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Photo by: joanneleon.  May, 2013.

Photo by: joanneleon.  May, 2013.


Coldplay - Spies

News & Opinion

Some new polling data is coming out.  

Americans Disapprove of Government Surveillance Programs
Americans split on whether leaker did the right or wrong thing

PRINCETON, NJ -- More Americans disapprove (53%) than approve (37%) of the federal government agency program that as part of its efforts to investigate terrorism obtained records from U.S. telephone and Internet companies to "compile telephone call logs and Internet communications."

This article from Network World has a pretty good compliation of some series of events as this NSAGate has played out.  Can't really excerpt it.
It's hitting the fan: Anger mounts over PRISM, NSA spying scandals

Microsoft, Google, and Facebook ask for more truth about FISA in their government transparency reports. Mozilla says Stop Watching Us. The ACLU files lawsuits. The EFF explains government spying word games. [...]

Marcy has been tweeting about and reviewing the things said during yesterday's hearing where NSA Director Keith Alexander testified.  I watched some of the rebroadcast.  I got the sense that it was damage control theater, and ring fenced to mostly talk about the meta data, but really worth investing some time watching at least excerpts of it.  Anyway, Marcy was focused in some ways on Dianne Feinstein and interacting with some other bloggers and journalists. It's worth going over to read what was said on Twitter but here is one of the blog posts about it.  She notes the interesting way that Iran is mentioned.
BREAKING: Iran Is a Terrorist Organization
[...] The NSA only uses Section 215 for phone call records — not for Google searches or other things. Under Section 215, NSA collects phone records pursuant to a court record. It can only look at that data after a showing that there is a reasonable, articulable that a specific individual is involved in terrorism, actually related to al Qaeda or Iran. [...]

But according to DiFi — and backed by General Keith Alexander, head of NSA — Iran, along with al Qaeda, is now a terrorist organization. - See more at:

Link to Senate hearing where Keith Alexander testified yesterday. It was a Senate Appropriations committee hearing.

This is by James Bamford, and it's been published in Wired magazine.  I don't know what to make of it.  Bamford is famous for his books about the intelligence community, including "Shadow Factory" and "Puzzle Palace", supposedly written through extensive use of FOIA.  Anyway, he's an expert on the world of intelligence, but other than that, I know little about him.  It's pretty clear that he is using some strong language here.


This is the undisputed domain of General Keith Alexander, a man few even in Washington would likely recognize. Never before has anyone in America’s intelligence sphere come close to his degree of power, the number of people under his command, the expanse of his rule, the length of his reign, or the depth of his secrecy. A four-star Army general, his authority extends across three domains: He is director of the world’s largest intelligence service, the National Security Agency; chief of the Central Security Service; and commander of the US Cyber Command. As such, he has his own secret military, presiding over the Navy’s 10th Fleet, the 24th Air Force, and the Second Army.

Alexander runs the nation’s cyberwar efforts, an empire he has built over the past eight years by insisting that the US’s inherent vulnerability to digital attacks requires him to amass more and more authority over the data zipping around the globe. In his telling, the threat is so mind-bogglingly huge that the nation has little option but to eventually put the entire civilian Internet under his protection, requiring tweets and emails to pass through his filters, and putting the kill switch under the government’s forefinger. “What we see is an increasing level of activity on the networks,” he said at a recent security conference in Canada. “I am concerned that this is going to break a threshold where the private sector can no longer handle it and the government is going to have to step in.”
But there is a flip side to this equation that is rarely mentioned: The military has for years been developing offensive capabilities, giving it the power not just to defend the US but to assail its foes. Using so-called cyber-kinetic attacks, Alexander and his forces now have the capability to physically destroy an adversary’s equipment and infrastructure, and potentially even to kill. Alexander—who declined to be interviewed for this article—has concluded that such cyberweapons are as crucial to 21st-century warfare as nuclear arms were in the 20th.

And he and his cyberwarriors have already launched their first attack. The cyberweapon that came to be known as Stuxnet was created and built by the NSA in partnership with the CIA and Israeli intelligence in the mid-2000s. The first known piece of malware designed to destroy physical equipment, Stuxnet was aimed at Iran’s nuclear facility in Natanz. By surreptitiously taking control of an industrial control link known as a Scada (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) system, the sophisticated worm was able to damage about a thousand centrifuges used to enrich nuclear material.

Along with Bamford, the actual NSA whistleblowers of the past, who did not get much attention then, are getting a lot more attention now.  Thomas Drake is one of them.

Charles Pierce.

Tell Me What Is Being Done In My Name

OK, let us persist in the notion that I am an American citizen. Let us persist in the notion that I am the citizen of a self-governing political commonwealth. Let us persist in the notion that I have a say -- and important and equal say -- in the operation of my government here and out in the world. Let us persist in the notion that, in America, the people rule. If we persist in these notions -- and, if we don't, what's the fking point, really? -- then there is only one question that I humbly ask of my government this week.
Please, if it's not too damn much trouble, can you tell me what's being done in my name?
I'm a big boy. I am not made of spun sugar. If you think you need to protect me by dropping drones on people half a world away, or by vacuuming up my personal data, then tell me precisely who is being killed in my name, and why, precisely, I need you to do what you are doing. I'm OK. I can take it.
I am goddamn sick and fking tired of self-government being run on automatic pilot -- of gangs of five, or eight, or 22, meeting in secret, wise old bone-worshippers, and deciding things that, a decade later, get murderous religious whack-jobs flying airplanes in to buildings. Because what gets decided in secret gets played out in public, always. (Recall the famous Doonesebury cartoon in which the two Cambodian peasants are asked about the "secret bombing" of their country. "It wasn't secret," one of them says. "I said, 'Look, here come the bombers.'") You people jack around with some people on the other side of the planet and, pretty soon, I'm picking pieces of a Starbucks out of my hair, if I'm lucky.

NSA revelations only 'the tip of the iceberg,' says Dem lawmaker

The federal surveillance programs revealed in media reports are just "the tip of the iceberg," a House Democrat said Wednesday.
Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) said lawmakers learned "significantly more" about the spy programs at the National Security Agency (NSA) during a briefing on Tuesday with counterterrorism officials.  
"What we learned in there," Sanchez said, "is significantly more than what is out in the media today."
"I think it's just broader than most people even realize, and I think that's, in one way, what astounded most of us, too," Sanchez said of the briefing.

Hmm, breaking ranks from the hawkish foreign policy circle.
Man, the State and trust

That said, here's what I worry about:

1)  Friedman allows that these surveillance programs are vulnerable to abuse but says that, "so far, [it] does not appear to have happened."  Here's my question:  how the f**k would Friedman know if abuse did occur?  We're dealing with super-secret programs here.  Exactly what investigative or oversight body would detect such abuse?  What I worry about is that we have no idea whether national security bureaucracies abuse their privilege.

The last time I trusted intelligence bureaucracies and political leaders that the system was working was the run-up to the Iraq war.  Never again.

2)  The traditional ways to constrain government bureaucracies in a democracy -- transparency, legislative oversight and political control -- are weakened when we move to national security questions.  The traditional way to compensate for this is to develop a strong organizational culture and powerful professional norms.  This is one reason why, despite recent scandals, the military remains one government institution that still possesses the public trust.



As Ron Fournier put it (link via Matt K. Lewis):

The response is predictable: Don't be naive! Discussing secret national security programs will tip off the terrorists and make the United States vulnerable!

I don't buy it. There must be a way to shed a modicum of light on how far Presidents Bush and Obama stretched the Patriot Act. Surely, it's possible to start an open and honest conversation about drone warfare, domestic surveillance, and big data in general terms that don't expose cherished "sources and methods."

How do I know this? Because it's done all the time, usually when transparency suits a White House's political agenda. The Bush administration declassified (bad) intelligence about Iraq to sell the war to a skeptical public. The Obama White House opened intelligence files on the assassination of Osama bin Laden to promote the president's reelection bid.

And there is this Orwellian habit: Virtually every unauthorized leak, including the most recent ones about the prying eyes and ears at the National Security Agency, is followed by the release of classified information (an authorized leak) that supports the administration's case against leaks.

Most Americans want to give the president the benefit of the doubt on national security. They want to believe their elected representatives are fully briefed, as Obama dubiously claims, and committed to intensive oversight. They'd like the media to be a backstop against abuse.

But these institutions keep failing Americans. Why should we trust them?

I reluctantly agree.  And if this gets me kicked out of the Respectable Foreign Policy Pundit Club, so be it.
Thomas Drake can say more now, after Snowden's revelations.  A must read.
Snowden saw what I saw: surveillance criminally subverting the constitution
So we refused to be part of the NSA's dark blanket. That is why whistleblowers pay the price for being the backstop of democracy

The NSA programs that Snowden has revealed are nothing new: they date back to the days and weeks after 9/11. I had direct exposure to similar programs, such as Stellar Wind, in 2001. In the first week of October, I had an extraordinary conversation with NSA's lead attorney. When I pressed hard about the unconstitutionality of Stellar Wind, he said:

"The White House has approved the program; it's all legal. NSA is the executive agent."
It was made clear to me that the original intent of government was to gain access to all the information it could without regard for constitutional safeguards. "You don't understand," I was told. "We just need the data."


So I was there at the very nascent stages, when the government – wilfully and in deepest secrecy – subverted the constitution. All you need to know about so-called oversight is that the NSA was already in violation of the Patriot Act by the time it was signed into law.


But as I found out later, none of the material evidence I disclosed went into the official record. It became a state secret even to give information of this kind to the 9/11 investigation.

Type 'S' for Suspicious
DARPA's far-out, high-tech plan to catch the next Edward Snowden.

Government-funded trolls. Decoy documents. Software that identifies you by how you type. Those are just a few of the methods the Pentagon has pursued in order to find the next Edward Snowden before he leaks. The small problem, military-backed researchers tell Foreign Policy, is that every spot-the-leaker solution creates almost as many headaches as it's supposed to resolve.

With more than 1.4 million Americans holding top-secret clearance throughout a complex network of military, government, and private agencies, rooting out the next Snowden or Bradley Manning is a daunting task. But even before last week's National Security Agency (NSA) revelations, the government was funding research to see whether there are telltale signs in the mountains of data that can help detect internal threats in advance.

We need to know more about official denials, the rules for what is allowed when you are answering questions about top secret programs and if there is some legal loophole that allows you to lie to Congress.
EFF’s Peter Eckersley On ‘Clever’ PRISM Denials, Fighting FISA, And Why Privacy Matters [TCTV]

What’s interesting is that I spoke to Eckersley just one hour before the New York Times’ Claire Cain Miller reported that the technology companies named in the leaked PRISM slides were indeed complicit with the NSA’s data mining, contrary to their cleverly worded public denials. As you’ll see above, he expected that was exactly the case — that the tech companies involved in PRISM have been issuing clever “deniable denials” about what is going on, rather than telling the full truth. The reason they’re doing so, Eckersley said (and the NYT reported), is FISA.

We discussed the history of FISA, how the EFF is fighting for more transparency (and why it matters), why this news of companies like Facebook and Google working with the NSA is a surprising disappointment even to the folks at the EFF, what people who care about their privacy should do now, and much more.

This is also the liveblog link for events in Turkey.
Turkey: Erdoğan threatens to 'clean' Gezi Park of 'terrorists' – live coverage

• Turkish PM tells protesters to leave
• Move comes after ruling party figure moots referendum
• Demonstrators gather in Gezi Park
• Live coverage of all developments throughout the day

Here is a summary of today’s key events so far:

• Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has told protesters to leave Gezi Park so the authorities can “deal with the fringe terrorist” groups there. “We will clean Gezi Park of them,” he tweeted. In a speech in Ankara at around the same time, Erdoğan said: “We cannot allow lawbreakers to hang around freely in this square. We will clean the square.” He said he was “making his warning for the last time”, after having given the protesters 24 hours to leave central Istanbul yesterday. He also hit out at the EU for passing a resolution expressing concern about the Turkish police’s use of force, saying: “Who do you think you are by taking such a decision?” Police were pictured gathered around coaches behind the Atatürk Cultural Centre (AKM) beside Taksim Square.

• Protesters, who at present are in Gezi Park rather than Taksim Square, although they were in the square overnight, vowed to stand their ground. Filez Avundukk, a 28-year-old arts professional, told the Guardian: “We asked for five basic things and until we get a response we won’t be leaving here.” Asked if she was worried for her safety, another protester, 31-year-old Asli Cavusoglu, told the Guardian: “I think the fear threshold is long passed. Nobody is afraid.”



Stop Watching Us.

The revelations about the National Security Agency's surveillance apparatus, if true, represent a stunning abuse of our basic rights. We demand the U.S. Congress reveal the full extent of the NSA's spying programs.

Crowd-Fund a Court Stenographer for Bradley Manning's Trial

The trial of Bradley Manning will have an enormous impact on press freedom and the rights of future whistleblowers. Help us crowd-fund enough donations so we can hire a court stenographer to take transcripts of the trial. The government refuses to make its transcripts available to the public.

Your donation to this project will be tax-deductible. You can also donate by check.

Blog Posts and Tweets of Interest

Evening Blues
What kind of country do we want to be?

Sad day in history.

She said "tip of the iceberg" and that we have to do something about this.

More Tunes

Spy Vs Spy - The Spinto Band

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