Welcome! "The Evening Blues" is a casual community diary (published Monday - Friday, 8:00 PM Eastern) where we hang out, share and talk about news, music, photography and other things of interest to the community.
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Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features The King of Zydeco, Clifton Chenier. Enjoy!
Clifton Chenier - I'm a Hog For You
“You know something is wrong when the government declares opening someone else’s mail is a felony but your internet activity is fair game for data collecting.”
-- E.A. Bucchianeri
News and Opinion
NSA paid millions to cover Prism compliance costs for tech companies
The National Security Agency paid millions of dollars to cover the costs of major internet companies involved in the Prism surveillance program after a court ruled that some of the agency's activities were unconstitutional, according to top-secret material passed to the Guardian.
The technology companies, which the NSA says includes Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Facebook, incurred the costs to meet new certification demands in the wake of the ruling from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (Fisa) court. ...
While the ruling did not concern the Prism program directly, documents passed to the Guardian by whistleblower Edward Snowden describe the problems the decision created for the agency and the efforts required to bring operations into compliance. The material provides the first evidence of a financial relationship between the tech companies and the NSA. ...
The disclosure that taxpayers' money was used to cover the companies' compliance costs raises new questions over the relationship between Silicon Valley and the NSA. Since the existence of the program was first revealed by the Guardian and the Washington Post on June 6, the companies have repeatedly denied all knowledge of it and insisted they only hand over user data in response to specific legal requests from the authorities.
Perhaps that is the reason why the UK government is leaking material to journalistic outfits that were not entrusted with the material by Snowden...
Snowden: UK government now leaking documents about itselfI found it unsurprising that there is a secret Middle East surveillance base operated by western intelligence agencies, and anybody who's been following these issues for a while is aware that spy agencies tap into fiber cables on the sea floor to suck up data streams. On the other hand, while this tidbit from the Independent piece Greenwald discusses above is somewhat unsurprising, too, it is good that somebody is documenting the heavy-handed, thuggish behavior of western spy agencies:
The Independent this morning published an article - which it repeatedly claims comes from "documents obtained from the NSA by Edward Snowden" - disclosing that "Britain runs a secret internet-monitoring station in the Middle East to intercept and process vast quantities of emails, telephone calls and web traffic on behalf of Western intelligence agencies." This is the first time the Independent has published any revelations purportedly from the NSA documents, and it's the type of disclosure which journalists working directly with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden have thus far avoided.
That leads to the obvious question: who is the source for this disclosure? Snowden this morning said he wants it to be clear that he was not the source for the Independent, stating:I have never spoken with, worked with, or provided any journalistic materials to the Independent. The journalists I have worked with have, at my request, been judicious and careful in ensuring that the only things disclosed are what the public should know but that does not place any person in danger. People at all levels of society up to and including the President of the United States have recognized the contribution of these careful disclosures to a necessary public debate, and we are proud of this record.In other words: right as there is a major scandal over the UK's abusive and lawless exploitation of its Terrorism Act - with public opinion against the use of the Terrorism law to detain David Miranda - and right as the UK government is trying to tell a court that there are serious dangers to the public safety from these documents, there suddenly appears exactly the type of disclosure the UK government wants but that has never happened before. That is why Snowden is making clear: despite the Independent's attempt to make it appear that it is so, he is not their source for that disclosure. Who, then, is?
"It appears that the UK government is now seeking to create an appearance that the Guardian and Washington Post's disclosures are harmful, and they are doing so by intentionally leaking harmful information to The Independent and attributing it to others. The UK government should explain the reasoning behind this decision to disclose information that, were it released by a private citizen, they would argue is a criminal act."
Exclusive: UK’s secret Mid-East internet surveillance base is revealed in Edward Snowden leaks
The Independent understands that The Guardian agreed to the Government’s request not to publish any material contained in the Snowden documents that could damage national security.
As well as destroying a computer containing one copy of the Snowden files, the paper’s editor, Alan Rusbridger, agreed to restrict the newspaper’s reporting of the documents.
The Government also demanded that the paper not publish details of how UK telecoms firms, including BT and Vodafone, were secretly collaborating with GCHQ to intercept the vast majority of all internet traffic entering the country. The paper had details of the highly controversial and secret programme for over a month. But it only published information on the scheme – which involved paying the companies to tap into fibre-optic cables entering Britain – after the allegations appeared in the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. A Guardian spokeswoman refused to comment on any deal with the Government.
A senior Whitehall source said: “We agreed with The Guardian that our discussions with them would remain confidential”.
David Miranda and the Preclusion of PrivacyHat tip to Don Midwest. They saw that the tracks were not fully laid, but they sent the train through the switch regardless. From 1983:
The purpose was to demonstrate to journalists that what they thought was a secure secondary means of communication -- a courier, possibly to ferry encrypted thumb drives from one air-gapped computer to another -- can be compromised, and thereby to make the journalists' efforts harder and slower.
Does this sort of "deny and disrupt" campaign sound familiar? It should: you've seen it before, deployed against terror networks. That's because part of the value in targeting the electronic communications of actual terrorists is that the terrorists are forced to use far slower means of plotting. The NSA has learned this lesson well, and is now applying it to journalists. ...
To achieve the ability to monitor all human communication, broadly speaking the National Surveillance State must do two things: first, button up the primary means of human communication -- today meaning the Internet, telephone, and snail mail; second, clamp down on backup systems, meaning face-to-face communication, which is, after all, all that's left to the population when everything else has been bugged. ... If you're the NSA, you recognize you have to block those developing secondary routes, too, or you'll lose control of the flow you feed on. To the National Surveillance State, therefore, coverage of Miranda's treatment at Heathrow isn't a bug. It's a feature. And why not? The authorities want you to understand they can do it to you, too. Whether they've miscalculated depends on how well they've gauged the passivity of the public.
The Silent Power of the NSASooprise, sooprise, sooprise!!! The predicted abuse manifests and festers despite half-assed attempts at oversight that amount to asking the monster to control itself. Looks like somebody in the "executive or legislative branch of our Government" failed to get the job done:
A Federal Court of Appeals recently ruled that the largest and most secretive intelligence agency of the United States, the National Security Agency, may lawfully intercept the overseas communications of Americans even if it has no reason to believe they are engaged in illegal activities. The ruling, which also allows summaries of these conversations to be sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, significantly broadens the already generous authority of the N.S.A. to keep track of American citizens.
The decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit involves the Government surveillance of Abdeen Jabara, a Michigan-born lawyer who for many years has represented Arab-American citizens and alien residents, and reverses a 1979 ruling that the N.S.A.'s acquisition of Jabara's overseas messages violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free of ''unreasonable searches and seizures.'' Even while refusing the plaintiff's request for reconsideration, the Court curiously acknowledged the far-reaching nature of the case, recognizing that the N.S.A.'s interception of overseas telecommunications and their dissemination to ''other Federal agencies has great potential for abuse.'' The Court, however, held that the problem was ''a policy matter that lies in the domain of the executive or legislative branch of our Government.'' ...
A Senate committee on intelligence, warning that the N.S.A.'s capabilities impinged on crucial issues of privacy, once urged that Congress or the courts develop a legislative or judicial framework to control the agency's activities. In a nation whose Constitution demands an open Government operating according to precise rules of fairness, the N.S.A. remains an unexamined entity. ... Because of Congress's failure to draft a law for the agency, because of the tremendous secrecy surrounding the N.S.A.'s work and because of the highly technical and thus thwarting character of its equipment, the N.S.A. is free to define and pursue its own goals.
[Gosh, what could possibly go wrong?]
Over the years, N.S.A. surveillance activities have indeed included Americans who were merely stating their political beliefs. The agency first became involved in this more questionable kind of surveillance in the early 1960's when either Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy or the F.B.I. asked it to monitor all telephone calls between the United States and Cuba. This list of international calls was significantly enlarged during the Johnson Administrtion as Federal authorities became concerned that foreign governments might try to influence American civil-rights leaders. The N.S.A. gradually developed a ''watch list'' of Americans that included those speaking out against the Vietnam War.
[Oh, that. Ancient history. We fixed that with FISA... why abuses can't happen now...]
NSA Director Keith Alexander Caught Lying AgainHey looky, our President is workin' hard to straighten this stuff out. Now that we've had that public debate about snoopin' - he's getting right on putting together a panel of
Some National Security Agency analysts deliberately ignored restrictions on their authority to spy on Americans multiple times in the past decade, contradicting Obama administration officials’ and lawmakers’ statements that no willful violations occurred. ...
The compilation of willful violations, while limited, contradicts repeated assertions that no deliberate abuses occurred.
Army General Keith Alexander, director of the NSA, said during a conference in New York on Aug. 8 that “no one has willfully or knowingly disobeyed the law or tried to invade your civil liberties or privacy.” ...
Legal opinions declassified on Aug. 21 revealed that the NSA intercepted as many as 56,000 electronic communications a year of Americans who weren’t suspected of having links to terrorism, before a secret court that oversees surveillance found the operation unconstitutional in 2011.
In a declassified legal opinion from October 2011, the court said the agency substantially misrepresented the scope of surveillance operations three times in less than three years.
A May 2012 internal government audit found more than 2,700 violations involving NSA surveillance of Americans and foreigners over a one-year period. The audit was reported Aug. 16 by the Washington Post, citing documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
Review of US surveillance programs to be led by panel of intelligence insiders
The review of US surveillance programs which Barack Obama promised would be conducted by an "independent" and "outside" panel of experts looks set to consist of four Washington insiders with close ties to the security establishment.
The president announced the creation of the group of experts two weeks ago, in an attempt to stem the rising tide of anger over National Security Agency surveillance techniques disclosed by the whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Obama trumpeted what he said would be a "high-level group of outside experts" tasked with assessing all of the government's "intelligence and communication technologies".
However a report by ABC News, which has not been denied by the administration, said the panel would consist of Michael Morell, a recent acting head of the CIA, and three former White House advisers.
The list of apparent panel members prompted criticism among privacy and civil liberty advocates, who said the review would lack credibility and was unlikely to end the controversy over US surveillance capabilities.
FBI granted power to delay citizenship for Muslims, ACLU report says
A covert national security programme allows the FBI and US immigration authorities the power to indefinitely delay immigration benefits to Muslims and those from Muslim countries, according to an investigation by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The previously unknown programme, which began in 2008 under George W Bush to identify those with links to terrorism, has continued under President Obama to blacklist law-abiding applicants and profile Muslims as "national security concerns", according to the ACLU.
Migrants who have travelled through or lived in areas of known terrorist activity, wired money back to their families, attended a mosque of interest to the FBI or even given a voluntary interview to the agency, can be labelled "national security concerns", the report, published on Wednesday, says.
Jennie Pasquarella, the investigation's author and an ACLU attorney, said the secret programme relies on "deeply flawed" mechanisms such as "over-broad watch-list systems" and religious, national origin and associational profiling.
"It not only catches far too many harmless applicants in its net, but it has overwhelmingly affected applicants who are Muslim or perceived to be Muslim".
Pacific free trade agreement talks break down
Representatives from countries negotiating a free trade pact that will cover nearly 40 percent of global economic output said Friday that differences between them persisted, as the US sought to assuage concerns over a looming year-end deadline.
Trade ministers from the Asia-Pacific, Latin American and North American regions have been meeting since Thursday in the sultanate of Brunei to discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). It is the 19th round of talks on the 12-nation deal.
In a joint statement, the ministers said they hoped to “offer guidance” and conclude the deal this year.
Doubts persist over whether the target can be met, with concerns from Malaysia over the impact state-owned enterprises and affirmative action.
Critics in Japan have also warned that Japanese demands for exceptions may present a sticking point.
The TPP member countries comprise Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.
Is the US Government the Managing Committee of the Pirate Banks?
Greg Palast at Vice exposes the way that Larry Summers, Tim Geithner and others in the Treasury Department conspired with JP Morgan and other pirate investment banks not only to destroy Glass-Steagall in the US but throughout the world, removing the difference between commercial banks. and investment banks. Basically, they used US financial muscle to leverage the world into letting banks play poker with your money and forcing regulators to treat toxic bad loans as ‘assets’.
It is not normal for moving money around, often in very shady and unsafe ways, to account for a fifth of the profits of the S&P companies,more than high tech, which actually makes something. Only a few decades ago, that sector was 10% of profits. In essence a small number of corrupt investment bankers (not all are) gained control of the Dept of the Treasury and then used it to ‘deregulate’ the whole world. In layman’s language, deregulating banks means firing the guards and unlocking the vaults. ...
One of the questions that Palast’s expose raises is the old one of how much autonomy the state really has in a society dominated by the business classes. The de Tocqueville tradition, revived in the 1980s by Theda Skocpol, emphasizes the government as an independent actor. The Marxist tradition famously sees the state as “the managing committee” of the rich.
Geithner’s memo favors Marx, not de Tocqueville. This is government as humble man-servant of the least savory sections of big business. Many of the ways that Obama has disappointed his base have to do with his being chairman of the managing committee rather than president, and so being captive to powerful interests whatever his own instincts. The billions it costs to become and stay president allows Wall Street to buy the presidency, regardless of which party wins.
The Evening Greens
Texas Infested With Pigs - Aporkalypse Now
Texans have penned them in state-of-the-art traps, tracked them with night-vision goggles, massacred them with machine guns and and even shot them from helicopters.
But despite all the firepower and ingenuity the Lone Star State can muster, it is losing the war on feral hogs. The population of one of the most invasive and destructive wild animals in the United States is growing rapidly. And now they are trotting inside city limits.
What was once a largely rural problem is blighting suburban areas near parks and lakes. The city of Dallas has contracted a company to catch the swine starting next month after discovering that they are causing damage only a couple of miles from the heart of downtown. ...
Mark Tyson, from the project, said that studies indicate there are between 1.8 and 3.4m wild hogs in Texas – about half the total number in the US. Some 79% of the state's land mass is a suitable habitat for them, and they have infiltrated almost every county. ...
An estimated 750,000 of the animals are harvested each year – not enough to keep pace with the birth rate.
Catastrophic Pipeline Ruptures Still Too Big a Risk for Enbridge, Report Warns
Pipeline regulators in Canada and the United States are being cautioned that claims by Enbridge Inc. that it improved its safety procedures and adopted sophisticated inspection practices are exaggerated and that pipeline ruptures as catastrophic as the company's 2010 accident in Marshall, Mich. are still possible.
The warning came in a report filed this month with the Canadian National Energy Board, which is considering Enbridge's request to reverse the flow of an oil pipeline in Eastern Canada and to use the line to carry diluted bitumen, or dilbit. The report was subsequently lodged with the U.S. Department of State.
"Enbridge is still not heeding pipeline investigators/regulators in integrity management," said the report by Richard Kuprewicz, president of the engineering consulting company Accufacts Inc. and an adviser to the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. "Enbridge has a culture where safety management seems not to be a critical component of their operation."
Blog Posts of Interest
Here are diaries and selected blog posts of interest on DailyKos and other blogs.What's Happenin'
A Little Night Music
Clifton Chenier - Bon Ton Roulet
Clifton Chenier & The Louisiana Ramblers - Tighten Up Zydeco
Clifton Chenier - Black Gal
Clifton Chenier - Jambalaya
Clifton Chenier - I'm Coming Home
Clifton Chenier - Zydeco Sont Pas Salés
Clifton Chenier - Choo Choo Ch'Boogie
Clifton Chenier - Louisiana Blues
Clifton Chenier - Hot Tamale Baby
Clifton Chenier - Hot Rod
Clifton Chenier and The Red Hot Louisiana Band
Clifton Chenier - Bogalusa Boogie
Clifton Chener - Hot Pepper
It's National Pie Day!
The election is over, it's a new year and it's time to work on real change in new ways... and it's National Pie Day. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to tell you a little more about our new site and to start getting people signed up.
Come on over and sign up so that we can send you announcements about the site, the launch, and information about participating in our public beta testing.
Why is National Pie Day the perfect opportunity to tell you more about us? Well you'll see why very soon. So what are you waiting for?! Head on over now and be one of the first!