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Photo by: joanneleon. July, 2013.

Photo by: joanneleon. July, 2013.

Photo by: joanneleon. July, 2013.



News & Opinion

Glenn Greenwald on ABC's This Week, Sunday morning.  The proof of this capability by low level NSA analyst's to search and listen/view contents of communications will be published this week. I suspect it will come out before Glenn's testimony at the Grayson hearing on Wednesday.  He says it will be published "this week". Now  let's see everyone scramble in the wake of this revelation and in anticipation of the hearing.  

Glenn Greenwald: Low-Level NSA Analysts Have ‘Powerful and Invasive’ Search Tool

Today on “This Week,” Glenn Greenwald – the reporter who broke the story about the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs – claimed that those NSA programs allowed even low-level analysts to search the private emails and phone calls of Americans.

@20committee has been stirred up on Twitter by Greenwald's This Week appearance.

Saxby Chambliss talks about Greenwald's revelations on ABC's This Week. Dick Durbin on the Amash-Conyers amendment and on new Senate legislation limiting metadata dragnet and on reforming the FISA court.  Amazing how the tide is turning.  My bet is that the Senate is now trying to jump ahead of this, putting limited reforms in place before this gets too much further with hearings and likely House legislation and amendments on intelligence funding from Congress.  The Senate would like to take control over this situation.  Everybody is coming up with bills.  That Amash-Conyers amendment really shook up Washington and I would guess that the upcoming Grayson hearing has them skedaddling too.

ABC's This Week: Senators Chambliss and Durbin on latest Greenwald revelations
Greenwald Claims Private Contractors Can Spy On Calls, Emails: ‘I Defy NSA Officials To Deny’ These Capabilities

Following up on Edward Snowden’s earlier claim that he could wiretap anybody as a low-level defense contractor—a claim denied by NSA officials and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers—Glenn Greenwald appeared on This Week With George Stephanopoulos and claimed that his forthcoming reporting would prove exactly that.
Greenwald described the capabilities of the program, accessible not just by NSA officials but by low-level private contractors:

“The NSA has trillions of telephone calls and email in their databases. What these programs are are very simple screens, like the ones that supermarket clerks or shipping and receiving clerks use, where all an analyst has to do is enter an email address or an IP address, and it does two things: it 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 you’ve entered; and it also alerts them to any further activity that people connected to that email address or connected to that IP address do in the future. And it’s all done with no need to go to a court, with no need to even get supervisor approval on the part of the analyst.”
But for all his bluster, even @20committee sees the writing on the wall.

And indeed, this is a BFD.  It was clear that neither Pelosi nor Boehner could hold their caucuses together for the Amash-Conyers vote.  What the House Dems and Republicans were supposed to do was to vote for the Pompeo amendment, which did nothing and was a decoy amendment, and they were supposed to reject the Amash amendment.  House leaders, like hyperpartisans at dkos often do, were telling the press that this was just a bunch of fringe lefties and libertarians. But it wasn't.  And all of us watching that debate on the House floor knew what we were watching, a revolt against both party leaders and two leaders who just barely squeaked out a defeat of the amendment.  The word was that Nancy Pelosi saved the day, but what we didn't know is that almost all of those "no" votes were really, really shaky.  She immediately released a statement and then both she and Hoyer sent a letter to the White House.  

This NYT article says that 61 of the 83 Dems who voted against the bill, were really not happy about being painted as pro domestic surveillance.  And we now know that Mike Fitzpatrick's district in suburban Philadelphia is an important bellwether district, "one of the few true swing districts left in the House", and his constituents are voicing a "growing concern".  We all know, as does Congress, that Snowden has thousands of documents and that Glenn Greenwald plans to study and publish stories continuously for months. They've seen the embarrassing situation where the NSA and the president and tech companies and others send out their public denials and excuses, and then those fringe lefties and libertarians knock it right down, over and over.  The Clapper "least untruthful" testimony to Congress was very unhelpful to any kind of government credibility too. I suspect that there's hardly a soul in this country who believe them now.  And to top it all off, this administration picked a very inconvenient time to start a war with people who buy ink by the barrel, so that's not helping them much either, though some of the media fealty and stenography is still holding.  

But all you have to do is watch Jay Carney's pressers to see that there is pressure every day, and now with the new Greenwald revelations, perhaps timed to coincide with Grayson's hearings on Wednesday, sends House members running for cover in anticipation of a firestorm to follow.  And right after that hearing, they're heading home to their districts for a five week recess, and there is a coalition of fringe lefties and libertarians waiting for them.  Oh, and a hell of a lot of others.  And hardly anybody can afford to go away on vacations anymore, if they even have a job, that is, so more people will be home in August this year.  What's that saying about chickens coming home to roost?  We now also know what scares the living hell out of party leaders and spying generals: the combination of what they deem to be libertarians and lefties which is very similar to the blend of people who openly supported the Occupy movement.  Sadly for them, they don't realize how many Americans hold sentiments that are right in line with those views and that it's not really just libertarians and lefties. On many issues, it's the populist agenda and it's much more complicated than they think.

Momentum Builds Against N.S.A. Surveillance

WASHINGTON — The movement to crack down on government surveillance started with an odd couple from Michigan, Representatives Justin Amash, a young libertarian Republican known even to his friends as “chief wing nut,” and John Conyers Jr., an elder of the liberal left in his 25th House term.
“I represent a very reasonable district in suburban Philadelphia, and my constituents are expressing a growing concern on the sweeping amounts of data that the government is compiling,” said Representative Michael G. Fitzpatrick, a moderate Republican who represents one of the few true swing districts left in the House and who voted on Wednesday to limit N.S.A. surveillance.

Votes from the likes of Mr. Fitzpatrick were not initially anticipated when Republican leaders chided reporters for their interest in legislation that they said would go nowhere. As the House slowly worked its way on Wednesday toward an evening vote to curb government surveillance, even proponents of the legislation jokingly predicted that only the “wing nuts” — the libertarians of the right, the most ardent liberals on the left — would support the measure.

Then Mr. Sensenbrenner, a Republican veteran and one of the primary authors of the post-Sept. 11 Patriot Act, stepped to a microphone on the House floor. Never, he said, did he intend to allow the wholesale vacuuming up of domestic phone records, nor did his legislation envision that data dragnets would go beyond specific targets of terrorism investigations.

“The time has come to stop it, and the way we stop it is to approve this amendment,” Mr. Sensenbrenner said.

McClatchy publised the text of the letter that Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer sent to Pres. Obama on Friday. I suspect that the only way they were able to get enough votes to kill the Amash-Conyers amendment was to promise the caucus that they'd do something serious.  And by Friday, they knew about the upcoming Grayson hearing and knew they'd not be able to be part of it, that they had a recorded vote political target on their backs now.  And the Amash-Conyers amendment was just the beginning.  There is apparently another spending bill that is an even better target for amendments like these which is the intelligence authorization bill.  If the party leaders don't get something on paper and try to take control of the situation before then, there will be more rogue amendments that they don't have control over, and you know how much they hate the fact that members of Congress might have more control over the carefully orchestrated legislative kabuki than they do.  The Amash-Conyers process and debate was one of the first real debates I've seen on that House floor in I don't know how long. Can't have that!

Here's the letter:

Pelosi, 153 House Democrats tell Obama of "lingering questions and concerns" about NSA programs

Dear Mr. President:

Thank you for your leadership in honoring our responsibility to protect and defend the American people.  As you know, our challenge as elected officials is to preserve Americans’ liberties while protecting our national security.

This week, the House of Representatives considered an amendment offered by Representatives Amash and Conyers to H.R. 2397, the Fiscal Year 2014 Defense Appropriations bill.  The Amash-Conyers amendment would have limited NSA's ability to collect bulk telecommunications records pursuant to Section 215 of the Patriot Act as codified in Section 501 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).  Although the amendment was defeated 205-217, it is clear that concerns remain about the continued implementation of the program in its current form.

Although some of us voted for and others against the amendment, we all agree that there are lingering questions and concerns about the current 215 collection program.  These include:

·         Whether the bulk metadata telecommunications collection program sufficiently protects the privacy and civil liberties of Americans.
·         Whether the program could be tailored more narrowly to better ensure the protection of privacy and civil liberties.
·         Whether the law is being implemented in a manner consistent with Congressional intent.
·         How we can ensure greater transparency regarding FISA court operations, decision making, and issuance of orders.
·         Whether changes to the current FISA Court structure are needed.
Congress must examine the various national security collection programs and consider amendments to the law.  We have been assured that the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board has embarked on a review of the collection programs done pursuant to FISA and the Patriot Act, and has agreed to review various legislative proposals.

We look forward to working with you and Administration officials to address the concerns outlined above and to explore options which will preserve Americans' privacy and civil liberties while protecting our national security.

Thank you for your leadership and your attention to these concerns."

Judge Lind is still deliberating on the Manning verdict. It would not be surprising if she announced today that she's reached a verdict and reads it to the public tomorrow.  She has said that she'd give a day's notice.   But yesterday, she made some changes to the charges, which I understand is in favor of the prosecution. WTF is that about?  I don't understand the details but this does not sound fair at all.  It sounds like a kangaroo court.
Manning judge alters charges to assist Gov’t ahead of verdict

“Because all of these critical ‘clarifications’ are coming after eight weeks of testimony, and because these offenses carry with them 50 years of potential imprisonment, and because the Defense was actually misled by the Charge Sheet, the Defense requests that this Court declare a mistrial as to the section 641 offenses,” declared Coombs.

This move by Judge Lind allowed the prosecution to switch its theory, alleging now that Manning stole “portion[s] of” databases instead of the entire databases themselves. The change is for the Iraq and Afghan War Logs and the Global Address List. The evidence clearly shows that Manning downloaded Iraq and Afghanistan Significant Activity reports (SigActs), not the entire Combined Information Data Network Exchange (CIDNE) databases, which included far more – and far more sensitive – documents.

This alteration is not semantic. Legally, it’s substantially different than the original charges, and more to the point, it comes long after the government rested its case, precluding the defense from going back to question witnesses differently. The defense moved for a mistrial on those charges.

Under Rule for Courts Martial 915, a military judge may declare a mistrial when “manifestly necessary in the interest of justice because of circumstances arising during the proceedings which cast substantial doubt upon the fairness of the proceedings.”

Judge Lind denied the defense’s motion for a mistrial on the theft charges last week, and the defense has filed a motion for the court to reconsider. Today, the judge announced that the defense did not request oral argument on the motion, so she will simply take this under advisement. The government has filed a response, but we likely won’t be able to see that until after the judge has ruled.

Ron Wyden did a special program on C-SPAN over the weekend. He did a very good job laying things out.  My only problem with him is that he clearly wants to take credit for this sea change against domestic surveillance. While he and Udall have been relentless for two solid years trying to alert the public about the abuses of the PATRIOT Act and the FISA legislation, the country was not paying attention to them very much.  The Snowden files were tremendously important in freeing him up to speak about specifics and in bringing this to the forefront.  When asked whether Snowden was a hero or a traitor, Wyden balked.  He's got to do better than that and at this point he's got so much momentum, he really needs to show some more spine.  He's also got immunity when he does things on the Senate floor.  Snowden and Greenwald just catapulted Wyden into the national spotlight as a hero and potentially changed his political prospects considerably.  He's got to do more for them.  In any case, I created this clip on the C-SPAN site with the portion of the show that relates to NSA.
Ron Wyden on NSA and FISA

Morgan Spurlock Glenn Greenwald 7/28/13 Snowden

Creating Internet accountability

With her new project, Ranking Digital Rights, MacKinnon aims to clear away some of that opacity. The project will assess and rank Internet and telecommunications companies on their policies, practices, and transparency around human rights, free expression, and privacy. Some Internet companies already participate in voluntary assessments of their work on these issue. But MacKinnon wants to expand accountability to a bigger group of companies. Funding permitting, the project will rank 50 to 100 companies.

It’s a mammoth task: After months of work, the project’s first product, a draft of the criteria that it might use to evaluate companies, came out in early July. Researchers are now starting on case studies; the goal is to develop the final draft of the ranking criteria by the end of this year, complete the methodology, and start assessing companies in the next, releasing the first report later in 2014. But with this project, she could use the platform and reputation she’s built around issues of Internet freedom to help make sure she can say “I told you so” about the possibilities of digital rights, instead of the pitfalls of letting them slip away.

A double tap drone strike.
US Drone Strikes Kill Eight in Southern Yemen
Six 'Suspects' Killed in First Strike, Two Rescuers Killed in Second

The six people killed in the initial strike were all dubbed “suspects,” and none of their identities are known. Two other people were killed who attempted to pull wounded people from the wreckage in additional strikes, and three wounded are said to have survived.

At the 3:40 minute mark in the video I included, the filmmaker talks about the film "5000 Feet is the Best".
Life as a US drone operator: 'It's like playing a video game for four years'
Artist Omer Fast looks at the military staff who fly drones from Nevada in a film commissioned by the Imperial War Museum

"It is a lot like playing a video game," a former Predator drone operator matter-of-factly admits to the artist Omer Fast. "But playing the same video game four years straight on the same level." His bombs kill real people though and, he admits, often not the people he is aiming at.

The remarkable insight into the working life of one of the most modern of military operatives is provided in a 30-minute film that will be shown at the Imperial War Museum in London from Monday, the first in a new programme of exhibitions under the title IWM Contemporary.
The work by Fast, an Israel-born artist who lives and works in Berlin, is called 5,000 Feet is the Best, which takes its name from the optimum flight altitude of a Predator drone.

Everyone has been talking about a recent Forbes article and video on car hacking.  And now there are reports about how car jacking will be a topic of discussion at DefCon, the hackers' conference that starts in a few days. This is the same DefCon where, about a month ago after the Snowden files, they asked the feds not to attend.  Keith Q&A session.  It looks like the hackers are going to hold the auto companies accountable for the ability to take control over cars remotely.  These white hat hackers are like the hacker version of Ralph Nader.  I hope they bring this thing front and center and that it's all over the media.  Auto companies should pay them for this kind of work because when the news about the hacking of cars becomes more widely known, it could seriously affect the sales of new cars. It's just that f'ing creepy.
Automotive takeover schemes to be detailed at Defcon hacker conference

It's not like Toyota hasn't already faced its fair share of Prius braking issues, but it appears that even more headaches are headed its way at Defcon this week. Famed white hats Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek are preparing to unleash a 100-page paper at the annual hacker conference in Las Vegas, and notably, hacks that overtake both Toyota and Ford automotive systems will be positioned front and center.

This is the Forbes article that everybody's been talking about. The article doesn't mention Michael Hastings, but many of the articles and blog posts about it are linking it to questions about Michael Hastings' car accident.  Richard Clarke, former "National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-terrorism for the United States" has said that Hastings' accident was "consistent with a car cyber attack" though he made it clear that it was unlikely that anyone could prove it if indeed something like that was involved.  The video that was included in this Forbes article involves two guys and funding from DARPA.  The article will be in the August print issue.
Hackers Reveal Nasty New Car Attacks--With Me Behind The Wheel (Video)

“Okay, now your brakes work again,” Miller says, tapping on a beat-up MacBook connected by a cable to an inconspicuous data port near the parking brake. I reverse out of the weeds and warily bring the car to a stop. “When you lose faith that a car will do what you tell it to do,” he adds after we jump out of the SUV, “it really changes your whole view of how the thing works.”

This fact, that a car is not a simple machine of glass and steel but a hackable network of computers, is what Miller and 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 mad-scientist research arm of the Pentagon known as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to root out security vulnerabilities in automobiles.

The duo plans to release their findings and the attack software they developed at the hacker conference Defcon in Las Vegas next month–the better, they say, to help other researchers find and fix the auto industry’s security problems before malicious hackers get under the hoods of unsuspecting drivers. [...]

As I drove their vehicles for more than an hour, Miller and Valasek showed that they’ve reverse-engineered enough of the software of the 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.

Car hacking isn't new news. There have a number of articles about it in the past couple of years.  And there was this speech, by Dr. Kathleen Fisher, a DARPA program manager in March of 2012, found on their YouTube channel.  She notes that almost everything about a car is controlled by software and said that there were a variety of ways to hack into a car without being physically plugged into a port.
DARPA PM Kathleen Fisher, High Assurance Systems
Dr. Kathleen Fisher speaks on DARPA's High-Assurance Cyber Military Systems (HACMS) program. To learn more, please visit

This makes me so sad.  
Monarchs skipping Canada

Hotter temperatures and changes in climate are resulting in a dramatic drop in the number of monarch butterflies migrating to eastern Canada.



We need a new Church Committee that is fully empowered to investigate the abuses of the NSA and make public its findings, and that is charged with recommending new laws to ensure the U.S. government does not violate our constitutional rights.

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