivated expansion  of computer crime law where hackers and activists are increasingly criminalized because of alleged “cyber-terrorist” threats. The United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, whose office is prosecuting me and my co-defendants in the Lulzsec indictment, has used alarmist rhetoric such as the threat of  an imminent “Pearl Harbor like cyber attack” to justify  these prosecutions. At the same time the government routinely trains and deploys their own hackers to launch sophisticated cyber attacks against the infrastructure of foreign countries, such as the Stuxnet and Flame viruses, without public knowledge, oversight, declarations of war, or consent from international authorities. DARPA, US Cyber Command, the NSA, and numerous federally-contracted private corporations openly recruit  hackers to develop defensive and offensive capabilities and build Orwellian digital surveillance networks, designed not to enhance national security but to advance U.S. imperialism. They even attend and speak at hacker conferences, such as DEFCON, offer to bribe hackerspaces for their research, and created the insulting “National Civic Hacker Day” – efforts which should be boycotted or confronted every step of the way.

Read the Full Article »

Freedom of the Press Foundation Launches in the War on Censorship

A really interesting organization launched last night called the Freedom of the Press Foundation, with a slew of prominent individuals involved.  For one, there is Glenn Greenwald, one of my favorite journalists active today who used to work for Salon and now writes for the UK’s Guardian.  Also on the board is Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame; John Perry Barlow a co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation; Xeni Jardin of the Web site Boing Boing; and actor John Cusack.  The idea behind the organization is to support and fund unbiased journalism, particularly the kind that governments and intelligence organizations around the world may not like.  What really bothered all of the founders involved and served as a call to action was the way WikiLeaks was systematically cut off from the financial system.  The Huffington Post writes:

NEW YORK — Not long after WikiLeaks began publishing leaked diplomatic cables in November 2010, the anti-secrecy organization ran into trouble raising money.

Increased government scrutiny and criticism from lawmakers prompted several companies, including MasterCard, Visa and PayPal, to stop processing donations to the non-profit organization. WikiLeaks eventually suspended publication due to the “bank blockade.”

Read the Full Article »

Spooks Incorporated: Does Every Company Need its Own CIA?

This article from Foreign Policy essentially proves what many of us have already suspected.  The ultimate in neo-feudalism is when the corporate sector and the government sector converge, and sadly in these United States this totalitarian marriage is what now dominates the landscape.  This is a very worrying trend.  From Foreign Policy:

Since 9/11, a quiet intelligence revolution has been brewing inside many of America’s leading companies. Hotel chains, cruise lines, airlines, theme parks, banks, chemical companies, consumer products manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, and even tech giants have been developing in-house intelligence units that look and act a lot like the CIA.

These offices are staffed with former CIA, FBI, and military professionals who have close ties to the U.S. government and conduct global threat reporting by working through formal channels and informal networks around the globe. This is the privatization of American intelligence that you’ve never heard of. And it’s part of the innovative and growing business of political risk management.

Since 9/11, the private sector has been filling the gap. In-house intelligence units are the most pioneering examples, but they have plenty of company. There are now scores of open-source intelligence services, analysis shops, and consulting firms led by former high-level officials with names like Chertoff, Albright, Rice, Hadley, and Gates.

So when you think “convergence,” don’t just think about drones and spooks. There is a burgeoning convergence of intelligence and business. The CIA may not be getting into corporate espionage, but American companies are getting into intelligence. They’re just not talking about it much.

The results of the “war on terror” are in.  We lost.  Our culture and our economy are now almost entirely gone.  Congratulations.

Full article here.

In Liberty,
Mike