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Total Surveillance Regime: Big Uncle is Watching You

Mass surveillance is equal to totalitarism. As Joseph Goebbels professed:
"if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear"

The slide above is courtesy of The Guardian

Version 2.0, Oct 17, 2017

News National Security State Recommended Links Edward Snowden as Symbol of resistance to National Security State Privacy is Dead – Get Over It Vault 7 scandal NSA revelations fallout William Binney
NSA Surveillance Industrial Espionage Data Stealing Trojans Flame Duqu Trojan Magic Lantern CIPAV Cyberstalking
Interception of "in-transit" traffic as violation of human rights Search engines privacy Google Toolbar Is Google evil? Keywords in your posts that might trigger surveillance Blocking Facebook Facebook as Giant Database about Users Is national security state in the USA gone rogue ?
Damage to the US tech companies "Everything in the Cloud" Utopia Issues of security and trust in "cloud" env Email security How to analyze your own Web activity Interception of "in-transit" traffic as violation of human rights Steganography Building Snort-based IDS Infrastructure
Neoliberal Brainwashing: Journalism In the Service of the Powerful Few The Guardian Slips Beyond the Reach of Embarrassment Nineteen Eighty-Four   Cyberwarfare Prizm-related humor Etc
 

Introduction

None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.

- Goethe

1984 is supposed to be a warning, not an instruction manual

The troubling aspect about these disclosures is not so much their significance today, but what surveillance on the nation bodes for the future. Given human nature I am not optimistic.

Bill N. Cambridge MA, NYT.

NSA staff and private contractors have unfettered access to this information. I have a hard time believing that not one of them has used that access to information for personal or political gain. This system makes insider trading, industrial espionage, blackmail, and extortion an almost inevitable outcome. -- The Guardian (from comments).

A new round of debates about the dominance of military industrial complex and the level of control it exerts over the US civil society was caused by recent revelations about NSA activities in the USA.

It might well be the Rubicon was crossed around JFK assassination time. On August 17, 1975 Senator Frank Church stated on NBC's Meet the Press without mentioning the name of the NSA (Church Committee - Wikipedia ):

In the need to develop a capacity to know what potential enemies are doing, the United States government has perfected a technological capability that enables us to monitor the messages that go through the air. Now, that is necessary and important to the United States as we look abroad at enemies or potential enemies. We must know, at the same time, that capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left such is the capability to monitor everything—telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide.

If this government ever became a tyrant, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology.

I don't want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.[11]

In other words expansionism  and mission creep are immanent qualities, the second nature of large bureaucracies, and unless there is countervailing force. In the absence of countervailing forces they tend to escape from civil control and form a state within a state. In a way any state with powerful three-letter agencies stand with one leg in a tyranny, even if it calls itself a democracy. And that fact was already known to everybody in 1975 (Church Committee).  Actually just after president Kennedy assassination, which, no matter which version of events you adopt, in all cases indirectly pointed out that three letter agencies jumped out of control of civil government. As one Guardian reader commented "The pernicious thing is that it is in the nature of bureaucracies in general and spy agencies in particular to expand beyond reason unless there is effective oversight."

The nature of bureaucracies in general and spy agencies in particular to expand beyond reason unless there is effective oversight. In the case of intelligence agencies it has proven impossible for civil authorities to control them. Recent stories about CIA spying on the US Senate Intelligence Committee  just prove this. 

In the case of intelligence agencies it has proven impossible to control them.  Recent stories about CIA spying on the US Senate Intelligence Committee (which is tasked with the oversight of the agency) just prove this simple fact (CIA apologizes for spying on Senate committee - CNNPolitics July 31, 2014 ). As NYT reported (Inquiry by C.I.A. Affirms It Spied on Senate Panel,  

A statement issued Thursday morning by a C.I.A. spokesman said that John O. Brennan, the agency’s director, had apologized to Ms. Feinstein and the committee’s ranking Republican, Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, and would set up an internal accountability board to review the issue. The statement said that the board, which will be led by a former Democratic senator, Evan Bayh of Indiana, could recommend “potential disciplinary measures” and “steps to address systemic issues.”

But anger among lawmakers grew throughout the day. Leaving a nearly three-hour briefing about the report in a Senate conference room, members of both parties called for the C.I.A. officers to be held accountable, and some said they had lost confidence in Mr. Brennan’s leadership. “This is a serious situation and there are serious violations,” said Mr. Chambliss, generally a staunch ally of the intelligence community. He called for the C.I.A. employees to be “dealt with very harshly.”

Senator Mark Udall, Democrat of Colorado and another member of the Intelligence Committee, demanded Mr. Brennan’s resignation. “The C.I.A. unconstitutionally spied on Congress by hacking into the Senate Intelligence Committee computers,” he said in a written statement. “This grave misconduct not only is illegal but it violates the U.S. Constitution’s requirement of separation of powers.

You can't get a more solid proof of total surveillance...  Please note that Brennan continued his tenure as the head of CIA; attempts to depose him after the incident by some Senators failed. That suggest who was the winner in this skirmish.

That also means that contrary to common perception intelligence agencies are political players and as such are quite capable to defend their staffing and resource consumption levels, despite inefficient waist of resources as typical for large bureaucracies. In other words they are no longer technocratic, but tend to emerge as political bodies, the core of the "deep state" (see Bureaucracy as a Political Coalition). The story of John Brennan the former head of CIA in Obama administration tell volumes about such tendencies. During and after 2016 Presidential elections he emerged as a powerful political broker, later aligning with Hillary Clinton in efforts to form a political coalition capable of deposing President Trump.

We can admire the immortal foresight and moral courage of Secretary of State Henry Stimson's  who closed the Cipher Bureau in 1929.  But this highly ethical, moral and courageous act deprived the US of the capacity to read foreign diplomatic cables as world-wide threats grew.  So it was quickly reversed.

In a way technology dictates the level of government surveillance in the society and in "Internet society" it looks like this level is permanently set on "high". That does not mean that we can't fight it. Yes, we can and one factor that played into the hands of defenders of personal privacy is the you can't drink from a fire hose: as soon as you connect too much information it devalues itself. Also methods of "injecting" false metadata into your profile are reality available. for example for Internet browsing anybody with programmable keyboard can do that. That means that you the set of sites you visited no longer can be considered authentic in "Post-Snowden" world. That dooms effort to assign you a level of "loyalty" based on your browsing history, which is very temping for three letter agencies to do.  Recent failed attempt to create a site that claffies some sites are "Russian propaganda" sites belong to this category (Washington Post Disgracefully Promotes a McCarthyite Blacklist From a New, Hidden, and Very Shady Group.) But such attempts were just shifted to another domain -- "leak prevention" training:

Part of the “Unauthorized Disclosure” training includes watching a Fox News clip on the crackdown on leaks and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ statement announcing an increase in criminal leak investigations. A student guide from the Insider Threat Awareness training includes the McCarthyesque request that employees report on each other for “general suspicious behaviors,” including “Questionable national loyalty” such as “Displaying questionable loyalty to US government or company” or “Making anti-U.S. comments.” Never mind that the only oath government employees take is to the US Constitution, not to any government official or the US government itself and certainly not to a private company.

This also opens people to browsing blackmail.  In this sense post-snowmen world is inherently more difficult for three-letter agencies to navigate.

Computer technology and digital communication as new frontiers for intelligence  agencies

Technology changes can really change the society. And not always in a beneficial for the society way. There is such thing as "blowback" in technologies. We can view recent NSA activities revealed by Snowden as a classic example of such blowback connected with the spread of Internet and cloud based technologies.  In a way Internet begets surveillance. And you can do nothing about it.  As former Sun CEO Scott McNealy (born November 13, 1954)  said  "You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it." (see also Privacy is Dead – Get Over It).  

I think that the first attempt to create a comprehensive nation-wide intelligence network that monitors sentiments of the citizens and hunt enemies of the state goes as far back as Napoleon and his famous minister of police Joseph Fouché. Or may be it even goes as far back as to Byzantine Empire with its first in history organized network of spies. As for recording of mail envelopes, we can even claim that this function for international mail (in a form of "black chambers") is as old as states are. In the USA it started in full force in August 1919 when J. Edgar Hoover became head of the Bureau of Investigation's new General Intelligence Division—also known as the Radical Division because its explicit goal was to monitor and disrupt the work of domestic radicals.

Recording of all email envelopes started long before email was invented and became established practice since the WWII for all regular mail entering or leaving the country.  It just got a new name now -- collection of metadata and the technology that allow correlation of multiple sets of metadata exposing hidden "networks".  Recording metadata of phone calls and often the calls themselves first started before WWII and technology was first polished on international calls, which for obvious reasons are of great interest to all governments.  As intelligence agencies were one of the first to deploy computers after WWII it would be naive to assume that IBM/360 mainframes were not used to analyze collection of metadata of international calls as early as in 1960th.

Hoover and his chosen assistant, George Ruch monitored a variety of U.S. radicals with the intent to punish, arrest, or deport them. Targets during this period included Marcus Garvey; Rose Pastor Stokes and Cyril Briggs; Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman; and future Supreme Court justice Felix Frankfurter, whom Hoover nicknamed as "the most dangerous man in the United States". So those radicals served a guinea pigs for polishing methods of collection of communications using electronic means of surveillance.

So it would be a mistake to assume that such activities started with 9/11 events and that Bush II was totally responsible for converting the USA into national-security state.  The technology was ready at least 15 years before 9/11 (explosive growth of internet in the USA started in 1996) and new methods of collection of information that are technically available are always adopted and used by clandestine agencies.  They tend to adopt technology as soon as it is available, being, in a pervert way,  classic "early adopters" of any communication or computer technology. And this happens not only in the USA,  although the USA as the  technological leader was probably most profoundly affected.

The creation and use of databases of personal information and the systematic records (archives) of communications of citizens started simultaneously with NSA creation. The first targets were mail and telegraph. Some of this experience came from specialists of Third Reich who were brought to the country after the WWII. At the height of the Cold War in the 1950s, law enforcement and intelligence leaders like J. Edgar Hoover at the FBI. and Allen Dulles at the CIA. aggressively recruited former Nazis of all ranks as secret, anti-Soviet “assets,” declassified records show. They believed the ex-Nazis’ intelligence value against the Russians outweighed what one official called “moral lapses” in their service to the Third Reich. The agency hired one former SS officer as a spy in the 1950s, for instance, even after concluding he was probably guilty of “minor war crimes.” And in 1994, a lawyer with the CIA pressured prosecutors to drop an investigation into an ex-spy outside Boston implicated in the Nazis’ massacre of tens of thousands of Jews in Lithuania, according to a government official (In Cold War, U.S. Spy Agencies Used 1,000 Nazis - NYTimes.com).

We don't know when it was extended on domestic calls, but from purely technical perspective this was a trivial extension of already existing and polished capacity and probably abuse was stated gradually as soon as power of computers allow that. 

But what is true is that after 9/11 and the passage of the USA Patriot Act, the USA government got all the pre-conditions necessary for installing a regime of aggressive total surveillance. Which actually was a hidden intent and 9/11 was just a convenient pretext much like Tonkin incident in Vietnam war. And in this respect Ed Snowden, whatever is his motivation (which might be not as simple as most people assume), did the right thing, when he with the risk to his life informed the US public and the world about those activities. You may approve those revelations, you may disapprove them (and they did damage the USA as a state and devalue many methods which were extremely effective before the revelations), but keeping them secret from the US public is a crime.

NSA technically is a data collection agency. While it has legitimate function to monitor information that is crossing the national border as well as intercept communication of the US adversaries (which is a very flexible category those days ;-), we need to understand that the abuse of this function is inevitable. That actually the nature of the beast -- like any bureaucratic organizations they tend to expand their sphere of activities and escape form control -- and in this sense existence of powerful state intelligence agencies is incompatible with the democracy.  In this sense the appointment of Allan Dulles (who paradoxically was appointed the director under Eisenhower administration in 1952; Eisenhower warnings about the danger of military-industrial complex notwithstanding)  was really unfortunate.

But the capacities to do this type of work had grown dramatically over last four decades. In a way NSA became a victim of growing power of computers as well inherent tendency of bureaucracies, especially government bureaucracies to expand and self-justify their expansion. The classic case was the USSR where KGB was a real "state within the state" and sometimes it was not completely clear whether the Party controls KGB or KGB controls the Party.

But the capacities to do this type of work had grown dramatically over last four decades. In a way NSA became a victim of growing power of computers and as well inherent tendency of bureaucracies, especially government bureaucracies to expand and self-justify their expansion. The classic case was the USSR where KGB was a real "state within the state" and sometimes it was not completely clear whether the Party controls KGB or KGB controls the Party.

The immanent tendency of intelligence agencies to escape civil control
and in turn to establish indirect control of the government

There is deep analogy between financial services and intelligence services. Both try to escape from the control of democratic society. Both try to control the society instead of serve it. As they operate with large and uncontrolled amount of money soon after their creation inevitably the "the tail wagging the dog" (Merriam-Webster):

the tail wagging the dog used to describe a situation in which an important or powerful person, organization, etc., is being controlled by someone or something that is much less important or powerful

At some point the permanent unelected bureaucracy, became the shadow government instead of facilitating the decisions of elected officials. This process proceeds quicker if a sociopath manage to slip to the role of the head of such an organization. That's what the term "deep state" is about. Some authors such as  Douglas Horne view JFK assassination as a political coup d'état launched from the highest levels of US leadership (JFK’s War with the National Security Establishment Why Kennedy Was Assassinated). Here is a quote from the foreword by Jacob G. Hornberger:

By the end of November 1961, profoundly dissatisfied with his own national security advisory apparatus, President Kennedy had firmly pushed back against the national security establishment (in this case the NSC, the State Department, and the CIA) by purging and/or reshuffling many of the civilian hawks in his own administration into other positions, and by placing officials more in line with his own views into key positions. [A change in the top leadership at the Pentagon was to come later, in 1962.] Throughout 1961, the new President had painfully but quickly learned to be quite skeptical of the advice he was receiving, pertaining to matters of war and peace, from his hawkish advisors; and as 1961 progressed, John F. Kennedy repeatedly demonstrated what the hawks in government (the majority) no doubt considered a disturbingly independent (and increasingly all-too-predictable) frame of mind in regard to the national security recommendations he was receiving from the “sacred cows” and “wise men” in Washington, D.C. As I shall demonstrate in these essays, by the end of 1962, the national security establishment in Washington D.C., which had quickly come to know JFK as a skeptic during 1961, had come to view him as a heretic; and by November of 1963, the month he was assassinated, they no doubt considered him an apostate, for he no longer supported most of the so-called “orthodox” views of the Cold War priesthood. Increasingly alone in his foreign policy judgments as 1963 progressed, JFK was nevertheless proceeding boldly to end our “Holy War” against Communism, instead of trying to win it. In retrospect it is clear that the national security establishment wanted to win our own particular “jihad” of the post-WW II era by turning the Cold War against the USSR into a “hot war,” so that we could inflict punishing and fatal blows upon our Communist adversaries (and any other forces we equated with them) on the battlefield. It was this desire for “hot war” by so many within the establishment — their belief that conventional “proxy wars” with the Soviet Bloc were an urgent necessity, and that nuclear war with the USSR was probably inevitable — to which President Kennedy was so adamantly opposed. And it was JFK’s profound determination to avoid nuclear war by miscalculation, and to eschew combat with conventional arms unless it was truly necessary, that separated him from almost everyone else in his administration from 1961 throughout 1963, as events have shown us.

 

Against whom total surveillance is directed

Total surveillance is not so much about terrorism. It's also and mainly about the control of the society by unelected elite. Terrorism is a false pretext -- a smoke screen, if you like. Let's state clearly -- the main goal of total surveillance was the same since it was introduced in Nazi Germany: "Let them be afraid". It's the same as in former German Democratic Republic (with its famous Stasi). In all cases it is to prevent any challenge to the ruling elite or in the terminology of neoliberal "color revolutions" prevent  "regime change", unless it is initiated by more powerful foreign three letter agencies and significantly higher level of financial resources (that's why three letter agencies of newly minted xUSSR state in several cases were unable to prevent color revolutions of their territories).  

In other words surveillance and intelligence agencies are part and parcel of the totalitarian state. And Sheldon Volin actually created a term for such "pseudo-democratic" regime --  inverted totalitarism.  Unlike  classic totalitarism it generally tend to avoid using violence  to crush the dissidents and opposition to the current elite. More "soft" subversive methods are enough. In this sense the  story of crushing "of "Occupy Wall Street" movement is a testament of their efficiency. 

State actors and well funded terrorist organization are a difficult nut to crack.  Any "custom" encrypted communication is far more difficult for intercepting party to decode, then "standard" encryption methods.  Some encryption methods virtually guarantee that it is impossible without stealing the key. Even detecting the fact of communication for such parties nowadays is very difficult as it can be hidden in  some "carrier" transmission (steganography) or split into multiple channels.   Those who have access to technology and to "know how" including the most recent exploits are well armed to resist attempt to intercept their communication. That includes most powerful foreign states. 

That means that NSA has great difficulties intercepting and decoding traffic that is intended to be hidden from state actors.  Modern encryption systems such One-Time-Pad virtually guarantee that you get the "insider information" of the pad used (typically from a mole) they are impenetrable. Even regular encryption methods can be enhanced by additional step of compressing the files transmitted (which by and large eliminates redundancy if done properly and do not leave "tell" sign  of the method encryption used) . Decoding is easier when standard algorithms with possible backdoors are used but  even in this case I have doubts (Triple DEC).  That's why attempts to compensate this deficiency are being developed and one obvious path is intercepting regular citizen communication  of foreign countries which are considered to be unfriendly or adversarial to current the US foreign policy goals (which is the expansion and maintenance of global the Us-led neoliberal empire).

But the situation with  "open" traffic is completely different. Million of people outside the USA use Facebook, Amazon, Gmail and similar platforms. Which makes them a low hanging fruit and here NSA is the king of the hill.  Government officials also sometimes use regular  email and social sites (see Hillary Clinton email scandal). So intelligence agencies were provided with an important opening (and it might well be that the dramatic growth  of Webmail has something to do with their interests)

At the same time the abundance of information, as Biney mentioned, creates another problem --  the problem of "drinking from a fire hose" -- they tend to collect too much information and are swamped with the volume.  Of cause correlation of open traffic of "suspicious persons" can reveal some hidden information, but this is a pretty expensive undertaking, because by definition (unless this is Hillary Clinton ;-) those persons are aware that they are watched, typically are trained to avoid surveillance (including electronic) and behave accordingly.  for example General Petraeus used an interesting method to communicate with his biographer and mistress (The Washington Post) :

They wrote their "intimate messages" as draft e-mails in a shared Gmail account, according to the AP, allowing them to see one anothers' messages while leaving a much fainter data trail. When messages are sent and received, both accounts record the transmission as well as such metadata as the IP addresses on either end, something the two seemed to be seeking to avoid. 

Petraeus and Broadwell apparently used a trick, known to terrorists and teen-agers alike, to conceal their email traffic, one of the law enforcement officials said.

Rather than transmitting emails to the other's inbox, they composed at least some messages and instead of transmitting them, left them in a draft folder or in an electronic "dropbox," the official said. Then the other person could log onto the same account and read the draft emails there. This avoids creating an email trail that is easier to trace.

With the power of modern computers, decoys and steganography offer almost unlimited possibility to obscure the traffic. 

The real questions about NSA activities


Concern about the NSA assault on our privacy is no paranoid fantasy. In the words of an agency PowerPoint slide released by Snowden, the goal is to "collect it all", "process it all" and "know it all". The massive surveillance program is a clear violation of the Forth amendment prohibiting "unreasonable searches" of "persons, houses, papers, and effects" without "probable cause."

- Gene Epstein. "In defence of Snowden",
review of "No Place to Hide" Barrons, Jan 5, 2015, p 17

According to UN Human Right Council Report (17 April 2013) innovations in technology not only have increased the possibilities for communication and protections of free expression and opinion, enabling anonymity, rapid information-sharing and cross-cultural dialogues. They also simultaneously increased opportunities for State surveillance and interventions into individuals’ private communications facilitating to transformation of the state into National Security State, a form of corporatism characterized by continued and encompassing all forms of electronic communication electronic surveillance of all citizens.

Now every Internet or smartphone users probably understand that since probably 2003 or even earlier that that he/she is watched 24 by 7, or as Soviet dissidents called it "Was placed under the [surveillance] dome". Some question that we need to ask ourselves are:

All-in-all it's a good time to smell the coffee and talk about the rise of a new mutation of totalitarism (or may be even neofascism -- as it is, essentially, the merger of corporate and state interests) in the US after 9/11. That's exactly what this "Internet-inspired" flavor of total surveillance due to modern technical capabilities means. There is also distinct shadow of STASI in all those activities. And some countries got into similar trap before, so nothing is new under the sun. As Reinhold Niebuhr noted:

"Communism is a vivid object lesson in the monstrous consequences of moral complacency about the relation of dubious means to supposedly good ends."

There is actually little difference between total surveillance as practiced by NSA and what was practiced by three letters agencies of Eastern block dictatorships such as STASI and KGB. The key goal in both cases is protection and preservation of power of existing elite against the will of common people. So this is more about oppression of 99.9% from top 0.1% then surveillance per see.

Militarization of cyberspace makes Internet a very dangerous medium

We should view Snowden revelations in a larger context. Much of what he revealed about militarization of cyberspace was already known at the time when Flame and Stuxnet worms were discovered in 2011. He just dot the i's and cross the t's , so speak. As a result of his revelations, as The National Interest noted:

An increasing number of adversaries and even allies are coming to believe that the United States is militarizing cyberspace — and that impression of hubris and irresponsibility is beginning to have a real-world impact.

...The Snowden leaks have brought Stuxnet, the U.S.-Israeli program allegedly used to attack Iranian computer systems, back into public debate — and reminded us that the real damage of the Snowden revelations will be international.

...the perception that the United States has become a danger to the global internet is a cause for concern. In their understandable anger at the considerable damage Snowden has done (in the near term at the very least) to the operations of NSA and their allies, U.S. security officials should not lose sight of this fact.

Snowden’s claims build on the Stuxnet revelations. In doing so, they reinforce an impression of overbearing U.S. cyberpower (military and commercial) being used irresponsibly. That is strikingly at odds with the U.S. self-image as a standard bearer of internet freedom and “borderless” exchange, but it is a view that resonates around the world.

In fact the USA policies are stimulating economic and political rivals around the globe to organize and present unified front against this new and dangerous form of total surveillance. As well as implement similar domestic systems. In other words a new arm race started.

As methods and infrastructure of those activities are now revealed, the genie is out of the bottle and can't be put back -- the US now should expect the same or worse treatment from other nations. Which can be no less inventive, or even more inventive the USA specialists in this area. And in this new arm race economically weaker nations actually has some leverage. Blowback, a CIA term for unintended consequences of foreign, military, or clandestine policies, can be similar to the blowback of politically organizing Islamic radicals to fight Soviets in Afghanistan in the past.

Nemesis, the goddess of retribution and vengeance, the punisher of pride and hubris, probably already waits patiently for her meeting with the NSA brass.

Blowback can irreparably damage the ability of the United States to obtain crucial information in foreign environments that are poorly understood in Washington. The cultural divide that exists when operating away from home means that CIA and NSA frequently work overseas through a network of liaison contacts. This in theory limits their activity, but it broadens their ability to collect information that can only be plausibly obtained by a local organization with local capabilities. Though nearly everyone also operates clandestinely outside the parameters of the established relationships insofar as it is possible or expedient to do so, there is an awareness that being caught can cause grave damage to the liaison relationship. Because being exposed is nearly always very painful, such operations are normally limited to collection of critical information that the liaison partner would be unwilling to reveal.

So while it might be comforting to claim that “everyone does it” at least some of the time, and it may even be true that local spy agencies sometimes collaborated with NSA, the United States has a great deal to lose by spying on its friends. This is particularly true as Washington, uniquely, spies on everyone, all the time, even when there is no good reason for doing so.

NSA Blowback The American Conservative

Centralization of user activities on sites like Facebook, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, LinkedIn, with email account mainly at Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo mail along with many positive aspects has tremendous negative side effects. The most significant is that it created a way too easy opportunity both for those organizations as well as government agencies and large corporations to data mine email and Web communications of millions of Americans critical about government (see Total control: keywords in your posts that might trigger surveillance) and all foreigners who use those services (and that includes a significant part of European population and Russia, who have Gmail, Facebook or Yahoo accounts). The history of "total surveillance" suggests that it tends to be abused. It is also huge, irreparable breach on trust in relation to allies. Closely resembles the situation in family when wife or husband learn that the other hired detective to snoop on you.

The analogy with KGB surveillance of dissidents (the Soviet term for total surveillance was "to be under the 'dome' ") and, especially, Stasi (viewing the film "The Lives of Others" might help to understand the phenomenon of "total surveillance") are way too close. At the same time there is an important difference: while such regime does mean indirect (and pretty effective) intimidation of dissidents, cases of prosecution on the base of the those data are either few or non existent, which is a big difference with KGB or Stasi practice. The latter aggressively pursued those who got in their net trying either to convert them into informers or charge them with the some suitable article of Criminal Code. In some cases that practice lead to suicides. So here we can talk more properly talk about total surveillance an instrument of Inverted Totalitarism, or totalitarism in velvet gloves.

We are talking about "passive total surveillance" and temporary (which might be several years or your lifetime) storage of all intercepted data. But in a way, Senator McCartney was probably right about "Communists sympathizers" and communist infiltration, he just was completely wrong about who they are ;-).

Every Breath You Take

Ich bin ein Berliner
J. F. Kennedy

The famous The Police hit Every Breath You Take should probably be the theme song for the NSA. As Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us in his famous speech:

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

Snowden revelations are not something new. The only real revelation was how much of it was going on domestically and gory details of such activities. Before 9/11 the NSA was basically prohibited from operating domestically. Of course it violates those prohibitions, but there were no systematic internal, all encompassing technical surveillance infrastructure in place. Now it is build and is deployed nation-wide. And that's a big change, big difference. Due to "novel" interpretation of a few provisions in the Patriot Act they created domestic dragnet which encompass most types of Internet communications. In addition to intercepting more then 70% of Internet traffic they also enjoy direct access to major cloud providers.

Total continued surveillance even without taking any action on collected data is totalitarian by its nature as it put severe restrictions of the freedom of expression. And like in the USSR, it does change people behavior on the Web. People start thinking about consequences and this page is one of attempts to collect information that might help you to see "bigger picture".

The key mechanism here, well known to those who used to live in the USSR before its dissolution is that people do react on the fact that everything they email, visit, buy on Amazon, etc is registered in giant database outside of their control. Internet will never be the same for most people after Snowden revelations...

The key mechanism here, well known to those who used to live in the USSR before its dissolution is that people do react on the fact that everything they email, visit, buy on Amazon, etc is registered in giant database outside of their control. Internet will never be the same for most people after Snowden revelations...

For example, no one in sound mind can now trust "cloud services" provided by Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, etc. So attractiveness of Gmail, Hotmail and such are now different, then it was before. And separation of mail accounts between "junk mail" account and important mail account is something to think about. With the latter never in the cloud. In a way excessive using cloud services from a fashionable trend now became kind of indication of a person stupidity.

In a way excessive using of cloud services from a fashionable trend now became an indication of a person stupidity. There is no real justification of providing all your emails and address book to strangers who can abuse this information without your knowledge.

At the same time it is stupid to dramatize the situation. Still, what is really striking is the grotesque disproportionally of all this NSA surveillance "superdome" to the task of keeping the country safe from foreign enemies (NSA statute is about watching foreign communications), begging obvious questions of institutional sanity and competence. They turned all their super powerful collection mechanisms inside the country and now they drink from a firehouse. That means that the results and possibilities of abuse are pretty much predictable. Too many false positives create real danger of not to picking up weak signal. So the other question is "Who the hell made these decisions?" That's a lot of taxpayers money and I am not sure that they are well spend.

As for breach of privacy anyone with connected to Internet PC,  the first thing to understand that if somebody stores data in the cloud they should not expect any privacy, unless they encrypt them. Expecting that your unencrypted data are private is a sign of personal stupidity, no more no less. If somebody, who is keeping his address book in Google assumes that it remains private, that his own illusion. That has nothing to do with the reality.

And it not that only NSA threatens our privacy. After all there are millions of PC users that have computer(s) infected by spyware, which turns them into zombies, externally controlled monitoring devices. And such software BTW can pick up and offload, or encrypt for ransom all your data. I do not see much protest over this situation iether. Microsoft greed and stupidity is one reason for this dismal situation, but essentially any OS is vulnerable if enough money is invested in finding exploits.  And NSA actually created a market for such exploits. Now there are multiple "security firms" that do nothing then find "zero day" exploits and sell them to the highest bidder (which is of course government agencies).  Does not this reminds you 'war on drugs"?

In a way, any networked computer is an unsecure computer and should be treated as such. See Privacy is Dead – Get Over It. The same thing can be mentioned about a cell phone that is outside some metal box. That's two basic "laws of security" in the current environment.

But more important problem here is not snooping per se, but its interaction with self-profiling that you provide via social sites. If you are too enthusiastic about Facebook or Google++ or any similar site and engage regularly and indiscriminately in this "vanity fair" activity that simply means Privacy is Dead – Get Over It. You killed it yourself. The essence of the situation was exposed well in a humorous form in the following Amazon review of Orwell's novel 1984

Bjørn Anders See all my reviews

This is not an instruction manual!, June 14, 2013

This review is from: 1984: 60th-Anniversary Edition (Plume) (Paperback)

Note to US Congress and house of representatives: This is a fictional book, not an instruction manual...

Now we know what would a perfect prototype of Bid Brother ;-). The song (Every Breath You Take ) should probably be the theme song for the NSA. And not only NSA, but its counterparts in other parts of the globe; I think, other things equal, citizens of some other countries would greatly prefer NSA to their domestic counterparts.

Cell phones, laptops, Facebook, Skype, chat-rooms: all allow the NSA and other similar agencies to build a dossier, a detailed profile of a target and anyone associated with him/her. And the number of people caught up in this dragnet can be huge. The NSA say it needs all this data to help prevent another terrorist attack like 9/11. They lie. In order to find the needle in the haystack, they argue, they need access to the whole haystack. But one interesting side effect is that now they are drinking from the fire hose, so to speak.

The power of meta data collection

Another interesting side-effect of the Snowden disclosures that the term ‘metadata’ became a common word in English language. With the growing understanding that metadata includes enough personal information to built a detailed profile of a person without even listening into content of communications. This technology was invented in Iraq war for fighting insurgents (were phone companies were controlled by US) and now is applied at home. In fact, by just using electronic communications, you are sharing a lot more personal information than you think. It's a reflection of a fact that it is very cheap to collect and analyses information about your electronic communications. The digital revolution which led to an explosion in cell phone and internet use, also led to an explosion of snooping after you by the governments.

We need to distinguish "total collection" of data from "total analysis" (or creation of dossiers on everybody as was practiced by STASI and friends). Raw data contain both "signal" and "noise". Analysis or data mining of those raw data is the process of extraction of useful signal from the noise. Of course we should be so naive that to assume that "signal" is related to purely terrorist activities. As recently published documents had shown, the NSA interests are much wider ;-). In bald terms, it sets out its mission:

“Leverage unique key corporate partnerships to gain access to high-capacity international fiber-optic cables, switches and/or routes throughout the world.”

Along with major fiber-optic cables in the US, the NSA has access to data gathered by close intelligence partners such as Britain’s GCHQ.

Sometimes it appear to me that like Uncle Sam got "red disease" and now is trying to imitate "total surveillance" mantra of KGB, STASI and similar agencies on a new technological level. And the key lesson from Soviet experience is fully applicable to the current situation in the USA: when government consider everybody as a potential enemy you better watch your back. And having a cyberstooge following your every step more closely that it was possible for STASI spooks and informers is something you need to react to. Reading your address book, mail, list of books that you bought or borrowed from the library, analyzing your circuit of friends is what STASI was really good at. And it might well be that some unemployed specialists have found a new territory to apply their substantial talents.

The Snowden documents show that the NSA runs these surveillance programs through “partnerships” with major US telecom and internet companies. That means that if you are customer of those major telecom and Internet companies you are like a bug under the microscope.

It is important to understand that metadata of your communications will always be exposed (it other words you are always walking "naked" on the Internet) because those new surveillance capabilities are immanent properties of Internet protocols, as we known it. There is no way to encrypt connection metadata: this is technically impossible unless you owns a vast private VPN network (some large corporations do), but even in this case I have doubts. Even snail-mail metadata are collected (and from 50th to 80th letters were opened and selectively copied by CIA). Diplomatic mail might still be secure, but that's about it.

Technological blowback

Like with any new development there are countervailing trends that after Snowden revelation went in overdrive and can seriously affect NSA capabilities.

One is switching to encrypting communication with most websites such as YouTube. That prevent simple harvesting of video that you watched from HTTP logs (but does not prevent harvesting -- it can be done using other methods)

The second is usage of software like Tor, although I think all connection to Tor sites are closely monitored by NSA.

The third is usage of your own cashing DNS proxy to limit number of DNS requests you make.  

I also think that all those development might give steganography a huge boost.

The other areas of technology that might get huge boost due to Snowden revelations is "Browsing imitating internet robots" technology which permit to drown NSA collection devices in spam -- fake accesses to web sites that is very difficult to distinguish from real browsing, but that make all statistical metrics applied to your Web traffic useless.  For example top visited pages became completely bogus. 

Currently this requires some level of technical sophistication and available mostly to programmers and system administrators interested in "beating NSA back". Programs that have those capabilities are often marketed as proxy logs replayers,  or Apache logs replayers or debugging tools. See for example  Load Testing with JMeter Part 3 - Replaying Apache Logs and Charles Web Debugging Proxy  ( and http - Replaying a Charles proxy session and recording the results - Stack Overflow ). Actually good old Expect can do wonders here if logs are converted into expect scripts. Especially in combination with Javascript (Scalable, Flexible Performance Testing Replaying web server log)

Another danger to society: Lord Acton warning as applied to NSA

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely".

Lord Acton(1834–1902)

As Lord Acton(1834–1902) noted long before NSA started collecting all Internet communications "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely". The history of "total surveillance" suggests that this is unavoidable side effect on the very institution that conducts: such an institution tends to escape the control of civil society and became a shadow power, the element of "deep state". 

The first grave consequence of total surveillance is that it tends to be abused. The history of "total surveillance" suggests that this is unavoidable side effect on the very institution that conducts: such an institution tends to escape the control of civil society and became a shadow power, the element of "deep state".  

And the ability to intercept electronic communications gives those who are in charge of such collection  tremendous political power. Please remember that J. Edgar Hoover was director of FBI very long time partially because he dug a lot of dirt on politicians of his time including both Kennedys. According to President Harry S Truman, Hoover transformed the FBI into his private secret police force. He used the FBI to harass political dissenters and activists, to amass secret files on political leaders, and to collect evidence using illegal methods. Essentially for half of the century he and his organization were out of control "state within the state" and nobody could do anything about it. Only after his death some measures were taken.

It's not that expanding bureaucracy per se is a problem. I doubt that those in the bureaucracy of those agencies do not think about larger consequences for societies of their attempts to expand their sphere of influence. It is much worse: they definitely knew about possible consequences, but go "full forward' anyway preferring job promotions and expansion of their influence. Like bureaucrats often do, they betrayed their nations like nomenklatura betrayed the people of the USSR (with a similar fig leaf of nice slogans about freedom as a smoke screen for pretty nefarious activities).

Elimination of possibility of opposition to the current regime

In case of NSA, this data on you, or particular political or social movement (for example "Occupy Wall Street") can be mined at any time, and what is even worse can be used to destroy any new political movement. And please remember that NSA is a just part of military-industrial complex, an entity that has some interesting political characteristics related to the term "the acquisition of unwarranted influence" . As Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us in his famous farewell speech (which introduced the term "military-industrial complex"):

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

People seldom understand that all three letter agencies are not just part of military industrial complex, but are the key parts. While ability of weapon manufactures to buy or just simply control Congress members matters, three-letter agencies is where "unwarranted influence" fully materialize. By definition they are out of control and as any bureaucracy they want to grow. That was clear to Senator Frank Church who stated on August 17, 1975 NBC's Meet the Press:

In the need to develop a capacity to know what potential enemies are doing, the United States government has perfected a technological capability that enables us to monitor the messages that go through the air. Now, that is necessary and important to the United States as we look abroad at enemies or potential enemies. We must know, at the same time, that capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left such is the capability to monitor everything—telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide.

If this government ever became a tyrant, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology.

I don’t want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.[11]

We can applaud his personal courage, but at this point it does not matter. The horse has left the barn. As sgtdoom commented The Guardian article NSA analysts 'willfully violated' surveillance systems, agency admits (August 24, 2013):

...let us be realistic and not fall for the usual story of this being a discrete event (all the latest surveillance, that is).

This dates back to the founding of the Financial-Intelligence-Complex during and in the aftermath of World War II, by the Wall Streeters for their super-rich bosses, the Rockefellers, Morgans, du Ponts, Mellons, Harrimans (now Mortimers), etc.

The most important factor that needs to be taken into account is the total surveillance make organized opposition to the regime impossible. So welcome to nicer, gentler, but no less totalitarian world of 1984 (aka "Back in USSR"). The key equation is very simple:

total surveillance = total control

That simple fact was well understood by various dictators and totalitarian regimes long ago, but none of them has had even a tiny fraction of technical capabilities NSA has now. I think one of the reason that Occupy movement completely dissipated so fast was that they were like a bug under microscope of the government. And government want them to stop harassing Wall Street sharks for their 2008 crisis misdeeds.

Instilling fear

Another important effect of "total surveillance" is instilling fear in the citizenry; fear that our thoughts, words and relationships are subject of interception and analysis; fear that all the content we access on the internet will be exposed. This fear can cause us to withdraw from public spaces like producing this website, censor our communications, refrain from accessing certain sites, buying certain books, etc.

An important effect of "total surveillance" is instilling fear in the citizenry; fear that our thoughts, words and relationships are subject of interception and analysis; fear that all the content we access on the internet will be exposed. This fear can cause us to withdraw from public spaces like producing this website, censor our communications, refrain from accessing certain sites, buying certain books, etc.

In other words understanding that you are watched on 24 x 7 basis modifies behavior and makes self-censorship your second nature exactly the same way as in any totalitarian state, but without any physical coercion. Here is one telling comment from Secret to Prism program Even bigger data seizure

wtpayne

Indeed: The intentions and motivations of the agencies in question; the degree of oversight and so on; is almost irrelevant. To a certain extent, I am content to believe that the intentions of the perpetrators is good; and that the oversight and abuse prevention systems that they have in place are strong.

However, none of that matters if people self-censor; if people worry, not about what the government of today will find objectionable, but what the government of tomorrow will not like. In effect, we end up censoring ourselves from a hypothetical worst-case future government.

Loss of privacy as a side effect of cloud-based Internet technologies

“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

Maybe Dante had some serious vision.

The Guardian

We will concentrate on technical side of the this operation, trying to understand how much information can be stored about a regular "Joe Doer" based on technical capabilities that are available. Let's assume that we deal with mostly "passive surveillance": collection and storage of vast amount of Internet traffic on special computers using either mirrored ports on the key routers or special access to key providers of cloud services.

We can probably assume that several layers of storage of those data exist:

Technology development creates new types of communications as well as new types of government surveillance mechanisms (you can call them "externalities" of new methods of communication). Those externalities, especially low cost of mass surveillance (Wikipedia), unfortunately, bring us closer to the Electronic police state (Wikipedia) or National Security State whether we want it or not. A crucial element of such a state is that its data gathering, sorting and correlation on individual citizens are continuous, cover a large number of citizens and all foreigners, and those activities are seldom exposed.

Cloud computing as a technology that presuppose storing the data "offsite" have several security problems, and one of them is that it is way too much "surveillance friendly" (Misunderstanding of issues of security and trust). With cloud computing powers that be do not need to do complex job of recreating TCP/IP conversations on router level to capture, say, all the emails. You can access Web-based email mailbox directly with all mails in appropriate mailboxes and spam filtered. This is a huge saving of computational efforts ;-).

It means two things:

It puts you essentially in a situation of a bug under microscope on Big Brother. And please understand that modern storage capabilities are such that it is easy to store several years of at least some of your communications, especially emails.

The same is true about your phone calls metadata, credit card transactions and your activities on major shopping sites such as Amazon, and eBay. But here you can do almost nothing. Still I think our support of "brick" merchants is long overdue. Phones are traditional target of government three letter agencies (WSJ) since the WWII. Smartphones with GPS in addition to land line metadata also provide your current geo location. Some point out that using basic phone slightly preferable to smartphone (both in a sense of absence of geodata and the possibility to install spyware on it -- there is simply no RAM to do anything sophisticated). But I do not think you can do much here

I think our support of "brick" merchants is long overdue. And paying cash in the store in not something that you should try to avoid because credit card returns you 1% of the cost of the purchase. This 1% is actually a privacy tax ;-)

Total continued surveillance even without taking any action on collected data is totalitarian by its nature as it put severe restrictions of the freedom of expression and it changes people behavior on the Web. In this sense, Senator McCartney was probably right about "Communists sympathizers" and "KGB infiltration", he just was completely wrong about who they are ;-).

The centralization of searches on Google (and to a lesser extent on Bing -- the latter is standard with new Windows installation) are also serious threats to your privacy. Here diversification between three or more search engines might help a bit.  But limited your time behind the computer is probably more efficient. Generally here I do not think much can be done. Growth of popularity of Duckduckgo suggests that people are vary of Google monopolizing the search, but it is unclear how big are the advantages. You can also save searches as many searches are recurrent and generally you can benefit from using your personal Web proxy with private cashing DNS server. This way to can "shrink" your radar picture, but that's about it. If you are conserved with you "search" profile, you can replay some searches to distort it. In any case,  search engines are now an integral part of our civilization, whether we want it or not.

Collection of your searches for the last several years can pretty precisely outline sphere of your interests. And again technical constrains on storage of data no longer exists: how we can talk about privacy at the age of 3 TB harddrives for $99. There are approximately 314 million of the US citizens and residents, so storing one gigabyte of information for each citizen requires just 400 petabytes.  Which is clearly within the current capabilities of storage technology. For comparison

Films to Understand the Phenomenon

The analogy with KGB surveillance of dissidents (the term was "to be under the "kolpak" (dome) ") and, especially, Stasi (viewing the film "The Lives of Others" might help to understand the phenomenon of "total surveillance") are way too close. And psychological effects of anticipating that you are under total surveillance are well depicted in the final of the film The Conversation (1974) directed by famous Francis Ford Coppola

At the same time there is an important difference: while both regimes creates implicit intimidation and squash dissent, cases of prosecution on the base of the those data are either few or non existent. Which is a big difference with KGB or Stasi practice, which aggressively pursued those dissidents who got in their net, trying either to convert them into informers, or prosecute them using the existing articles of Criminal Code. In some cases that led to suicides. So here we can talk more about Inverted Totalitarism, a velvet gloves mode of suppressing of dissent.

Your email in toxic cloud

Still it is now dramatically more clear then before that centralization of email accounts and user activities on sites like Facebook, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, LinkedIn, with email accounts mainly at Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo mail is far from being a positive development. Along with many positive aspects has tremendous negative side effects. Essentially it turns users into spies on themselves in a way that would be a dream by Stasi. The most significant is that it created an easy opportunities to data mine email databases both for those organizations as well as various government agencies and, possibly (in a limited way for special payment) by large corporations.

Those tendencies probably should be at least resisted, but we do not have means to reverse them.

Attempts to data mine email and Web communications of millions of Americans critical about government (see Total control: keywords in your posts that might trigger surveillance) and all foreigners who use those services (and that includes a significant part of European population and xUSSR area, who often use Gmail, Facebook or Yahoo accounts) means that the country became a National Security State. With all relevant consequences of such a transformation.

And interest in content of your "cloud based" email is not limited to the government:

A sweeping Wall Street Journal investigation in 2010 found that the biggest U.S. websites have technologies tracking people who visit their pages, sometimes upwards of 100 tools per site. One intrusive string of code even recorded users’ keystrokes and transmitted them to a data-gathering firm for analysis.

“A digital dossier over time is built up about you by that site or third-party service or data brokers,” says Adam Thierer, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center’s Technology Policy Program at George Mason University. “They collect these data profiles and utilize them to sell you or market you better services or goods.”

This is what powers the free Internet we know and love; users pay nothing or next to nothing for services — and give up pieces of personal information for advertisers in exchange. If you search for a Mini Cooper on one website, you’re likely to see ads elsewhere for lightweight, fuel-efficient cars. Companies robotically categorize users with descriptions such as “urban upscale” to “rural NASCAR” to tailor the advertising experience, says Jim Harper of the libertarian Cato Institute. “They’ll use ZIP codes and census data to figure out what their lifestyle profile is.”

Tracking your Web access

Most of the site you visit those days was found via search engine, often Google. But Google is interested in more then search terms you use and sometimes plays with you a nasty trick: "Google may choose to exhibit its search results in the form of a 'URL redirector,'" reads Google's main privacy policy. That means that any time it wishes Google can spy on your Web activity:

"When Google uses a URL redirector, if you click on a URL from a search result, information about the click is sent to Google."

Few people check the URL before clicking on Google search results, so in a way this is perfect spying tool.

But there is another powerful spying tool in Google arsenal -- Google toolbar, and I am not sure that all those trick were not reused in Google browser. Google Toolbar sends all user clicks to Google, if advanced mode is enabled (and many people do enable it because they want to have spelling correction available which, conveniently for Google, belongs to the set of advanced features). This way you voluntarily subscribe to a 24x7 monitoring of your web activity using spyware that is installed on your computer with your consent. For the same reason recent smartphones fashion looks greatly misguided. It is better to use regular phone, then smartphone, and the last thing you probably want on your smartphone is Android OS or iOS, or windows 8 OS. In some deep way unlocked Nokia 1280 looks now much more attractive (and is way cheaper ;-).

Google Toolbar in advanced mode is another common snooping tool about your activities. It send each URL you visit to Google and you can be sure that from Google several three letter agencies get this information as well. After all Google has links to them from the very beginning:

Effects on behavior

As soon as they realize that they are watched, people start thinking about consequences and this article is a pretty telling (albeit slightly paranoid ;-) illustration of the effect. The key mechanism here, well known to those who used to live in the USSR before its dissolution is that people preemptively change their behavior, if they know or suspect that they got "under the dome" of government surveillance, that all their emails are intercepted, all web site visits recorded, anything they buy on Amazon, etc is registered in giant database outside of their control.

The angle under which will we try to cover the story is: the situation is such and such, now what? What are the most appropriate actions and strategy of behavior of people who are concerned about their privacy and no longer trust "cloud services" provided by Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, etc ( and those who trust those providers should probably stop reading at this point). It is impossible to close all those accounts. But some can and should be closed; for example POP3 mail can replace web mail for all "important" mail; this way you avoid "cloud storage" of all your important correspondence. It is impossible not to use search engines, but you can chose which search language to use. It is impractical not to use smartphone and for Android phone you can't avoid registration -- that's the only way to get updates from Google, but you can root the phone, remove some snooping components and use Firefox instead of Chrome. But not it is clear that if mobile web browsing and checking email on your phone is not your thing you are better off with a very simple phone such as Nokia 1280.

The first and the most obvious "change we can believe in" is that we need to change our attitude toward cloud services and especially cloud services from large providers. Now the most reasonable assumption is that most national cloud providers including major retailers are in bed with the government three letter agencies. So you need to be careful what you browse for on Amazon, similarly to what you write from Gmail and Hotmail.

In a way, excessive usage of cloud services from a fashionable trend now became kind of indication of a person stupidity. It is important to understand that for anybody more or less competent with computers (or willing to learn), anything Facebook or Gmail or Hotmail can offer, regular small ISP account with Cpanel can offer with less risk for your privacy for, say, $5 a month or less. And your privacy definitely cost more then $60 a year.

In a way excessive using of cloud services from a fashionable trend now became an indication of a person stupidity. For anybody more or less competent with computers (or willing to learn), anything Facebook or Gmail can offer, regular ISP account with Cpanel can offer too with less risk for your privacy.

At the same time it is also stupid to over-dramatize the situation and isolate yourself by abandoning Internet communications and restricting usage of cell-phone. The reasonable hypothesis is that today’s surveillance is a side effect of new technological developments and it is a new fact of life. It is just a new level of information gathering, which has been going on since the Byzantine Empire. And it is still limited by technological capabilities of sifting through mass of communications. But at the same time, quantity does at one point turns into quality, so the danger is real and as such could providers are suspect by definition. In no way they are new level of technological development. In sense they are one step forward, two sets back.

Also being engages in foreign wars has an interesting side effect that technologies invented come home and used against citizens (naked capitalism). That's actually the origin of indiscriminant collection of metadata used now.

But at the same time we need to understand that there are millions of PC users that have computer(s) infected by spyware, which can make your computer a zombie. And world did not perished due to that.

Still the key lesson is unmistakable: from now on, any networked computer is an unsecure computer that can't be trusted really confidential information, unless it is isolated by firewall and proxy. And if we assume that it is unsecured computer, them it should be treated it as such. The first step is that all confidential data should be deleted and moved to removable storage. In case you need to work with it as much as possible should be done on non-networked computers, limiting the exposure of your data to bare minimum. And the less powerful computer you use for processing you confidential data, the best; the less powerful OS you use, the best (what about using Windows 98 or DOS for those who can still remember it ? ;-). From now on "retro-computing" movement now is inherently linked with the issues of security and privacy and might get a new life.

This retro-computing idea might create a new life for abandoned computers that are in excess in almost every family ;-) See Privacy is Dead – Get Over It. The same thing can be mentioned about a cell phone, which should be as simple as possible. Not all people really benefit from browsing the Web from their smartphones. If you are really paranoid you can think storing you cell phone at home in a metal box ;-).

In other words there are two new "laws of computer security":

But more important problem here is not snooping per se, but voluntarily self-profiling that you provide via social sites. If you are way too enthusiastic about Facebook or Google++ or any similar site and engage regularly and indiscriminately in this "vanity fair" activity you put yourselves voluntarily under surveillance. So not only Privacy is Dead – Get Over It. You killed it yourself. The essence of the situation was exposed well in a humorous form in the following Amazon review of Orwell's novel 1984

Bjørn Anders See all my reviews

This is not an instruction manual!, June 14, 2013

This review is from: 1984: 60th-Anniversary Edition (Plume) (Paperback)

Note to US Congress and house of representatives: This is a fictional book, not an instruction manual...

BTW just after Prism program was revealed in June 2013, Nineteen Eighty-Four became a bestseller on Amazon. As of June 15, 2013 it was #87 in Fiction. If you never have a chance to read it, please do it now. and again, if you think that this revelation of Prism program is a big news, you probably are mistaken. Many people understood that as soon new technical capabilities of surveillance are available they are instantly put to use. As John H. Summers noted in his review (The Deciders - New York Times) of John Mill "Power elite":

...official secrecy steadily expanded its reach.

"For the first time in American history, men in authority are talking about an 'emergency' without a foreseeable end,"

Mills wrote in a sentence that remains as powerful and unsettling as it was 50 years ago.

"Such men as these are crackpot realists: in the name of realism they have constructed a paranoid reality all their own."

Adding insult to injury: Self-profiling

Facebook has nothing without people
silly enough to exchange privacy for photosharing

The key problem with social sites is that many people voluntarily post excessive amount of personal data about themselves, including keeping their photo archives online, etc. So while East Germany analog of the Department of Homeland Security called Ministry for State Security (Stasi) needed to recruit people to spy about you, now you yourself serves as a informer voluntarily providing all the tracking information about your activities ;-).

Scientella, palo alto

...Facebook always had a very low opinion of peoples intelligence - and rightly so!

I can tell you Silicon Valley is scared. Facebook's very existence depends upon trusting young persons, their celebrity wannabee parents and other inconsequential people being prepared to give up their private information to Facebook.

Google, now that SOCIAL IS DEAD, at least has their day job also, of paid referral advertising where someone can without divulging their "social" identity, and not linking their accounts, can look for a product on line and see next to it some useful ads.

But Facebook has nothing without people silly enough to exchange privacy for photosharing.

... ... ...

Steve Fankuchen, Oakland CA

Cook, Brin, Gates, Zuckerberg, et al most certainly have lawyers and public relations hacks that have taught them the role of "plausible deniability."

Just as in the government, eventually some low or mid-level flunkie will likely be hung out to dry, when it becomes evident that the institution knew exactly what was going on and did nothing to oppose it. To believe any of these companies care about their users as anything other than cash cows is to believe in the tooth fairy.

The amount of personal data which users of site like Facebook put voluntarily on the Web is truly astonishing. Now anybody using just Google search can get quit substantial information about anybody who actively using social sites and post messages in discussion he/she particulates under his/her own name instead of a nickname. Just try to see what is available about you and most probably your jaw would drop...

This is probably right time for the users of social sites like Facebook, Google search, and Amazon (that means most of us ;-) to think a little bit more about the risks we are exposing ourselves. We all should became more aware about the risks involved as well as real implications of the catch phase Privacy is Dead – Get Over It.

This is probably right time for the users of social sites like Facebook, Google search, and Amazon (that means most of us ;-) to think a little bit more about the risks we are exposing ourselves.

As Peter Ludlow noted in NYT (The Real War on Reality):

If there is one thing we can take away from the news of recent weeks it is this: the modern American surveillance state is not really the stuff of paranoid fantasies; it has arrived.

Citizens of foreign countries have accounts at Facebook and mail accounts in Gmail, hotmail and Yahoo mail are even in less enviable position then the US citizens. They are legitimate prey. No legal protection for them exists, if they use those services. That means that they voluntarily open all the information they posted about themselves to the US government in addition to their own government. And the net is probably more wide then information leaked by NSA contractor Edward Snowden suggests. For any large company, especially a telecom corporation, operating is the USA it might be dangerous to refuse to cooperate (Qwest case).

Former Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio, convicted of insider trading in April 2007, alleged in appeal documents that the NSA requested that Qwest participate in its wiretapping program more than six months before September 11, 2001. Nacchio recalls the meeting as occurring on February 27, 2001. Nacchio further claims that the NSA cancelled a lucrative contract with Qwest as a result of Qwest's refusal to participate in the wiretapping program.[13] Nacchio surrendered April 14, 2009 to a federal prison camp in Schuylkill, Pennsylvania to begin serving a six-year sentence for the insider trading conviction. The United States Supreme Court denied bail pending appeal the same day.[15]

It is not the case of some special evilness of the US government. It simply is more agile to understand and capitalize on those new technical opportunities. It is also conveniently located at the center of Internet universe with most traffic is flowing via US owned or controlled routers (67% or more). But it goes without saying that several other national governments and a bunch of large corporations also try to mine this new gold throve of private information on citizens. Probably with less sophistication and having less financial resources.

In many cases corporations themselves are interested in partnership with the government. Here is one telling comment:

jrs says on June 8, 2013

Yea in my experience that’s how “public/private partnerships” really work:

  1. Companies DO need protection FROM the government. An ill-conceived piece of legislation can put a perfectly decent out of business. Building ties with the government is protection.
  2. Government represents a huge market and eventually becomes one of the top customers for I think most businesses (of course the very fact that a government agency is a main customer is often kept hush hush even within the company and something you are not supposed to speak of as an employee even though you are aware of it)
  3. Of course not every company proceeds to step 3 -- being basically an arm of the government but ..

That means that not only Chinese citizens already operate on the Internet without any real sense of privacy. Even if you live outside the USA the chances are high that you automatically profiled by the USA instead of or in addition to your own government. Kind of neoliberalism in overdrive mode: looks like we all are already citizens of a global empire (Let's call it " Empire of Peace" ) with the capital in Washington.

It is reasonable to assume that a massive eavesdropping apparatus now tracks at least an "envelope" of every electronic communication you made during your lifetime. No need for somebody reporting about you like in "old" totalitarian state like East Germany with its analog of the Department of Homeland Security called the Ministry for State Security (Stasi). So in this new environment, you are like Russians used to say about dissidents who got under KGB surveillance is always "under the dome". In this sense this is just an old vine in a new bottles. But the global scope and lifetime storage of huge amount of personal information for each and every citizen is something new and was made possible the first time in world history by new technologies.

It goes without saying that records about time, sender and receiver of all your phone calls, emails, Amazon purchases, credit card transactions, and Web activities for the last decade are stored somewhere in a database and not necessary only government computers. And that means that your social circle (the set of people you associate with), books and films that you bought, your favorite websites, etc can be easily deducted from those records.

That brings us to an important question about whether we as consumers should support such ventures as Facebook and Google++ which profile you and after several years have a huge amount of pretty private and pretty damaging information about you, information which can get into wrong hands.

Recent discoveries about Prism program: quantity turned into quality.

The most constructive approach to NSA is to view is a large government bureaucracy that expanded to the extent that quantity turned into quality.

Any large bureaucracy is a political coalition with the primary goal of preserving and enhancing of its own power, no matter what are official declarations. And if breaching your privacy helps they will do it. Which is what Bush government did after 9/11. The question is how much bureaucratic bloat resulting in classic dynamics of organizational self-aggrandizement and expansionism happened in NSA. We don't know how much we got in exchange for undermining internet security and US constitution. But we do know the intelligence establishment happily appropriated billions of dollars, had grown by thousand of employees and got substantial "face lift" and additional power within the executive branch of government. To the extent that something it looks like a shadow government. And now they will fight tooth-and nail to protect the fruits of a decade long bureaucratic expansion. Now it is an Intelligence Church and like any religious organization they do not need fact to support their doctrine and influence.

Typically there is an infighting and many factions within any large hierarchical organization, some with and some without factual awareness of the rest. Basically any hierarchical institution corporate, religious, military will abuse available resources for internal political infighting. And with NSA "big data" push this is either happening or just waiting to happen. This is a danger of any warrantless wiretapping program: it naturally convert itself into a saga of eroding checks and disappearing balance. And this already happened in the past, so in a way it is just act two of the same drama (WhoWhatWhy):

After media revelations of intelligence abuses by the Nixon administration began to mount in the wake of Watergate, NSA became the subject of Congressional ire in the form of the United States Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities—commonly known as the “Church Committee” after its chair, Senator Frank Church (D-ID)—established on January 17, 1975. This ad-hoc investigative body found itself unearthing troves of classified records from the FBI, NSA, CIA and Pentagon that detailed the murky pursuits of each during the first decades of the Cold War. Under the mantle of defeating communism, internal documents confirmed the executive branch’s use of said agencies in some of the most fiendish acts of human imagination (including refined psychological torture techniques), particularly by the Central Intelligence Agency.

The Cold War mindset had incurably infected the nation’s security apparatus, establishing extralegal subversion efforts at home and brutish control abroad. It was revealed that the FBI undertook a war to destroy homegrown movements such as the Black Liberation Movement (including Martin Luther King, Jr.), and that NSA had indiscriminately intercepted the communications of Americans without warrant, even without the President’s knowledge. When confronted with such nefarious enterprises, Congress sought to rein in the excesses of the intelligence community, notably those directed at the American public.

The committee chair, Senator Frank Church, then issued this warning about NSA’s power:

That capability at any time could be turned around on the American people and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything. Telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide. If this government ever became a tyranny, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back, because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology. I don’t want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capability that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.

The reforms that followed, as enshrined in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978, included the establishment of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC): a specially-designated panel of judges who are allowed to review evidence before giving NSA a warrant to spy on Americans (only in the case of overseas communication). Hardly a contentious check or balance, FISC rejected zero warrant requests between its inception in 1979 and 2000, only asking that two warrants be “modified” out of an estimated 13,000.

In spite of FISC’s rubberstamping, following 9/11 the Bush administration began deliberately bypassing the court, because even its minimal evidentiary standard was too high a burden of proof for the blanket surveillance they wanted. So began the dragnet monitoring of the American public by tapping the country’s major electronic communication chokepoints in collusion with the nation’s largest telecommunications companies.

When confronted with the criminal conspiracy undertaken by the Bush administration and telecoms, Congress confirmed why it retains the lowest approval rating of any major American institution by “reforming” the statute to accommodate the massive law breaking. The 2008 FISA Amendments Act [FAA] entrenched the policy of mass eavesdropping and granted the telecoms retroactive immunity for their criminality, withdrawing even the negligible individual protections in effect since 1979. Despite initial opposition, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama voted for the act as one of his last deeds in the Senate. A few brave (and unsuccessful) lawsuits later, this policy remains the status quo.

Similarly we should naturally expect that the notion of "terrorist" is flexible and in certain cases can be equal to "any opponent of regime". While I sympathize NYT readers reaction to this incident (see below), I think it is somewhat naive. They forget that they are living under neoliberal regime which like any rule of top 0.01% is afraid of and does not trust its own citizens. So massive surveillance program is a self-preservation measure which allow to crush or subvert the opposition at early stages. This is the same situation as existed with Soviet nomenklatura, with the only difference that Soviet nomenklatura was more modest pushing the USSR as a beacon of progress and bright hope of all mankind ;-). As Ron Paul noted:

Many of us are not so surprised.

Some of us were arguing back in 2001 with the introduction of the so-called PATRIOT Act that it would pave the way for massive US government surveillance—not targeting terrorists but rather aimed against American citizens. We were told we must accept this temporary measure to provide government the tools to catch those responsible for 9/11. That was nearly twelve years and at least four wars ago.

We should know by now that when it comes to government power-grabs, we never go back to the status quo even when the “crisis” has passed. That part of our freedom and civil liberties once lost is never regained. How many times did the PATRIOT Act need renewed? How many times did FISA authority need expanded? Why did we have to pass a law to grant immunity to companies who hand over our personal information to the government?

And while revealed sources of NSA Prism program include Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo and others major Internet players, that's probably just a tip of the iceberg. Ask yourself a question, why Amazon and VISA and MasterCard are not on the list? According to The Guardian:

The National Security Agency has obtained direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other US internet giants, according to a top secret document obtained by the Guardian.

The NSA access is part of a previously undisclosed program called Prism, which allows officials to collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats, the document says.

... ... ...

Microsoft – which is currently running an advertising campaign with the slogan "Your privacy is our priority" – was the first, with collection beginning in December 2007. It was followed by Yahoo in 2008; Google, Facebook and PalTalk in 2009; YouTube in 2010; Skype and AOL in 2011; and finally Apple, which joined the program in 2012. The program is continuing to expand, with other providers due to come online.

Collectively, the companies cover the vast majority of online email, search, video and communications networks

... ... ...

A chart prepared by the NSA, contained within the top-secret document obtained by the Guardian, underscores the breadth of the data it is able to obtain: email, video and voice chat, videos, photos, voice-over-IP (Skype, for example) chats, file transfers, social networking details, and more.

So while the document does not list Amazon, but I would keep fingers crossed.

Questions that arise

To be aware about a situation you need to be able to formulate and answer key questions about it. The first and the most important question is whether the government is engaged in cyberstalking of law abiding citizens. Unfortunately the answer is definite yes, as oligarchy needs total control of prols. As a result National Security State rise to prominence as a dominant social organization of neoliberal societies, the societies which characterized by very high level of inequality.

But there are some additional, albeit less important questions. The answers to them determine utility or futility of small changes of our own behavior in view of uncovered evidence. Among possible set of such question I would list the following:

There are also some minor questions about efficiency of "total surveillance approach". Among them:

The other part of understand the threat is understanding is what data are collected. The short answer is all your phone records and Internet activity (RT USA):

The National Security Agency is collecting information on the Internet habits of millions of innocent Americans never suspected of criminal involvement, new NSA documents leaked by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden suggest.

Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported Monday that top-secret documents included in the trove of files supplied by the NSA contractor-turned-leaker Edward Snowden reveal that the US intelligence community obtains and keeps information on American citizens accumulated off the Internet without ever issuing a search warrant or opening an investigation into that person.

The information is obtained using a program codenamed Marina, the documents suggest, and is kept by the government for up to a full year without investigators ever having to explain why the subject is being surveilled.

Marina has the ability to look back on the last 365 days' worth of DNI metadata seen by the Sigint collection system, regardless whether or not it was tasked for collection,” the Guardian’s James Ball quotes from the documents.

According to a guide for intelligence analysts supplied by Mr. Snowden, “The Marina metadata application tracks a user's browser experience, gathers contact information/content and develops summaries of target.”

"This tool offers the ability to export the data in a variety of formats, as well as create various charts to assist in pattern-of-life development,” it continues.

Ball writes that the program collects “almost anything” a Web user does online, “from browsing history – such as map searches and websites visited – to account details, email activity, and even some account passwords.”

Only days earlier, separate disclosures attributed to Snowden revealed that the NSA was using a massive collection of metadata to create complex graphs of social connections for foreign intelligence purposes, although that program had pulled in intelligence about Americans as well.

After the New York Times broke news of that program, a NSA spokesperson said that “All data queries must include a foreign intelligence justification, period.” As Snowden documents continue to surface, however, it’s becoming clear that personal information pertaining to millions of US citizens is routinely raked in by the NSA and other agencies as the intelligence community collects as much data as possible.

In June, a top-secret document also attributed to Mr. Snowden revealed that the NSA was collecting the telephony metadata for millions of Americans from their telecom providers. The government has defended this practice by saying that the metadata — rough information that does not include the content of communications — is not protected by the US Constitution’s prohibition against unlawful search and seizure.

Metadata can be very revealing,” George Washington University law professor Orin S. Kerr told the Times this week. “Knowing things like the number someone just dialed or the location of the person’s cellphone is going to allow them to assemble a picture of what someone is up to. It’s the digital equivalent of tailing a suspect.”

According to the Guardian’s Ball, Internet metadata picked up by the NSA is routed to the Marina database, which is kept separate from the servers where telephony metadata is stored.

Only moments after the Guardian wrote of its latest leak on Monday, Jesselyn Radack of the Government Accountability Project read a statement before the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs penned by none other than Snowden himself.

When I began my work, it was with the sole intention of making possible the debate we see occurring here in this body,” Snowden said.

Snowden, who has been granted temporary asylum in Russia after being charged with espionage in the US, said through Raddack that “The cost for one in my position of returning public knowledge to public hands has been persecution and exile.”

Limits to spying via data collected about you

If the NSA's mining of data traffic is so effective, why weren't Tsarnaev's family's overseas calls predictive of a bombing at the Boston Marathon?

-Helen Corey WSJ.com

There are limits of this "powerful analytical software" as it currently used. As we mentioned above, even if NSA algorithms are incredibly clever they can't avoid producing large number of false positives. After two year investigation into the post 9/11 intelligence agencies, the Washington Post came to conclusion that they are collecting more information than anyone can comprehend ("drinking from a firehose" or "drowning is a sea of data"):

Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billions e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications. The NSA sorts a fraction of those into 70 separate databases"

First of all there is a classic problem of "signal vs. noise" (infoglut) in any large scale data collection and presence of noise in the channel makes signal much more difficult to detect.

Analysts who make sense of document and conversations obtained by foreign and domestic spying share their judgment by publishing 50,000 intelligence reports each year -- a volume so large that many are routinely ignored

The enormity of the database exacerbate the problem. That's why NSA is hunting for email on cloud providers, where they are already filtered from spam, and processing required is much less then for emails intercepted from the wire data. Still even with the direct access to user accounts, the volume of data, especially graphic (pictures) and video data, is really huge and that stress the limits of processing capabilities and storage.

Existence of Snowden saga when a single analyst was able to penetrate the system and extract considerable amount information with impunity suggests that the whole Agency is mess, probably like is typical for any large organization with a lot of incompetents or, worse, careerists and psychopaths  at the helm (see Toxic Managers). Which is typical for government agencies and large corporations.

Still the level of logs collection and internal monitoring in NSA proved to be surprisingly weak, as there are indirect signs that the agency does not even know what reports Snowden get into his hands. In any case we, unless this is a very clever inside operation, we need to assume that Edward Snowden stole thousands of documents, abused his sysadmin position in the NSA, and was never caught. Here is one relevant comment from The Guardian

carlitoontour

Oh NSA......that´s fine that you cannot find something......what did you tell us, the World and the US Congress about the "intelligence" of Edward Snowden and the low access he had?

SNOWDEN SUSPECTED OF BYPASSING ELECTRONIC LOGS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. government's efforts to determine which highly classified materials leaker Edward Snowden took from the National Security Agency have been frustrated by Snowden's sophisticated efforts to cover his digital trail by deleting or bypassing electronic logs, government officials told The Associated Press. Such logs would have showed what information Snowden viewed or downloaded.

The government's forensic investigation is wrestling with Snowden's apparent ability to defeat safeguards established to monitor and deter people looking at information without proper permission, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the sensitive developments publicly.

http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_NSA_SURVEILLANCE_SNOWDEN?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2013-08-24-09-41-24

On the other hand government agencies were never good in making huge and complex software projects work. And large software projects are a very difficult undertaking in any case. Even in industry 50% of software projects fail, and anybody who works in the industry knows, that the more complex the project is the higher are chances that it will be mismanaged and its functionality crippled due to architectural defects ("a camel is a horse designed by a committee"). It is given that such project will be over budget. Possibly several times over...

But if money is not a problem such system will eventually be completed ("with enough thrust pigs can fly"). Still there’s no particular reason to think that corruption (major work was probably outsourced) and incompetence (on higher management levels and, especially on architectural level as in "camel is a horse designed by a committee") don't affect the design and functionality of such government projects. Now when this activity come under fire some adjustments might be especially badly thought out and potentially cripple the existing functionality.

As J. Kirk Wiebe, a NSA insider, noted

"The way the government was going about those digital data flows was poor formed, uninformed. There seen to be more of a desire to contract out and capture money flow then there was a [desire} to actually perform the mission".

See the interview of a trio of former National Security Agency whistle-blowers to USA TODAY ( J. Kirk Wiebe remarks starts at 2:06 and the second half of it continues from 6:10):

In military organizations the problem is seldom with the talent (or lack of thereof) of individual contributors. The problem is with the bureaucracy that is very effective in preventing people from exercising their talents at the service of their country. Such system is deformed in such a way that it hamstrings the men who are serving in it. As a results, more often then not the talents are squandered or misused by patching holes created by incompetence of higher-up or or just pushed aside in the interdepartmental warfare.

In a way, incompetence can be defined as the inability to avoid mistakes which, in a "normal" course of project development could and should be avoided. And that's the nature of military bureaucracy with its multiple layer of command and compete lack of accountability on higher levels.

In addition, despite the respectable name of the organization many members of technical staff are amateurs. They never managed to sharpen their technical skills, while at the same time acquiring the skills necessary to survive the bureaucracy. Many do not have basic academic education and are self-taught hackers and/or "grow on the job". Typically people at higher level of hierarchy, are simply not experts in software engineering, but more like typical corporate "PowerPoint" warriors. They can be very shred managers and accomplished political fighters, but that's it.

This is the same situation that exists in security departments of large multinationals, so we can extrapolate from that. The word of Admiral Nelson "If the enemy would know what officer corps will confront them, it will be trembling, like I am". Here is Bill Gross apt recollection of his service as naval officer (The Tipping Point) that illustrate the problems:

A few years ago I wrote about the time that our ship (on my watch) was almost cut in half by an auto-piloted tanker at midnight, but never have I divulged the day that the USS Diachenko came within one degree of heeling over during a typhoon in the South China Sea. “Engage emergency ballast,” the Captain roared at yours truly – the one and only chief engineer. Little did he know that Ensign Gross had slept through his classes at Philadelphia’s damage control school and had no idea what he was talking about. I could hardly find the oil dipstick on my car back in San Diego, let alone conceive of emergency ballast procedures in 50 foot seas. And so…the ship rolled to starboard, the ship rolled to port, the ship heeled at the extreme to 36 degrees (within 1 degree, as I later read in the ship’s manual, of the ultimate tipping point). One hundred sailors at risk, because of one twenty-three-year-old mechanically challenged officer, and a Captain who should have known better than to trust him.

Huge part of this work is outsourced to various contractors and this is where corruption really creeps in. So the system might be not as powerful as many people automatically assume when they hear the abbreviation of NSA. So in a way when news about such system reaches public it might serve not weakening but strengthening of the capabilities of the system. Moreover, nobody would question the ability of such system to store huge amount of raw or semi-processed data including all metadata for your transactions on the Internet.

Also while it is a large agency with a lot of top mathematic talent, NSA is not NASA and motivation of the people (and probably quality of architectural thinking about software projects involved) is different despite much better financing. While they do have high quality people, like most US agencies in general, large bureaucracies usually are unable to utilize their talent. Mediocrities with sharp elbows, political talent, as well as sociopaths typically rule the show.

That means two things:

So even with huge amount of subcontractors that can chase mostly "big fish". Although one open question is why with all those treasure trove of data organized crime is so hard to defeat. Having dataset like this should generally expose all the members of any gang. Or, say, network of blue collar insider traders. So in an indirect way the fact that organized crime not only exists and in some cities even flourish can suggest one of two things:

There is also a question of complexity of analysis:

Possibility of abuses of collected data

Errors in algorithms and bugs in those programs can bite some people in a different way then branding them as "terrorists". Such people have no way of knowing why all of a sudden, for example, they are paying a more for insurance, why their credit score is so low no matter what they do, etc. In no way government in the only one who are using the mass of data collected via Google / Facebook / Yahoo / Microsoft / Verizon / Optonline / AT&T / Comcast, etc. It also can lead to certain subtle types of bias if not error. And there are always problems of intentional misuse of data sets having extremely intimate knowledge about you.

Corporate corruption can lead to those data that are shared with the government can also be shared for money with private actors. Inept use of this unconstitutionally obtained data is a threat to all of us.

Then there can be cases when you can be targeted just because you are critical to the particular area of government policy, for example the US foreign policy. This is "Back in the USSR" situation in full swing, with its prosecution of dissidents. Labeling you as a "disloyal/suspicious element" in one of government "terrorism tracking" databases can have drastic result to your career and you never even realize whats happened. Kind of Internet era McCarthyism .

Obama claims that the government is aware about this danger and tried not to overstep, but he is an interested party in this discussion. In a way government is pushed in this area by the new technologies that open tremendous opportunities for collecting data and making some correlations.

That's why even if you are doing nothing wrong, it is still important to know your enemy, as well as avoid getting into some traps. One typical trap is excessive centralization of your email on social sites, including using a single Webmail provider. It is much safer to have mail delivery to your computer via POP3 and to use Thunderbird or other email client. If your computer is a laptop, you achieve, say, 80% of portability that Web-based email providers like Google Gmail offers. That does not mean that you should close your Gmail or Yahoo account. More important is separating email accounts into "important" and "everything else". "Junk mail" can be stored on Web-based email providers without any problems. Personal emails is completely another matter.

Conclusions

#14 Gus Hunt, the chief technology officer at the CIA: "We fundamentally try to collect everything and hang onto it forever."

New Internet technology developments has huge "Externality":
Profiling is now really easy and almost automatic, especially with your own help

Technology development create new types of communications as well as new types of government surveillance mechanisms (you can call them "externalities" of new methods of communication). Those externalities, especially low cost of mass surveillance (Wikipedia), unfortunately, bring us closer to the Electronic police state (Wikipedia) or National Security State whether we want it or not. A crucial element of such a state is that its data gathering, sorting and correlation are continuous, cover a large number of citizens and all foreigners and those activities are seldom exposed.

Cloud computing as a technology that presuppose storing the data "offsite" on third party servers have several security problems, and one of them is that it is way too much "surveillance friendly" (Misunderstanding of issues of security and trust). With cloud computing powers that be do not need to do complex job of recreating TCP/IP conversations on router level to capture, say, all the emails. You can access Web-based email mailbox directly with all mails in appropriate mailboxes and spam filtered. Your address book is a bonus ;-). This is huge saving of computational efforts.

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Old News ;-)

Total Surveillance Bulletin, 2014 Total Surveillance Bulletin, 2013

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[Jan 22, 2018] US Intelligence Could Well Have Wiretapped Trump by Ron Paul

Notable quotes:
"... Unable to come to terms with losing the 2016 election, Democrats are still pushing the 'Russiagate' probe and blocking the release of a memo describing surveillance abuses by the FBI, former Congressman Ron Paul told RT. ..."
"... I don't think anybody is seeking justice or seeking truth as much as they're seeking to get political advantage ..."
"... "I would be surprised if they haven't spied on him. They spy on everybody else. And they have spied on other members of the executive branch and other presidents." ..."
"... "The other day when they voted to get FISA even more power to spy on American people, the president couldn't be influenced by the fact that they used it against him. And I believe they did, and he believes that." ..."
"... "I've always maintained that government ought to be open and the people ought to have their privacy. But right now the people have no privacy and all our government does is work on secrecy and then it becomes competitive between the two parties, who get stuck with the worst deal by arguing, who's guilty of some crime," the politician explained. ..."
"... Paul also blasted the infamous 'Russian Dossier' compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, and which the Democrats used in their attack on Trump, saying it ..."
"... "has no legitimacy being revealing [in terms of] of Trump being associated with Russia. From the people I know The story has been all made up, essentially." ..."
"... "I'm no fan of Trump. I'm not a supporter of his, but I think that has been carried way overboard. I think the Democrats can't stand the fact that they've lost the election, and they can't stand the fact that Trump is a little bit more independent minded than they like," he said. ..."
Jan 20, 2018 | www.informationclearinghouse.info

Unable to come to terms with losing the 2016 election, Democrats are still pushing the 'Russiagate' probe and blocking the release of a memo describing surveillance abuses by the FBI, former Congressman Ron Paul told RT.

A top-secret intelligence memo, believed to reveal political bias at the highest levels of the FBI and the DOJ towards President Trump, may well be as significant as the Republicans say, Ron Paul told RT. But, he added, "there's still to many unknowns, especially, from my view point."

"Trump connection to the Russians, I think, has been way overblown, and I'd like to just get to the bottom of this the new information that's coming out, maybe this will reveal things and help us out," he said.

"Right now it's just a political fight," the former US Congressman said. "I think they're dealing with things a lot less important than the issue they ought to be talking about Right now, I don't think anybody is seeking justice or seeking truth as much as they're seeking to get political advantage."

Trump's claims that he was wiretapped by US intelligence agencies on the orders of the Obama administration may well turn out to be true, Paul said.

"I would be surprised if they haven't spied on him. They spy on everybody else. And they have spied on other members of the executive branch and other presidents."

However, he criticized Trump for doing nothing to prevent the Senate from voting in the expansion of warrantless surveillance of US citizens under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) earlier this week.

"The other day when they voted to get FISA even more power to spy on American people, the president couldn't be influenced by the fact that they used it against him. And I believe they did, and he believes that."

"I've always maintained that government ought to be open and the people ought to have their privacy. But right now the people have no privacy and all our government does is work on secrecy and then it becomes competitive between the two parties, who get stuck with the worst deal by arguing, who's guilty of some crime," the politician explained.

The fact that Democrats on the relevant committees have all voted against releasing the memo "might mean that Trump is probably right; there's probably a lot of stuff there that would exonerate him from any accusation they've been making," he said.

Paul also blasted the infamous 'Russian Dossier' compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, and which the Democrats used in their attack on Trump, saying it

"has no legitimacy being revealing [in terms of] of Trump being associated with Russia. From the people I know The story has been all made up, essentially."

"I'm no fan of Trump. I'm not a supporter of his, but I think that has been carried way overboard. I think the Democrats can't stand the fact that they've lost the election, and they can't stand the fact that Trump is a little bit more independent minded than they like," he said.

This article was originally published by RT -

[Jan 22, 2018] Trump Jr. on FISA memo Media, Democrats working together to deceive Americans

Jan 22, 2018 | www.washingtonexaminer.com

Donald Trump Jr. called for the release of a memo that allegedly contains information about Obama administration surveillance abuses and suggested that Democrats are complicit with the media in misleading the public.

"It's the double standard that the people are fed by the Democrats in complicity with the media, that's why neither have any trust from the American people anymore," Trump said on Fox News Friday.

[Jan 22, 2018] If Trump is an authoritarian, why don t Democrats treat him like one? by Corey Robin

Highly recommended!
The is a single party of neoliberal oligarchy with two wings. Both are afraid of citizens and would like to sly on them.
Notable quotes:
"... Despite being in the minority, Democrats last week had enough Republican votes on their side to curb the president's ability, enhanced since 9/11, to spy on citizens and non-citizens alike. ..."
"... In the House, a majority of Democrats were willing to join a small minority of Republicans to do just that. But 55 Democrats – including the minority leader, Nancy Pelosi; the minority whip, Steny Hoyer; and other Democratic leaders of the opposition to Trump – refused. ..."
"... After the House voted for an extension of the president's power to spy, a group of liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans attempted to filibuster the bill. The critical 60th vote to shut down the filibuster was a Democrat. ..."
"... This is despite the fact that the surveillance bill gives precisely the sorts of powers viewers of an Academy Award-winning film about the Stasi from not long so ago ..."
"... Pelosi: 'We Must Fight Even Harder Against Trump's Authoritarian Impulses Now That We've Voted to Enable Them' ..."
"... But in the same way that discourse of authoritarianism misses the democratic forest for the anti-democratic tweets, so does it focus more on the rhetoric of an abusive man than the infrastructure of an oppressive state, more on the erosion of norms than the material instruments of repression. ..."
Jan 20, 2018 | www.theguardian.com

You'd think that Democrats in Congress would jump at the opportunity to impose a constraint on Donald Trump's presidency – one that liberals and Democrats alike have characterized as authoritarian. Apparently, that's not the case.

Despite being in the minority, Democrats last week had enough Republican votes on their side to curb the president's ability, enhanced since 9/11, to spy on citizens and non-citizens alike.

In the House, a majority of Democrats were willing to join a small minority of Republicans to do just that. But 55 Democrats – including the minority leader, Nancy Pelosi; the minority whip, Steny Hoyer; and other Democratic leaders of the opposition to Trump – refused.

After the House voted for an extension of the president's power to spy, a group of liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans attempted to filibuster the bill. The critical 60th vote to shut down the filibuster was a Democrat.

With the exception of Glenn Greenwald at the Intercept, a press that normally expresses great alarm over Trump's amassing and abuse of power has had relatively little to say about this vote (or this vote or this vote).

This is despite the fact that the surveillance bill gives precisely the sorts of powers viewers of an Academy Award-winning film about the Stasi from not long so ago would instantly recognize to a president whose view of the media a leading Republican recently compared to Stalin.

It was left to the Onion to offer the best (and near only) comment:

Pelosi: 'We Must Fight Even Harder Against Trump's Authoritarian Impulses Now That We've Voted to Enable Them'

Last week, I wrote in these pages how the discourse of Trump's authoritarianism ignores or minimizes the ways in which democratic citizens and institutions – the media, the courts, the opposition party, social movements – are opposing Trump, with seemingly little fear of intimidation.

But in the same way that discourse of authoritarianism misses the democratic forest for the anti-democratic tweets, so does it focus more on the rhetoric of an abusive man than the infrastructure of an oppressive state, more on the erosion of norms than the material instruments of repression.

[Jan 22, 2018] Who's Lying FBI Says 5 Months Of Texts Lost, Yet IG Horowitz Says His Office Received Them In August

Notable quotes:
"... And if this is covered closely, then we may get some traction about how it was done and who pulled the strings. This maybe why former NSC Clapper is running scared, he set up his own personal intelligence network (there were reports early on, Clapper had his own intelligence network besides the 17 official intel agencies) to spy for the Obama WH, both he and former CIA Brennan were running intel ops for the Obama WH. Brennan ran political intel for the Obama election campaign. Indicating the Deep State intelligence apparatus is deeply involved in presidential elections. Brennan political campaign intel network using Deep State assets, next Obama;s NSC, next Obama's CIA director and was said to be the most political CIA director in history by CIA employees. ..."
"... The UK Govt appears to be complicit in the overthrow of the newly elected US Govt..........Team Globalist ..."
"... as I noted my beliefs before. Trump can be goofy at times. can be a walking ego at times. but he does not have an inherently evil heart. So he never fully comprehends the evil hearted person or collection of persons. ..."
"... He is a great marketer, but he is not a brilliant war strategist, because he doesn't fully understand the heart of his enemy. Example: He thought laying off of Hillary after the election was actually the gentlemanly thing to do....because, he thought she'd accept defeat and leave the playing field. (we on ZH knew better, but Trump actually didn't know) ..."
"... So now we know the real purpose of the FBI Trump investigation, to give Mueller and his band of merry Clinton-Lawyers the opportunity clean up the evidence. ..."
"... First, the backups are at the NSA and the Telco systems. 2nd, I'd ask WHO ELSE in the FBI was affected by lack of backups for such long period, AND how does that other impact ongoing investigations... If the answer is just those 2, well, follow the money. If the answer is more than these 2, than the credibility of the entire FBI is at stake. Which may not be much, but that is the only thing left at the moment. ..."
"... By the way, for non-techie out there, the FBI's excuse is that they couldn't get the software upgrade done right. If you work in a big company, you know how much testing and disturbance goes on before new software is rolled out. There is no such thing as a serious bug left running for months. Big companies just roll back in such extreme cases. Now imagine the amount of testing that goes on for secure phone on FBI systems. LOL. I suggest my american friends to look at this great invention called the guillotine? ..."
Jan 22, 2018 | www.zerohedge.com

A major contradiction has been discovered between yesterday's revelation that the FBI "lost" five months of text messages, and a claim by the DOJ's Inspector General, Michael Horowitz - who claimed his office received the texts in question between FBI employees Peter Strzok and his mistress Lisa Page last August.

... ... ...

Knowledge of the missing texts was revealed in a Saturday letter from Ron Johnson (R-WI), Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) - after the Committee received an additional 384 pages of text messages between Strzok and Page, several of which contained anti-Trump / pro-Clinton bias. The new DOJ submission included a cover letter from the Assistant AG for Legislative Affairs, Stephen Boyd, claiming that the FBI was unable to preserve text messages between the two agents for a five month period between December 14, 2016 and May 17, 2017 - due to "misconfiguration issues" with FBI-issued Samsung 5 devices used by Strzok and Page (despite over 10,000 texts which were recovered from their devices without incident).

However - as the Gateway Pundit 's Josh Caplan points out , the lost text messages are in direct contradiction to a December 13, 2017 letter from the DOJ's internal watchdog - Inspector General Michael Horowitz, to Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley and HSGAC Chairman Ron Johnson, in which he claims he received the texts in question on August 10, 2017 .

In gathering evidence for the OIG's ongoing 2016 election review, we requested, consistent with standard practice, that the FBI produce text messages from the FBI-issued phones of certain FBI employees involved in the Clinton email investigation based on search terms we provided. After finding a number of politically-oriented text messages between Page and Strzok, the OIG sought from the FBI all text messages between Strzok and Page from their FBI-issued phones through November 30, 2016 , which covered the entire period of the Clinton e-mail server investigation. The FBI produced these text messages on July 20, 2017. Following our review of those text messages, the OIG expanded our request to the FBI to include all text messages between Strzok and Page from November 30, 2016, through the date of the document request, which was July 28, 2017.

The OIG received these additional messages on August 10, 2017.

This glaring contradiction suggests someone is lying or perhaps simply incompetent. Did Horowitz's office *think* they had received the texts in question without actually verifying? Did the DOJ screw up and fail to read Horowitz's letter before "losing" the text messages so that "leaky" Congressional investigators wouldn't see them? Either way, this question needs answering.

While you can draw your own conclusions, keep in mind that Inspector Horowitz has been described as your archetypical Boy Scout bureaucrat - who as we reported two weeks ago - fought the Obama administation to restore powers taken away from the OIG by then-Attorney General, Eric Holder.

After a multi-year battle, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) successfully introduced H.R.6450 - the Inspector General Empowerment Act of 2016 - signed by a defeated lame duck President Obama into law on December 16th, 2016 , cementing an alliance between Horrowitz and both houses of Congress .

And Congress has been very engaged with Horowitz's investigation; spoon-feeding the OIG all the questions they need in order to nail the DOJ, FBI and the Obama Administration for what many believe to be egregious abuses of power. As such, the OIG report is expected to be a bombshell , while also satisfying a legal requirement for the Department of Justice to impartially appoint a Special Counsel to launch an official criminal investigation into the matter.

As illustrated below, the report will go from the Office of the Inspector General to both investigative committees of Congress, along with Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

At this point, Horowitz's office needs to clarify whether or not they indeed took delivery of the "lost" text messages. If the OIG does indeed have them, it will be interesting to get to the bottom of exactly what the DOJ claims happened, and particularly juicy if they're caught in a lie.


CuttingEdge -> Four Star Jan 22, 2018 9:39 AM Permalink

If not found at the NSA, surely the texts will still be at Verizon or whichever SP the phones operate under. Only talking 18 months here. What really cracks me up is "Peter Strzok - Head of Counter Intelligence." Really? Has a dumber cunt ever graced the 7th floor of the Hoover Building?

Speaking of which, by the time this shit has gone down in it's entirety, they won't need a 7th floor. Chris Wray will be bloody lonely up there on his own. Probably coinciding with the search for Andrew McCabe's missing pension beginning in earnest...

BennyBoy -> CuttingEdge Jan 22, 2018 9:41 AM Permalink

Who's Lying: FBI Says 5 Months Of Texts "Lost," Yet IG Horowitz Says His Office Received Them In August

FBI: OOPS!

SethPoor -> BennyBoy Jan 22, 2018 9:47 AM Permalink
  • Six U.S. agencies created a stealth task force, spearhead by CIA's Brennan, to run domestic surveillance on Trump associates and possibly Trump himself.
  • To feign ignorance and to seemingly operate within U.S. laws, the agencies freelanced the wiretapping of Trump associates to the British spy agency GCHQ.
  • The decision to insert GCHQ as a back door to eavesdrop was sparked by the denial of two FISA Court warrant applications filed by the FBI to seek wiretaps of Trump associates.
  • GCHQ did not work from London or the UK. In fact the spy agency worked from NSA's headquarters in Fort Meade, MD with direct NSA supervision and guidance to conduct sweeping surveillance on Trump associates.
  • The illegal wiretaps were initiated months before the controversial Trump dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele.
  • The Justice Department and FBI set up the meeting at Trump Tower between Trump Jr., Manafort and Kushner with controversial Russian officials to make Trump's associates appear compromised.
  • Following the Trump Tower sit down, GCHQ began digitally wiretapping Manafort, Trump Jr., and Kushner.
  • After the concocted meeting by the Deep State, the British spy agency could officially justify wiretapping Trump associates as an intelligence front for NSA because the Russian lawyer at the meeting Natalia Veselnitskaya was considered an international security risk and prior to the June sit down was not even allowed entry into the United States or the UK, federal sources said.
  • By using GCHQ, the NSA and its intelligence partners had carved out a loophole to wiretap Trump without a warrant. While it is illegal for U.S. agencies to monitor phones and emails of U.S. citizens inside the United States absent a warrant, it is not illegal for British intelligence to do so. Even if the GCHQ was tapping Trump on U.S. soil at Fort Meade.
  • The wiretaps, secured through illicit scheming, have been used by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe of alleged Russian collusion in the 2016 election, even though the evidence is considered "poisoned fruit."
Jim in MN -> SethPoor Jan 22, 2018 9:52 AM Permalink

Bottom Line: The party in power used the apparatus of the police state to spy on and damage an opposition candidate. There really isn't a higher crime in our supposed system. THEN there's the cover-up.....as in deleting files and pretending you never had them even though the IG already does.

mtl4 -> Jim in MN Jan 22, 2018 10:53 AM Permalink

This used to be the reason why each new gov't as soon as it took power would toss out any folks showing any alignment to a party at all.........guess they knew a thing or two back then, didn't they. Time for Trump to warm up those Apprentice vocal chords and start uttering his famous words. At the current rate Nixon will be exonerated by the end of 2018.

teolawki -> Jim in MN Jan 22, 2018 11:38 AM Permalink

Could the treason be any more obvious? And not just treason, but treason in collaboration with foreign governments and multinational corporate elitists!

teolawki -> Jim in MN Jan 22, 2018 11:42 AM Permalink

"However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion." President George Washington Farewell Address | Saturday, September 17, 1796

MK ULTRA Alpha -> SethPoor Jan 22, 2018 10:22 AM Permalink

I read about this, it was quickly brushed under the rug. Didn't know it was as extensive because media coverage on this angle hasn't been clear. Good report.

And if this is covered closely, then we may get some traction about how it was done and who pulled the strings. This maybe why former NSC Clapper is running scared, he set up his own personal intelligence network (there were reports early on, Clapper had his own intelligence network besides the 17 official intel agencies) to spy for the Obama WH, both he and former CIA Brennan were running intel ops for the Obama WH. Brennan ran political intel for the Obama election campaign. Indicating the Deep State intelligence apparatus is deeply involved in presidential elections. Brennan political campaign intel network using Deep State assets, next Obama;s NSC, next Obama's CIA director and was said to be the most political CIA director in history by CIA employees.

Clapper may have been the one behind using British intelligence to spy on Trump. It would explain Clappers irrational statements about Trump, sabotage and incitement of government employees not to follow Trump's orders. We got that from Clapper, Brennan and former CIA director Hayden. All three have joined forces in LA, using celebrities to continue the coup against Trump. They formed, essentially a convert political action group using celebrities, to make their case in the media. It's illogical for Clapper to continue with the coup, there is no reward in it unless, he is guilty of treason and must continue the coup to protect himself. In other words, this isn't for Hillary Clinton.

Occams_Razor_Trader -> MK ULTRA Alpha Jan 22, 2018 11:12 AM Permalink

And we wonder why these "intelligence agencies" endorse Hillary for President? These fuckers need to hang. They not only conspired to excuse the email scandal, torpedoed Sanders in the primary -- and were conspiring against her political opponent. President Trump the time is NOW!

William Dorritt -> SethPoor Jan 22, 2018 11:46 AM Permalink

************ HAIL HYDRA **************

Nice write up, keep improving, updating and posting it. The UK Govt appears to be complicit in the overthrow of the newly elected US Govt..........Team Globalist

CatInTheHat -> NoDebt Jan 22, 2018 10:44 AM Permalink

They ARE ALL in on it. ALL of them are guilty of TREASON, SEDITION. Republicans didn't want Trump in power at first...until they realized Trump, as Mitch McConnell said, "He'll sign anything we put in front of him." If you want to know what is being done on Trump Administration end. Just watch SESSIONS. Right now, Sessions has bigger fish to fry with weed smokers.

ZIOCONS have an invested interest in Russia gate: to win public support for a war on Russia. Russiagate is WMD all over again. It's why Trump does ZERO about Russia gate, while arming neonazis in the Ukraine and surrounding Russia and China's borders with US and NATO troops.

N. Korea isn't about N. Korea but about regime change to put nukes on China's doorstep. Look at what they are or are not doing. Not what they SAY..

WillyGroper -> FoggyWorld Jan 22, 2018 11:26 AM Permalink

i disagree. they're digging their hole deeper. it's ALL already been captured. everything going on is to keep us off balance & emotional. don't feed the beast.

Antifaschistische -> NoDebt Jan 22, 2018 12:16 PM Permalink

as I noted my beliefs before. Trump can be goofy at times. can be a walking ego at times. but he does not have an inherently evil heart. So he never fully comprehends the evil hearted person or collection of persons.

He is a great marketer, but he is not a brilliant war strategist, because he doesn't fully understand the heart of his enemy. Example: He thought laying off of Hillary after the election was actually the gentlemanly thing to do....because, he thought she'd accept defeat and leave the playing field. (we on ZH knew better, but Trump actually didn't know)

Bannon understood but wires got crossed there somehow. Kellyanne Conway understood. Sessions is a fine gentleman that appears to have no clue the battle that is really waging.

Most of the Washington VIPs that DO understand, are more interested in preserving their membership in the country club than saving America. This is why I like Trump...because he already has a country club and doesn't need to get invited to another party and doesn't really care about those scumbags. He just needs to understand a little bit more.

Bush Baby -> eclectic syncretist Jan 22, 2018 9:28 AM Permalink

So now we know the real purpose of the FBI Trump investigation, to give Mueller and his band of merry Clinton-Lawyers the opportunity clean up the evidence.

virgule -> Bush Baby Jan 22, 2018 9:48 AM Permalink

First, the backups are at the NSA and the Telco systems. 2nd, I'd ask WHO ELSE in the FBI was affected by lack of backups for such long period, AND how does that other impact ongoing investigations... If the answer is just those 2, well, follow the money. If the answer is more than these 2, than the credibility of the entire FBI is at stake. Which may not be much, but that is the only thing left at the moment.

By the way, for non-techie out there, the FBI's excuse is that they couldn't get the software upgrade done right. If you work in a big company, you know how much testing and disturbance goes on before new software is rolled out. There is no such thing as a serious bug left running for months. Big companies just roll back in such extreme cases. Now imagine the amount of testing that goes on for secure phone on FBI systems. LOL. I suggest my american friends to look at this great invention called the guillotine?

bloofer -> GunnerySgtHartman Jan 22, 2018 10:43 AM Permalink

I thought all deleted materials could be recovered from any hard drive, unless something like BleachBit is used, or the hard drive is physically destroyed. If the FBI lacks the expertise to recover the materials, may a team of IT specialists should be sent in to help them.

ultramaroon -> bloofer Jan 22, 2018 12:17 PM Permalink

There are magnetic traces left behind even after several passes of a "zero-fill" utility or pseudo-random over-writes. There are commercial companies whose business it is to recover such data. I recovered data for the Sheriff's department from a computer involved in a murder case. A company I worked for lost a Dell 96-drive array when just the right 3 drives died at the same time. A data recovery company got everything back and sold us our own data (and that's on a RAID 10 striped and mirrored array with 3 crashed drives).

They can get any data back if they want to badly enough.

[Jan 21, 2018] The FISA Memo Is All The Ammo Trump Needs To Take On The CIA by Tom Luongo

Notable quotes:
"... FISA is an abomination. Let's get that out of the way. And since I don't believe there are any coincidences in U.S. or geo-politics, the releasing of the explosive four-page FISA memo after Congress reauthorized FISA is suspicious ..."
"... Former NSA analyst (traitor? hero?) turned security state gadfly Edward Snowden came out in favor of President Trump vetoing the FISA reauthorization now that the full extent of what the statute is used for is known to members of the House Intelligence Committee, who are rightly aghast. ..."
"... Someone leaked this memo to the House Intelligence Committee with the sole intention of giving President Trump the opportunity to do exactly what Snowden is arguing for. And well Trump should. ..."
"... This is the essence of draining the swamp. It is the essence of his war with the Shadow Government. If one makes the distinction between the Deep State and the Shadow Government, like former CIA officer Kevin Shipp does , then this falls right in line with Trump's goals in cleaning up the rot and corruption in the U.S. government. In a recent interview with Greg Hunter at USAWatchdog.com, ..."
"... Shipp explains, "I differentiate between the 'Deep State' and the shadow government. The shadow government are the secret intelligence agencies that have such power and secrecy that they act even without the knowledge of Congress. There are many things that they do with impunity. Then there is the 'Deep State,' which is the military industrial complex, all of the industrial corporations and their lobbyists, and they have all the money, power and greed that give all the money to the Senators and Congressmen. So, they are connected, but they are really two different entities. It is the shadow government . . . specifically, the CIA, that is going after Donald Trump. It is terrified that some of its dealings are going to be exposed. If they are, it could jeopardize the entire organization." [emphasis mine] ..."
"... Trump's continued needling of the establishment; playing the long game and demonizing the media which is the tip of the Shadow Government's spear while strengthening the support of both the military (through his backing them at every turn) and his base by assisting them destroy the false narratives of globalism has been nothing short of amazing. ..."
"... So, Trump cozying up to the military, cutting a deal with the military-industrial complex (MIC) has the Deep State now incentivized to fight the Shadow Government for him. The tax cut bill, while a brilliant example of political knife-fighting, is fundamentally about shoring up the finances of the corporations that make up the MIC through the repatriation of foreign-earned income, lowering the corporate tax rate and stealing even more of the middle class back from the Democrats. ..."
Jan 20, 2018 | www.zerohedge.com
FISA is an abomination. Let's get that out of the way. And since I don't believe there are any coincidences in U.S. or geo-politics, the releasing of the explosive four-page FISA memo after Congress reauthorized FISA is suspicious.

Former NSA analyst (traitor? hero?) turned security state gadfly Edward Snowden came out in favor of President Trump vetoing the FISA reauthorization now that the full extent of what the statute is used for is known to members of the House Intelligence Committee, who are rightly aghast.

Officials confirm there's a secret report showing abuses of spy law Congress voted to reauthorize this week. If this memo had been known prior to the vote, FISA reauth would have failed. These abuses must be made public, and @realDonaldTrump should send the bill back with a veto. https://t.co/BEwJ9EyIq0

-- Edward Snowden (@Snowden) January 19, 2018

But, like I said, timing in these things is everything. And the timing on this leak is important.

Someone leaked this memo to the House Intelligence Committee with the sole intention of giving President Trump the opportunity to do exactly what Snowden is arguing for. And well Trump should.

This is the essence of draining the swamp. It is the essence of his war with the Shadow Government. If one makes the distinction between the Deep State and the Shadow Government, like former CIA officer Kevin Shipp does , then this falls right in line with Trump's goals in cleaning up the rot and corruption in the U.S. government. In a recent interview with Greg Hunter at USAWatchdog.com,

Shipp explains, "I differentiate between the 'Deep State' and the shadow government. The shadow government are the secret intelligence agencies that have such power and secrecy that they act even without the knowledge of Congress. There are many things that they do with impunity. Then there is the 'Deep State,' which is the military industrial complex, all of the industrial corporations and their lobbyists, and they have all the money, power and greed that give all the money to the Senators and Congressmen. So, they are connected, but they are really two different entities. It is the shadow government . . . specifically, the CIA, that is going after Donald Trump. It is terrified that some of its dealings are going to be exposed. If they are, it could jeopardize the entire organization." [emphasis mine]

Court the Military Against the Spooks

And as I've talked about at length, I've felt from the moment Trump was elected he was going to have to ally himself with the U.S. military to have any chance of surviving, let alone achieve his political goals.

Trump's final campaign ad was a clarion call to action. It was a declaration of war against both the Shadow Government and the Deep State. And it ensured that if he won, which he did, they would immediately go to war with him.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/vST61W4bGm8

And you don't declare war like this if you aren't prepared for the biggest knock-down, drag-out street brawl of all time. If you aren't prepared for it, don't say it. And for the past year we've been left wondering whether Trump was 1) prepared for it 2) capable of pulling it off.

Trump's continued needling of the establishment; playing the long game and demonizing the media which is the tip of the Shadow Government's spear while strengthening the support of both the military (through his backing them at every turn) and his base by assisting them destroy the false narratives of globalism has been nothing short of amazing.

As a hard-core, jaded politico, I can tell you I never thought for a second he had the ability to what he's already done. But, as the past few months have pointed out, the real power in the world doesn't rest with the few thousand who manipulate the levers of power but the billions who for years stood by and let them.

And those days of standing by are gone.

So, Trump cozying up to the military, cutting a deal with the military-industrial complex (MIC) has the Deep State now incentivized to fight the Shadow Government for him. The tax cut bill, while a brilliant example of political knife-fighting, is fundamentally about shoring up the finances of the corporations that make up the MIC through the repatriation of foreign-earned income, lowering the corporate tax rate and stealing even more of the middle class back from the Democrats.

Trump had the right strategy from the beginning. Civil Wars turn on what the police and the military do. They are instigated by and fanned by the spooks, but it is the soldiers and the cops who decide the outcome.

And so here we are.

FISA, It's Everywhere You Don't Want it to Be

Trump has called the Democrats' and RINOs' bluff on DACA and chain-immigration as a vote-buying scheme with zero political fallout. He's properly reframed the looming government shutdown on their inability to stick to their original agreements.

His much-maligned Justice Department is now rolling up traitors associated with Uranium One, pedophiles and human traffickers all over the country and preparing for a showdown with blue state governors and attorney generals over "Sanctuary" grandstanding.

By leading the charge, he gave strength to the patriots within both the Shadow Government and the Deep State organizations to leak the material needed to keep his campaign afloat.

And as each new thing drops at the most inopportune time for the political establishment mentioned ad nauseum in that final campaign ad linked above, you have to wonder just how big the revolt inside these organizations is.

Because, right here, right now, Trump can demand the release of this FISA memo and use it to torpedo the very thing that allowed the entire "Russia Hacked Muh Election" nonsense and send it back to the sh$&hole it was spawned from in the first place, the CIA and the DNC.

And if that means for a few months the FISA courts are inoperable while a new bill and a new set of rules is drafted so be it.

* * *

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[Jan 19, 2018] #ReleaseTheMemo Extensive FISA abuse memo could destroy the entire Mueller Russia investigation by Alex Christoforou

Highly recommended!
Looks like Rosenstein might lose his position.
Jan 19, 2018 | theduran.com

Classified documents obtained by members of Congress reportedly show extensive FISA abuses.

André De Koning , January 19, 2018 5:16 AM

What a bombshell! Finally some truth about the "Justice system" in the US.

Following on from this should be the whole subsequent story of the DNC-Fusion-Steele dossier in detail, exposing the MSM too for what it has been worth.
Perhaps then Trump dares to go against the deep state swamp and stop wars instead of following the dictates of CIA, Israel and Military Industrialists. That would be a real POTUS PLUS result.

foxenburg , January 19, 2018 5:13 AM

I thought Trump explained all this last March when he said his campaign was wiretapped, and he called for a Congressional investigation?

"Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my "wires tapped" in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!"

12:35 PM - Mar 4, 2017

Rick Manigault foxenburg , January 19, 2018 6:01 AM

Trump gave in to the lie about Russian interference and the republicans who hated him went along with this hoax until recently.

louis robert , January 19, 2018 3:07 PM

""It's troubling. It is shocking," North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows said. "Part of me wishes that I didn't read it because I don't want to believe that those kinds of things could be happening in this country that I call home and love so much.""

***

Come on, child! Enough with that spectacle. Get real. Have the basic courage to know and to admit what everybody has known about your country for ages!... The entire world already knows.

Franz Kafka , January 19, 2018 11:28 AM

More proof, if any were needed, that the only threat to the people of the USA comes from their own government. The 'external threat' is a fiction calculated to enslave the US population and enrich the Oligarchy.

Gano1 , January 19, 2018 8:11 AM

The DOJ, FBI and Democrats have colluded 100%.

Franz Kafka Gano1 , January 19, 2018 11:29 AM

Why omit the US Masked [sic] Media?

Franz Kafka , January 19, 2018 11:31 AM

If the 'swamp' gets drained all at once, can the bottom fall out of the pond?

WeAreYourGods , January 19, 2018 8:14 AM

Somebody's going to leak this in short order. Let's take a real look at what both Dems and Repubs just expanded, let's look at the monster they are feeding in broad daylight.

Rick Manigault , January 19, 2018 6:00 AM

This should be the focus until there are actual convictions of high level perpetrators.

Franz Kafka , January 19, 2018 2:05 PM

Why is Hannity afraid of using the 'C' word? CONSPIRACY!

Sueja , January 19, 2018 4:57 PM

Has the House Intelligence committee's Twitter account really been shut down. How corrupt is Twitter?

[Jan 19, 2018] Our Potemkin Village - Antiwar.com Original

Jan 19, 2018 | original.antiwar.com

Our Potemkin Village

The empire is getting a bit tattered around the edges

by Justin Raimondo Posted on January 17, 2018 January 16, 2018 While the population of Hawaii dove under manhole covers, and #TheResistance screeched that The Orange Monster had finally done it and forced Kim Jong Un to nuke the island paradise, it took Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, the levelheaded, and quite personable representative from that state, to issue a statement countermanding the "take cover" message sent out by the military earlier.

Rep. Gabbard did this within minutes, thus avoiding a major panic with potentially dangerous consequences, while the Authorities took nearly an hour to issue a retraction.

How did this happen? The Official Story is that "someone pushed the wrong button." As to the identity of this Someone, or the consequences that have befallen him or her, we hear nary a word.

This bizarre incident underscores the utter absurdity and darkness of the permanent state of emergency which we live under. For it turns out that there was no system in place capable of countermanding the emergency alert once it went out. A tacit understanding of the reality behind our military strategy: it's a suicide pact.

It also underscores the Potemkin Village aura of what is routinely referred to as our National Security Establishment: in this case, it amounted to some guy in Hawaii wearing flip flops and all too eager to go off duty and get back in the water after going through the unending drill he'd complete hundreds, probably thousands of times before.

So who was the culprit, and what happened to him? The Hawaii authorities refuse to identify him – because "he would be a pariah." Which is a military disciplinary system that has to be unique in all the world. The administrator in chief of the system, a Mr. Miyagi, explained it this way :

"Looking at the nature and cause of the error that led to those events, the deeper problem is not that someone made a mistake; it is that we made it too easy for a simple mistake to have very serious consequences. The system should have been more robust, and I will not let an individual pay for a systemic problem."

What about the individual architects of the system? You can be your bottom dollar none of them will bear any consequences for almost starting World War III. Gee, I recall an incident that occurred on September 11, 2001, in which the "defenses" we'd spent billions on simply did not function and thousands dies as a result – and not a single person was fired.

Inefficiency and outright incompetence are built into structures as large, unwieldy, and unresponsive as the American Empire, and this is what the concept of decadence really entails: the slipshod slips in, the shiny surfaces get to looking a little ramshackle, overconfidence and complacency infiltrate both leaders and led, and pretty soon you're the Austro-Hungarian Empire: big, garish, unsustainable, and basically ready to fall to pieces.

Which is not to say that the Empire is really on its last legs and will fall of its own weight – although that's entirely possible. Look at what happened to the Soviets. Yet the rulers – and inhabitants – of such empires always overestimate their strength and endurance: they live inside the bubble of their own hubris.

That popping sound you hear may augur more than anybody bargained for

A SPECIAL NOTE : My apologies for the abbreviated column, but this is being written on the fly as I get ready to travel to San Francisco to receive my fifth infusion of the anti-cancer drugs Keytruda and Alimta. I have to say I'm feeling a lot better since the treatments started, but I still have a ways to go: I'll keep you posted.

[Jan 16, 2018] Watch A Sitting Congresswoman Shred The MSM Narrative In Under A Minute

Jan 16, 2018 | www.zerohedge.com

Watch A Sitting Congresswoman Shred The MSM Narrative In Under A Minute

by Tyler Durden Mon, 01/15/2018 - 16:34 155 SHARES

Hawaii Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard appeared on multiple Sunday news shows a day after her state's false ICBM emergency alert sent the islands into a tense 40 minutes of panic before it was revealed to be a message sent in error, where she slammed the mainstream media's reporting on the North Korean nuclear threat, saying , "We've got to understand that North Korea is holding onto these nuclear weapons because they think it is their only protection from the United States coming in and doing to them what the United States has done to so many countries throughout history."

She further called for Trump to hold direct talks with Kim Jong Un in order to prevent the real thing from ever happening.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) Gabbard is an Army reserve officer who previously served two tours in the Middle East, including in Iraq. Image via the Ron Paul Institute

On Saturday Gabbard had immediately criticized President Trump for mishandling North Korea, taking to MSNBC to proclaim that "our leaders have failed us. Donald Trump is taking too long... he's not taking this [nuclear] threat seriously..." During Sunday interviews she elaborated on a plan of action, advising Trump to enter talks with Pyongyang which should "happen without preconditions" and that Trump should "sit across the table from Kim Jong Un" in order stamp out the climate of fear which contributed to the "unacceptable" alert issued on Saturday.

"We've got to get to the underlying issue here of why are the people of Hawaii and this country facing a nuclear threat coming from North Korea today, and what is this President doing urgently to eliminate that threat?" Gabbard said on CNN's State of the Union. She added that Pyongyang sees its nuclear weapons program as "the only deterrent against the U.S. coming in and overthrowing their regime there " after decades of the US exhibiting a pattern of regime change when dealing with rogue states, which she said makes setting up preconditions for talks a self-defeating step.

And concerning the potential for an "unintentional" nuclear war, Gabbard said, "It's not just the President making a decision to launch a nuclear weapon . It's these kinds of mistakes that we have seen happen in the past that bring us to this brink of nuclear war that could be unintentional."

The Hawaii lawmaker, who has garnered a lot of attention over her non-interventionist stance on Syria while angering establishment pundits for doing things like visiting Damascus last year on a fact-finding mission, left ABC's George Stephanopoulos visibly flustered during an interview on Sunday's "This Week" . She said:

We know that North Korea has these nuclear weapons because they see how the United States in Libya for example guaranteed Gadaffi - 'we're not going to go after you, you should get rid of your nuclear weapons.' He did, then we went and led an attack that toppled Gaddafi, launching Libya into chaos that we are still seeing the results of today. North Korea sees what we did in Iraq with Saddam Hussein, with those false reports of weapons of mass destruction. And now seeing in Iran how President Trump is decertifying a nuclear deal that prevented Iran from developing their nuclear weapons, threatening the very existence and the agreement that was made.

At this point an incredulous Stephanopoulos stopped the Congresswoman and asked, " Was it a mistake for the United States to take out Gaddafi and Hussein ?" Gabbard responded firmly with, "It was, absolutely." Apparently this was enough to end the interview as a presumably shocked Stephanopoulos had no response at that point.

For those unfamiliar, Gabbard is an Army reserve officer who previously served two tours in the Middle East, including in Iraq, and has been an outspoken critic of regime change and Washington's interventionist foreign policy.

[Jan 14, 2018] By default I block Google and its octopus of websites as third party sites on websites I visit.

Jan 14, 2018 | www.unz.com

CalDre , January 11, 2018 at 7:33 am GMT

To Moderators:

By default I block Google and its octopus of websites as third party sites on websites I visit. This list includes doubleclick.net, googlesyndication.com, google-analytics.com, googleusercontent.com, googleadservices.com, googlecode.com, gmail.com, gstatic.com, googletagmanager.com and, yes, googleapis.com.

When you do this you find that a lot of websites stop working, and proves how google (and its intelligence agency patrons) are able to egregiously violate your privacy and track you all over the internet (in addition to whatever tracking your or your friends' Android devices do).

Unfortunately this site uses googleapis.com for its comment submission. Why? There are countless ways to activate a "Reply" button without requiring Big Brother Google to monitor the event.

Please re-consider your reliance on Google to provide minor web features (new comment submission works with googleapis.com disabled but it is not possible to reply to another comment as the three options – Reply, Agree/Disagree/etc. and This Commenter links – are all non-functional without permitting Google spying).

[Jan 12, 2018] The DOJ and FBI Worked With Fusion GPS on Operation Trump

Highly recommended!
CIA trace in color revolution against Trump
Notable quotes:
"... Sally Yates essentially said 'all DOJ is subject to oversight, except the National Security Division'. ..."
"... In short, FISA "queries" from any national security department within government are allowed without seeking court approval. ..."
"... We know NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers became aware of an issue with unauthorized FISA-702(17) " About Queries " early in 2016. As a result of a FISA court ruling declassified in May of 2017 we were able to piece a specific timeline together. ..."
"... At the same time Christopher Steele was assembling his dossier information (May-October 2016), the NSA compliance officer was conducting an internal FISA-702 review as initiated by NSA Director Mike Rogers. The NSA compliance officer briefed Admiral Mike Rogers on October 20th 2016. On October 26th 2016, Admiral Rogers informed the FISA Court of numerous unauthorized FISA-702(17) "About Query" violations. Subsequent to that FISC notification Mike Rogers stopped all FISA-702(17) "About Queries" permanently . They are no longer permitted. ..."
"... Mike Rogers discovery becomes the impetus for him to request the 2016 full NSA compliance audit of FISA-702 use. It appears Fusion-GPS was the FBI contracted user identified in the final FISA court opinion/ruling on page 83. ..."
"... What plan came from that April 19th,2016 White House meeting? What plan did Mary Jacoby and Glenn Simpson present to use the information they had assembled? How and who would they feed their information to; and how do they best use that 'valuable' information? This appears to be where Fusion-GPS contracting with Christopher Steele comes in. ..."
"... Contacted by Fox News, investigators for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) confirmed that Nellie H. Ohr, wife of the demoted official, Bruce G. Ohr, worked for the opposition research firm last year. ..."
"... The precise nature of Mrs. Ohr's duties – including whether she worked on the dossier – remains unclear but a review of her published works available online reveals Mrs. Ohr has written extensively on Russia-related subjects. HPSCI staff confirmed to Fox News that she was paid by Fusion GPS through the summer and fall of 2016. ( link ) ..."
"... DOJ Deputy Bruce Ohr and his wife Nellie Ohr had a prior working relationship with Fusion-GPS founder Glenn Simpson. Together they worked on a collaborative CIA Open Source group project surrounding International Organized Crime. ( pdf here ) Page #30 Screen Shot Below . ..."
"... Nellie Ohr is a subject matter expert on Russia, speaks Russian, and also is well versed on CIA operations. Nellie Ohr's skills would include how to build or create counterintelligence frameworks to give the appearance of events that may be entirely fabricated. ..."
"... Knowing the NSA was reviewing FISA "Queries"; and intellectually accepting the resulting information from those queries was likely part of the framework put together by Glenn Simpson and Mary Jacoby; we discover that GPS employee Nellie Ohr applied for a HAM radio license [ May 23rd 2016 ] (screen grab below). ..."
"... Accepting the FBI was utilizing Fusion-GPS as a contractor, there is now an inherent clarity in the relationship between: FBI agent Peter Strzok, Fusion-GPS Glenn Simpson, and 'Russian Dossier' author Christopher Steele. They are all on the same team. ..."
"... The information that Fusion-GPS Glenn Simpson put together from his advanced work on the 'Trump Project', was, in essence, built upon the foundation of the close relationship he already had with the FBI. ..."
"... Simpson, Jacoby and Ohr then passed on their information to Christopher Steele who adds his own ingredients to the mix, turns around, and gives the end product back to the FBI. That end product is laundered intelligence now called "The Trump/Russia Dossier". ..."
"... The FBI turn around and use the "dossier" as the underlying documents and investigative evidence for continued operations against the target of the entire enterprise, candidate Donald Trump. As Peter Strzok would say in August 2016: this is their "insurance policy" per se'. ..."
"... In October 2016, immediately after the DOJ lawyers formatted the FBI information (Steele Dossier etc.) for a valid FISA application, the head of the NSD, Asst. Attorney General John P Carlin, left his job . His exit came as the NSD and Admiral Rogers informed the FISC that frequent unauthorized FISA-702 searches had been conducted. Read Here . ..."
"... Yes, the FBI was working with Christopher Steele through their contractor Fusion-GPS. Yes, the FBI and Clinton Team were, in essence, both paying Christopher Steele for his efforts. The FBI paid Steele via their sub-contractor Fusion-GPS. ..."
"... Lastly, when the DOJ/FBI used the Steele Dossier to make their 2016 surveillance activity legal (the October FISA application), they are essentially using the outcome of a process they created themselves in collaboration with both Fusion GPS and the Clinton campaign. ..."
"... All research indicates the intelligence information the DOJ and FBI collected via their FISA-702 queries, combined with the intelligence Fusion GPS created in their earlier use of contractor access to FISA-702(17) "about queries", was the intelligence data delivered to Christopher Steele for use in creating "The Russian Dossier". ..."
"... Christopher Steele was just laundering intelligence. The Steele "dossier" was then used by the DOJ to gain FISA-702 approvals – which provided retroactive legal cover for the prior campaign surveillance, and also used post-election to create the "Russian Narrative". ..."
"... The ENTIRE SYSTEM of FISA-702 surveillance and data collection was weaponized against a political campaign. The DOJ and FBI used the FISA Court to gain access to Trump data, and simultaneously justify earlier FISA "queries" by their contractor, Fusion GPS. FISA-702 queries were used to gather information on the Trump campaign which later became FBI counterintelligence surveillance on the officials therein. ..."
Jan 12, 2018 | theconservativetreehouse.com
Following the released transcript of Fusion-GPS Co-Founder Glenn Simpson's testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee by Senator Dianne Feinstein , several media outlets have begun questioning the relationship between the FBI investigators, Glenn Simpson and dossier author Christopher Steele.

What we have discovered highlights the answer to those relationship questions; and also answers a host of other questions, including: Did the FBI pay Christopher Steele? Yes, but now how media has stated. Was the FBI connected to the creation of the Steele Dossier? Yes, but again, not the way the media is currently outlining.

... ... ...

[Jan 02, 2018] The Still-Missing Evidence of Russia-gate by Dennis J. Bernstein

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... The central groupthink around Russia-gate is the still unproven claim that Russia hacked Democratic emails in 2016 and publicized them via WikiLeaks, a crucial issue that NSA experts say should be easy to prove if true, reports Dennis J. Bernstein. ..."
"... Binney: We at Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) published an article on this in July. First of all, if any of the data went anywhere across the fiber optic world, the NSA would know. Just inside the United States, the NSA has over a hundred tap points on the fiber lines, taking in everything. ..."
"... The other data that came out from Guccifer 2.0, a download from the DNC, has been a charade. It was a download and not a transfer across the Web. The Web won't manage such a high speed. It could not have gotten across the Atlantic at that high speed. You would have to have high capacity lines dedicated to that in order to do it. They have been playing games with us. There is no factual evidence to back up any charge of hacking here. ..."
"... Bernstein: Let me come at this from the other side. Has the United States ever tried to hack into and undermine Russian operations in this way? ..."
"... Binney: Oh, sure. We do it as much as anybody else. In the Ukraine, for example, we sponsored regime change. When someone who was pro-Soviet was elected president, we orchestrated a coup to put our man in power. ..."
"... Did the US meddle in the Russian elections that brought Yeltsin to power? ..."
"... I believe they did. We try to leverage our power and influence elections around the world. ..."
"... Binney: Yes, to defend privacy but also to defend the Constitution. Right now, our government is violating the first, fourth and fifth amendments in various ways. Mueller did it, Comey did it, they were all involved in violating the Constitution. ..."
"... Bernstein: There seems to be a new McCarthyite operation around the Russia-gate investigation. It appears that it is an attempt to justify the idea that Clinton lost because the Russians undermined the election. ..."
"... Bernstein: It was initially put out that seventeen intelligence agencies found compelling evidence that the Russians hacked into our election. You're saying it was actually selected individuals from just three agencies. Is there anything to the revelations that FBI agents talked about taking action to prevent Trump from becoming president? ..."
"... Binney: It certainly does seem that it is leaning that way, that is was all a frame-up. It is a sad time in our history, to see the government working against itself internally ..."
"... Bernstein: What concerns do you have regarding the Russia-gate investigation and the McCarthyite tactics that are being employed? ..."
"... Binney: Ultimately, my main concern is that it could lead to actual war with Russia. We should definitely not be going down that path. We need to get out of all these wars. I am also concerned about what we are doing to our own democracy. We are trampling the fundamental principles contained in the Constitution. The only way to reverse all this is to start indicting people who are participating in and managing these activities that are clearly unconstitutional. ..."
Jan 02, 2018 | consortiumnews.com

The central groupthink around Russia-gate is the still unproven claim that Russia hacked Democratic emails in 2016 and publicized them via WikiLeaks, a crucial issue that NSA experts say should be easy to prove if true, reports Dennis J. Bernstein.

A changing-places moment brought about by Russia-gate is that liberals who are usually more skeptical of U.S. intelligence agencies, especially their evidence-free claims, now question the patriotism of Americans who insist that the intelligence community supply proof to support the dangerous claims about Russian 'hacking" of Democratic emails especially when some veteran U.S. government experts say the data would be easily available if the Russians indeed were guilty.

One of those experts is William Binney, a former high-level National Security Agency intelligence official who, after his 2001 retirement, blew the whistle on the extraordinary breadth of NSA surveillance programs. His outspoken criticism of the NSA during the George W. Bush administration made him the subject of FBI investigations that included a raid on his home in 2007.

Even before Edward Snowden's NSA whistleblowing, Binney publicly revealed that NSA had access to telecommunications companies' domestic and international billing records, and that since 9/11 the agency has intercepted some 15 trillion to 20 trillion communications. Snowden has said: "I have tremendous respect for Binney, who did everything he could according to the rules."

I spoke to Binney on Dec. 28 about Russia-gate and a host of topics having to do with spying and America's expanding national security state.

Dennis Bernstein: I would like you to begin by telling us a little about your background at the NSA and how you got there.

William Binney: I was in the United States Army from 1965 to 1969. They put me in the Army Security Agency, an affiliate of the NSA. They liked the work I was doing and they put me on a priority hire in 1970. I was in the NSA for 32 years, mostly working against the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. I was solving what were called "wizard puzzles," and the NSA was sometimes referred to as the "Puzzle Palace." I had to solve code systems and work on cyber systems and data systems to be able to predict in advance the "intentions and capabilities of adversaries or potential adversaries."

Bernstein: At a certain point you ran amiss of your supervisors. What did you come to understand and try to tell people that got you in dutch with your higher-ups?

Binney: By 1998-1999, the "digital issue" was basically solved. This created a problem for the upper ranks because at the time they were lobbying Congress for $3.8 billion to continue working on what we had already accomplished. That lobby was started in 1989 for a separate program called Trailblazer, which failed miserably in 2005-2006. We had to brief Congress on how we were progressing and my information ran contrary to the efforts downtown to secure more funding. And so this caused a problem internally.

We learned from some of our staff members in Congress that several of the corporations that were getting contracts from the NSA were downtown lobbying against our program in Congress. This is the military industrial complex in action. That lobby was supported by the NSA management because they just wanted more money to build a bigger empire.

But Dick Cheney, who was behind all of this, wanted it because he grew up under Nixon, who always wanted to know what his political enemies were thinking and doing. This kind of approach of bulk acquisition of everything was possible after you removed certain segments of our software and they used it against the entire digital world. Cheney wanted to know who his political enemies were and get updates about them at any time.

Bernstein: Your expertise was in the Soviet Union and so you must know a lot about bugging. Do you believe that Russia hacked and undermined our last election? Can Trump thank Russia for the result?

Binney: We at Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) published an article on this in July. First of all, if any of the data went anywhere across the fiber optic world, the NSA would know. Just inside the United States, the NSA has over a hundred tap points on the fiber lines, taking in everything. Mark Klein exposed some of this at the AT&T facility in San Francisco.

This is not for foreigners, by the way, this is for targeting US citizens. If they wanted only foreigners, all they would have to do was look at the transatlantic cables where they surface on the coast of the United States. But they are not there, they are distributed among the US population.

Bernstein: So if, in fact, the Russians were tapping into DNC headquarters, the NSA would absolutely know about it.

Binney: Yes, and they would also have trace routes on where they went specifically, in Russia or anywhere else. If you remember, about three or four years ago, the Chinese hacked into somewhere in the United States and our government came out and confirmed that it was the Chinese who did it, and it came from a specific military facility in Shanghai. The NSA had these trace route programs embedded by the hundreds across the US and all around the world.

The other data that came out from Guccifer 2.0, a download from the DNC, has been a charade. It was a download and not a transfer across the Web. The Web won't manage such a high speed. It could not have gotten across the Atlantic at that high speed. You would have to have high capacity lines dedicated to that in order to do it. They have been playing games with us. There is no factual evidence to back up any charge of hacking here.

Bernstein: So was this a leak by somebody at Democratic headquarters?

Binney: We don't know that for sure, either. All we know was that it was a local download. We can likely attribute it to a USB device that was physically passed along.

Bernstein: Let me come at this from the other side. Has the United States ever tried to hack into and undermine Russian operations in this way?

Binney: Oh, sure. We do it as much as anybody else. In the Ukraine, for example, we sponsored regime change. When someone who was pro-Soviet was elected president, we orchestrated a coup to put our man in power.

Then we invited the Ukraine into NATO. One of the agreements we made with the Russians when the Soviet Union fell apart was that the Ukraine would give them their nuclear weapons to manage and that we would not move NATO further east toward Russia. I think they made a big mistake when they asked Ukraine to join NATO. They should have asked Russia to join as well, making it all-inclusive. If you treat people as adversaries, they are going to act that way.

Bernstein: Did the US meddle in the Russian elections that brought Yeltsin to power?

Binney: I believe they did. We try to leverage our power and influence elections around the world.

Bernstein: What has your group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, been up to, and what has been the US government's response?

Binney: We have been discussing privacy and security with the European Union and with a number of European parliaments. Recently the Austrian supreme court ruled that the entire bulk acquisition system was unconstitutional. Everyone but the conservatives in the Austrian parliament voted that bill down, making Austria the first country there to do the right thing.

A slide from material leaked by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden to the Washington Post, showing what happens when an NSA analyst "tasks" the PRISM system for information about a new surveillance target.

Bernstein: Is it your goal to defend people's privacy and their right to communicate privately?

Binney: Yes, to defend privacy but also to defend the Constitution. Right now, our government is violating the first, fourth and fifth amendments in various ways. Mueller did it, Comey did it, they were all involved in violating the Constitution.

Back in the 1990's, the idea was to make our analysts effective so that they could see threats coming before they happened and alert people to take action so that lives would be saved. What happens now is that people go out and kill someone and then the NSA and the FBI go on a forensics mission. Intelligence is supposed to tell you in advance when a crime is coming so that you can do something to avert it. They have lost that perspective.

Bernstein: They now have access to every single one of our electronic conversations, is that right? The human mind has a hard time imagining how you could contain, move and study all that information.

Binney: Basically, it is achievable because most of the processing is done by machine so it doesn't cost human energy.

Bernstein: There seems to be a new McCarthyite operation around the Russia-gate investigation. It appears that it is an attempt to justify the idea that Clinton lost because the Russians undermined the election.

Binney: I have seen no evidence at all from anybody, including the intelligence community. If you look at the Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) report, they state on the first page that "We have high confidence that the Russians did this." But when you get toward the end of the report, they basically confess that "our judgment does not imply that we have evidence to back it up."

Bernstein: It was initially put out that seventeen intelligence agencies found compelling evidence that the Russians hacked into our election. You're saying it was actually selected individuals from just three agencies. Is there anything to the revelations that FBI agents talked about taking action to prevent Trump from becoming president?

Binney: It certainly does seem that it is leaning that way, that is was all a frame-up. It is a sad time in our history, to see the government working against itself internally.

Bernstein: I take it you are not a big supporter of Trump.

Binney: Well, I voted for him. I couldn't vote for a warmonger like Clinton. She wanted to see our planes shooting down Russian planes in Syria. She advocated for destabilizing Libya, for getting rid of Assad in Syria, she was a strong backer of the war in Iraq.

Bernstein: What concerns do you have regarding the Russia-gate investigation and the McCarthyite tactics that are being employed?

Binney: Ultimately, my main concern is that it could lead to actual war with Russia. We should definitely not be going down that path. We need to get out of all these wars. I am also concerned about what we are doing to our own democracy. We are trampling the fundamental principles contained in the Constitution. The only way to reverse all this is to start indicting people who are participating in and managing these activities that are clearly unconstitutional.

Dennis J Bernstein is a host of "Flashpoints" on the Pacifica radio network and the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom . You can access the audio archives at www.flashpoints.net .

[Jan 02, 2018] Meet Ezra Cohen-Watnick, Secret Source In Trump Probe – The Forward

Notable quotes:
"... Contact Nathan Guttman at guttman@forward.com or on Twitter, @nathanguttman ..."
Mar 30, 2017 | forward.com

Who is Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the 30-year-old White House aide who could be a key player in the blockbuster investigation into Russian ties to President Trump and his campaign?

Cohen-Watnick, 30, who The New York Times reports provided key information in the probe, is a once fast-rising protege of ousted Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn with deep roots in suburban Washington's Jewish community.

The paper identified him as one of two staffers who explosively gave information on intelligence gathering in the Russia probe to Republican House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, a move that potentially compromised the lawmaker's role in the bombshell probe.

Cohen-Watnick grew up in Chevy Chase, Maryland, just outside the nation's capital, and attended the nearby Conservative synagogue Ohr Kodesh. Last November he celebrated his engagement to Rebecca Miller at the synagogue.

He attended the University of Pennsylvania, graduating in 2008. Cohen-Watnick began working as an intelligence analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency after college. At the DIA, Cohen-Watnick met Flynn, the then-director who was later removed from his position during the Obama administration.

After Trump won the November election, Flynn brought Cohen-Watnick from the DIA to the Trump transition team, where the young staffer, according to The Washington Post, was among the few Trump advisers to hold a top security clearance. He participated in high-level intelligence briefings and briefed Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and their team on national security issues.

When Flynn was appointed to lead the National Security Council, he hired Cohen-Watnick to work with him there. But Flynn served as national security adviser for less than a month before being asked to leave following revelations that he had maintained ties with Russia during the campaign.

Flynn's successor, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, sought to remove Cohen-Watnick from the team, following input from the CIA director who pointed to problems intelligence officers had when dealing with Cohen-Watnick. Questions were raised about his ability to carry out the position of senior NSC director for intelligence programs, who oversees ties with intelligence agencies and vets information that should reach the president's desk.

But Cohen-Watnick was spared when Trump personally intervened, reportedly after top White House aides Sphen Bannon and Jared Kushner stepped in. Cohen-Watnick still serves as senior director at the NSC.

Cohen-Watnick is known for holding hawkish views on national security issues and of being a proponent of an American tough line toward Iran.

The Times said that Cohen-Watnick became swept up in the Russia probe this month, shortly after Trump wrote on Twitter about unsubstantiated claims of being wiretapped on the orders of the former president Barack Obama.

Cohen-Watnick apparently was reviewing highly classified reports detailing the intercepted communications of foreign officials that consisted primarily of ambassadors and other foreign officials talking about how they were trying to curry favor with Trump's family and inner circle in advance of his inauguration. He and another aide, identified as Michael Ellis, came across information that Trump aides may have been inadvertently caught on some of the surveillance.

Nunes says he went to the White House to meet with the aides, whom he has refused to identify. Nunes would not share the information with his colleagues on the committee but did brief Trump, raising major questions about his independence.

Contact Nathan Guttman at guttman@forward.com or on Twitter, @nathanguttman

[Jan 02, 2018] The Deep State's War on Ezra Cohen-Watnick by Daniel Greenfield

Notable quotes:
"... In totalitarian systems where the media does nothing but churn out propaganda, people learn to read between the lines. You understand what is really going on by inferring what they don't want you to know from what they do what you to know. ..."
"... Why would you not believe "unnamed officials"? But what we are seeing very obviously is some of the shape and texture of the war based on who is being targeted and why. While those doing the targeting are "unnamed", their targets are named. And that tells us also about those doing the targeting. ..."
Mar 31, 2017 | www.frontpagemag.com
In totalitarian systems where the media does nothing but churn out propaganda, people learn to read between the lines. You understand what is really going on by inferring what they don't want you to know from what they do what you to know.

The interesting thing about the current political conflict is which key anti-terrorist Trump figures are being targeted. Flynn was a major target. Then Gorka. The case of Gorka made the targeting obvious. You can tell the targeting when if the first attack fails, they come back with a second one.

Now there's Ezra Watnick-Cohen. He showed up in the news recently when McMaster attempted to replace him with an establishment infiltrator.

President Donald Trump has overruled a decision by his national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, to sideline a key intelligence operative who fell out of favor with some at the Central Intelligence Agency, two sources told POLITICO.

On Friday, McMaster told the National Security Council's senior director for intelligence programs, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, that he would be moved to another position in the organization.

The conversation followed weeks of pressure from career officials at the CIA who had expressed reservations about the 30-year-old intelligence operative and pushed for his ouster.

But Cohen-Watnick appealed McMaster's decision to two influential allies with whom he had forged a relationship while working on Trump's transition team -- White House advisers Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner. They brought the matter to Trump on Sunday, and the president agreed that Cohen-Watnick should remain as the NSC's intelligence director, according to two people with knowledge of the episode.

Cohen-Watnick was brought onto Trump's transition team and then the NSC by a leading critic of the CIA: retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who was Cohen-Watnick's boss at the Defense Intelligence Agency and preceded McMaster as national security adviser.

Cohen-Watnick and Flynn "saw eye to eye about the failings of the CIA human intelligence operations," said a Washington consultant who travels in intelligence circles. "The CIA saw him as a threat, so they tried to unseat him and replace him with an agency loyalist," the operative said.

Specifically they tried to replace Cohen-Watnick with a woman at the center of the Benghazi mess.

Two sources within the White House tell me that last week McMaster had interviewed a potential replacement for Cohen-Watnick: longtime CIA official Linda Weissgold. Weissgold apparently had a good interview with McMaster, as she was overheard saying as she left the White House she would next have to "talk to Pompeo" -- as in Mike Pompeo, the director of the CIA. But Weissgold was never offered the job; days later, Trump himself overruled the effort to move Cohen-Watnick out of his senior director role.

During the Obama administration Weissgold served as director of the CIA's Office of Terrorism Analysis. She was among those who briefed Congress following the Benghazi terrorist attack in 2012, a team of intelligence and military experts who reportedly earned the nickname "the dream team" within the administration.

In her position at OTA, she was also involved directly in drafting the now infamous Benghazi talking points, which government officials revised heavily to include factually incorrect assessments that stated the attackers were prompted by protests. According to the House Select Committee on Benghazi's report, Weissgold testified she had changed one such talking point to say that extremists in Benghazi with ties to al Qaeda had been involved in "protests" in the Libyan city, despite the fact that no such protests had occurred there on the day of the attack.

McMaster's interview of Weissgold last week raised eyebrows beyond the White House, with members of the congressional oversight committees expressing concerns about Weissgold to top officials in the White House and the intelligence community.

If at first you don't succeed, try again. Now Ezra Watnick-Cohen is at the center of the latest manufactured scandal.

A Jewish security official has been named as the confidential source of House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) following claims that US President Donald Trump and his aides were swept up in surveillance by US intelligence agencies, The New York Times revealed Thursday.

Citing unnamed US officials, the Times identified the White House official as "Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the senior director for intelligence at the National Security Council."

Why would you not believe "unnamed officials"? But what we are seeing very obviously is some of the shape and texture of the war based on who is being targeted and why. While those doing the targeting are "unnamed", their targets are named. And that tells us also about those doing the targeting. Any enemy action reveals something about the enemy, his motives, his nature and his goals. That is how wars of this kind must be understood.

[Dec 28, 2017] How CrowdStrike placed malware in DNC hacked servers by Alex Christoforou

Highly recommended!
If this is true, then this is definitely a sophisticated false flag operation. Was malware Alperovich people injected specifically designed to implicate Russians? In other words Crowdstrike=Fancy Bear
Images removed. For full content please thee the original source
One interesting corollary of this analysis is that installing Crowdstrike software is like inviting a wolf to guard your chicken. If they are so dishonest you take enormous risks. That might be true for some other heavily advertized "intrusion prevention" toolkits. So those criminals who use mistyped popular addresses or buy Google searches to drive lemmings to their site and then flash the screen that they detected a virus on your computer a, please call provided number and for a small amount of money your virus will be removed get a new more sinister life.
I suspected many of such firms (for example ISS which was bought by IBM in 2006) to be scams long ago.
Notable quotes:
"... They found that generally, in a lot of cases, malware developers didn't care to hide the compile times and that while implausible timestamps are used, it's rare that these use dates in the future. It's possible, but unlikely that one sample would have a postdated timestamp to coincide with their visit by mere chance but seems extremely unlikely to happen with two or more samples. Considering the dates of CrowdStrike's activities at the DNC coincide with the compile dates of two out of the three pieces of malware discovered and attributed to APT-28 (the other compiled approximately 2 weeks prior to their visit), the big question is: Did CrowdStrike plant some (or all) of the APT-28 malware? ..."
"... The IP address, according to those articles, was disabled in June 2015, eleven months before the DNC emails were acquired – meaning those IP addresses, in reality, had no involvement in the alleged hacking of the DNC. ..."
"... The fact that two out of three of the Fancy Bear malware samples identified were compiled on dates within the apparent five day period CrowdStrike were apparently at the DNC seems incredibly unlikely to have occurred by mere chance. ..."
"... That all three malware samples were compiled within ten days either side of their visit – makes it clear just how questionable the Fancy Bear malware discoveries were. ..."
Dec 28, 2017 | theduran.com

Of course the DNC did not want to the FBI to investigate its "hacked servers". The plan was well underway to excuse Hillary's pathetic election defeat to Trump, and CrowdStrike would help out by planting evidence to pin on those evil "Russian hackers." Some would call this entire DNC server hack an "insurance policy."

... ... ...

[Dec 28, 2017] From Snowden To Russia-gate - The CIA And The Media

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... The promotion of the alleged Russian election hacking in certain media may have grown from the successful attempts of U.S. intelligence services to limit the publication of the NSA files obtained by Edward Snowden. ..."
"... In May 2013 Edward Snowden fled to Hongkong and handed internal documents from the National Security Agency (NSA) to four journalists, Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Ewen MacAskill of the Guardian and separately to Barton Gellman who worked for the Washington Post . ..."
"... In July 2013 the Guardian was forced by the British government to destroy its copy of the Snowden archive. ..."
"... In August 2013 Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post for some $250 million. In 2012 Bezos, the founder, largest share holder and CEO of Amazon, had already a cooperation with the CIA. Together they invested in a Canadian quantum computing company. In March 2013 Amazon signed a $600 million deal to provide computing services for the CIA. ..."
"... The motivation for the Bezos and Omidyar to do this is not clear. Bezos is estimated to own a shameful $90 billion. The Washington Post buy is chump-change for him. Omidyar has a net worth of some $9.3 billion. But the use of billionaires to mask what are in fact intelligence operations is not new. The Ford Foundation has for decades been a CIA front , George Soros' Open Society foundation is one of the premier "regime change" operations, well versed in instigating "color revolutions" ..."
"... It would have been reasonable if the cooperation between those billionaires and the intelligence agencies had stopped after the NSA leaks were secured. But it seems that strong cooperation of the Bezos and Omidyar outlets with the CIA and others continue. ..."
"... The Washington Post , which has a much bigger reach, is the prime outlet for "Russia-gate", the false claims by parts of the U.S. intelligence community and the Clinton campaign, that Russia attempted to influence U.S. elections or even "colluded" with Trump. ..."
"... The revelation that the sole Russiagate "evidence" was the so-called Steele Dossier - i.e. opposition research funded by the Clinton campaign - which was used by the intelligence community to not only begin the public assertions of Trump's perfidy but to then initiate FISA approved surveillance on the Trump campaign, that is truly astonishing. Instructive then that the NY Times, Washington Post, etc have yet to acknowledge these facts to their readers, and instead have effectively doubled down on the story, insisting that the Russiagate allegations are established fact and constitute "objective reality." That suggests this fake news story will continue indefinitely. ..."
"... What we see here is these bastions of establishment thinking in the USA promoting "objective reality" as partisan - i.e. there is a Clinton reality versus a Trump reality, or a Russian reality versus a "Western" reality, facts and documentation be damned. This divorce from objectivity is a symptom of the overall decline of American institutions, an indicate a future hard, rather than soft, landing near the end of the road. ..."
Dec 28, 2017 | www.moonofalabama.org

The promotion of the alleged Russian election hacking in certain media may have grown from the successful attempts of U.S. intelligence services to limit the publication of the NSA files obtained by Edward Snowden.

In May 2013 Edward Snowden fled to Hongkong and handed internal documents from the National Security Agency (NSA) to four journalists, Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Ewen MacAskill of the Guardian and separately to Barton Gellman who worked for the Washington Post . Some of those documents were published by Glenn Greenwald in the Guardian , others by Barton Gellman in the Washington Post . Several other international news site published additional material though the mass of NSA papers that Snowden allegedly acquired never saw public daylight.

In July 2013 the Guardian was forced by the British government to destroy its copy of the Snowden archive.

In August 2013 Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post for some $250 million. In 2012 Bezos, the founder, largest share holder and CEO of Amazon, had already a cooperation with the CIA. Together they invested in a Canadian quantum computing company. In March 2013 Amazon signed a $600 million deal to provide computing services for the CIA.

In October 2013 Pierre Omidyar, the owner of Ebay, founded First Look Media and hired Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras. The total planned investment was said to be $250 million. It took up to February 2014 until the new organization launched its first site, the Intercept . Only a few NSA stories appeared on it. The Intercept is a rather mediocre site. Its management is said to be chaotic . It publishes few stories of interests and one might ask if it ever was meant to be a serious outlet. Omidyar has worked, together with the U.S. government, to force regime change onto Ukraine. He had strong ties with the Obama administration.

Snowden had copies of some 20,000 to 58,000 NSA files . Only 1,182 have been published . Bezos and Omidyar obviously helped the NSA to keep more than 95% of the Snowden archive away from the public. The Snowden papers were practically privatized into trusted hands of Silicon Valley billionaires with ties to the various secret services and the Obama administration.

The motivation for the Bezos and Omidyar to do this is not clear. Bezos is estimated to own a shameful $90 billion. The Washington Post buy is chump-change for him. Omidyar has a net worth of some $9.3 billion. But the use of billionaires to mask what are in fact intelligence operations is not new. The Ford Foundation has for decades been a CIA front , George Soros' Open Society foundation is one of the premier "regime change" operations, well versed in instigating "color revolutions".

It would have been reasonable if the cooperation between those billionaires and the intelligence agencies had stopped after the NSA leaks were secured. But it seems that strong cooperation of the Bezos and Omidyar outlets with the CIA and others continue.

The Intercept burned a intelligence leaker, Realty Winner, who had trusted its journalists to keep her protected. It smeared the President of Syria as neo-nazi based on an (intentional?) mistranslation of one of his speeches. It additionally hired a Syrian supporter of the CIA's "regime change by Jihadis" in Syria. Despite its pretense of "fearless, adversarial journalism" it hardly deviates from U.S. policies.

The Washington Post , which has a much bigger reach, is the prime outlet for "Russia-gate", the false claims by parts of the U.S. intelligence community and the Clinton campaign, that Russia attempted to influence U.S. elections or even "colluded" with Trump.

Just today it provides two stories and one op-ed that lack any factual evidence for the anti-Russian claims made in them.

In Kremlin trolls burned across the Internet as Washington debated options the writers insinuate that some anonymous writer who published a few pieces on Counterpunch and elsewhere was part of a Russian operation. They provide zero evidence to back that claim up. Whatever that writer wrote (see list at end) was run of the mill stuff that had little to do with the U.S. election. The piece then dives into various cyber-operations against Russia that the Obama and Trump administration have discussed.

A second story in the paper today is based on "a classified GRU report obtained by The Washington Post." It claims that the Russian military intelligence service GRU started a social media operation one day after the Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was illegally removed from his office in a U.S. regime change operation . What the story lists as alleged GRU puppet postings reads like normal internet talk of people opposed to the fascist regime change in Kiev. The Washington Post leaves completely unexplained who handed it an alleged GRU report from 2014, who classified it and how, if at all, it verified its veracity. To me the piece and the assertions therein have a strong odor of bovine excrement.

An op-ed in the very same Washington Post has a similar smell. It is written by the intelligence flunkies Michael Morell and Mike Rogers. Morell had hoped to become CIA boss under a President Hillary Clinton. The op-ed (which includes a serious misunderstanding of "deterrence") asserts that Russia never stopped its cyberattacks on the United States :

Russia's information operations tactics since the election are more numerous than can be listed here . But to get a sense of the breadth of Russian activity, consider the messaging spread by Kremlin-oriented accounts on Twitter, which cybersecurity and disinformation experts have tracked as part of the German Marshall Fund's Alliance for Securing Democracy.

The author link to this page which claims to list Twitter hashtags that are currently used by Russian influence agents. Apparently the top issue Russia's influence agents currently promote is "#merrychristmas".


bigger

When the authors claim Russian operations are "more numerous than can be listed here" they practically admit that they have not even one plausible operation they could cite. Its simply obfuscation to justify their call for more political and military measures against Russia. This again to distract from the real reasons Clinton lost the election and to introduce a new Cold War for the benefit of weapon producers and U.S. influence in Europe.

Cont. reading: From Snowden To Russia-gate - The CIA And The Media

11:53 AM | Comments (137)

G , Dec 26, 2017 12:10:03 PM | 1

If what you allege is true about Greenwald and the Intercept, then why hasn't Snowden spoken out about it yet? Surely he would have said something about the Intercept and Greenwald keeping important stories buried by now. Yet, as far as I can tell, he has a good relationship with Greenwald. I find it hard to believe hat a man who literally gave up everything he had in life to leak important docs would remain silent for so long about a publishing cover up. I don't really like the Intercept and I think your analysis of its content is accurate, but I do find it hard to believe that the NSA docs were "bought" back by the CIA.
Ort , Dec 26, 2017 1:41:21 PM | 16
@G | 1

If what you allege is true about Greenwald and the Intercept, then why hasn't Snowden spoken out about it yet?
_____________________________________________________

My understanding is that early on, Snowden placed his trove of documents in the exclusive care of Glenn Greenwald and his associates. Although Snowden has since become a public figure in his own right, and his opinions on state-security events and issues are solicited, as far as I know Snowden has no direct responsibility for managing the material he downloaded.

I haven't followed Snowden closely enough to know how familiar he may be with the contents of the reported "20,000 to 58,000 NSA files" turned over to GG/Omidyar. Snowden presumably took pains to acquire items of interest in his cache as he accumulated classified material, but even if he has extraordinary powers of recall he may not remember precisely what remains unreleased.

FWIW, I was troubled from the first by one of the mainstays of GG's defense, or rationale, when it became clear that he was the principal, and perhaps sole, executive "curator" of the Snowden material. In order to reassure and placate nervous "patriots"-- and GG calls himself a "patriot"-- he repeatedly emphasized that great care was being taken to vet the leaked information before releasing it.

GG's role as whistleblower Snowden's enabler and facilitator was generally hailed uncritically by progressive-liberals and civil-liberties advocates, to a point where public statements that should've raised skeptical doubts and questions were generally passively accepted by complacent admirers.

Specifically, my crap detectors signaled "red alert" early on, when Greenwald (still affiliated with "The Guardian", IIRC) took great pains to announce that his team was working closely with the US/UK governments to vet and screen Snowden's material before releasing any of it; GG repeatedly asserted that he was reviewing the material with the relevant state-security agencies to ensure that none of the released material would compromise or jeopardize government operatives and/or national security.

WTF? Bad enough that Greenwald was requiring the world to exclusively trust his judgment in deciding what should be released and what shouldn't. He was also making it clear that he wasn't exactly committed to disclosing "the worst" of the material "though the heavens fall".

In effect, as GG was telling the world that he could be trusted to manage the leaked information responsibly, he was also telling the world that it simply had to trust his judgment in this crucial role.

To me, there was clearly a subliminal message for both Western authorities and the public: don't worry, we're conscientious, patriotic leak-masters. We're not going to irresponsibly disclose anything too radical, or politically/socially destabilizing.

GG and the Omidyar Group have set themselves up as an independent "brand" in the new field of whistleblower/hacker impresario and leak-broker.

Like only buying NFL-approved merchandise, or fox-approved eggs, the public is being encouraged to only buy (into) Intercept-approved Snowden Leaks™. It's a going concern, which lends itself much more to the "modified limited hangout" approach than freely tossing all the biggest eggs out of the basket.

GG found an opportunity to augment his rising career as a self-made investigative journalist and civil-liberties advocate. Now he's sitting pretty, the celebrity point man for a lucrative modified limited hangout enterprise. What is wrong with this picture?

Bart Hansen , Dec 26, 2017 1:51:59 PM | 17
#1: I suspect that Snowden needs Glenn and Laura as liaisons to the outside world.
G , Dec 26, 2017 2:05:23 PM | 18
@16 I just see no evidence of that aside from fitting the narrative of people who are convinced of a cover up in leaked docs. Moreover, there is no way Russia would continue to offer Snowden asylum if he was gov agent. I'm sure Russian intelligence did a very thorough background check on him.

@17 that's simply not true. He regularly tweets, gives online talks and publishes on his own. He has not used either Poitras or Greenwald as a means of communication for years. And he has never dropped a single hint of being disappointed or frustrated with how documents and info was published.

It just seems so implausible given the total lack of any sign of Snowden's dissatisfaction.

jayc , Dec 26, 2017 2:31:15 PM | 22
The revelation that the sole Russiagate "evidence" was the so-called Steele Dossier - i.e. opposition research funded by the Clinton campaign - which was used by the intelligence community to not only begin the public assertions of Trump's perfidy but to then initiate FISA approved surveillance on the Trump campaign, that is truly astonishing. Instructive then that the NY Times, Washington Post, etc have yet to acknowledge these facts to their readers, and instead have effectively doubled down on the story, insisting that the Russiagate allegations are established fact and constitute "objective reality." That suggests this fake news story will continue indefinitely.

What we see here is these bastions of establishment thinking in the USA promoting "objective reality" as partisan - i.e. there is a Clinton reality versus a Trump reality, or a Russian reality versus a "Western" reality, facts and documentation be damned. This divorce from objectivity is a symptom of the overall decline of American institutions, an indicate a future hard, rather than soft, landing near the end of the road.

Jen , Dec 26, 2017 2:50:16 PM | 25
G @ 1 and 18: My understanding is that Edward Snowden has been advised (warned?) by the Russian government or his lawyer in Moscow not to reveal any more than he has said so far. The asylum Moscow has offered him may be dependent on his keeping discreet. That may include not saying much about The Intercept, in case his communications are followed by the NSA or any other of the various US intel agencies which could lead to their tracking his physical movements in Russia and enable any US-connected agent or agency (including one based in Russia) to trace him, arrest him or kill him, and cover up and frame the seizure or murder in such a way as to place suspicion or blame on the Russian government or on local criminal elements in Russia.

I believe that Snowden does have a job in Russia and possibly this job does not permit him the time to say any more than what he currently tweets or says online.

There is nothing in MoA's article to suggest that Glenn Greenwald is deliberately burying stories in The Intercept. B has said that its management is chaotic which could suggest among other things that Greenwald himself is dissatisfied with its current operation.

G , Dec 26, 2017 2:57:40 PM | 26
@21 I'm not disputing that moneyed interests might have been leaned on by the CIA to stop publishing sensitive info. What I'm disputing is the idea that people like Greenwald have deliberately with-held information that is in the public interest. I doubt that, regardless of the strength of the Intercept as a publication.

@25 What interest would the Russian gov have in helping protect NSA? I assume Russia loves the idea of the US Intel agencies being embarrassed. Snowden speaks his mind about plenty of domestic and international events in US. I have never seen him act like he's being censored.

Jen , Dec 26, 2017 3:46:44 PM | 31
G @ 25: Moscow would have no interest in helping protect the NSA or any other US intel agency. The Russians would have advised Snowden not to say more than he has said so far, not because they are interested in helping the NSA but because they can only protect him as long as he is discreet and does not try to say or publish any more that would jeopardise his safety or give Washington an excuse to pressure Moscow to extradite him back to the US. That would include placing more sanctions on Russia until Snowden is given up.

There is the possibility also that Snowden trusts (or trusted) Greenwald to know what to do with the NSA documents. Perhaps that trust was naively placed - we do not know.

Red Ryder , Dec 26, 2017 3:48:47 PM | 33
b, a big exposition of facts, rich in links to more facts.

This is important material for all to understand.

Snowden is "the squirrel over there!" A distraction turned into a hope.
Compared to Assange, who is being slow-martyred in captivity, Snowden is a boy playing with gadgets.

Why did not Snowden make certain a copy of his theft went to Wikileaks? That would have been insurance.
Since he did not, it all could be just a distraction.

What is known about the Snowden affair is we received proof of what we knew. Not much else. For those who didn't know, they received news.
And ever since, the shape of things from the Deep State/Shadow Government/IC has been lies and warmongering against American freedoms and world cooperation among nations.

Fascism is corporate + the police state. The US government is a pure fascist tyranny that also protects the Empire and Global Hegemony.

We connect the dots and it's always the same picture. It was this way in the 60s,70s,80s,90s, 00s, and this forlorn decade.
Fascism more bold each decade. Billionaires and millionaires have always been in the mix.

[Dec 28, 2017] When GG acquired apparently exclusive stewardship of the Snowden trove, one of my first thoughts was, "If there's anything in Snowden's documents that contradict or cast doubt upon the official 9/11 narrative, Glenn will be careful to put it on the bottom of the pile and keep it there." I still believe this

Dec 28, 2017 | www.moonofalabama.org

@ WJ | 110

119

Sorry I can't help with your questions, but I concur with your hunches about the creation of Intercept.

Your reference to Intercept being set up "to block the inquiry into or exposure of special access Intel operations during or prior to 9/11 which would blow up entirely the official narrative of that epochal event" touches a nerve.

I was a regular reader and commenter at Glenn Greenwald's (GG) "Unclaimed Territory" blog, which was absorbed into the progressive-liberal lite Salon site. I even had a few brief but cordial e-mail exchanges with GG, since I diligently sent him (requested) private e-mail alerts to grammatical and syntactic errors in his prolific posts.

I sympathized with GG's early attempts to deal fairly with aggressive 9/11 Truthers monopolizing the comments; he personally moderated, and participated in, his comments threads. At first, GG's stance was "agnostic" towards 9/11 "Truther" theories, but he reasonably insisted that 9/11-related comments not be allowed to hijack every discussion.

But GG himself was not much of a 9/11 skeptic, and I soured on GG when he proved to be what I call a "Trutherphobe".

Before long, he became openly censorious and began removing both comments and commenters who insisted on mentioning 9/11, even if the 9/11 reference was germane to the topic. (Not me; I knew better than to push his buttons.) Also, GG adopted, or independently reached, what I call the "Chomsky Bubble" stance-- essentially, a sophisticated rationalization that amounts to "nothing to see here, move along."

Eventually, despite his efforts to seem nominally open-minded towards 9/11 skeptics, it became clear that to GG, pursuing 9/11 truth was both a distraction and a nuisance. 9/11 truth is simply not part of GG's agenda.

When GG acquired apparently exclusive stewardship of the Snowden trove, one of my first thoughts was, "If there's anything in Snowden's documents that contradict or cast doubt upon the official 9/11 narrative, Glenn will be careful to put it on the bottom of the pile and keep it there." I still believe this.

It's too late to blithely conclude "In short...", but all this to say that if you're correct, GG is just the person to put in charge of a modified limited hangout operation that, in part, suppresses 9/11 inquiry and truth.

[Dec 28, 2017] Was Snowden a double agent or not

Notable quotes:
"... I have always been flabbergasted about the naivety of the general public in regards to the abilities, capabilities and determination of the so called 'establishment' - aka Plutocracy, when it comes to the choice of means to achieve their psychopathic goals. What is out of reach, or undoable to those that willingly accept the death of millions of innocent people in the ME and the world over? ..."
"... The utter destruction of sovereign Nations that don't fall in line? Organizing coup d'etats like local fundraisers for soup kitchens? Looking at the track record of the American establishment, nothing, absolutely nothing is ever off the table. ..."
"... I'm always wary of talk about limited hangouts. A case can usually be made that such talk is itself intended for the same purpose - to lull the recipient into despair and passivity. ..."
"... And it WAS a secret weapon. It took a long time for this to become obvious. We see the media all along has been completely mediocre, but since it has long given wall-to-wall coverage, it never had to get very good in order to send the daily propaganda message. Come the Internet, everyone sees how sloppy the media's work is. But does this raise the quality of the media lies? It seems not - the opposite in fact, the readers get far smarter than the writers. ..."
"... The greatest trick the Devil pulled was not convincing the world he didn't exist, it was convincing the world that evil was clever, when in fact it's very mediocre. Evil performs badly. It will continue to perform badly. It can be resisted and overcome. This takes time. ..."
Dec 28, 2017 | www.moonofalabama.org

Grieved , Dec 26, 2017 8:34:55 PM | 57

Snowden went to established journalists because he wanted the story to get out. He also wanted them to be cautious and conservative, to redact whatever seemed damaging to operations or his country.

In my opinion, what the journalists did worked. And Snowden destroyed his own access to the materials.

My guess - purely a guess - is that Snowden was, and remains, quite satisfied with what happened and what got published. He never wanted operational FACTS to get out so much as he wanted the SCALE of what the US was doing to get out. In this matter, I'd call his entire effort a tremendous success.

Snowden's face and story went around the world and shook things up. Paradigms came crashing down. In my own personal case, the Snowden material showed me the scale of US adventurism, and the vast audacity of its criminality. It made it clear, in philosophical terms rather than evidentiary terms, that 9/11 could easily be an inside job. It took a change in the paradigms of the scale of corruption to open up that possibility for me. I'm sure it's done similar things for millions of people. Snowden was one of the few events I can think of that actually played out in the mainstream before anyone figured out how to shut it down - and the genie was out of the bottle.

We don't know what we've lost by not having the missing pages released. But I find it hard to think they could change paradigms any more than has already happened. There's a diminishing return here. Wikileaks publishes troves of material, but what paradigms get changed unless it plays in the mainstream? Manning with the video of the mercs shooting the civilians was the last time this happened, I think.

When it comes to seeing what's behind the curtain - which is precisely what the information war is about - the words and the details of the stories matter far less than the way that people's thinking gets changed.

~~

At Christmas I socialized with ordinary people. I learned that they believe the Russians interfered in the US election, and planted Trump. Bummer, but on the other hand, I could talk to everyone about the NSA getting my Facebook feed or my phone data, and there's full agreement, or at least no disagreement.

Snowden went into the culture. Russiagate is still playing out, and we don't yet know who will be the big loser in the belief system of the culture. I'm still willing to bet it's the mainstream media.

~~

Putin has said that Snowden didn't reveal anything that Russian intelligence didn't already know. Russia didn't want to harbor Snowden, but the US State Department forced the issue by revoking his passport while he was in the air terminal in Russia. The current asylum granted is for a 3-year period. I see no reason to make any change in this. It will be reviewed when it expires, and if Snowden is still a stateless political refugee, which seems very likely, than I imagine it will be renewed. Russia is a nation of laws.

Russia has little to do with Snowden. And even less to do with the US elections. Russia doesn't want confrontation, between anyone. Russia wants a world of no conflict, and every action it takes pursues this end. Russia will easily forego a cheap victory in order to gain a valuable cessation of hostilities. I believe Putin when he says that who won the US election was of no great importance to Russia - they would deal with whomever was there.

It's always important to understand that Russia is not playing a zero-sum game, nor is she playing to "win" against any other nation in geopolitics. Russia wins when other nations stop fighting. The lat thing she wants to do is interfere with the internal order of other countries. But she is rooting for the orderliness of each country.

~~

Sorry such a long comment.

karlof1 , Dec 26, 2017 9:31:54 PM | 63
Grieved @57--

Thanks for your nice long comment and its excellent observations. And Happy Holidays since I haven't wished them on you yet this year!

For me, Snowden's revelations were nothing new as I had already learned about Project Echelon , which by the end of the 1980s was global girding and mostly intent on industrial espionage as this summary at the link informs:

"The ECHELON program was created in the late 1960s to monitor the military and diplomatic communications of the Soviet Union and its Eastern Bloc allies during the Cold War, and was formally established in 1971.[5][6]

"By the end of the 20th century, the system referred to as "ECHELON" had allegedly evolved beyond its military and diplomatic origins, to also become ' a global system for the interception of private and commercial communications' (mass surveillance and industrial espionage)."

Indeed, the extent of Echelon was available to the public--sort of--but there were very few publications about it, although that changed as the internet grew during the 1990s. So for me, Snowden's actions becoming headline news was more important than the content of his revelations as the slumbering public got slapped upside its collective head.

Another historical factoid of interest is FDR's meeting with media CEOs a few days prior to 7 Dec 1941, of which no transcript exists to my knowledge, although what was said can be inferred by subsequent actions by all the actors involved--there was no, zero, deviation from the official government line about the Day of Infamy, which was a prelude to media portrayal on 911.

Fundamentally, the bottom line is whenever interests between national governments diverge from those of their public, governments will lie every time--those two sets of policy HRC admitted she had for public versus private consumption. Although it's too soon to be certain, it appears that the leadership of Russia and China have learned the difficult lesson that the best policy is for the national government to be in sync with the interests of its citizenry, thus the philosophical adoption of Win/Win versus the Outlaw US Empire's Zero Sum game, which forms the basis for our ongoing Hybrid Third World War.

nottheonly1 , Dec 26, 2017 9:32:22 PM | 64
Pe entities at work that are not under the control of the Russian secret services. Here is a link to an article on RT.de about US Special Forces at the Russian Border
All we can do is assume.

@karlof1 #37

My favorite pet peeve is Bernays. Even those who are aware of his deplorable actions, seldom grasp just how devastating his selling out of the human psyche to corporations and the NSA/CIA really turned out to be. The man hated the masses and short of calling them 'useless eaters', he saw them solely as means to corporate profits.
His legacy is a citizen without any other rights than that to "go shopping".

Go Ask Alice tells us the latest story about how much the surveillance has advanced. The article is about some content provider with unknown identity. The core message though is about the NSA/FBI/CIA going after anybody that comments on the internet, provided certain keywords are triggered. While that has been known since Snowden, the masses suffer from short term memory loss. Any dissent to the establishment is noted. This proves that there is no more rule of common law and nothing resembling a democracy by a far shot. A Plutocratic dictatorship determined to destroy anybody that poses a threat to its existence.

Red Ryder , Dec 26, 2017 10:43:54 PM | 69
@66
"What would be the most sinister scenario in regards to Snowden and the NSA leak?"

That General Hayden gets his wish and kills Snowden. That's the most sinister.

If you meant, intrigue, double agent or useful idiot sort of thing, well, Snowden had no intention of running to China and definitely not to Russia.
The Intel Agencies would have loved if he ran straight to Moscow. But it didn't happen. So,we sort of know he wasn't "used". He was "allowed" because they had it covered when he handed off the purloined data.

What sort of encrypted communication did he use on that trip to Hong Kong? They knew what he was doing.
They tried for it to be an out-and-out treason case. Remember that they insisted the Chinese in Beijing had it all?
They they tried to generate the same with Russia and Putin when he landed in Moscow.

I find him to be a useful tool for everyone who wants something out of his adventure. People who think he's a hero have their hero. People who want him dead probably have some contract out on him. And others want him to be returned and prosecuted like Timothy McVeigh and executed.

Grieved indicated above @57, Snowden was in our culture now. He's an asterisk. Compare him to Daniel Ellsberg. You cannot. Ellsberg forced the country against the war machine, forced the NYTimes to grow a set of balls and publish the Papers, and he won against the Deep State who tried to destroy him. All the while he stood like a man of courage and didn't scurry around and lateral the papers off. They got published. He faced down the system and won a huge First Amendment battle.

I chalk up the differences as Snowden is a kid with a keyboard. Assange and Ellsberg are men. The latter really matter. Snowden is a very light symbol, at best. He embarrassed NSA and only exists today because of Putin and Russian values.

I guess Vietnam was the great Evil, and surveillance just doesn't match up against what that charnel house of napalm, carpet bombing, white phosphorus, Agent Orange and Agent Blue, Phoenix Program assassinations became.

Ellsberg was a true hero. I named my first son after him.

Penelope , Dec 26, 2017 11:46:12 PM | 76
The original 3 TV Networks were started by Intelligence figures. When the Church Committee documented that all 3 were controlled by the Rockefellers, Senator Nelson Rockefeller was able to limit the GPO printing of the report to less than 100 copies.
Time Warner was govt & military intelligence controlled since its founding in 1923 by Henry Luce, a Yale Skull & Bones guy from an intelligence family. His father was a spy in China pretending to be a missionary.

The German journalist Udo Ulfkotte wrote a book, Bought Journalists, in which he reported that every significant European journalist functions as a CIA asset.

It became even worse during the Clinton regime when six mega-media companies were permitted to acquire 90% of the US print, TV, radio, and entertainment media, a concentration that destroyed diversity and independence. Today the media throughout the Western world serves as a Propaganda Ministry for Washington. The Western media is Washington's Ministry of Truth.

At the top it isn't the case that the CIA controls the media; rather that the board of directors is named by the banksters and mega-rich. Like all the mega-corps, they are thoroughly controlled by the Usurpers. The CIA has always been their private police force for intell & enforcement at home and abroad.

To rule a world requires control of military force, of money, information, energy, and the elimination of private property. Everything else is distraction. Probably the end of net neutrality is important. The coming global digital money is catastrophic. Agenda 21 is the global dictatorship, and is already decreasing private property-- among other things. https://geopolitics.co/2015/04/09/the-true-purpose-of-agenda-21/ I recommend the video within it.

Grieved , Dec 27, 2017 1:08:11 AM | 77
@73 Mark - I cannot understand why Snowden doesn't have another copy to give to Wikileaks.

This is a crucial point. Edward Snowden chose not to possess the files after he had handed them off to the journalists. He wiped out his copy when they started to publish them. This was a deliberate choice, and part of an entire ethical view that Snowden held of the situation he was in, and the situation he had created.

If you can't understand why he held this view, then you have to ask him, or study his words. But rest assured that he didn't simply "fail" to have a backup copy in case his journalists chickened out or sold out their commitment. He was a geek. He wasn't a journalist. He wanted sensible journalists to handle the lifetime scoop that he was holding. In my view, he made an incredibly good choice.

Put yourself in his shoes. The path he had already walked just to get those files to those real-world journalists in Hong Kong was already a thousand times longer than anything that could possibly lie in front of him. All this talk about assets - like you can keep this kind of thing going: the man lived a lifetime in a few short years and did the best thing he could ever have conceived of.

He earned the space to delete the files and sit back for a while and watch things happen. He said he wanted the public to know, and the public to discuss - if he was wrong, so be it, but it was for the public to discuss, he always said.

Everything I've written here may not be true. But if it is true, then on the basis of this narrative of events, no one has any right to ask anything more of Snowden. He was the messenger who put his body in the circuit to complete the signal. We all gained. He gained nothing, except satisfaction of mission accomplished.

For me that's where his story ends. Greenwald, Intercept, oligarchs, slavery - these are all another story, and one that I'm focused on. But I choose to honor Snowden for the bravery of what he seems to have done, and if true that achievement scored so high that no amount of falling short can diminish it.

Peter AU 1 , Dec 27, 2017 1:38:17 AM | 79
78

Snowden confirmed the NSA files held by shadow brokers as genuine. How many years after destroying his copies? Snowden worked in US intelligence, perhaps just as a geek, but I don't see him destroying the only weapon he has against them.

psychohistorian , Dec 27, 2017 2:04:04 AM | 80
@ Grieved with recent support for Snowden

I agree and thank you for your words.

I haven't read here any discussion of the movie, SNOWDEN, produced by Oliver Stone. I saw it when it first came out. Is it on Netflix or other outlets yet? As movies go it fell short of a documentary. That said, it provides yet another potential thin-edge-of-a-wedge thought for the zombies that live among us.

The neurofeedback treatment that I am up to 132 session of has healed many people like Edward Snowden (with his reported epilepsy) and I hope he gets such soon in his life; us old folks are harder to heal. One of neurofeedback earliest successes was a woman with epilepsy who after being healed went out and got a drivers license.....can't find the source but this was 30-40 years ago

I consider Snowden to be a true American patriot. The American values that I was taught are in stark contrast to those exhibited by the God of Mammon cabal in control today. I don't believe that we are a bad species but sorely misdirected by something that can be "easily" changed. Look at the progress we have made as a species. Why do we let ourselves be limited in our development by centuries old conventions about who controls the tools of finance? How many wars would there be if money was a public utility?

Wake up zombies! It is time to change the world.

Thominus , Dec 27, 2017 2:52:00 AM | 81
What more revelations of Snowden's archive could possibly make any difference? It is already basically understood that the NSA, its contractors, and 5 eyes agencies "collect it all" illegally, with no meaningful oversight, to the degree that social media became their accomplice and extension, that they abuse this power and the constitution proudly and with impunity for any purposes and justifications they see fit, and so on, and the vast majority of citizens cower, or delude themselves with some comforting trust that it won't be used against them.

It has only proven that nothing will snap the majority ignorance from its coma.
No one with any voice - even those involved seem able to comprehend how vastly and deeply this will effect the free will of people, culture, and society - for that matter how it already has progressed to do so.

In the wake of the retroactive telcom immunity (which by definition is an admission of blatant criminality and conspiracy by and between both government and telcom corporations) The Snowden revalations couldn't have been more explicit, signifiacnt, or urgent. The people did nothing. Those minor percentage of us who bother to read and understand what is happening can chatter and pontificate all we want, because the ignorant majority hasn't the interest or energy to question the status quo. (they absoloutely have not the attention span to read a single Greenwald article) So really I can understand why there is no point releaseing the rest.

Snowden was the one upholding his oath to the constitution, against whose who systematically violated it, and he is called a traitor.

As far as RussiaGate being some sort of distraction from this - no more than a distraction from any other meaningful information that SHOULD be on people's minds.

brabantian , Dec 27, 2017 4:11:38 AM | 83
Regrettably, Moon of Alabama has not spotted what all major government intelligence agencies have known for a couple of years now ... European intel agency report - 'Edward Snowden & Glenn Greenwald are CIA frauds'
...
[copy of a Veterans Today nonsense piece deleted - b.]
V. Arnold , Dec 27, 2017 4:14:20 AM | 84
Peter AU 1 | Dec 27, 2017 1:38:17 AM | 80

Snowden didn't "destroy" anything. He gave it all to Greenwald in Hong Kong.
That way, nobody could coerce or otherwise intimidate him; as there were no files in his possesion.
Snowden himself clearly stated this fact.
That he landed in Russia is entirely the fault of the U.S. government (such as it is) by cancelling Snowden's passport enroute; this becomes ancient history in today's world...

Oh mercy; this is getting just too weird and woo, woo, for this one; later will be greater...

Posted by: V. Arnold , Dec 27, 2017 4:16:44 AM | 85

Oh mercy; this is getting just too weird and woo, woo, for this one; later will be greater...

Posted by: V. Arnold | Dec 27, 2017 4:16:44 AM | 85 /div

V. Arnold , Dec 27, 2017 6:20:14 AM | 86
So, it seems Pierre Omidyar sold out Greenwald; that's just peachy...
john , Dec 27, 2017 6:40:27 AM | 87
the Snowden('snowed in') saga is yet to be written, or perhaps, like much verity, will NEVER be written. eluding the intelligence hounds for a couple of weeks while shooting a nice HD video with a couple of prominent journalists never passed my smell test...

,,,

...and what might seem a minor quibble with Grieved's:

Manning with the video of the mercs shooting the civilians was the last time this happened, I think

those weren't mercs, dude, they were US Army.

John , Dec 27, 2017 9:50:53 AM | 90
Re#56 - Grieved

I agree that the Snowden info was the paradym changer that showed to me in unmistakable imagery,
that my country was an outlaw nation hellbent on economic empire and had shifted from liberty to total
Control mechanisms.

The Snowden info together with the missing 28 pages from the 911 committee findings sent me on a
truth mission; reading everything from "CIA Rouges Killed JFK, Russ Baker's book on the Bush
family, to Fahrenheit 911.

This former Neocon keeps trying to wash himself in the pure waters of the truth but cannot wash clean his guilt
for once voting for and defending such trash.

So I continue reading sites like MOA and others seeking the truth and speaking out to those in my life.

john , Dec 27, 2017 10:11:12 AM | 91
John says:

I agree that the Snowden info was the paradym changer that showed to me in unmistakable imagery,
that my country was an outlaw nation hellbent on economic empire and had shifted from liberty to total
Control mechanisms

"Earth-shattering!" Bah! Humbug!

Penelope , Dec 27, 2017 11:09:22 AM | 95
Brabantian @ 83, Yes, the huge amount of publicity given Snowden was an obvious tip-off that he is a hoax. All other whistleblowers get no publicity at all. Plus, everything that Snowden "disclosed" was already known. Perhaps he's out there to give credibility to lies as yet untold. Already his "asylum" promotes the fiction of East vs West opposition. It is a play and we are the audience, stuck in Plato's cave.
wendy davis , Dec 27, 2017 12:00:01 PM | 98
'Snowden says he took no secret files to russia', NYSlimes 10/13

He argued that he had helped American national security by prompting a badly needed public debate about the scope of the intelligence effort. "The secret continuance of these programs represents a far greater danger than their disclosure," he said. He added that he had been more concerned that Americans had not been told about the N.S.A.'s reach than he was about any specific surveillance operation.

" So long as there's broad support amongst a people, it can be argued there's a level of legitimacy even to the most invasive and morally wrong program, as it was an informed and willing decision," he said . "However, programs that are implemented in secret, out of public oversight, lack that legitimacy, and that's a problem. It also represents a dangerous normalization of 'governing in the dark,' where decisions with enormous public impact occur without any public input."
Pffffft.

Zo, will congress renew the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Section 702 when they're back in town?

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/18/world/snowden-says-he-took-no-secret-files-to-russia.html

WJ , Dec 27, 2017 2:11:30 PM | 110
There's a lot going on in this post and comment thread. I have no strong opinion about the disputed status/role of either Snowden or Greenwald that are being discussed above, but I do think it very likely that the Intercept was originally started as what is often referred to (I believe following the Nixon tapes) as a "limited hangout" operation.

It was intended to "expose" certain truths the CIA/NSA knew were already implied by earlier revealed and published documents and by this means was to distract the public (as if) and journalists (all three of them) from probing more deeply into the history, scope, and current operations of these and related programs. I would not be surprised if it turned out somehow that the real objective of this was to block the inquiry into or exposure of special access Intel operations during or prior to 9/11 which would blow up entirely the official narrative of that epochal event.

But I would like to bring up one fact that bears on the ongoing discussion of Snowden and Greenwald but has not been mentioned yet (I believe) in this thread. That is the NSA's reported identification of (I believe) at least two other possible leakers or whistleblowers simultaneous with or just after Snowden. I recall there being several reports about the arrest or possible detainment of one possible leaker in particular whose identity has never (to my knowledge) come to light. Does anybody remember better than I do this intriguing but often forgot facet of the NSA / Snowden affair?

The existence, identity, and (unknown?) fate of this possible NSA leaker bears on the questions being asked above about Snowden and Greenwald in obvious ways. If there really was such a leaker or potential leaker who had at the time not yet been apprehended by the NSA, then it is at least certainly possible that Snowden's own leaks were co-opted (willingly or not) by the CIA/NSA to render the revelations of the other not-yet-identified leaker anticlimactic and redundant. In this way, it is possible that Snowden's leaks, as filtered through Greenwald, the Guardian, and the Post, were themselves a kind of limited hangout operation.

Note what they produced: Obama admitted a discussion was needed, Clapper was dutifully brought before Congress, lied to them, and was not punished at all for it, and some peripheral laws were tweaked (and then untweaked) to give the impression that something had been discovered, discussed, and addressed, with the hope that now everybody would stop thinking too much about the NSA etc. This is exactly what happened, and it's exactly what limited hangouts are designed to do.

I would be interested in hearing more information from others here about those one or two other unidentified NSA leakers. What ever happened with that story? Was the identity of both leakers ever revealed?

nottheonly1 , Dec 27, 2017 5:57:15 PM | 123
@Red Ryder #69
...

As many other here stated, what WAS revealed, to was already known to a large degree. What WAS revealed, did not stir up the public sentiment beyond a ripple. It is the absence of any whatsoever consequence to his revelations that does not make sense. For the first part, of his living here in Hawai'i and subcontractor work for the NSA via Booz Allen Hamilton, reads like a cheap version of a spy b-picture. Compared to the surrounding circumstances of Daniel Ellsberg, Snowden's story appeared to be staged - if only to me. The more became known, the less did people pay attention to Libya and Syria. The distractive value of the unfolding Snowden whistle blowing was enormous.

...

nottheonly1 , Dec 27, 2017 6:30:36 PM | 125
@Red Ryder #69
...

I have always been flabbergasted about the naivety of the general public in regards to the abilities, capabilities and determination of the so called 'establishment' - aka Plutocracy, when it comes to the choice of means to achieve their psychopathic goals. What is out of reach, or undoable to those that willingly accept the death of millions of innocent people in the ME and the world over?

The utter destruction of sovereign Nations that don't fall in line? Organizing coup d'etats like local fundraisers for soup kitchens? Looking at the track record of the American establishment, nothing, absolutely nothing is ever off the table.

A staged NSA leak story that turns out to become more inconceivable and more suspicious by the day. And it matters not. Not more than Assange spending his days in an Ecuadorian exile until the plot line demands to change.

Therefore, the most sinister scenario includes a wholly staged Snowden storyline, with the participation of Russia. This is not to say that this is the way it is, but not discounting the possibility that it could be. On more than one occasion, Russian behavior, be it either reactionary, or proactive has been inconclusive. A fool who would think that it is all just theater on the expense of millions of innocent people and humanity as a whole.

No one has ever been able to predict the future in detail. Mankind is left to make sense of the present and with constant misinformation and distraction, that appears to be impossible.

Thanks to You and the other knowledgeable commenters.

All the best for 2018.

fast freddy , Dec 27, 2017 6:44:05 PM | 126
There is a good case that both Snowjob and Assange are Limited Hangouts. Each has exposed little beyond that which was already known. Neither offers any criticism of Israel's occupation of Palestine and the Yinon Plan.

What they have done is to get the worlds' citizenry to understand that domestic surveillance is a normal condition which should be expected and accepted.

Grieved , Dec 27, 2017 7:45:07 PM | 132
@126 What they have done is to get the worlds' citizenry to understand that domestic surveillance is a normal condition which should be expected and accepted.

This could also be stated as, "What they have done is to get the worlds' citizenry to understand that domestic surveillance is a normal condition which should be expected and guarded against ."

I think the world has changed since Snowden. Within the IT community, the sense of security and its requirements has been changed. What's missing so far is a discernible response. Wait a few more short years, until Chinese computing oustrips western encryption by an order of magnitude, and sooner than that when Russian hardware and software made for the consumer market is invulnerable to NSA technology. There's no sense trying to protect oneself from NSA at present because it will only draw attention. But when the Russian kit is on the market, let's just see who in the west buys it. I predict large sales.

dh , Dec 27, 2017 7:52:50 PM | 133
@132 Didn't Kaspersky just get banned in the US?
Grieved , Dec 27, 2017 8:13:41 PM | 137
I'm always wary of talk about limited hangouts. A case can usually be made that such talk is itself intended for the same purpose - to lull the recipient into despair and passivity.

When we say that we've all been gamed by theater, it's another way of saying not to fight back. But the Devil doesn't get it all his way all the time. And the rulers of the Earth always have to work through agents, and they are so frigging human that plans often go slightly, or greatly, awry.

We see more botched conspiracy action than seems credible. So a case can be made that the carelessness itself is part of the subliminal message that resistance is futile. But is it really intentional, or is it simply making the best of a bad job? Was Kennedy really gunned down in daylight as a message to all of us that we'd better not resist, because the power was total? Or was it just the way the state criminals think, that the way to kill a president is the same playbook that always worked before, and still they botched the hit with all kinds of missed shots and clumsy actions? Their secret weapon was media complicity - this allowed a multitude of sins, and without it we'd have known 50 years ago who killed Kennedy.

And it WAS a secret weapon. It took a long time for this to become obvious. We see the media all along has been completely mediocre, but since it has long given wall-to-wall coverage, it never had to get very good in order to send the daily propaganda message. Come the Internet, everyone sees how sloppy the media's work is. But does this raise the quality of the media lies? It seems not - the opposite in fact, the readers get far smarter than the writers.

The greatest trick the Devil pulled was not convincing the world he didn't exist, it was convincing the world that evil was clever, when in fact it's very mediocre. Evil performs badly. It will continue to perform badly. It can be resisted and overcome. This takes time.

I always enjoy the words of fictional Lazarus Long: "Of course the game is rigged. But don't let that stop you playing. If you don't play, you can't win."

David Park , Dec 27, 2017 9:39:05 PM | 138
Here is my little experience with the surveillance state: I am a user of the Mathematica computer program developed and sold by Wolfram Research Inc. They have a web site for users to exchange information called Wolfram Community. It is mostly about asking and answering questions about the use of Mathematica or sharing Mathematica tricks. About a year ago a series of about half a dozen ads for programmers appeared which were clearly link to expanding the surveillance state. Here is one of them:

Programming Ad

I replied by quoting the U.S. Constitution 4th Amendment and saying "Yes it was relevant to the advertisement."

Within 10 minutes my reply was deleted. I received an email from Wolfram Research saying: "We work very hard to foster positive environment on Wolfram Community and cannot allow any discussions outside the Wolfram Community guidelines. This means discussions that stray way beyond Wolfram Technologies topics."

So what is positive about advertisements on a community forum for the surveillance state and what is negative about the 4th Amendment? And the advertisements had little direct relevance to Mathematica. But I suppose they had their reasons.

[Dec 27, 2017] Wayne Masden - Five Eyes and Color Revolutions

Just a reminder...
Notable quotes:
"... taking control of cell phone and social media networks used for socio-political uprisings. ..."
May 26, 2015 | Strategic Culture Foundation
A recent release of Edward Snowden-provided classified PowerPoint presentation from the National Security Agency (NSA) provides a rather detailed description of how the FIVE EYES signals intelligence alliance of the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand has conspired with the promoters of social media-based revolutions, such as the "Arab Spring", to bring about the collapse of democratically-elected or otherwise stable governments. However, the PowerPoint slides were partially redacted in key areas by the dubious censors of First Look Media, financed by e-Bay founder and multi-billionaire Pierre Omidyar.

The PowerPoint slides illustrate how, in November 2011, the NSA; Canada's Communications Security Establishment (CSE), now Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), the Defense Signals Directorate (DSD) of Australia, now the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD); New Zealand's Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB); and Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) developed a method for not only monitoring but taking control of cell phone and social media networks used for socio-political uprisings.

The program, known as "Synergizing Network Analysis Tradecraft", was developed by the FIVE EYES's Network Tradecraft Advancement Team or "NTAT".

... ... ...

The slides show that among the countries where mobile application servers were targeted by the FIVE EYES were France, Cuba, Senegal, Morocco, Switzerland, Bahamas, and Russia. The information targeted by the Western signals intelligence partners included "geolocation and network ownership information for each IP address" that consisted of "network owner name, carrier name, ASN (advanced service network), continent, country, region, city, latitude and longitude, and any other related details". Not of interest to FIVE EYES were such applications as Google, mobile banking, and iTunes.

[Dec 25, 2017] Kamala Harris Pisses Off Intelligence Committee Chairman When She Tries to Control Senate Hearing!

Dec 25, 2017 | www.youtube.com

Published on Nov 9, 2017

Kamala Harris Pisses Off Intelligence Committee Chairman When She Tries to Control Senate Hearing!

[Dec 24, 2017] Evidence of Google blacklisting of left and progressive sites continues to mount - World Socialist Web Site

Notable quotes:
"... Psychology Today ..."
"... The WSWS will continue to expose and fight Google's program of political censorship, but we need the help of our readers. Please share this article by email and social media, ..."
"... donate to the WSWS ..."
"... sign up for email updates ..."
"... The author also recommends: ..."
Dec 24, 2017 | www.wsws.org

Evidence of Google blacklisting of left and progressive sites continues to mount

By Andre Damon
8 August 2017

A growing number of leading left-wing websites have confirmed that their search traffic from Google has plunged in recent months, adding to evidence that Google, under the cover of a fraudulent campaign against fake news, is implementing a program of systematic and widespread censorship.

Truthout, a not-for-profit news website that focuses on political, social, and ecological developments from a left progressive standpoint, had its readership plunge by 35 percent since April. The Real News , a nonprofit video news and documentary service, has had its search traffic fall by 37 percent. Another site, Common Dreams , last week told the WSWS that its search traffic had fallen by up to 50 percent.

As extreme as these sudden drops in search traffic are, they do not equal the nearly 70 percent drop in traffic from Google seen by the WSWS.

"This is political censorship of the worst sort; it's just an excuse to suppress political viewpoints," said Robert Epstein, a former editor in chief of Psychology Today and noted expert on Google.

Epstein said that at this point, the question was whether the WSWS had been flagged specifically by human evaluators employed by the search giant, or whether those evaluators had influenced the Google Search engine to demote left-wing sites. "What you don't know is whether this was the human evaluators who are demoting you, or whether it was the new algorithm they are training," Epstein said.

Richard Stallman, the world-renowned technology pioneer and a leader of the free software movement, said he had read the WSWS's coverage on Google's censorship of left-wing sites. He warned about the immense control exercised by Google over the Internet, saying, "For people's main way of finding articles about a topic to be run by a giant corporation creates an obvious potential for abuse."

According to data from the search optimization tool SEMRush, search traffic to Mr. Stallman's personal website, Stallman.org, fell by 24 percent, while traffic to gnu.org, operated by the Free Software Foundation, fell 19 percent.

Eric Maas, a search engine optimization consultant working in the San Francisco Bay area, said his team has surveyed a wide range of alternative news sites affected by changes in Google's algorithms since April. "While the update may be targeting specific site functions, there is evidence that this update is promoting only large mainstream news organizations. What I find problematic with this is that it appears that some sites have been targeted and others have not."

The massive drop in search traffic to the WSWS and other left-wing sites followed the implementation of changes in Google's search evaluation protocols. In a statement issued on April 25, Ben Gomes, the company's vice president for engineering, stated that Google's update of its search engine would block access to "offensive" sites, while working to surface more "authoritative content."

In a set of guidelines issued to Google evaluators in March, the company instructed its search evaluators to flag pages returning "conspiracy theories" or "upsetting" content unless "the query clearly indicates the user is seeking an alternative viewpoint."

The WSWS will continue to expose and fight Google's program of political censorship, but we need the help of our readers. Please share this article by email and social media, donate to the WSWS , and sign up for email updates .

The author also recommends:

Google blocked every one of the WSWS's 45 top search terms
[4 August 2017]

Google's new search protocol is restricting access to 13 leading socialist, progressive and anti-war web sites
[2 August 2017]

New Google algorithm restricts access to left-wing, progressive web sites
[27 July 2017]

  • u s k , November 8, 2017 5:14 AM

    Google stood up to Rulers' mandate once. Buckled under pressure today?

    Jared Greathouse , November 6, 2017 6:01 AM

    Notice how when WSWS is discussing a website under other auspices, it becomes something like a "pseudo-left" "pro-capitalist" website...

    But when it affects WSWS in a personal manner, these websites like AlterNet, Truthout, Jacobin and others become "progressive, left wing, anti-war" sites.

    Alice Wonder , August 13, 2017 7:32 AM

    I found this page through Bing. I rarely use Google anymore. If it matters, I can find it without Google.

    johnnieandroidseed Alice Wonder , August 23, 2017 1:15 AM

    Switching your search engine from Google to Micro$oft hardly seems like a step up in data security. Opera browser now has an optional, built in VPN with DuckDuckGo as a search engine. About as good as you'll get for free

    liz_imp Alice Wonder , August 15, 2017 1:21 PM

    Would you say that Bing is the best of the alternatives, Alice?? I only know them and Yahoo as real serious search engines, besides Google - which is unfortunately responsible for 90% of traffic, or something!! (They are easy to use on smartphones, too - this is the trouble!! We must fight Google and Yahoo's evil censorious monopolistic stance, Personally I fancy seeing a class action suit or two... I know, I read too much John Grisham: *but that's how the US system works*.)

    Can you recommend any other serious search engines please?

    Ric Size , August 11, 2017 10:43 PM

    I've tried DuckDuckGo as a search engine for several weeks now, and there are issues. It's not as good for searches on science, medicine, art & sports-- IMO. I don't get the depth of relevant sites, as compared to Google. Since I know the WSWS, and if I ever need to read a classical Marxist I go to the Marxist Internet Archive and click on the author, I'm not affected by Google's algorithms as a reader. The irony for me is Google's algorithms severely censor me as an artist, yet it's still my primary search engine tool.

    Also note that if DDG (or any other search engine) ever becomes as good as Google, it will be slanted the same way politically, which only proves boycotts don't work. Each search engine has its values & limitations, which are constantly in flux. All Internet search engines should be under public supervision with transparency, but under capitalism they are not. Therefore, know them and use accordingly, as they are today's most vital tool for disseminating mass media.

    Marla , August 10, 2017 1:57 PM

    It came up no problem when I used Yahoo's gawd-awful search engine. Google, like their counterpart, Apple and to a lesser extent Amazon are tying to corner the media and how it is presented. It's not silly to say that in 5-7 years all media, such as music, books, TV shows, movies will be regulated by them and only them when it comes to distribution.

    Kenneth C. Fingeret , August 9, 2017 10:00 AM

    Hello Andre Damon and Everyone, This paragraph caught my eye. The massive drop in search traffic to the WSWS and other left-wing sites
    followed the implementation of changes in Google's search evaluation
    protocols. In a statement issued on April 25, Ben Gomes, the company's
    vice president for engineering, stated that Google's update of its
    search engine would block access to "offensive" sites, while working to
    surface more "authoritative content." The main reason was the word "authoritative". It seems that a substitute could be used. Authoritarian as in authoritarian content! Much more big brother than the innocuous "authoritative"!

[Dec 24, 2017] Next Phase in Forcing Biometric Tracking on Consumers by Don Quijones

Notable quotes:
"... representations ..."
"... By Don Quijones, Spain, UK, & Mexico, editor at Wolf Street. Originally published at Wolf Street . ..."
"... By Don Quijones ..."
"... in vitro gametogenesis ..."
Dec 24, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Lambert here: Let's remember that these are not biometrics, but representations of biometrics, with varying degrees of granularity and quality. And not all metrics uniquely identify a person over their life-time; Yves points out that her gait has changed multiple times over her adult life.

By Don Quijones, Spain, UK, & Mexico, editor at Wolf Street. Originally published at Wolf Street .

In 2018, banks in Mexico will face new regulations that will oblige them to collect biometric data (finger prints and iris scans) on all of their customers. Whenever a customer asks for a new home or car loan, cashes in a paycheck, applies for a credit card or opens a new savings account, the bank in question will have to request the customer's digital fingerprints and then match those fingerprints with data against information in the database of the National Electoral Institute.

Foreign-owned subsidiaries of global banks like BBVA and Citi are thrilled with the initiative arguing that it will help them combat identity theft. Most high street lenders in Mexico have already agreed to help build a single biometric database, says Marcos Martínez, president of Mexico's Banking Association (ABM).

The ultimate goal is to develop a unique identification system that will work alongside the government's national ID scheme, which is in the final stages of development. According to the former Secretary of Finance and Public Credit (and now presidential candidate for the governing PRI party), José Antonio Meade, by the summer of 2018 all Mexicans will have a single biometric identification number.

These developments are moving fast and quietly. And as is the case with biometric programs being tried and tested all over the world right now, from the uncharted backwaters of long-forgotten war zones to the bustling metropolises of the West or East, no one is being consulted along the way.

Most national passports these days include biometric data. Driver licenses in the US (which serve as de facto ID cards) already have them or soon will. Meanwhile, millions -- perhaps soon billions -- of people have volunteered their digital fingerprints to log into their smartphones and other digital devices. In other words, we're already giving away our most private data to work, communicate, cross borders or get on planes.

China has taken biometrics to a whole new level, using facial recognition technology to validate identities in virtually all forms of transaction, including the use of toilet paper in public bathrooms.

What sets the biometrics program in Mexico apart from what is happening in most other countries is that it is the country's financial regulators and private banks -- and not the government -- that are requiring this, though the government is not far behind. The development of a single biometrics database to be used by banks and other financial institutions raises serious questions about financial security as well as data privacy.

"Biometrics are tricky," Woodrow Hartzog, an Associate Professor of Law at Samford University told WIRED. "They can be great because they are really secure. It's hard to fake someone's ear, eye, gait, or other things that make an individual uniquely identifiable. But if a biometric is compromised, you're done. You can't get another ear."

Unfortunately, as recent data leaks have shown, most databases remain incredibly porous. In this year's hack of the U.S. consumer credit bureau Equifax , the personal data that was stolen included names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, driver's license numbers, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, mortgage data, and payment history data, including to utilities, wireless service providers, and the like.

This, in itself, is highly compromising data that can be of huge value in the wrong hands. But imagine what could have happened if the database had included U.S. consumers' most personal data of all -- the biological traits that make them unique?

If the United States' biggest consumer credit bureau can be hacked and key data on 143 million US consumers stolen with such apparent ease, what are the chances that a similar or even worse fate could befall Mexico's newly created biometrics data bank? It's not like Mexico is short of enterprising criminals with lots of liquid funds to hire gifted, mercenary hackers -- or pull off an inside job.

Hackers are already engineering ways to spoof biometric authentication. Researchers were able to break into Apple's Touch ID system with just a small piece of Play Doh.

The scariest thing about this mad rush by corporations, banks, credit card companies, governments and (yes!) some consumers to embrace biometrics is not the speed at which it's happening, which is scary enough, but the complete lack of public debate taking place about the thorny issues it throws up. Those include the threat it poses to privacy and anonymity, the fact that use of data about your body parts is largely unregulated (and many companies want to keep it that way), or the deceptively public nature of biometrics.

"A password is inherently private," says Alvaro Bedoya, Professor of Law at Georgetown University. "The whole point of a password is that you don't tell anyone about it. A credit card is inherently private in the sense that you only have one credit card."

Biometrics, on the other hand, are inherently public, he argues. "I do know what your ear looks like, if I meet you, and I can take a high resolution photo of it from afar," says Bedoya. "I know what your fingerprint looks like if we have a drink and you leave your fingerprints on the pint glass." And that makes them easy to hack. Or track.

But this juggernaut has now been put in motion, and it's unlikely to be stopped because the biggest benefits will be enjoyed by the governments, banks, and corporations that are busily rolling out these schemes for their own purposes. By Don Quijones .

Mark P. , December 24, 2017 at 7:37 am

Or consider DNA sampling-based biometric credentialization and put it together with possibilities of the technology of in vitro gametogenesis , which is coming down the line

'Disruptive reproductive technologies' by Cohen, Daly, Adashi
https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/79fd/eca33b683e49e4bdeb898ec46ddd178a1f5b.pdf

'Babies From Skin Cells? Prospect Is Unsettling to Some Experts'
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/16/health/ivg-reproductive-technology.html

christine , December 24, 2017 at 7:52 am

Well, this isn't quite as frightening in Mexico as in other places because a large portion of the population doesn't even have bank accounts. The government tried to get them to open them and if they did, most of them were closed within a year. People don't trust banks. Much of Mexico, and not just the poor campesinos, pays in cash. I live here and my transactions are almost all in cash no official tracks, even my rent to my wealthy landlord. Many businesses/people, will not accept credit or debit cards. They don't have Smartphones either in many cases. San Miguel de Allende is putting in smart parking meters (ha, ha, ha..good luck with that) and they are having to figure out how employees who need to go downtown to Centro are going to manage without Smartphones. Mexico is more unruly for the rulers to manage than other more "civilized" places. I like it a lot for this and many other reasons.

SpringTexan , December 24, 2017 at 8:16 am

Thanks for the perspective, Christine. You are making me want to move to Mexico. :-)

QuarterBack , December 24, 2017 at 9:32 am

There is a systematic factor that is accelerating the demands on identification and authentication that is a byproduct from the double-edged sword of advancements in communications and information technology. From the earliest days of the printing press and the telegraph, these technologies have made it increasingly more possible to conduct business with people that you have never, and may never, meet. Computers and the Internet have affected a state change in commerce where it is now practical to interact with a counterparty that is not human at all.

The Internet is accelerating a 'disintermediation of everything' that will only increase the demand and importance of technologies to service identification and authentication.. identification is naming who (and now including what) is a actor in a process, and authentication is how that identification can be verified and trusted.

These concepts are not new. Early civilizations had this problem with messages carried from afar, and thence invented penned signatures, wax seals, passwords, and cyphers. Our modern Internet age has accelerated the speed and weight of reliance on theses transactions. Modern commerce has brought about technologies like biometrics and captchas.

Note that captchas are needed to address the new state change of commerce where is is necessary to discern between a human and robot. Biometrics are much more flawed and vulnerable than he marketplace comprehends, but the need for reliable machine identification and authentication is dangerously, potentially catastrophically, behind the curve. It is not hard to imagine the terrible ramifications of fly-by-wire systems responding to unauthorized control input. It is also now possible to convincingly fake human narratives, audio, and even visual representations of humans and physical events and surroundings. The level of fictional reality that can be used to control the herd, will make "fake news" look like a children's story.

oh , December 24, 2017 at 9:43 am

A few years ago I went into a USBank branch where I have an account to get a document notorized. The person who notarized my signature asked me for the fingerprint of my index finger. I felt it was unnecessay but I agreed. From that time on I've been going to the local credit union to get any document notarized.

I wonder who made these policies at USBank? Quite an invasion of one's privacy IMHO.

johnnygl , December 24, 2017 at 10:56 am

Another creepy thing usbank does is self-insures, with regard to health insurance. They collect employee premiums, and barely ever have to pay claims because they have hefty deductibles, co-insurance, and narrow networks. They had the horrible obama-care style plans BEFORE the HCA even got off the ground. And the bank gets to profit from them!

Anon , December 24, 2017 at 12:18 pm

Every employer with more than a certain amount of insurance-eligible employees (i.e. large and many medium-sized corporations) self-insures.

chuck roast , December 24, 2017 at 9:58 am

I called Fidelity a while back to clear up some financial business, and the fellow asked me if I wanted to participate in their voice recognition program whereby I would no longer need passwords. After I repacked my exploded head, I informed the poor soul that I considered the tenor of my voice to be of no concern to any corporation and to never ask me that question again.
We're doomed doomed.

MtnLife , December 24, 2017 at 10:04 am

I just met a woman whose entire car (IIRC it was a CRV) was controlled by biometrics. Her thumb unlocks her doors and trunk as well as starting the car. She said she got it because her significant other wouldn't let her drive his vehicle so she made it so he couldn't drive hers. Ridiculous if you ask me. No other people can drive the car or even go get something out of it for her because there is no key . No backup way to do anything outside of the dealership.

Lord Koos , December 24, 2017 at 1:31 pm

A very bad idea if there is an emergency

Jean , December 24, 2017 at 4:05 pm

Or she needs valet or attended parking lot parking. How do mechanics test drive the vehicle? Oh yeah, she's now stuck at the expensive Honda dealer that'll have a special override code instead of a cheaper local garage–which by the way can be used for maintenance without invalidating the warranty.

jsn , December 24, 2017 at 5:16 pm

I'll wager all the dealer has to do to access the car is plug in a usb cable and hit a few keys. They can likely hack in remotely and probably would if the woman called with the need. I'll bet that access is "really secure" too.

paddlingwithoutboats , December 24, 2017 at 10:06 am

"The scariest thing about this mad rush by corporations, banks, credit card companies, governments and (yes!) some consumers to embrace biometrics is not the speed at which it's happening, which is scary enough, but the complete lack of public debate taking place about the thorny issues it throws up. Those include the threat it poses to privacy and anonymity, the fact that use of data about your body parts is largely unregulated (and many companies want to keep it that way), or the deceptively public nature of biometrics."

Which leads to what happens when there is a mass hack and data catastrophe of these forms of personal identification? Well, it would be so easy to implement a more/more strategy of everyone must have implants now that their birth identifiers are hacked. Line 'em up for a li'l surgery and on we go.

Jake , December 24, 2017 at 10:48 am

Signatures? How are they considered as , public or private?

Joel , December 24, 2017 at 10:48 am

The phrase I don't see mentioned here is "two factor authentication." If the fingerprint is part of two factor authentication, there is no security issue.

That is, if the fingerprint requires a password for confirmation, the same way that an ATM card requires a password, then it's simply an extra layer of security on top of the password. Used that way, it is far more secure than passwords alone.

The real concern is yet more surveillance.

grayslady , December 24, 2017 at 10:54 am

Yesterday, I watched again Citizen Four . It's a movie I think everyone should watch once a year in order to remember that personal freedom is right up there with economic well-being in importance. Biometrics is a terrifying concept that brings far fewer benefits than risks.

Joel , December 24, 2017 at 12:20 pm

Whenever I am about to complain about customs and immigration and security hassles at an airport I think of all the hostility Laura Poitras and other brave activists have had to endure.

Jean , December 24, 2017 at 4:03 pm

Is there some reason that people cannot copyright their personal data?

[Dec 22, 2017] Facebook Handing Over More Info To US Government This Is What Facebook Was Designed To Do Zero Hedge

Dec 22, 2017 | www.zerohedge.com

Authored by Mac Slavo via SHTFplan.com,

Every year, Facebook gets tens of thousands of requests for data from governments worldwide , including search warrants, subpoenas, or calls to restrict certain kinds of content. And, according to a new report, those requests are increasing at an alarming rate.

According to QZ.com , in the United States, the requests rose by 26% from the last six months of 2016 to the first six months of 2017, while globally, requests increased by about 21%. Since 2013, when the company first started providing data on government requests, the US number has been steadily rising - it has roughly tripled in a period of four years.

This is alarming many and causing a concern about privacy. Joe Joseph, from the Daily Sheeple , isn't sugarcoating the reality of Facebook either. "Duh. This is exactly what Facebook was designed to do," says Joseph.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/MExnMcgiMk0

"You have to remember that Zuckerberg had "seed money" and that seed money came from CIA front companies that put a lot of resources into this and basically think about it as like, sowing seeds; if you will. They knew that Facebook was gonna bear fruit.

I don't think they realized just how big it would become. But I can tell you that they get so much information and intel from social media: I don't think that it would go away even if we wanted it to ."

The government keeps requesting the information, and Facebook continues to comply with the government's demands.

In the first six months of 2013, it granted the government - which includes the police - 79% of requests ("some data was produced" in these cases, the company says); in the first six months of 2017, that share rose to 85%. "We continue to carefully scrutinize each request we receive for account data -- whether from an authority in the U.S., Europe, or elsewhere -- to make sure it is legally sufficient," Chris Sonderby, the company's general counsel, wrote in a post . "If a request appears to be deficient or overly broad, we push back, and will fight in court, if necessary."

But Joseph thinks Facebook is just trying to pacify the easily manipulated sheeple of society.

"This is pretty troubling when you think about what you put out there, what they collect, and Facebook only being one of the many avenues that they have," Joseph says.

"The United States is collecting your data. Whether you like it or not. They are scooping up everything. And they're taking it and they're storing it in their facility at Bluffdale, Utah which has the capacity at this time to store every communication on the face of this earth for the next one hundred years."

"It's unbelievable," Joseph continues. "This is stuff that is unacceptable to me, but I'm sure, to a lot of you. And these companies have really gone too far they can reconstruct your life and make anyone they want a patsy ."

[Dec 20, 2017] It seems like the intelligence agencies are spending more time monitoring politicians and public than Al Queda.

Notable quotes:
"... Freedom Watch lawyer Larry Klayman has a whistle-blower who has stated on the record, publicly, he has 47 hard drives with over 600,000,00 pages of secret CIA documents that detail all the domestic spying operations, and likely much much more. ..."
"... The rabbit hole goes very deep here. Attorney Klayman has stated he has been trying to out this for 2 years, and was stonewalled by swamp creatures, so he threatened to go public this week. Several very interesting videos, and a public letter, are out there, detailing all this. Nunes very likely saw his own conversations transcripted from surveillance taken at Trump Tower (he was part of the transition team), and realized the jig was up. Melania has moved out of Trump Tower to stay elsewhere, I am sure after finding out that many people in Washington where watching them at home in their private residence, whichi is also why Pres Trump sent out those famous angry tweets 2 weeks ago. Democrats on the Committee (and many others) are liars, and very possibly traitors, which is probably why Nunes neglected to inform them. Nunes did follow proper procedures, notifying Ryan first etc, you can ignore the MSM bluster there ..observe Nunes body language in the 2 videos of his dual press briefings he gave today, he appears shocked, angry, disturbed etc. ..."
"... This all stems from Obama's Jan 16 signing of the order broadening "co-operation" between the NSA and everybody else in Washington, so that mid-level analysts at almost any agency could now look at raw NSA intercepts, that is where all the "leaks" and "unmasking" are coming from. ..."
"... AG Lynch, Obama, and countless others knew, or should have known, all about this, but I am sure they will play the usual "I was too stupid too know what was going on in my own organization" card. ..."
Mar 23, 2017 |
fresno dan March 22, 2017 at 6:56 pm

So I see where Nunes in a ZeroHedge posting says that there might have been "incidental surveillance" of "Trump" (?Trump associates? ?Trump tower? ?Trump campaign?)
Now to the average NC reader, it kinda goes without saying. But I don't think Trump understands the scope of US government "surveillance" and I don't think the average citizen, certainly not the average Trump supporter, does either – the nuances and subtleties of it – the supposed "safeguards".

I can understand the rationale for it .but this goes to show that when you give people an opportunity to use secret information for their own purposes .they will use secret information for their own purposes.

And at some point, the fact of the matter that the law regarding the "incidental" leaking appears to have been broken, and that this leaking IMHO was purposefully broken for political purposes .is going to come to the fore. Like bringing up "fake news" – some of these people on the anti Trump side seem not just incapable of playing 11th dimensional chess, they seem incapable of winning tic tac toe .

Was Obama behind it? I doubt it and I don't think it would be provable. But it seems like the intelligence agencies are spending more time monitoring repubs than Al queda. Now maybe repubs are worse than Al queda – I think its time we have a real debate instead of the pseudo debates and start asking how useful the CIA is REALLY. (and we can ask how useful repubs and dems are too)

craazyboy March 22, 2017 at 8:45 pm

If Obama taped the information, stuffed the tape in one of Michelle's shoeboxes, then hid the shoebox in the Whitehouse basement, he could be in trouble. Ivanka is sure to search any shoeboxes she finds.

Irredeemable Deplorable March 23, 2017 at 2:57 am

Oh the Trump supporters are all over this, don't worry. There are many more levels to what is going on than what is reported in the fakenews MSM.

Adm Roger of NSA made his November visit to Trump Tower, after a SCIF was installed there, to .be interviewed for a job uh-huh yeah.

Freedom Watch lawyer Larry Klayman has a whistle-blower who has stated on the record, publicly, he has 47 hard drives with over 600,000,00 pages of secret CIA documents that detail all the domestic spying operations, and likely much much more.

The rabbit hole goes very deep here. Attorney Klayman has stated he has been trying to out this for 2 years, and was stonewalled by swamp creatures, so he threatened to go public this week. Several very interesting videos, and a public letter, are out there, detailing all this. Nunes very likely saw his own conversations transcripted from surveillance taken at Trump Tower (he was part of the transition team), and realized the jig was up. Melania has moved out of Trump Tower to stay elsewhere, I am sure after finding out that many people in Washington where watching them at home in their private residence, whichi is also why Pres Trump sent out those famous angry tweets 2 weeks ago. Democrats on the Committee (and many others) are liars, and very possibly traitors, which is probably why Nunes neglected to inform them. Nunes did follow proper procedures, notifying Ryan first etc, you can ignore the MSM bluster there ..observe Nunes body language in the 2 videos of his dual press briefings he gave today, he appears shocked, angry, disturbed etc.

You all should be happy, because although Pres Trump has been vindicated here on all counts, the more important story for you is that the old line Democratic Party looks about to sink under the wieght of thier own lies and illegalities. This all stems from Obama's Jan 16 signing of the order broadening "co-operation" between the NSA and everybody else in Washington, so that mid-level analysts at almost any agency could now look at raw NSA intercepts, that is where all the "leaks" and "unmasking" are coming from.

AG Lynch, Obama, and countless others knew, or should have known, all about this, but I am sure they will play the usual "I was too stupid too know what was going on in my own organization" card.

Lambert Strether Post author March 23, 2017 at 4:08 am

> Was Obama behind it? I doubt it and I don't think it would be provable

I think he knew about it. After fulminating about weedy technicalities, let me just say that Obama's EO12333 expansion made sure that whatever anti-Trump information got picked up by the intelligence community could be spread widely, and would be hard to trace back to an individual source .

[Dec 18, 2017] Gaius Publius: Explosive WikiLeaks Release Exposes Massive, Aggressive CIA Cyber Spying, Hacking Capability

Notable quotes:
"... Donald Trump is deep in the world of spooks now, the world of spies, agents and operatives. He and his inner circle have a nest of friends, but an even larger, more varied nest of enemies. As John Sevigny writes below, his enemies include not only the intel and counter-intel people, but also "Republican lawmakers, journalists, the Clintons, the Bush family, Barack Obama, the ACLU, every living Democrat and even Rand Paul." ..."
"... A total of 8,761 documents have been published as part of 'Year Zero', the first in a series of leaks the whistleblower organization has dubbed 'Vault 7.' WikiLeaks said that 'Year Zero' revealed details of the CIA's "global covert hacking program," including "weaponized exploits" used against company products including " Apple's iPhone , Google's Android and Microsoft's Windows and even Samsung TVs , which are turned into covert microphones." ..."
"... According to the statement from WikiLeaks, government hackers can penetrate Android phones and collect "audio and message traffic before encryption is applied." ..."
"... "CIA turned every Microsoft Windows PC in the world into spyware. Can activate backdoors on demand, including via Windows update "[.] ..."
"... Do you still trust Windows Update? ..."
"... As of October 2014 the CIA was also looking at infecting the vehicle control systems used by modern cars and trucks. ..."
"... "Richard Clarke, the counterterrorism chief under both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, told the Huffington Post that Hastings's crash looked consistent with a car cyber attack.'" Full and fascinating article here . ..."
"... Recently, the CIA lost control of the majority of its hacking arsenal including malware, viruses, trojans, weaponized "zero day" exploits, malware remote control systems and associated documentation. This extraordinary collection, which amounts to more than several hundred million lines of code, gives its possessor the entire hacking capacity of the CIA The archive appears to have been circulated among former U.S. government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner, one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive. ..."
"... Since 2001 the CIA has gained political and budgetary preeminence over the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). The CIA found itself building not just its now infamous drone fleet, but a very different type of covert, globe-spanning force - its own substantial fleet of hackers. The agency's hacking division freed it from having to disclose its often controversial operations to the NSA (its primary bureaucratic rival) in order to draw on the NSA's hacking capacities. ..."
"... By the end of 2016, the CIA's hacking division, which formally falls under the agency's Center for Cyber Intelligence (CCI), had over 5000 registered users and had produced more than a thousand hacking systems, trojans, viruses, and other "weaponized" malware. Such is the scale of the CIA's undertaking that by 2016, its hackers had utilized more code than that used to run Facebook. The CIA had created, in effect, its "own NSA" with even less accountability and without publicly answering the question as to whether such a massive budgetary spend on duplicating the capacities of a rival agency could be justified. ..."
"... I learned this when I was in my 20s. The Catholic Church was funding my early critique of American foreign aid as being imperialist. I asked whether they thought I should go into politics. They said, "No, you'd never make it". And I said, "Why?" and they said, "Well, nobody has a police record or any other dirt on you." I asked what they meant. They said, "Unless they have something over you to blackmail you with, you're not going to be able to get campaign funding. Because they believe that you might do something surprising," in other words, something they haven't asked you to do. So basically throughout politics, on both sides of the spectrum, voters have candidates who are funded by backers who have enough over them that they can always blackmail. ..."
"... The campaign to frame up and discredit Trump and his associates is characteristic of how a police state routinely operates. A national security apparatus that vacuums up all our communications and stores them for later retrieval has been utilized by political operatives to go after their enemies – and not even the President of the United States is immune. This is something that one might expect to occur in, say, Turkey, or China: that it is happening here, to the cheers of much of the media and the Democratic party, is beyond frightening. ..."
"... 4th impressions – I went looking for the "juicy bits" of interest to me – SOHO routers, small routers – sadly its just a table documenting routers sold around the world, and whether these guys have put the firmware in their Stash Repository. Original firmware, not hacked one. But the repository isn't in the vault dump, AFAIK. ..."
"... The WikiLeaks docs show that CIA has developed means to use all personal digital device microphones and cameras even when they are "off," and to send all of your files and personal data to themselves, and to send your private messages to themselves before they are encrypted. They have installed these spyware in the released version of Windows 10, and can easily install them on all common systems and devices. ..."
"... So we have a zillion ways to spy and hack and deceive and assassinate, but no control. I think this is what the military refers to as "being overtaken by events." ..."
"... My godfather was in the CIA in the late sixties and early seventies, and he said that outside of the President's pet projects there was no way to sift through and bring important information to decision makers before it made the Washington Post (he is aware of the irony) and hit the President's breakfast table. ..."
"... To what extent do these hacks represent the CIA operating within the US? To what extent is that illegal? With the democrats worshipping the IC, will anyone in an official position dare to speak out? ..."
"... Schumer said that as he understands, intelligence officials are "very upset with how [Trump] has treated them and talked about them ..."
"... The CIA's internal security is crap, too. Really a lot of people should be fired over that, as well as over Snowden's release. We didn't hear of it happening in the NSA, though I'm not sure we would have. Given Gaius's description of Trump's situation, it seems unlikely it will happen this time, either. One of my hopes for a Trump administration, as long as we're stuck with it, was a thorough cleanout of the upper echelons in the IC. It's obviously long overdue, and Obama wasn't up to it. But I used the past tense because I don't think it's going to happen. Trump seems more interested in sucking up to them, presumably so they won't kill him or his family. That being one of their options. ..."
"... "The CIA had created, in effect, its "own NSA" with even less accountability ." [My emphasis]. It seems to characterize an organization that operates outside of any control and oversight – and one that is intentionally structuring itself that way. That worries me. ..."
"... It's a dangerous world out there and only our brave IC can protect us from it. Come on. Stop blaming the victim and place the blame where it belongs–our IC and MIC. I say stop feeding the beast with your loyalty to a government that has ceased to be yours. ..."
"... "These CIA revelations in conjunction with those of the NSA paints a pretty dark future for privacy and freedom. Edward Snowden made us aware of the NSA's program XKEYSCORE and PRISM which are utilized to monitor and bulk collect information from virtually any electronic device on the planet and put it into a searchable database. Now Wikileaks has published what appears to be additional Big Brother techniques used by a competing agency. Say what you want about the method of discovery, but Pandora's box has been opened." ..."
Mar 09, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
March 9, 2017 by Yves Smith Yves here. The first release of the Wikileaks Vault 7 trove has curiously gone from being a MSM lead story yesterday to a handwave today. On the one hand, anyone who was half awake during the Edward Snowden revelations knows that the NSA is in full spectrum surveillance and data storage mode, and members of the Five Eyes back-scratch each other to evade pesky domestic curbs on snooping. So the idea that the CIA (and presumably the NSA) found a way to circumvent encryption tools on smartphones, or are trying to figure out how to control cars remotely, should hardly come as a surprise.

However, at a minimum, reminding the generally complacent public that they are being spied on any time they use the Web, and increasingly the times in between, makes the officialdom Not Happy.

And if this Wikileaks claim is even halfway true, its Vault 7 publication is a big deal:

Recently, the CIA lost control of the majority of its hacking arsenal including malware, viruses, trojans, weaponized "zero day" exploits, malware remote control systems and associated documentation. This extraordinary collection, which amounts to more than several hundred million lines of code, gives its possessor the entire hacking capacity of the CIA The archive appears to have been circulated among former U.S. government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner, one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive.

This is an indictment of the model of having the intelligence services rely heavily on outside contractors. It is far more difficult to control information when you have multiple organizations involved. In addition, neolibearlism posits that workers are free agents who have no loyalties save to their own bottom lines (or for oddballs, their own sense of ethics). Let us not forget that Snowden planned his career job moves , which included a stint at NSA contractor Dell, before executing his information haul at a Booz Allen site that he had targeted.

Admittedly, there are no doubt many individuals who are very dedicated to the agencies for which they work and aspire to spend most it not all of their woking lives there. But I would assume that they are a minority.

The reason outsiders can attempt to pooh-pooh the Wikileaks release is that the organization redacted sensitive information like the names of targets and attack machines. The CIA staffers who have access to the full versions of these documents as well as other major components in the hacking toolkit will be the ones who can judge how large and serious the breach really is. 1 And their incentives are to minimize it no matter what.

By Gaius Publius , a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States and frequent contributor to DownWithTyranny, digby, Truthout, and Naked Capitalism. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius , Tumblr and Facebook . GP article archive here . Originally published at DownWithTyranny

CIA org chart from the WikiLeaks cache (click to enlarge). "The organizational chart corresponds to the material published by WikiLeaks so far. Since the organizational structure of the CIA below the level of Directorates is not public, the placement of the EDG [Engineering Development Group]and its branches is reconstructed from information contained in the documents released so far. It is intended to be used as a rough outline of the internal organization; please be aware that the reconstructed org chart is incomplete and that internal reorganizations occur frequently."

* * *

"O brave new world, that has such people in it."

Bottom line first. As you read what's below, consider:

Now the story.

WikiLeaks just dropped a huge cache of documents (the first of several promised releases), leaked from a person or people associated with the CIA in one or more capacities (examples, employee, contractor), which shows an agency out-of-control in its spying and hacking overreach. Read through to the end. If you're like me, you'll be stunned, not just about what they can do, but that they would want to do it, in some cases in direct violation of President Obama's orders. This story is bigger than anything you can imagine.

Consider this piece just an introduction, to make sure the story stays on your radar as it unfolds - and to help you identify those media figures who will try to minimize or bury it. (Unless I missed it, on MSNBC last night, for example, the first mention of this story was not Chris Hayes, not Maddow, but the Lawrence O'Donnell show, and then only to support his guest's "Russia gave us Trump" narrative. If anything, this leak suggests a much muddier picture, which I'll explore in a later piece.)

So I'll start with just a taste, a few of its many revelations, to give you, without too much time spent, the scope of the problem. Then I'll add some longer bullet-point detail, to indicate just how much of American life this revelation touches.

While the cache of documents has been vetted and redacted , it hasn't been fully explored for implications. I'll follow this story as bits and piece are added from the crowd sourced research done on the cache of information. If you wish to play along at home, the WikiLeaks torrent file is here . The torrent's passphrase is here . WikiLeaks press release is here (also reproduced below). Their FAQ is here .

Note that this release covers the years 2013–2016. As WikiLeaks says in its FAQ, "The series is the largest intelligence publication in history."

Preface - Trump and Our "Brave New World"

But first, this preface, consisting of one idea only. Donald Trump is deep in the world of spooks now, the world of spies, agents and operatives. He and his inner circle have a nest of friends, but an even larger, more varied nest of enemies. As John Sevigny writes below, his enemies include not only the intel and counter-intel people, but also "Republican lawmakers, journalists, the Clintons, the Bush family, Barack Obama, the ACLU, every living Democrat and even Rand Paul." Plus Vladimir Putin, whose relationship with Trump is just "business," an alliance of convenience, if you will.

I have zero sympathy for Donald Trump. But his world is now our world, and with both of his feet firmly planted in spook world, ours are too. He's in it to his neck, in fact, and what happens in that world will affect every one of us. He's so impossibly erratic, so impossibly unfit for his office, that everyone on the list above wants to remove him. Many of them are allied, but if they are, it's also only for convenience.

How do spooks remove the inconvenient and unfit? I leave that to your imagination;they have their ways. Whatever method they choose, however, it must be one without fingerprints - or more accurately, without their fingerprints - on it.

Which suggests two more questions. One, who will help them do it, take him down? Clearly, anyone and everyone on the list. Second, how do you bring down the president, using extra-electoral, extra-constitutional means, without bringing down the Republic? I have no answer for that.

Here's a brief look at "spook world" (my phrase, not the author's) from " The Fox Hunt " by John Sevigny:

Several times in my life – as a journalist and rambling, independent photographer - I've ended up rubbing shoulders with spooks. Long before that was a racist term, it was a catch-all to describe intelligence community people, counter intel types, and everyone working for or against them. I don't have any special insight into the current situation with Donald Trump and his battle with the IC as the intelligence community calls itself, but I can offer a few first hand observations about the labyrinth of shadows, light, reflections, paranoia, perceptions and misperceptions through which he finds himself wandering, blindly. More baffling and scary is the thought he may have no idea his ankles are already bound together in a cluster of quadruple gordian knots, the likes of which very few people ever escape.

Criminal underworlds, of which the Trump administration is just one, are terrifying and confusing places. They become far more complicated once they've been penetrated by authorities and faux-authorities who often represent competing interests, but are nearly always in it for themselves.

One big complication - and I've written about this before - is that you never know who's working for whom . Another problem is that the hierarchy of handlers, informants, assets and sources is never defined. People who believe, for example, they are CIA assets are really just being used by people who are perhaps not in the CIA at all but depend on controlling the dupe in question. It is very simple - and I have seen this happen - for the subject of an international investigation to claim that he is part of that operation. [emphasis added]

Which leads Sevigny to this observation about Trump, which I partially quoted above: "Donald Trump may be crazy, stupid, evil or all three but he knows the knives are being sharpened and there are now too many blades for him to count. The intel people are against him, as are the counter intel people. His phone conversations were almost certainly recorded by one organization or another, legal or quasi legal. His enemies include Republican lawmakers, journalists, the Clintons, the Bush family, Barack Obama, the ACLU, every living Democrat and even Rand Paul. Putin is not on his side - that's a business matter and not an alliance."

Again, this is not to defend Trump, or even to generate sympathy for him - I personally have none. It's to characterize where he is, and we are, at in this pivotal moment. Pivotal not for what they're doing, the broad intelligence community. But pivotal for what we're finding out, the extent and blatancy of the violations.

All of this creates an incredibly complex story, with only a tenth or less being covered by anything like the mainstream press. For example, the Trump-Putin tale is much more likely to be part of a much broader "international mobster" story, whose participants include not only Trump and Putin, but Wall Street (think HSBC) and major international banks, sovereign wealth funds, major hedge funds, venture capital (vulture capital) firms, international drug and other trafficking cartels, corrupt dictators and presidents around the world and much of the highest reaches of the "Davos crowd."

Much of the highest reaches of the .01 percent, in other words, all served, supported and "curated" by the various, often competing elements of the first-world military and intelligence communities. What a stew of competing and aligned interests, of marriages and divorces of convenience, all for the common currencies of money and power, all of them dealing in death .

What this new WikiLeaks revelation shows us is what just one arm of that community, the CIA, has been up to. Again, the breadth of the spying and hacking capability is beyond imagination. This is where we've come to as a nation.

What the CIA Is Up To - A Brief Sample

Now about those CIA spooks and their surprising capabilities. A number of other outlets have written up the story, but this from Zero Hedge has managed to capture the essence as well as the breadth in not too many words (emphasis mine throughout):

WikiLeaks has published what it claims is the largest ever release of confidential documents on the CIA It includes more than 8,000 documents as part of 'Vault 7', a series of leaks on the agency, which have allegedly emerged from the CIA's Center For Cyber Intelligence in Langley , and which can be seen on the org chart below, which Wikileaks also released : [org chart reproduced above]

A total of 8,761 documents have been published as part of 'Year Zero', the first in a series of leaks the whistleblower organization has dubbed 'Vault 7.' WikiLeaks said that 'Year Zero' revealed details of the CIA's "global covert hacking program," including "weaponized exploits" used against company products including " Apple's iPhone , Google's Android and Microsoft's Windows and even Samsung TVs , which are turned into covert microphones."

WikiLeaks tweeted the leak, which it claims came from a network inside the CIA's Center for Cyber Intelligence in Langley, Virginia.

Among the more notable disclosures which, if confirmed, " would rock the technology world ", the CIA had managed to bypass encryption on popular phone and messaging services such as Signal, WhatsApp and Telegram. According to the statement from WikiLeaks, government hackers can penetrate Android phones and collect "audio and message traffic before encryption is applied."

With respect to hacked devices like you smart phone, smart TV and computer, consider the concept of putting these devices in "fake-off" mode:

Among the various techniques profiled by WikiLeaks is "Weeping Angel", developed by the CIA's Embedded Devices Branch (EDB), which infests smart TVs , transforming them into covert microphones. After infestation, Weeping Angel places the target TV in a 'Fake-Off' mode , so that the owner falsely believes the TV is off when it is on. In 'Fake-Off' mode the TV operates as a bug, recording conversations in the room and sending them over the Internet to a covert CIA server.

As Kim Dotcom chimed in on Twitter, "CIA turns Smart TVs, iPhones, gaming consoles and many other consumer gadgets into open microphones" and added "CIA turned every Microsoft Windows PC in the world into spyware. Can activate backdoors on demand, including via Windows update "[.]

Do you still trust Windows Update?

About "Russia did it"

Adding to the "Russia did it" story, note this:

Another profound revelation is that the CIA can engage in "false flag" cyberattacks which portray Russia as the assailant . Discussing the CIA's Remote Devices Branch's UMBRAGE group, Wikileaks' source notes that it "collects and maintains a substantial library of attack techniques 'stolen' from malware produced in other states including the Russian Federation.["]

As Kim Dotcom summarizes this finding, " CIA uses techniques to make cyber attacks look like they originated from enemy state ."

This doesn't prove that Russia didn't do it ("it" meaning actually hacking the presidency for Trump, as opposed to providing much influence in that direction), but again, we're in spook world, with all the phrase implies. The CIA can clearly put anyone's fingerprints on any weapon they wish, and I can't imagine they're alone in that capability.

Hacking Presidential Devices?

If I were a president, I'd be concerned about this, from the WikiLeaks " Analysis " portion of the Press Release (emphasis added):

"Year Zero" documents show that the CIA breached the Obama administration's commitments [that the intelligence community would reveal to device manufacturers whatever vulnerabilities it discovered]. Many of the vulnerabilities used in the CIA's cyber arsenal are pervasive [across devices and device types] and some may already have been found by rival intelligence agencies or cyber criminals.

As an example, specific CIA malware revealed in "Year Zero" [that it] is able to penetrate, infest and control both the Android phone and iPhone software that runs or has run presidential Twitter accounts . The CIA attacks this software by using undisclosed security vulnerabilities ("zero days") possessed by the CIA[,] but if the CIA can hack these phones then so can everyone else who has obtained or discovered the vulnerability. As long as the CIA keeps these vulnerabilities concealed from Apple and Google (who make the phones) they will not be fixed, and the phones will remain hackable.

Does or did the CIA do this (hack presidential devices), or is it just capable of it? The second paragraph implies the latter. That's a discussion for another day, but I can say now that both Lawrence Wilkerson, aide to Colin Powell and a non-partisan (though an admitted Republican) expert in these matters, and William Binney, one of the triumvirate of major pre-Snowden leakers, think emphatically yes. (See Wilkerson's comments here . See Binney's comments here .)

Whether or not you believe Wilkerson and Binney, do you doubt that if our intelligence people can do something, they would balk at the deed itself, in this world of "collect it all "? If nothing else, imagine the power this kind of bugging would confer on those who do it.

The Breadth of the CIA Cyber-Hacking Scheme

But there is so much more in this Wikileaks release than suggested by the brief summary above. Here's a bullet-point overview of what we've learned so far, again via Zero Hedge:

Key Highlights from the Vault 7 release so far:

    "Year Zero" introduces the scope and direction of the CIA's global covert hacking program, its malware arsenal and dozens of "zero day" weaponized exploits against a wide range of U.S. and European company products , include Apple's iPhone, Google's Android and Microsoft's Windows and even Samsung TVs, which are turned into covert microphones.
    Wikileaks claims that the CIA lost control of the majority of its hacking arsenal including malware, viruses, trojans, weaponized "zero day" exploits, malware remote control systems and associated documentation . This extraordinary collection, which amounts to more than several hundred million lines of code, gives its possessor the entire hacking capacity of the CIA The archive appears to have been circulated among former U.S. government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner, one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive.
    By the end of 2016, the CIA's hacking division, which formally falls under the agency's Center for Cyber Intelligence (CCI), had over 5000 registered users and had produced more than a thousand hacking systems, trojans, viruses, and other "weaponized" malware . Such is the scale of the CIA's undertaking that by 2016, its hackers had utilized more code than that used to run Facebook.
    The CIA had created, in effect, its "own NSA" with even less accountability and without publicly answering the question as to whether such a massive budgetary spend on duplicating the capacities of a rival agency could be justified.
    Once a single cyber 'weapon' is 'loose' it can spread around the world in seconds , to be used by rival states, cyber mafia and teenage hackers alike.

Also this scary possibility:

Journalist Michael Hastings, who in 2010 destroyed the career of General Stanley McChrystal and was hated by the military for it, was killed in 2013 in an inexplicably out-of-control car. This isn't to suggest the CIA, specifically, caused his death. It's to ask that, if these capabilities existed in 2013, what would prevent their use by elements of the military, which is, after all a death-delivery organization?

And lest you consider this last speculation just crazy talk, Richard Clarke (that Richard Clarke ) agrees: "Richard Clarke, the counterterrorism chief under both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, told the Huffington Post that Hastings's crash looked consistent with a car cyber attack.'" Full and fascinating article here .

WiliLeaks Press Release

Here's what WikiLeaks itself says about this first document cache (again, emphasis mine):

Press Release

Today, Tuesday 7 March 2017, WikiLeaks begins its new series of leaks on the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. Code-named "Vault 7" by WikiLeaks, it is the largest ever publication of confidential documents on the agency.

The first full part of the series, "Year Zero", comprises 8,761 documents and files from an isolated, high-security network situated inside the CIA's Center for Cyber Intelligence in Langley, Virgina. It follows an introductory disclosure last month of CIA targeting French political parties and candidates in the lead up to the 2012 presidential election .

Recently, the CIA lost control of the majority of its hacking arsenal including malware, viruses, trojans, weaponized "zero day" exploits, malware remote control systems and associated documentation. This extraordinary collection, which amounts to more than several hundred million lines of code, gives its possessor the entire hacking capacity of the CIA The archive appears to have been circulated among former U.S. government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner, one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive.

"Year Zero" introduces the scope and direction of the CIA's global covert hacking program, its malware arsenal and dozens of "zero day" weaponized exploits against a wide range of U.S. and European company products, include Apple's iPhone, Google's Android and Microsoft's Windows and even Samsung TVs, which are turned into covert microphones.

Since 2001 the CIA has gained political and budgetary preeminence over the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). The CIA found itself building not just its now infamous drone fleet, but a very different type of covert, globe-spanning force - its own substantial fleet of hackers. The agency's hacking division freed it from having to disclose its often controversial operations to the NSA (its primary bureaucratic rival) in order to draw on the NSA's hacking capacities.

By the end of 2016, the CIA's hacking division, which formally falls under the agency's Center for Cyber Intelligence (CCI), had over 5000 registered users and had produced more than a thousand hacking systems, trojans, viruses, and other "weaponized" malware. Such is the scale of the CIA's undertaking that by 2016, its hackers had utilized more code than that used to run Facebook. The CIA had created, in effect, its "own NSA" with even less accountability and without publicly answering the question as to whether such a massive budgetary spend on duplicating the capacities of a rival agency could be justified.

In a statement to WikiLeaks the source details policy questions that they say urgently need to be debated in public , including whether the CIA's hacking capabilities exceed its mandated powers and the problem of public oversight of the agency. The source wishes to initiate a public debate about the security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyberweapons.

Once a single cyber 'weapon' is 'loose' it can spread around the world in seconds, to be used by rival states, cyber mafia and teenage hackers alike.

Julian Assange, WikiLeaks editor stated that "There is an extreme proliferation risk in the development of cyber 'weapons'. Comparisons can be drawn between the uncontrolled proliferation of such 'weapons', which results from the inability to contain them combined with their high market value, and the global arms trade. But the significance of "Year Zero" goes well beyond the choice between cyberwar and cyberpeace. The disclosure is also exceptional from a political, legal and forensic perspective."

Wikileaks has carefully reviewed the "Year Zero" disclosure and published substantive CIA documentation while avoiding the distribution of 'armed' cyberweapons until a consensus emerges on the technical and political nature of the CIA's program and how such 'weapons' should analyzed, disarmed and published.

Wikileaks has also decided to redact and anonymise some identifying information in "Year Zero" for in depth analysis. These redactions include ten of thousands of CIA targets and attack machines throughout Latin America, Europe and the United States. While we are aware of the imperfect results of any approach chosen, we remain committed to our publishing model and note that the quantity of published pages in "Vault 7" part one ("Year Zero") already eclipses the total number of pages published over the first three years of the Edward Snowden NSA leaks.

Be sure to click through for the Analysis, Examples and FAQ sections as well.

"O brave new world," someone once wrote . Indeed. Brave new world, that only the brave can live in.

____

1 Mind you, the leakers may have had a comprehensive enough view to be making an accurate call. But the real point is there are no actors who will be allowed to make an independent assessment.

34 0 42 1 0 This entry was posted in Banana republic , Guest Post , Legal , Politics , Surveillance state , Technology and innovation on March 9, 2017 by Yves Smith .
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Subscribe to Post Comments 64 comments Code Name D , March 9, 2017 at 2:38 am

That's all I needed.
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/10/fbi-chief-given-dossier-by-john-mccain-alleging-secret-trump-russia-contacts

Senator John McCain passed documents to the FBI director, James Comey, last month alleging secret contacts between the Trump campaign and Moscow and that Russian intelligence had personally compromising material on the president-elect himself.

The material, which has been seen by the Guardian, is a series of reports on Trump's relationship with Moscow. They were drawn up by a former western counter-intelligence official, now working as a private consultant. BuzzFeed on Tuesday published the documents, which it said were "unverified and potentially unverifiable".

The Guardian has not been able to confirm the veracity of the documents' contents,

Emphases mine. I had been sitting on this link trying to make sense of this part. Clearly, the Trump Whitehouse has some major leaks, which the MSM is exploiting. But the start of this article suggests that para-intelligence (is that a word? Eh, it is now) was the source of the allegedly damaging info.

This is no longer about the deep-state, but a rouge state, possibly guns for higher, each having fealty to specific political interests. The CIA arsenal wasn't leaked. It was delivered.

salvo , March 9, 2017 at 3:13 am

hmm.. as far as I can see, noone seems to care here in Germany anymore about being spied on by our US friends, apart from a few alternative sources which are being accused of spreading fake news, of being anti-american, russian trolls, the matter is widely ignored

visitor , March 9, 2017 at 3:40 am

I have read a few articles about the Vault 7 leak that typically raise a few alarms I would like to comment on.

1) The fact that the

CIA had managed to bypass encryption on popular phone and messaging services

does not mean that it has broken encryption, just that it has a way to install a program at a lower level, close to the operating system, that will read messages before they are encrypted and sent by the messaging app, or just after they have been decrypted by it.

As a side note: banks have now largely introduced two-factor authentication when accessing online services. One enters username (or account number) and password; the bank site returns a code; the user must then enter this code into a smartphone app or a tiny specialized device, which computes and returns a value out of it; the user enters this last value into the entry form as a throw-away additional password, and gains access to the bank website.

I have always refused to use such methods on a smartphone and insist on getting the specialized "single-use password computer", precisely because the smartphone platform can be subverted.

2) The fact that

"Weeping Angel", developed by the CIA's Embedded Devices Branch (EDB), [ ] infests smart TVs, transforming them into covert microphones.

is possible largely because smart TVs are designed by their manufacturers to serve as spying devices. "Weeping Angel" is not some kind of virus that turns normal devices into zombies, but a tool to take control of existing zombie devices.

The fact that smart TVs from Vizio , Samsung or LG constitute an outrageous intrusion into the privacy of their owners has been a known topic for years already.

3) The

CIA [ ] also looking at infecting the vehicle control systems used by modern cars and trucks

is not a "scary possibility" either; various demonstrations of such feats on Tesla , Nissan , or Chrysler vehicles have been demonstrated in the past few years.

And the consequences have already been suggested (killing people by disabling their car controls on the highway for instance).

My take on this is that we should seriously look askance not just at the shenanigans of the CIA, but at the entire "innovative technology" that is imposed upon (computerized cars) or joyfully adopted by (smartphones) consumers. Of course, most NC readers are aware of the pitfalls already, but alas not the majority of the population.

4) Finally this:

He's so impossibly erratic, so impossibly unfit for his office,

Trump is arguably unfit for office, does not have a clue about many things (such as foreign relations), but by taxing him of being "erratic" Gaius Publius shows that he still does not "get" the Donald.

Trump has a completely different modus operandi than career politicians, formed by his experience as a real-estate mogul and media star. His world has been one where one makes outrageous offers to try anchoring the negotiation before reducing one's claims - even significantly, or abruptly exiting just before an agreement to strike a deal with another party that has been lured to concessions through negotiations with the first one. NC once included a video of Trump doing an interactive A/B testing of his slogans during a campaign meeting; while changing one's slogans on the spot might seem "erratic", it is actually a very systematic market probing technique.

So stop asserting that Trump is "unpredictable" or "irrational"; this is underestimating him (a dangerous fault), as he is very consistent, though in an uncommon fashion amongst political pundits.

Yves Smith Post author , March 9, 2017 at 5:53 am

While I agree that it's worth pointing out that the CIA has not broken any of the major encryption tools, even Snowden regards being able to circumvent them as worse, since people using encryption are presumably those who feel particularly at risk and will get a false sense of security and say things or keep data on their devices that they never never would if they thought they were insecure.

Re Gaius on Trump, I agree the lady doth protest too much. But I said repeatedly that Trump would not want to be President if he understood the job. It is not like being the CEO of a private company. Trump has vastly more control over his smaller terrain in his past life than he does as President.

And Trump is no longer campaigning. No more a/b testing.

The fact is that he still does not have effective control of the Executive branch. He has lots of open positions in the political appointee slots (largely due to not having even submitted candidates!) plus has rebellion in some organizations (like folks in the EPA storing data outside the agency to prevent its destruction).

You cannot pretend that Trump's former MO is working at all well for him. And he isn't showing an ability to adapt or learn (not surprising at his age). For instance, he should have figured out by now that DC is run by lawyers, yet his team has hardly any on it. This is continuing to be a source of major self inflicted wounds.

His erraticness may be keeping his opponents off base, but it is also keeping him from advancing any of his goals.

visitor , March 9, 2017 at 6:59 am

I believe we are in agreement.

Yes, not breaking encryption is devious, as it gives a false sense of security - this is precisely why I refuse to use those supposedly secure e-banking login apps on smartphones whose system software can be subverted, and prefer those non-connected, non-reprogrammable, special-purpose password generating devices.

As for Trump being incompetent for his job, and his skills in wheeling-dealing do not carrying over usefully to conducting high political offices, that much is clear. But he is not "erratic", rather he is out of place and out of his depth.

RBHoughton , March 9, 2017 at 9:00 pm

I am writing this in the shower with a paper bag over my head and my iPhone in the microwave.

I have for years had a password-protected document on computer with all my important numbers and passwords. I have today deleted that document and reverted to a paper record.

Ivy , March 9, 2017 at 10:09 am

Please tell readers more about the following for our benefit:

"single-use password computer"

visitor , March 9, 2017 at 11:34 am

That is an example of the sort of thing I am talking about.

PhilM , March 9, 2017 at 11:35 am

I think he means a machine dedicated to high-security operations like anything financial or bill-pay. Something that is not exposed to email or web-browsing operations that happen on a casual-use computer that can easily compromise. That's not a bad way to go; it's cheaper in terms of time than the labor-intensive approaches I use, but those are a hobby more than anything else. It depends on how much you have at stake if they get your bank account or brokerage service password.

I take a few basic security measures, which would not impress the IT crowd I hang out with elsewhere, but at least would not make me a laughingstock. I run Linux and use only open-source software; run ad-blockers and script blockers; confine risky operations, which means any non-corporate or non-mainstream website to a virtual machine that is reset after each use; use separate browsers with different cookie storage policies and different accounts for different purposes. I keep a well-maintained pfSense router with a proxy server and an intrusion detection system, allowing me to segregate my secure network, home servers, guest networks, audiovisual streaming and entertainment devices, and IoT devices each on their own VLANs with appropriate ACLs between them. No device on the more-secured network is allowed out to any port without permission, and similar rules are there for the IoT devices, and the VoIP tools.

The hardware to do all of that costs at least $700, but the real expense is in the time to learn the systems properly. Of course if you use Linux, you could save that on software in a year if you are too cheap to send a contribution to the developers.

It's not perfect, because I still have computers turned on :) , but I feel a bit safer this way.

That said, absolutely nothing that I have here would last 30 milliseconds against anything the "hats" could use, if they wanted in. It would be over before it began. If I had anything to hide, really, I would have something to fear; so guess I'm OK.

jrs , March 9, 2017 at 2:36 pm

open source software often has a lot of bugs to be exploioted. Wouldn't it be easier to just do banking in person?

visitor , March 9, 2017 at 2:45 pm

Banks discourage that by

a) charging extortionate fees for "in-person" operations at the counter;

b) closing subsidiaries, thus making it tedious and time-consuming to visit a branch to perform banking operations in person;

c) eliminating the possibility to perform some or even all usual operations in any other form than online (see the advent of "Internet only" banks).

In theoretical terms, all this is called "nudging".

cfraenkel , March 9, 2017 at 12:07 pm

They're key fobs handed to you by your IT dept. The code displayed changes every couple of minutes. The plus is there's nothing sent over the air. The minus is the fobs are subject to theft, and are only good for connecting to 'home'. And since they have a cost, and need to be physically handed to you, they're not good fit for most two factor login applications (ie logging into your bank account).

see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RSA_SecurID

meme , March 9, 2017 at 3:53 am

I watched (fast forwarded through, really) Morning Joe yesterday to see what they would have to say about Wikileaks. The show mostly revolved around the health care bill and Trump's lying and tweeting about Obama wiretapping him. They gave Tim Kaine plenty of time to discuss his recent trip to London talking to "some of our allies there" saying that they are concerned that "all the intelligence agencies" say the Rooskies "cyber hacked" our election, and since it looks like we aren't doing anything when we are attacked, they KNOW we won't do anything when they are attacked. (more red baiting)

The only two mentions I saw was about Wikileaks were, first, a question asked of David Cohen, ex Deputy Director of the CIA, who refused to confirm the Wikileaks were authentic, saying whatever tools and techniques the CIA had were used against foreign persons overseas, so there is no reason to worry that your TV is looking at you. And second, Senator Tom Cotton, who didn't want to comment on the contents of Wikileaks, only saying that the CIA is a foreign intelligence service, collecting evidence on foreign targets to keep our country safe, and it does not do intelligence work domestically.

So that appears to be their story, the CIA doesn't spy on us, and they are sticking with it, probably hoping the whole Wikileaks thing just cycles out of the news.

Direction , March 9, 2017 at 4:23 am

Thanks for mentioning Hastings. His death has always been more than suspicious.

skippy , March 9, 2017 at 5:46 am

Elite risk management reduction tool goes walkabout inverting its potential ..

disheveled . love it when a plan comes together ..

james wordsworth , March 9, 2017 at 5:50 am

The unwillingness of the main stream media (so far) to really cover the Wikileaks reveal is perhaps the bigger story. This should be ongoing front page stuff .. but it is not.

As for using ZeroHedge as a source for anything, can we give that a rest. That site has become a cesspool of insanity. It used to have some good stuff. Now it is just unreadable. SAD

And yes I know the hypocrisy of slamming ZH and the MSM at the same time we live in interesting times.

Yves Smith Post author , March 9, 2017 at 7:52 am

Your remarks on ZH are an ad hominem attack and therefore a violation of site policies. The onus is on you to say what ZH got wrong and not engage in an ungrounded smear. The mainstream media often cites ZH.

NC more than just about any other finance site is loath to link to ZH precisely because it is off base or hyperventilating a not acceptably high percent of the time, and is generally wrong about the Fed (as in governance and how money works). We don't want to encourage readers to see it as reliable. However, it is good on trader gossip and mining Bloomberg data.

And I read through its summary of the Wikileaks material as used by Gaius and there was nothing wrong with it. It was careful about attributing certain claims to Wikileaks as opposed to depicting them as true.

3urypteris , March 9, 2017 at 12:14 pm

My rules for reading ZH:
1- Skip every article with no picture
2- Skip every article where the picture is a graph
3- Skip every article where the picture is of a single person's face
4- Skip every afticle where the picture is a cartoon
5- Skip every article about gold, BitCoin, or high-frequency trading
6- Skip all the "Guest Posts"
7- ALWAYS click through to the source
8- NEVER read the comments

It is in my opinion a very high noise-to-signal source, but there is some there there.

sunny129 , March 9, 2017 at 7:20 pm

Finding the TRUTH is NOT that easy.

Discerning a 'news from noise' is NEVER that easy b/c it is an art, developed by years of shifting through ever increasing 'DATA information' load. This again has to be filtered and tested against one's own 'critical' thinking or reasoning! You have to give ZH, deserved credit, when they are right!

There is no longer a Black or white there, even at ZH! But it is one of the few, willing to challenge the main stream narrative 'kool aid'

TheCatSaid , March 9, 2017 at 6:14 am

In addition to the "para-intelligence" community (hat tip Code named D) there are multiple enterprises with unique areas of expertise that interface closely with the CIA The long-exposed operations, which include entrapment and blackmailing of key actors to guarantee complicity, "loyalty" and/or sealed lips, infect businesses, NGOs, law enforcement agencies, judges, politicians, and other government agencies. Equal opportunity employment for those with strong stomachs and a weak moral compass.

Romancing The Loan , March 9, 2017 at 8:43 am

Yes I can't remember where I read it but it was a tale passed around supposedly by an FBI guy that had, along with his colleagues, the job of vetting candidates for political office. They'd do their background research and pass on either a thick or thin folder full of all the compromising dirt on each potential appointee. Over time he said he was perturbed to notice a persistent pattern where the thickest folders were always the ones who got in.

nobody , March 9, 2017 at 10:10 am

Michael Hudson :

I learned this when I was in my 20s. The Catholic Church was funding my early critique of American foreign aid as being imperialist. I asked whether they thought I should go into politics. They said, "No, you'd never make it". And I said, "Why?" and they said, "Well, nobody has a police record or any other dirt on you." I asked what they meant. They said, "Unless they have something over you to blackmail you with, you're not going to be able to get campaign funding. Because they believe that you might do something surprising," in other words, something they haven't asked you to do. So basically throughout politics, on both sides of the spectrum, voters have candidates who are funded by backers who have enough over them that they can always blackmail.

craazyboy , March 9, 2017 at 8:20 am

I find the notion that my consumer electronics may be CIA microphones somewhat irritating, but my imagination quickly runs off to far worse scenarios. (although the popular phase, "You're tax dollars at work." keeps running thru my head like a earworm. And whenever I hear "conservatives" speak of their desire for "small government", usually when topics of health care, Medicare and social security come up, I can only manage a snort of incredulousness anymore)

One being malware penetrating our nuke power plants and shutting down the cooling system. Then the reactor slowly overheats over the next 3 days, goes critical, and blows the surrounding area to high heaven. We have plants all around the coast of the country and also around the Great Lakes Region – our largest fresh water store in a drought threatened future.

Then the same happening in our offensive nuke missile systems.

Some other inconvenient truths – the stuxnet virus has been redesigned. Kaspersky – premier anti malware software maker – had a variant on their corporate network for months before finally discovering it. What chance have we?

In China, hacking is becoming a consumer service industry. There are companies building high power data centers with a host of hacking tools. Anyone, including high school script kiddies, can rent time to use the sophisticated hacking tools, web search bots, and whatever, all hosted on powerful servers with high speed internet bandwidth.

Being a bit "spooked" by all this, I began to worry about my humble home computer and decided to research whatever products I could get to at least ward off annoying vandalism. Among other things, I did sign up for a VPN service. I'm looking at the control app for my VPN connection here and I see that with a simple checkbox mouse click I can make my IP address appear to be located in my choice of 40 some countries around the world. Romania is on the list!

flora , March 9, 2017 at 11:11 am

"my consumer electronics may be CIA microphones "

I haven't tested this, so can't confirm it works, but it sounds reasonable.
http://www.komando.com/tips/390304/secure-your-webcam-and-microphone-from-hackers

craazyboy , March 9, 2017 at 12:40 pm

Actually, I very much doubt that does work. The mic "pickup" would feed its analog output to a DAC (digital to analog converter) which would convert the signal to digital. This then goes to something similar to a virtual com port in the operating system. Here is where a malware program would pick it up and either create a audio file to be sent to an internet address, or stream it directly there.

The article is just plugging in a microphone at the output jack. The malware got the data long before it goes thru another DAC and analog amp to get to the speakers or output jack.

craazyboy , March 9, 2017 at 12:46 pm

s/b "plugging in a earbud at the output jack". They're confusing me too.

flora , March 9, 2017 at 2:43 pm

ah. thanks for vetting.

Stephen Gardner , March 9, 2017 at 2:53 pm

It's actually a input/output jack or, if you will, a mic/headphone jack.

Stephen Gardner , March 9, 2017 at 2:52 pm

It depends on how it is hooked up internally. Old fashioned amateur radio headphones would disable the speakers when plugged in because the physical insertion of the plug pushed open the connection to the speakers. The jack that you plug the ear buds into might do the same, disconnecting the path between the built-in microphone and the ADC (actually it is an ADC not a DAC). The only way to know is to take it apart and see how it is connected.

Pat , March 9, 2017 at 8:27 am

The CIA is not allowed to operate in the US is also the panacea for the public. And some are buying it. Along with everyone knows they can do this is fueling the NOTHING to see here keep walking weak practically non existent coverage.

Eureka Springs , March 9, 2017 at 8:31 am

At what point do people quit negotiating in terrorism and errorism? For this is what the police, the very State itself has long been. Far beyond being illegitimate, illegal, immoral, this is a clear and ever present danger to not just it's own people, but the rule of law itself. Blanket statements like we all know this just makes the dangerously absurd normal I'll never understand that part of human nature. But hey, the TSA literally just keeps probing further each and every year. Bend over!

Trump may not be the one for the task but we the people desperately need people 'unfit', for it is the many fit who brought us to this point. His unfit nature is as refreshing on these matters in its chaotic honest disbelief as Snowden and Wiki revelations. Refreshing because it's all we've got. One doesn't have to like Trump to still see missed opportunity so many should be telling him he could be the greatest pres ever if (for two examples) he fought tirelessly for single payer and to bring down this police state rather than the EPA or public education.

This cannot stand on so many levels. Not only is the fourth amendment rendered utterly void, but even if it weren't it falls far short of the protections we deserve.

No enemy could possibly be as bad as who we are and what we allow/do among ourselves. If an election can be hacked (not saying it was by Russia).. as these and other files prove anything can and will be hacked then our system is to blame, not someone else.

What amazes me is that the spooks haven't manufactured proof needed to take Trump out of office Bonfire of The Vanities style. I'd like to think the people have moved beyond the point they would believe manufactured evidence but the Russia thing proves otherwise.

These people foment world war while probing our every move and we do nothing!

If we wait for someone fit nothing will ever change because we wait for the police/media/oligarch state to tell us who is fit.

Anon , March 9, 2017 at 2:40 pm

being "unfit" does not automatically make someone a savior.

Stephen Gardner , March 9, 2017 at 3:05 pm

But being fit by the standards of our ruling class, the "real owners" as Carlin called them is, in my book, an automatic proof that they are up to no good. Trump is not my cup of tea as a president but no one we have had in a while wasn't clearly compromised by those who fund them. Did you ever wonder why we have never had a president or even a powerful member of congress that was not totally in the tank for that little country on the Eastern Mediterranean? Or the Gulf Monarchies? Do you think that is by accident? Do you think money isn't involved? Talk about hacked elections! We should be so lucky as to have ONLY Russians attempting to affect our elections. Money is what hacks US elections and never forget that. To me it is laughable to discuss hacking the elections without discussing the real way our "democracy" is subverted–money not document leaks or voting machine hacks. It's money.

Why isn't Saudi Arabia on Trump's list? Iran that has never been involved in a terrorist act on US soil is but not Saudi Arabia? How many 911 hijackers came from Iran? If anything saves Trump from destruction by the real owners of our democracy it is his devotion to the aforementioned countries.

Allegorio , March 9, 2017 at 4:00 pm

The point again is not to remove him from office but to control him. With Trump's past you better believe the surveillance state has more than enough to remove him from office. Notice the change in his rhetoric since inauguration? More and more he is towing the establishment Republican line. Of course this depends on whether you believe Trump is a break with the past or just the best liar out there. A very unpopular establishment would be clever in promoting their agent by pretending to be against him.

Anyone who still believes that the US is a democratic republic and not a mafia state needs to stick their heads deeper into the sands. When will the low information voters and police forces on whom a real revolution depends realize this is anyone's guess. The day is getting closer especially for the younger generation. The meme among the masses is that government has always been corrupt and that this is nothing new. I do believe the level of immorality among the credentialed classes is indeed very new and has become the new normal. Generations of every man for himself capitalist philosophy undermining any sense of morality or community has finally done its work.

HBE , March 9, 2017 at 8:47 am

Go take a jaunt over to huffpo, at the time of this post there was not a single mention of vault 7 on the front page. Just a long series of anti trump administration articles.

Glad to know for sure who the true warmongers were all along.

Arizona Slim , March 9, 2017 at 8:50 am

We need another Church Commission.

Eureka Springs , March 9, 2017 at 8:59 am

No.. The Church commission was a sweep it under the rug operation. It got us FISA courts. More carte blanche secrecy, not less. The commission nor the rest of the system didn't even hold violators of the time accountable.

We have files like Vault 7. Commissions rarely get in secret what we have right here before our eyes.

Arizona Slim , March 9, 2017 at 1:31 pm

Well, how about a Truth and Reconciliation Commission?

Foppe , March 9, 2017 at 1:55 pm

Cute but the ANC lost the war by acceding to WTO entry (which "forbade" distributive politics, land/resource redistribution, nationalizations, etc.).

River , March 9, 2017 at 10:59 am

Need Langley surrounded and fired upon by tanks at this point.

Err on the side of caution.

DJG , March 9, 2017 at 12:49 pm

River: Interesting historic parallel? I believe that the Ottomans got rid of the Janissaries that way, after the Janissaries had become a state within a state, by using cannons on their HQ

From Wiki entry, Janissaries:

The corps was abolished by Sultan Mahmud II in 1826 in the Auspicious Incident in which 6,000 or more were executed.[8]

polecat , March 9, 2017 at 12:53 pm

"Nuke it from orbit it's the only way to be sure . "

knowbuddhau , March 9, 2017 at 9:01 am

Took less than a minute to download the 513.33MB file. The passphrase is what JFK said he'd like to do to CIA: SplinterItIntoAThousandPiecesAndScatterItIntoTheWinds.

"The illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longer." Henry Kissinger, 1975.

Stormcrow , March 9, 2017 at 9:35 am

Here is Raimondo's take:
Spygate
http://original.antiwar.com/justin/2017/03/07/spygate-americas-political-police-vs-donald-j-trump/

The campaign to frame up and discredit Trump and his associates is characteristic of how a police state routinely operates. A national security apparatus that vacuums up all our communications and stores them for later retrieval has been utilized by political operatives to go after their enemies – and not even the President of the United States is immune. This is something that one might expect to occur in, say, Turkey, or China: that it is happening here, to the cheers of much of the media and the Democratic party, is beyond frightening.

The irony is that the existence of this dangerous apparatus – which civil libertarians have warned could and probably would be used for political purposes – has been hailed by Trump and his team as a necessary and proper function of government. Indeed, Trump has called for the execution of the person who revealed the existence of this sinister engine of oppression – Edward Snowden. Absent Snowden's revelations, we would still be in the dark as to the existence and vast scope of the NSA's surveillance.

And now the monster Trump embraced in the name of "national security" has come back to bite him.

We hear all the time that what's needed is an open and impartial "investigation" of Trump's alleged "ties" to Russia. This is dangerous nonsense: does every wild-eyed accusation from embittered losers deserve a congressional committee armed with subpoena power bent on conducting an inquisition? Certainly not.

What must be investigated is the incubation of a clandestine political police force inside the national security apparatus, one that has been unleashed against Trump – and could be deployed against anyone.

This isn't about Donald Trump. It's about preserving what's left of our old republic.

Perhapps overstated but well worth pondering.

SplinterItIntoAThousandPiecesAndScatterItIntoTheWinds. , March 9, 2017 at 10:06 am

Yeah I downloaded it the day it came out and spent an hour or so looking at it last night. First impressions – "heyyy this is like a Hackers Guide – the sort I used in the 80s, or DerEngel's Cable Modem Hacking" of the 00s.

2nd impressions – wow it really gives foundational stuff – like "Enable Debug on PolarSSL".

3rd impressions – "I could spend hours going thru this happily ".

4th impressions – I went looking for the "juicy bits" of interest to me – SOHO routers, small routers – sadly its just a table documenting routers sold around the world, and whether these guys have put the firmware in their Stash Repository. Original firmware, not hacked one. But the repository isn't in the vault dump, AFAIK.

Its quite fascinating. But trying to find the "juicy stuff" is going to be tedious. One can spend hours and hours going thru it. To speed up going thru it, I'm going to need some tech sites to say "where to go".

flora , March 9, 2017 at 11:21 am

It seems clear that Wikileaks has not and will not release actual ongoing method "how-to" info or hacking scripts. They are releasing the "whats", not the tech level detailed "hows". This seems like a sane approach to releasing the data. The release appears to be for political discussion, not for spreading the hacking tools. So I wouldn't look for "juicy bits" about detailed methodology. Just my guess.

That said, love what you're doing digging into this stuff. I look forward to a more detailed report in future. Thanks.

Sam F , March 9, 2017 at 10:10 am

Yves, I think that you much underestimate the extremity of these exposed violations of the security of freedom of expression, and of the security of private records. The WikiLeaks docs show that CIA has developed means to use all personal digital device microphones and cameras even when they are "off," and to send all of your files and personal data to themselves, and to send your private messages to themselves before they are encrypted. They have installed these spyware in the released version of Windows 10, and can easily install them on all common systems and devices.

This goes far beyond the kind of snooping that required specialized devices installed near the target, which could be controlled by warrant process. There is no control over this extreme spying. It is totalitarianism now.

This is probably the most extreme violation of the rights of citizens by a government in all of history. It is far worse than the "turnkey tyranny" against which Snowden warned, on the interception of private messages. It is tyranny itself, the death of democracy.

Outis Philalithopoulos , March 9, 2017 at 10:58 am

Your first sentence is a bit difficult to understand. If you read Yves' remarks introducing the post, she says that the revelations are "a big deal" "if the Wikileaks claim is even halfway true," while coming down hard on the MSM and others for "pooh-pooh[ing]" the story. Did you want her to add more exclamation points?

susan the other , March 9, 2017 at 10:59 am

So we have a zillion ways to spy and hack and deceive and assassinate, but no control. I think this is what the military refers to as "being overtaken by events."

It's easy to gather information; not so easy to analyze it, and somehow impossible to act on it in good faith. With all this ability to know stuff and surveil people the big question is, Why does everything seem so beyond our ability to control it?

We should know well in advance that banks will fail catastrophically; that we will indeed have sea level rise; that resources will run out; that water will be undrinkable; that people will be impossible to manipulate when panic hits – but what do we do? We play dirty tricks, spy on each other like voyeurs, and ignore the inevitable. Like the Stasi, we clearly know what happened, what is happening and what is going to happen. But we have no control.

NotTimothyGeithner , March 9, 2017 at 11:34 am

My godfather was in the CIA in the late sixties and early seventies, and he said that outside of the President's pet projects there was no way to sift through and bring important information to decision makers before it made the Washington Post (he is aware of the irony) and hit the President's breakfast table.

Arizona Slim , March 9, 2017 at 1:33 pm

Do you mean to say that the CIA leaked like a sieve? That's my understanding of your post.

Old Jake , March 9, 2017 at 6:05 pm

AS, I would interpret it as saying that there was so much coming in it was like trying to classify snowflakes in a snowstorm. They could pick a few subject areas to look at closely but the rest just went into the files.

Leaking like a sieve is also likely, but perhaps not the main point.

Andrew , March 9, 2017 at 11:14 am

The archive appears to have been circulated among government hackers and contractors in a authorized manner

There, that looks the more likely framing considering CIA & DNI on behalf of the whole US IC seemingly fostered wide dissimilation of these tools, information. Demonstration of media control an added plus.

Cheers Yves

Stormcrow , March 9, 2017 at 11:20 am

The Empire Strikes Back

WikiLeaks Has Joined the Trump Administration
Max Boot
Foreign Policy magazine

https://foreignpolicy.com/2017/03/08/wikileaks-has-joined-the-trump-administration/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=New+Campaign&utm_term=%2AEditors+Picks

I guess we can only expect more of this.

Todd Pierce , on the other hand, nails it. (From his Facebook page.)
The East German Stasi could only dream of the sort of surveillance the NSA and CIA do now, with just as nefarious of purposes.

lyman alpha blob , March 9, 2017 at 11:42 am

Perhaps the scare quotes around "international mobster" aren't really necessary.

In all this talk about the various factions aligned with and against Trump, that's one I haven't heard brought up by anybody. With all the cement poured in Trump's name over the years, it would be naive to think his businesses had not brushed up against organized crime at some point. Question is, whose side are they on?

JTMcPhee , March 9, 2017 at 3:02 pm

Like all the other players, the "side" they are on is them-effing-selves. And isn't that the whole problem with our misbegotten species, writ large?

Then there's this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1Hzds9aGdA Maybe these people will be around and still eating after us urban insects and rodents are long gone? Or will our rulers decide no one should survive if they don't?

Skip Intro , March 9, 2017 at 12:55 pm

To what extent do these hacks represent the CIA operating within the US? To what extent is that illegal? With the democrats worshipping the IC, will anyone in an official position dare to speak out?

tegnost , March 9, 2017 at 1:05 pm

Well we know chuckie won't speak out..

http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/312605-schumer-trump-being-really-dumb-by-going-after-intelligence-community

FTA "Schumer said that as he understands, intelligence officials are "very upset with how [Trump] has treated them and talked about them.""

Oregoncharles , March 9, 2017 at 2:17 pm

I've long thought that the reason Snowden was pursued so passionately was that he exposed the biggest, most embarrassing secret: that the National "Security" Agency's INTERNAL security was crap.

And here it is: "Wikileaks claims that the CIA lost control of the majority of its hacking arsenal "

The CIA's internal security is crap, too. Really a lot of people should be fired over that, as well as over Snowden's release. We didn't hear of it happening in the NSA, though I'm not sure we would have. Given Gaius's description of Trump's situation, it seems unlikely it will happen this time, either. One of my hopes for a Trump administration, as long as we're stuck with it, was a thorough cleanout of the upper echelons in the IC. It's obviously long overdue, and Obama wasn't up to it. But I used the past tense because I don't think it's going to happen. Trump seems more interested in sucking up to them, presumably so they won't kill him or his family. That being one of their options.

Stephen Gardner , March 9, 2017 at 3:51 pm

Ah, that's the beauty of contracting it out. No one gets fired. Did anyone get fired because of Snowden? It was officially a contractor problem and since there are only a small number of contractors capable of doing the work, well you know. We can't get new ones.

tiebie66 , March 9, 2017 at 2:59 pm

What I find by far the most distressing is this: "The CIA had created, in effect, its "own NSA" with even less accountability ." [My emphasis]. It seems to characterize an organization that operates outside of any control and oversight – and one that is intentionally structuring itself that way. That worries me.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the Republic is lost because we didn't stand guard for it. Blaming others don't cut it either – we let it happen. And like the Germans about the Nazi atrocities, we will say that we didn't know about it.

JTMcPhee , March 9, 2017 at 3:06 pm

Hey, I didn't let it happen. Stuff that spooks and sh!tes do behind the Lycra ™ curtain happens because it is, what is the big word again, "ineluctable." Is my neighbor to blame for having his house half eaten by both kinds of termites, where the construction is such that the infestation and damage are invisible until the vast damage is done?

Stephen Gardner , March 9, 2017 at 4:08 pm

And just how were we supposed to stand guard against a secret and unaccountable organization that protected itself with a shield of lies? And every time some poor misfit complained about it they were told that they just didn't know the facts. If they only knew what our IC knows they would not complain.

It's a dangerous world out there and only our brave IC can protect us from it. Come on. Stop blaming the victim and place the blame where it belongs–our IC and MIC. I say stop feeding the beast with your loyalty to a government that has ceased to be yours.

Studiously avoid any military celebrations. Worship of the military is part of the problem. Remember, the people you thank for "their service" are as much victims as you are. Sadly they don't realize that their service is to a rotten empire that is not worthy of their sacrifice but every time we perform the obligatory ritual of thankfulness we participate in the lie that the service is to a democratic country instead of an undemocratic empire.

It's clearly a case of Wilfred Owen's classic "Dulce et Decorum Est". Read the poem, google it and read it. It is instructive: " you would not tell with such high zest To children ardent for some desperate glory, The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori." Make no mistake. It is a lie and it can only be undone if we all cease to tell it.

nonsense factory , March 9, 2017 at 8:57 pm

Here's a pretty decent review of the various CIA programs revealed by Wikileaks:

http://www.libertyforjoe.com/2017/03/what-is-vault-7.html

"These CIA revelations in conjunction with those of the NSA paints a pretty dark future for privacy and freedom. Edward Snowden made us aware of the NSA's program XKEYSCORE and PRISM which are utilized to monitor and bulk collect information from virtually any electronic device on the planet and put it into a searchable database. Now Wikileaks has published what appears to be additional Big Brother techniques used by a competing agency. Say what you want about the method of discovery, but Pandora's box has been opened."

[Dec 16, 2017] Surveillance Confirmed Of President Trump. Obama spied on Trump. where is the arrest

Notable quotes:
"... Scared and panicking Evelyn Farkas spilled the beans. By saying "I became very worried..." she's obviously trying to justify her behavior in case a legal bomb is dropped on her. This is a side effect of Nunes' dramatized little trip to the White House intelligence secure facilities: as long as they don't know Nunes and Trump's hands, panic will bring more people to come forward and look for some kind of justification and/or protection. ..."
Dec 16, 2017 | www.youtube.com

buzzkillean , 8 months ago

Obama and Clinton thought they had the election in the bag. They broke surveillance laws thinking that Clinton would be in the Whitehouse to cover it anyway. Imagine their shock on election day when they realized how many felonies would be exposed when Trump took over.........cover-up.

meconnectesimplement , 8 months ago

Look at her face at 2:06 ... Scared and panicking Evelyn Farkas spilled the beans. By saying "I became very worried..." she's obviously trying to justify her behavior in case a legal bomb is dropped on her. This is a side effect of Nunes' dramatized little trip to the White House intelligence secure facilities: as long as they don't know Nunes and Trump's hands, panic will bring more people to come forward and look for some kind of justification and/or protection.

[Dec 14, 2017] Tech Giants Trying to Use WTO to Colonize Emerging Economies

Notable quotes:
"... The initiative described in this article reminds me of how the World Bank pushed hard for emerging economies to develop capital markets, for the greater good of America's investment bankers. ..."
"... By Burcu Kilic, an expert on legal, economic and political issues. Originally published at openDemocracy ..."
"... Today, the big tech race is for data extractivism from those yet to be 'connected' in the world – tech companies will use all their power to achieve a global regime in which small nations cannot regulate either data extraction or localisation. ..."
"... One suspects big money will be thrown at this by the leading tech giants. ..."
"... Out of idle curiosity, how could you accurately deduce my country of origin from my name? ..."
Dec 14, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

December 14, 2017 by Yves Smith Yves here. Notice that Costa Rica is served up as an example in this article. Way back in 1997, American Express had designated Costa Rica as one of the countries it identified as sufficiently high income so as to be a target for a local currency card offered via a franchise agreement with a domestic institution (often but not always a bank). 20 years later, the Switzerland of Central America still has limited Internet connectivity, yet is precisely the sort of place that tech titans like Google would like to dominate.

The initiative described in this article reminds me of how the World Bank pushed hard for emerging economies to develop capital markets, for the greater good of America's investment bankers.

By Burcu Kilic, an expert on legal, economic and political issues. Originally published at openDemocracy

Today, the big tech race is for data extractivism from those yet to be 'connected' in the world – tech companies will use all their power to achieve a global regime in which small nations cannot regulate either data extraction or localisation.

n a few weeks' time, trade ministers from 164 countries will gather in Buenos Aires for the 11th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference (MC11). US President Donald Trump in November issued fresh accusations of unfair treatment towards the US by WTO members , making it virtually impossible for trade ministers to leave the table with any agreement in substantial areas.

To avoid a 'failure ministerial," some countries see the solution as pushing governments to open a mandate to start conversations that might lead to a negotiation on binding rules for e-commerce and a declaration of the gathering as the "digital ministerial". Argentina's MC11 chair, Susana Malcorra, is actively pushing for member states to embrace e-commerce at the WTO, claiming that it is necessary to " bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots ".

It is not very clear what kind of gaps Malcorra is trying to bridge. It surely isn't the "connectivity gap" or "digital divide" that is growing between developed and developing countries, seriously impeding digital learning and knowledge in developing countries. In fact, half of humanity is not even connected to the internet, let alone positioned to develop competitive markets or bargain at a multilateral level. Negotiating binding e-commerce rules at the WTO would only widen that gap.

Dangerously, the "South Vision" of digital trade in the global trade arena is being shaped by a recent alliance of governments and well-known tech-sector lobbyists, in a group called 'Friends of E-Commerce for Development' (FED), including Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Uruguay, and, most recently, China. FED claims that e-commerce is a tool to drive growth, narrow the digital divide, and generate digital solutions for developing and least developed countries.

However, none of the countries in the group (apart from China) is leading or even remotely ready to be in a position to negotiate and push for binding rules on digital trade that will be favorable to them, as their economies are still far away from the technology revolution. For instance, it is perplexing that one of the most fervent defenders of FED's position is Costa Rica. The country's economy is based on the export of bananas, coffee, tropical fruits, and low-tech medical instruments, and almost half of its population is offline . Most of the countries in FED are far from being powerful enough to shift negotiations in favor of small players.

U.S.-based tech giants and Chinese Alibaba – so-called GAFA-A – dominate, by far, the future of the digital playing field, including issues such as identification and digital payments, connectivity, and the next generation of logistics solutions. In fact, there is a no-holds-barred ongoing race among these tech giants to consolidate their market share in developing economies, from the race to grow the advertising market to the race to increase online payments.

An e-commerce agenda that claims unprecedented development for the Global South is a Trojan horse move. Beginning negotiations on such topics at this stage – before governments are prepared to understand what is at stake – could lead to devastating results, accelerating liberalization and the consolidation of the power of tech giants to the detriment of local industries, consumers, and citizens. Aware of the increased disparities between North and South, and the data dominance of a tiny group of GAFA-A companies, a group of African nations issued a statement opposing the digital ambitions of the host for MC11. But the political landscape is more complex, with China, the EU, and Russia now supporting the idea of a "digital" mandate .

Repeating the Same Mistakes?

The relationships of most countries with tech companies are as imbalanced as their relationships with Big Pharma, and there are many parallels to note. Not so long ago, the countries of the Global South faced Big Pharma power in pharmaceutical markets in a similar way. Some developing countries had the same enthusiasm when they negotiated intellectual property rules for the protection of innovation and research and development costs. In reality, those countries were nothing more than users and consumers of that innovation, not the owners or creators. The lessons of negotiating trade issues that lie at the core of public interest issues – in that case, access to medicines – were costly. Human lives and fundamental rights of those who use online services should not be forgotten when addressing the increasingly worrying and unequal relationships with tech power.

The threat before our eyes is similarly complex and equally harmful to the way our societies will be shaped in the coming years. In the past, the Big Pharma race was for patent exclusivity, to eliminate local generic production and keep drug prices high. Today, the Big Tech race is for data extractivism from those who have yet to be connected in the world, and tech companies will use all the power they hold to achieve a global regime in which small nations cannot regulate either data extraction or data localization.

Big Tech is one of the most concentrated and resourceful industries of all time. The bargaining power of developing countries is minimal. Developing countries will basically be granting the right to cultivate small parcels of a land controlled by data lords -- under their rules, their mandate, and their will -- with practically no public oversight. The stakes are high. At the core of it is the race to conquer the markets of digital payments and the battle to become the platform where data flows, splitting the territory as old empires did in the past. As the Economist claimed on May 6, 2017: "Conflicts over control of oil have scarred the world for decades. No one yet worries that wars will be fought over data. But the data economy has the same potential for confrontation."

If countries from the Global South want to prepare for data wars, they should start thinking about how to reduce the control of Big Tech over -- how we communicate, shop, and learn the news -- , again, over our societies. The solution lies not in making rules for data liberalization, but in devising ways to use the law to reduce Big Tech's power and protect consumers and citizens. Finding the balance would take some time and we are going to take that time to find the right balance, we are not ready to lock the future yet.

Jef , December 14, 2017 at 11:32 am

I thought thats what the WTO is for?

Thuto , December 14, 2017 at 2:14 pm

One suspects big money will be thrown at this by the leading tech giants. To paraphrase from a comment I made recently regarding a similar topic : "with markets in the developed world pretty much sewn up by the tripartite tech overlords (google, fb and amazon), the next 3 billion users for their products/services are going to come from developing world". With this dynamic in mind, and the "constant growth" mantra humming incessantly in the background, it's easy to see how high stakes a game this is for the tech giants and how no resources will be spared to stymie any efforts at establishing a regulatory oversight framework that will protect the digital rights of citizens in the global south.

Multilateral fora like the WTO are de facto enablers for the marauding frontal attacks of transnational corporations, and it's disheartening to see that some developing nations have already nailed the digital futures of their citizens to the mast of the tech giants by joining this alliance. What's more, this signing away of their liberty will be sold to the citizenry as the best way to usher them into the brightest of all digital futures.

Mark P. , December 14, 2017 at 3:30 pm

One suspects big money will be thrown at this by the leading tech giants.

Vast sums of money are already being thrown at bringing Africa online, for better or worse. Thus, the R&D aimed at providing wireless Internet via giant drones/balloons/satellites by Google, Facebook, etc.

You're African. Possibly South African by your user name, which may explain why you're a little behind the curve, because the action is already happening, but more to the north -- and particularly in East Africa.

The big corporations -- and the tech giants are competing with the banking/credit card giants -- have noted how mobile technology leapt over the dearth of last century's telephony tech, land lines, and in turn enabled the highest adoption rates of cellphone banking in the world. (Particularly in East Africa, as I say.) The payoffs for big corporations are massive -- de facto cashless societies where the corporations control the payment systems –and the politicians are mostly cheap.

In Nigeria, the government has launched a Mastercard-branded national ID card that's also a payment card, in one swoop handing Mastercard more than 170 million potential customers, and their personal and biometric data.

In Kenya, the sums transferred by mobile money operator M-Pesa are more than 25 percent of that country's GDP.

You can see that bringing Africa online is technically a big, decade-long project. But also that the potential payoffs are vast. Though I also suspect China may come out ahead -- they're investing far more in Africa and in some areas their technology -- drones, for instance -- is already superior to what the Europeans and the American companies have.

Thuto , December 14, 2017 at 4:58 pm

Thank you Mark P.

Hoisted from a comment I made here recently: "Here in South Africa and through its Free Basics programme, facebook is jumping into bed with unsuspecting ISPs (I say unsuspecting because fb will soon be muscling in on their territory and becoming an ISP itself by provisioning bandwidth directly from its floating satellites) and circumventing net neutrality "

I'm also keenly aware of the developments in Kenya re: safaricom and Mpesa and how that has led to traditional banking via bank accounts being largely leapfrogged for those moving from being unbanked to active economic citizens requiring money transfer facilities. Given the huge succes of Mpesa, I wouldn't be surprised if a multinational tech behemoth (chinese or american) were to make a play for acquiring safaricom and positioning it as a triple-play ISP, money transfer/banking services and digital content provider (harvesting data about users habits on an unprecedented scale across multiple areas of their lives), first in Kenya then expanded throughout east, central and west africa. I must add that your statement about Nigeria puts Mark Zuckerberg's visit there a few months back into context somewhat, perhaps a reconnaissance mission of sorts.

Out of idle curiosity, how could you accurately deduce my country of origin from my name?

Mark P. , December 14, 2017 at 6:59 pm

Out of idle curiosity, how could you accurately deduce my country of origin from my name?

Though I've lived in California for decades, my mother was South African and I maintain a UK passport, having grown up in London.

Mark P. , December 14, 2017 at 3:34 pm

As you also write: "with markets in the developed world pretty much sewn up by the tripartite tech overlords (google, fb and amazon), the next 3 billion users for their products/services are going to come from developing world."

Absolutely true. This cannot be stressed enough. The tech giants know this and the race is on.

Mattski , December 14, 2017 at 3:41 pm

Been happening with food for 50 years.

[Dec 13, 2017] 'You are being programmed,' former Facebook executive warns by Rozina Sini

Dec 13, 2017 | www.bbc.com

A former Facebook executive has criticised the social network for ripping society apart during a question and answer session.

Chamath Palihapitiya, who worked as Facebook's vice president for user growth, was speaking at an event run by the Stanford Graduate School of Business on 10 November in which he described feeling "tremendous guilt' in helping the company attract two billion users.

His comments echoed remarks by Sean Parker, one of the early pioneers of Facebook, who spoke on 8 November , saying the social network provided "a dopamine hit and a social validation feedback loop, that exploited a vulnerability in human psychology."

However, coverage this week has seen thousands responding to Palihaptiya's words.

"We have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works," he told the audience.

He advised people take a "hard break" from social media, describing its effect as "short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops."

'You are being programmed'

"We curate our lives around this perceived sense of perfection, because we get rewarded in these short term signals: Hearts, likes, thumbs up," Palihaptiya said.

"We conflate that with value and we conflate it with truth, and instead what it really is is fake, brittle popularity that's short term and leaves you even more vacant and empty before you did it.

"You don't realise it but you are being programmed."

Palihapitiya said he could not offer a solution but deals with the problem himself by not using social media anymore, something which he says has caused tension with his family and friends.

[Dec 04, 2017] The neoliberal framework in antitrust is based on pecifically its pegging competition to consumer welfare, defined as short-term price effects and as such s unequipped to capture the architecture of market power in the modern economy

Notable quotes:
"... This Note argues that the current framework in antitrust-specifically its pegging competition to "consumer welfare," defined as short-term price effects-is unequipped to capture the architecture of market power in the modern economy. We cannot cognize the potential harms to competition posed by Amazon's dominance if we measure competition primarily through price and output. ..."
"... This Note maps out facets of Amazon's dominance. Doing so enables us to make sense of its business strategy, illuminates anticompetitive aspects of Amazon's structure and conduct, and underscores deficiencies in current doctrine. The Note closes by considering two potential regimes for addressing Amazon's power: restoring traditional antitrust and competition policy principles or applying common carrier obligations and duties. ..."
Feb 12, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
anne : February 11, 2017 at 11:43 AM , 2017 at 11:43 AM
http://www.yalelawjournal.org/article/amazons-antitrust-paradox

January, 2017

Amazon's Antitrust Paradox
By Lina M. Khan

Abstract

Amazon is the titan of twenty-first century commerce. In addition to being a retailer, it is now a marketing platform, a delivery and logistics network, a payment service, a credit lender, an auction house, a major book publisher, a producer of television and films, a fashion designer, a hardware manufacturer, and a leading host of cloud server space. Although Amazon has clocked staggering growth, it generates meager profits, choosing to price below-cost and expand widely instead. Through this strategy, the company has positioned itself at the center of e-commerce and now serves as essential infrastructure for a host of other businesses that depend upon it. Elements of the firm's structure and conduct pose anticompetitive concerns -- yet it has escaped antitrust scrutiny.

This Note argues that the current framework in antitrust-specifically its pegging competition to "consumer welfare," defined as short-term price effects-is unequipped to capture the architecture of market power in the modern economy. We cannot cognize the potential harms to competition posed by Amazon's dominance if we measure competition primarily through price and output.

Specifically, current doctrine underappreciates the risk of predatory pricing and how integration across distinct business lines may prove anticompetitive. These concerns are heightened in the context of online platforms for two reasons. First, the economics of platform markets create incentives for a company to pursue growth over profits, a strategy that investors have rewarded. Under these conditions, predatory pricing becomes highly rational-even as existing doctrine treats it as irrational and therefore implausible. Second, because online platforms serve as critical intermediaries, integrating across business lines positions these platforms to control the essential infrastructure on which their rivals depend. This dual role also enables a platform to exploit information collected on companies using its services to undermine them as competitors.

This Note maps out facets of Amazon's dominance. Doing so enables us to make sense of its business strategy, illuminates anticompetitive aspects of Amazon's structure and conduct, and underscores deficiencies in current doctrine. The Note closes by considering two potential regimes for addressing Amazon's power: restoring traditional antitrust and competition policy principles or applying common carrier obligations and duties.

[Dec 03, 2017] Google clearly can not be trusted

Notable quotes:
"... Also, don't use Gmail. – Google spies on everything you say. That's not really a secret. They do it to make money selling y our info to advertising. Don't be surprised if after you tell your parents the happy news that they will soon have a grandchild if every Google ad on every webpage you visit wants to sell you baby furniture and baby food and lots of other baby stuff. ..."
unz.com

Anonymous , Disclaimer November 25, 2017 at 7:52 pm GMT

@m___

Boycott Google!!!! They clearly can not be trusted. Do you want to find only the websites that Google wants you to see? Then use a Google Search engine. Don't search on Google.

-- There are other search engines out there. But some of the ones that claim to preserve your privacy from Google's ever present snooping still search on Google. They just hide your IP by searching through another website. But there are other search engines out there that offer unbiased and uncensored searching.

Also, don't use Gmail. – Google spies on everything you say. That's not really a secret. They do it to make money selling y our info to advertising. Don't be surprised if after you tell your parents the happy news that they will soon have a grandchild if every Google ad on every webpage you visit wants to sell you baby furniture and baby food and lots of other baby stuff.

Don't use Google drive or spreadsheets or docs.

-- Again, Google spies on all of this to make money for themselves by selling your secrets.

Find other video venues than YouTube.

-- You are going to have to anyways, now that Google is actively censoring the content. Clearly, if you want to see anything that Google doesn't want you to see, you are going to have to find alternatives to Youtube . and they are there.

[Dec 03, 2017] Google Facebook Are 1984 - Tax Them 'Til They Bleed by Raul Ilargi Meije

I would not put YouTube in the same set of Facebook. This is a different platform. And much more useful. IMHO no respectful person that I know uses Facebook for putting personal information on it. Only teenagers are doing that. And even among them resentment against Facebook is common.
Google with its search engine is a more dangerous beast, but there are alternatives. many people stitched for Google to other search engines. That does not give much privacy protection other then moral satisfaction, but still it is stupid just to use Big Brother search engine voluntarily if you can avoid it.
Notable quotes:
"... For Google and Facebook as the world's new major -only?!- ad agencies: Tax the heebies out of them or forbid them from running any ads at all. Why? Because they extract enormous amounts of productive capital from society. Capital they, as Varoufakis says, do not even themselves create. ..."
"... As Google, Facebook and the CIA are ever more entwined, these companies become so important to what 'the spooks' consider the interests of the nation that they will become mutually protective. And once CIA headquarters in Langley, VA, aka the aptly named "George Bush Center for Intelligence", openly as well as secretly protects you, you're pretty much set for life. A long life. ..."
"... I know, you were thinking it was 'the Russians' with a few as yet unproven bucks in Facebook ads that were threatening US and European democracies. Well, you're really going to have to think again. ..."
Nov 12, 2017 | www.zerohedge.com
Authoredr via The Automatic Earth blog,

An entire library of articles about Big Tech is coming out these days, and I find that much of it is written so well, and the ideas in them so well expressed, that I have little to add. Except, I think I may have the solution to the problems many people see. But I also have a concern that I don't see addressed, and that may well prevent that solution from being adopted. If so, we're very far away from any solution at all. And that's seriously bad news.

Let's start with a general -even 'light'- critique of social media by Claire Wardle and Hossein Derakhshan for the Guardian:

How Did The News Go 'Fake'? When The Media Went Social

Social media force us to live our lives in public , positioned centre-stage in our very own daily performances. Erving Goffman, the American sociologist, articulated the idea of "life as theatre" in his 1956 book The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, and while the book was published more than half a century ago, the concept is even more relevant today. It is increasingly difficult to live a private life, in terms not just of keeping our personal data away from governments or corporations, but also of keeping our movements, interests and, most worryingly, information consumption habits from the wider world.

The social networks are engineered so that we are constantly assessing others – and being assessed ourselves. In fact our "selves" are scattered across different platforms, and our decisions, which are public or semi-public performances, are driven by our desire to make a good impression on our audiences, imagined and actual. We grudgingly accept these public performances when it comes to our travels, shopping, dating, and dining. We know the deal. The online tools that we use are free in return for us giving up our data, and we understand that they need us to publicly share our lifestyle decisions to encourage people in our network to join, connect and purchase.

But, critically, the same forces have impacted the way we consume news and information. Before our media became "social", only our closest family or friends knew what we read or watched, and if we wanted to keep our guilty pleasures secret, we could. Now, for those of us who consume news via the social networks, what we "like" and what we follow is visible to many [..] Consumption of the news has become a performance that can't be solely about seeking information or even entertainment. What we choose to "like" or follow is part of our identity, an indication of our social class and status, and most frequently our political persuasion.

That sets the scene. People sell their lives, their souls, to join a network that then sells these lives -and souls- to the highest bidder, for a profit the people themselves get nothing of. This is not some far-fetched idea. As noted further down, in terms of scale, Facebook is a present day Christianity. And these concerns are not only coming from 'concerned citizens', some of the early participants are speaking out as well. Like Facebook co-founder Sean Parker:

Facebook: God Only Knows What It's Doing To Our Children's Brains

Sean Parker, the founding president of Facebook, gave me a candid insider's look at how social networks purposely hook and potentially hurt our brains. Be smart: Parker's I-was-there account provides priceless perspective in the rising debate about the power and effects of the social networks, which now have scale and reach unknown in human history. [..]

"When Facebook was getting going, I had these people who would come up to me and they would say, 'I'm not on social media.' And I would say, 'OK. You know, you will be.' And then they would say, 'No, no, no. I value my real-life interactions. I value the moment. I value presence. I value intimacy.' And I would say, 'We'll get you eventually.'"

"I don't know if I really understood the consequences of what I was saying, because [of] the unintended consequences of a network when it grows to a billion or 2 billion people and it literally changes your relationship with society, with each other It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it's doing to our children's brains."

"The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them, was all about: 'How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?'" "And that means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever. And that's going to get you to contribute more content, and that's going to get you more likes and comments."

"It's a social-validation feedback loop exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you're exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology." "The inventors, creators -- it's me, it's Mark [Zuckerberg], it's Kevin Systrom on Instagram, it's all of these people -- understood this consciously. And we did it anyway."

Early stage investor in Facebook, Roger McNamee, also has some words to add along the same lines as Parker. They make it sound like they're Frankenstein and Facebook is their monster.

How Facebook and Google Threaten Public Health – and Democracy

The term "addiction" is no exaggeration. The average consumer checks his or her smartphone 150 times a day, making more than 2,000 swipes and touches. The applications they use most frequently are owned by Facebook and Alphabet, and the usage of those products is still increasing. In terms of scale, Facebook and YouTube are similar to Christianity and Islam respectively. More than 2 billion people use Facebook every month, 1.3 billion check in every day. More than 1.5 billion people use YouTube. Other services owned by these companies also have user populations of 1 billion or more.

Facebook and Alphabet are huge because users are willing to trade privacy and openness for "convenient and free." Content creators resisted at first, but user demand forced them to surrender control and profits to Facebook and Alphabet. The sad truth is that Facebook and Alphabet have behaved irresponsibly in the pursuit of massive profits. They have consciously combined persuasive techniques developed by propagandists and the gambling industry with technology in ways that threaten public health and democracy.

The issue, however, is not social networking or search. It is advertising business models. Let me explain. From the earliest days of tabloid newspapers, publishers realized the power of exploiting human emotions. To win a battle for attention, publishers must give users "what they want," content that appeals to emotions, rather than intellect. Substance cannot compete with sensation, which must be amplified constantly, lest consumers get distracted and move on. "If it bleeds, it leads" has guided editorial choices for more than 150 years, but has only become a threat to society in the past decade, since the introduction of smartphones.

Media delivery platforms like newspapers, television, books, and even computers are persuasive, but people only engage with them for a few hours each day and every person receives the same content. Today's battle for attention is not a fair fight. Every competitor exploits the same techniques, but Facebook and Alphabet have prohibitive advantages: personalization and smartphones. Unlike older media, Facebook and Alphabet know essentially everything about their users, tracking them everywhere they go on the web and often beyond.

By making every experience free and easy, Facebook and Alphabet became gatekeepers on the internet, giving them levels of control and profitability previously unknown in media. They exploit data to customize each user's experience and siphon profits from content creators. Thanks to smartphones, the battle for attention now takes place on a single platform that is available every waking moment. Competitors to Facebook and Alphabet do not have a prayer.

Facebook and Alphabet monetize content through advertising that is targeted more precisely than has ever been possible before . The platforms create "filter bubbles" around each user, confirming pre-existing beliefs and often creating the illusion that everyone shares the same views. Platforms do this because it is profitable. The downside of filter bubbles is that beliefs become more rigid and extreme. Users are less open to new ideas and even to facts.

Of the millions of pieces of content that Facebook can show each user at a given time, they choose the handful most likely to maximize profits. If it were not for the advertising business model, Facebook might choose content that informs, inspires, or enriches users. Instead, the user experience on Facebook is dominated by appeals to fear and anger. This would be bad enough, but reality is worse.

And in a Daily Mail article, McNamee's ideas are taken a mile or so further. Goebbels, Bernays, fear, anger, personalization, civility.

Early Facebook Investor Compares The Social Network To Nazi Propaganda

Facebook officials have been compared to the Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels by a former investor. Roger McNamee also likened the company's methods to those of Edward Bernays, the 'father of public' relations who promoted smoking for women. Mr McNamee, who made a fortune backing the social network in its infancy, has spoken out about his concern about the techniques the tech giants use to engage users and advertisers. [..] the former investor said everyone was now 'in one degree or another addicted' to the site while he feared the platform was causing people to swap real relationships for phoney ones.

And he likened the techniques of the company to Mr Bernays and Hitler's public relations minister. 'In order to maintain your attention they have taken all the techniques of Edward Bernays and Joseph Goebbels, and all of the other people from the world of persuasion, and all the big ad agencies, and they've mapped it onto an all day product with highly personalised information in order to addict you,' Mr McNamee told The Telegraph. Mr McNamee said Facebook was creating a culture of 'fear and anger'. 'We have lowered the civil discourse, people have become less civil to each other..'

He said the tech giant had 'weaponised' the First Amendment to 'essentially absolve themselves of responsibility'. He added: 'I say this as somebody who was there at the beginning.' Mr McNamee's comments come as a further blow to Facebook as just last month former employee Justin Rosenstein spoke out about his concerns. Mr Rosenstein, the Facebook engineer who built a prototype of the network's 'like' button, called the creation the 'bright dings of pseudo-pleasure'. He said he was forced to limit his own use of the social network because he was worried about the impact it had on him.

As for the economic, not the societal or personal, effects of social media, Yanis Varoufakis had this to say a few weeks ago:

Capitalism Is Ending Because It Has Made Itself Obsolete – Varoufakis

Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has claimed capitalism is coming to an end because it is making itself obsolete. The former economics professor told an audience at University College London that the rise of giant technology corporations and artificial intelligence will cause the current economic system to undermine itself. Mr Varoufakis said companies such as Google and Facebook, for the first time ever, are having their capital bought and produced by consumers.

"Firstly the technologies were funded by some government grant; secondly every time you search for something on Google, you contribute to Google's capital," he said. "And who gets the returns from capital? Google, not you. "So now there is no doubt capital is being socially produced, and the returns are being privatised . This with artificial intelligence is going to be the end of capitalism."

Ergo, as people sell their lives and their souls to Facebook and Alphabet, they sell their economies along with them.

That's what that means. And you were just checking what your friends were doing. Or, that's what you thought you were doing.

The solution to all these pains is, likely unintentionally, provided by Umair Haque's critique of economics. It's interesting to see how the topics 'blend', 'intertwine'.

How Economics Failed the Economy

When, in the 1930s, the great economist Simon Kuznets created GDP, he deliberately left two industries out of this then novel, revolutionary idea of a national income : finance and advertising. [..] Kuznets logic was simple, and it was not mere opinion, but analytical fact: finance and advertising don't create new value , they only allocate, or distribute existing value in the same way that a loan to buy a television isn't the television, or an ad for healthcare isn't healthcare. They are only means to goods, not goods themselves. Now we come to two tragedies of history.

What happened next is that Congress laughed, as Congresses do, ignored Kuznets, and included advertising and finance anyways for political reasons -after all, bigger, to the politicians mind, has always been better, and therefore, a bigger national income must have been better. Right? Let's think about it. Today, something very curious has taken place.

If we do what Kuznets originally suggested, and subtract finance and advertising from GDP, what does that picture -a picture of the economy as it actually is reveal? Well, since the lion's share of growth, more than 50% every year, comes from finance and advertising -whether via Facebook or Google or Wall St and hedge funds and so on- we would immediately see that the economic growth that the US has chased so desperately, so furiously, never actually existed at all.

Growth itself has only been an illusion, a trick of numbers, generated by including what should have been left out in the first place. If we subtracted allocative industries from GDP, we'd see that economic growth is in fact below population growth, and has been for a very long time now, probably since the 1980s and in that way, the US economy has been stagnant, which is (surprise) what everyday life feels like. Feels like.

Economic indicators do not anymore tell us a realistic, worthwhile, and accurate story about the truth of the economy, and they never did -only, for a while, the trick convinced us that reality wasn't. Today, that trick is over, and economies grow , but people's lives, their well-being, incomes, and wealth, do not, and that, of course, is why extremism is sweeping the globe. Perhaps now you begin to see why the two have grown divorced from one another: economics failed the economy.

Now let us go one step, then two steps, further. Finance and advertising are no longer merely allocative industries today. They are now extractive industries. That is, they internalize value from society, and shift costs onto society, all the while creating no value themselves.

The story is easiest to understand via Facebook's example: it makes its users sadder, lonelier, and unhappier, and also corrodes democracy in spectacular and catastrophic ways. There is not a single upside of any kind that is discernible -and yet, all the above is counted as a benefit, not a cost, in national income, so the economy can thus grow, even while a society of miserable people are being manipulated by foreign actors into destroying their own democracy. Pretty neat, huh?

It was BECAUSE finance and advertising were counted as creative, productive, when they were only allocative, distributive that they soon became extractive. After all, if we had said from the beginning that these industries do not count, perhaps they would not have needed to maximize profits (or for VCs to pour money into them, and so on) endlessly to count more. But we didn't.

And so soon, they had no choice but to become extractive: chasing more and more profits, to juice up the illusion of growth, and soon enough, these industries began to eat the economy whole, because of course, as Kuznets observed, they allocate everything else in the economy, and therefore, they control it.

Thus, the truly creative, productive, life-giving parts of the economy shrank in relative, and even in absolute terms, as they were taken apart, strip-mined, and consumed in order to feed the predatory parts of the economy , which do not expand human potential. The economy did eat itself, just as Marx had supposed – only the reason was not something inherent in it, but a choice, a mistake, a tragedy.

[..] Life is not flourishing, growing, or developing in a single way that I or even you can readily identify or name. And yet, the economy appears to be growing, because purely allocative and distributive enterprises like Uber, Facebook, credit rating agencies, endless nameless hedge funds, shady personal info brokers, and so on, which fail to contribute positively to human life in any discernible way whatsoever, are all counted as beneficial. Do you see the absurdity of it?

[..] It's not a coincidence that the good has failed to grow, nor is it an act of the gods. It was a choice. A simple cause-effect relationship, of a society tricking itself into desperately pretending it was growing, versus truly growing. Remember not subtracting finance and advertising from GDP, to create the illusion of growth? Had America not done that, then perhaps it might have had to work hard to find ways to genuinely, authentically, meaningfully grow, instead of taken the easy way out, only to end up stagnating today, and unable to really even figure out why yet.

Industries that are not productive, but instead only extract money from society, need to be taxed so heavily they have trouble surviving. If that doesn't happen, your economy will never thrive, or even survive. The whole service economy fata morgana must be thrown as far away as we can throw it. Economies must produce real, tangible things, or they die.

For the finance industry this means: tax the sh*t out of any transactions they engage in. Want to make money on complex derivatives? We'll take 75+%. Upfront. And no, you can't take your company overseas. Don't even try.

For Uber and Airbnb it means pay taxes up the wazoo, either as a company or as individual home slash car owners. Uber and Airbnb take huge amounts of money out of local economies, societies, communities, which is nonsense, unnecessary and detrimental. Every city can set up its own local car- or home rental schemes. Their profits should stay within the community, and be invested in it.

For Google and Facebook as the world's new major -only?!- ad agencies: Tax the heebies out of them or forbid them from running any ads at all. Why? Because they extract enormous amounts of productive capital from society. Capital they, as Varoufakis says, do not even themselves create.

YOU are creating the capital, and YOU then must pay for access to the capital created.

Yeah, it feels like you can just hook up and look at what your friends are doing, but the price extracted from you, your friends, and your community is so high you would never volunteer to pay for it if you had any idea.

The one thing that I don't see anyone address, and that might prevent these pretty straightforward "tax-them-til they-bleed!" answers to the threat of New Big Tech, is that Facebook, Alphabet et al have built a very strong relationship with various intelligence communities. And then you have Goebbels and Bernays in the service of the CIA.

As Google, Facebook and the CIA are ever more entwined, these companies become so important to what 'the spooks' consider the interests of the nation that they will become mutually protective. And once CIA headquarters in Langley, VA, aka the aptly named "George Bush Center for Intelligence", openly as well as secretly protects you, you're pretty much set for life. A long life.

Next up: they'll be taking over entire economies, societies. This is happening as we speak . I know, you were thinking it was 'the Russians' with a few as yet unproven bucks in Facebook ads that were threatening US and European democracies. Well, you're really going to have to think again.

The world has never seen such technologies. It has never seen such intensity, depth of, or such dependence on, information. We are simply not prepared for any of this. But we need to learn fast, or become patsies and slaves in a full blown 1984 style piece of absurd theater. Our politicians are AWOL and MIA for all of it, they have no idea what to say or think, they don't understand what Google or bitcoin or Uber really mean.

In the meantime, we know one thing we can do, and we can justify doing it through the concept of non-productive and extractive industries. That is, tax them till they bleed.

That we would hit the finance industry with that as well is a welcome bonus. Long overdue. We need productive economies or we're done. And Facebook and Alphabet -and Goldman Sachs- don't produce d*ck all.

When you think about it, the only growth that's left in the US economy is that of companies spying on American citizens. Well, that and Europeans. China has banned Facebook and Google. Why do you think they have? Because Google and Facebook ARE 1984, that's why. And if there's going to be a Big Brother in the Middle Kingdom, it's not going to be Silicon Valley.

[Dec 01, 2017] NSA hacks system administrators, new leak reveals

Highly recommended!
"I hunt sysadm" policy is the most realosnableif you you want to get into some coporate netwrok. So republication of this three years old post is just a reminder. Any sysadmin that access corporates netwrok not from a dedicated computer using VPN (corporate laptop) is engangering the corporation. As simple as that. The level of non-professionalism demonstrated by Hillary Clinton IT staff suggests that this can be a problem in government too. After all Snowden documents now are studied by all major intelligence agencies of the world.
This also outlines the main danger of "shadow It".
Notable quotes:
"... Journalist Ryan Gallagher reported that Edward Snowden , a former sys admin for NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, provided The Intercept with the internal documents, including one from 2012 that's bluntly titled "I hunt sys admins." ..."
"... "Who better to target than the person that already has the 'keys to the kingdom'?" ..."
"... "They were written by an NSA official involved in the agency's effort to break into foreign network routers, the devices that connect computer networks and transport data across the Internet," ..."
"... "By infiltrating the computers of system administrators who work for foreign phone and Internet companies, the NSA can gain access to the calls and emails that flow over their networks." ..."
"... The latest leak suggests that some NSA analysts took a much different approach when tasked with trying to collect signals intelligence that otherwise might not be easily available. According to the posts, the author advocated for a technique that involves identifying the IP address used by the network's sys admin, then scouring other NSA tools to see what online accounts used those addresses to log-in. Then by using a ..."
"... that tricks targets into installing malware by being misdirected to fake Facebook servers, the intelligence analyst can hope that the sys admin's computer is sufficiently compromised and exploited. ..."
"... Once the NSA has access to the same machine a sys admin does, American spies can mine for a trove of possibly invaluable information, including maps of entire networks, log-in credentials, lists of customers and other details about how systems are wired. In turn, the NSA has found yet another way to, in theory, watch over all traffic on a targeted network. ..."
"... "Up front, sys admins generally are not my end target. My end target is the extremist/terrorist or government official that happens to be using the network some admin takes care of," the NSA employee says in the documents. ..."
"... "A key part of the protections that apply to both US persons and citizens of other countries is the mandate that information be in support of a valid foreign intelligence requirement, and comply with US Attorney General-approved procedures to protect privacy rights." ..."
"... Coincidentally, outgoing-NSA Director Keith Alexander said last year that he was working on drastically cutting the number of sys admins at that agency by upwards of 90 percent - but didn't say it was because they could be exploited by similar tactics waged by adversarial intelligence groups. ..."
Mar 21, 2014 | news.slashdot.org

In its quest to take down suspected terrorists and criminals abroad, the United States National Security Agency has adopted the practice of hacking the system administrators that oversee private computer networks, new documents reveal.

In its quest to take down suspected terrorists and criminals abroad, the United States National Security Agency has adopted the practice of hacking the system administrators that oversee private computer networks, new documents reveal.

The Intercept has published a handful of leaked screenshots taken from an internal NSA message board where one spy agency specialist spoke extensively about compromising not the computers of specific targets, but rather the machines of the system administrators who control entire networks.

Journalist Ryan Gallagher reported that Edward Snowden, a former sys admin for NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, provided The Intercept with the internal documents, including one from 2012 that's bluntly titled "I hunt sys admins."

According to the posts - some labeled "top secret" - NSA staffers should not shy away from hacking sys admins: a successful offensive mission waged against an IT professional with extensive access to a privileged network could provide the NSA with unfettered capabilities, the analyst acknowledged.

"Who better to target than the person that already has the 'keys to the kingdom'?" one of the posts reads.

"They were written by an NSA official involved in the agency's effort to break into foreign network routers, the devices that connect computer networks and transport data across the Internet," Gallagher wrote for the article published late Thursday. "By infiltrating the computers of system administrators who work for foreign phone and Internet companies, the NSA can gain access to the calls and emails that flow over their networks."

Since last June, classified NSA materials taken by Snowden and provided to certain journalists have exposed an increasing number of previously-secret surveillance operations that range from purposely degrading international encryption standards and implanting malware in targeted machines, to tapping into fiber-optic cables that transfer internet traffic and even vacuuming up data as its moved into servers in a decrypted state.

The latest leak suggests that some NSA analysts took a much different approach when tasked with trying to collect signals intelligence that otherwise might not be easily available. According to the posts, the author advocated for a technique that involves identifying the IP address used by the network's sys admin, then scouring other NSA tools to see what online accounts used those addresses to log-in. Then by using a previously-disclosed NSA tool that tricks targets into installing malware by being misdirected to fake Facebook servers, the intelligence analyst can hope that the sys admin's computer is sufficiently compromised and exploited.

Once the NSA has access to the same machine a sys admin does, American spies can mine for a trove of possibly invaluable information, including maps of entire networks, log-in credentials, lists of customers and other details about how systems are wired. In turn, the NSA has found yet another way to, in theory, watch over all traffic on a targeted network.

"Up front, sys admins generally are not my end target. My end target is the extremist/terrorist or government official that happens to be using the network some admin takes care of," the NSA employee says in the documents.

When reached for comment by The Intercept, NSA spokesperson Vanee Vines said that, "A key part of the protections that apply to both US persons and citizens of other countries is the mandate that information be in support of a valid foreign intelligence requirement, and comply with US Attorney General-approved procedures to protect privacy rights."

Coincidentally, outgoing-NSA Director Keith Alexander said last year that he was working on drastically cutting the number of sys admins at that agency by upwards of 90 percent - but didn't say it was because they could be exploited by similar tactics waged by adversarial intelligence groups. Gen. Alexander's decision came just weeks after Snowden - previously one of around 1,000 sys admins working on the NSA's networks, according to Reuters - walked away from his role managing those networks with a trove of classified information.

[Nov 30, 2017] How Facebook and Google threaten public health and democracy by Roger McNamee

Notable quotes:
"... In an interview this week with Axios, Facebook's original president, Sean Parker, admitted that the company intentionally sought to addict users and expressed regret at the damage being inflicted on children. ..."
"... The term "addiction" is no exaggeration. The average consumer checks his or her smartphone 150 times a day, making more than 2,000 swipes and touches. The applications they use most frequently are owned by Facebook and Alphabet, and the usage of those products is still increasing. ..."
"... From the earliest days of tabloid newspapers, publishers realized the power of exploiting human emotions. To win a battle for attention, publishers must give users "what they want," content that appeals to emotions, rather than intellect. Substance cannot compete with sensation, which must be amplified constantly, lest consumers get distracted and move on. ..."
"... Roger McNamee is Managing Director at Elevation Partners and an early stage investor in Google and Facebook. ..."
Nov 30, 2017 | www.theguardian.com

In an interview this week with Axios, Facebook's original president, Sean Parker, admitted that the company intentionally sought to addict users and expressed regret at the damage being inflicted on children.

This admission, by one of the architects of Facebook, comes on the heels of last week's hearings by Congressional committees about Russian interference in the 2016 election, where the general counsels of Facebook, Alphabet (parent of Google and YouTube), and Twitter attempted to deflect responsibility for manipulation of their platforms.

The term "addiction" is no exaggeration. The average consumer checks his or her smartphone 150 times a day, making more than 2,000 swipes and touches. The applications they use most frequently are owned by Facebook and Alphabet, and the usage of those products is still increasing.

In terms of scale, Facebook and YouTube are similar to Christianity and Islam respectively. More than 2 billion people use Facebook every month, 1.3 billion check in every day. More than 1.5 billion people use YouTube. Other services owned by these companies also have user populations of 1 billion or more.

Facebook and Alphabet are huge because users are willing to trade privacy and openness for "convenient and free." Content creators resisted at first, but user demand forced them to surrender control and profits to Facebook and Alphabet.

The sad truth is that Facebook and Alphabet have behaved irresponsibly in the pursuit of massive profits. They have consciously combined persuasive techniques developed by propagandists and the gambling industry with technology in ways that threaten public health and democracy. The issue, however, is not social networking or search. It is advertising business models. Let me explain.

From the earliest days of tabloid newspapers, publishers realized the power of exploiting human emotions. To win a battle for attention, publishers must give users "what they want," content that appeals to emotions, rather than intellect. Substance cannot compete with sensation, which must be amplified constantly, lest consumers get distracted and move on.

"If it bleeds, it leads" has guided editorial choices for more than 150 years, but has only become a threat to society in the past decade, since the introduction of smartphones. Media delivery platforms like newspapers, television, books, and even computers are persuasive, but people only engage with them for a few hours each day and every person receives the same content.

Today's battle for attention is not a fair fight. Every competitor exploits the same techniques, but Facebook and Alphabet have prohibitive advantages: personalization and smartphones. Unlike older media, Facebook and Alphabet know essentially everything about their users, tracking them everywhere they go on the web and often beyond.

By making every experience free and easy, Facebook and Alphabet became gatekeepers on the internet, giving them levels of control and profitability previously unknown in media. They exploit data to customize each user's experience and siphon profits from content creators. Thanks to smartphones, the battle for attention now takes place on a single platform that is available every waking moment. Competitors to Facebook and Alphabet do not have a prayer.

Facebook and Alphabet monetize content through advertising that is targeted more precisely than has ever been possible before. The platforms create "filter bubbles" around each user, confirming pre-existing beliefs and often creating the illusion that everyone shares the same views. Platforms do this because it is profitable. The downside of filter bubbles is that beliefs become more rigid and extreme. Users are less open to new ideas and even to facts.

Of the millions of pieces of content that Facebook can show each user at a given time, they choose the handful most likely to maximize profits. If it were not for the advertising business model, Facebook might choose content that informs, inspires, or enriches users. Instead, the user experience on Facebook is dominated by appeals to fear and anger. This would be bad enough, but reality is worse.

Any advertiser can get access to any Facebook user over unsupervised, automated systems. Five million advertisers do so every month. The Russians took advantage of this first to sow discord among Americans and then to interfere in the 2016 election. Other bad actors exploited Facebook in other areas. One company surveilled protest groups and marketed that data to police departments.

Financial institutions were investigated for using Facebook advertising tools to discriminate on the basis of race. Facebook is not the only problem. Alphabet provides Chromebooks to elementary schools with the objective of capturing the attention, and perhaps even behavioral data, about children. At the same time, Alphabet's YouTube Kids is a site filled with inappropriate content that creates addiction in children far too young to resist.

While optimizing for profit is understandable and generally appropriate, Facebook and Alphabet have caused harm that requires serious discussion and remediation.

Facebook and Alphabet assert they are not media companies and therefore are not responsible for what third parties do on their platforms. While that position might be reasonable from start-ups, it is not appropriate from companies who control seven of the top 10 platforms on the internet and exhibit the behaviors of monopolies.

Society regulates products that create addiction. We have laws to prevent discrimination and election manipulation. None of these regulations and laws has yet been applied to Facebook and Google . The time has come.

Roger McNamee is Managing Director at Elevation Partners and an early stage investor in Google and Facebook.

[Nov 30, 2017] How Facebook and Google threaten public health – and democracy by Roger McNamee

Nov 30, 2017 | www.theguardian.com

In an interview this week with Axios, Facebook's original president, Sean Parker, admitted that the company intentionally sought to addict users and expressed regret at the damage being inflicted on children.

This admission, by one of the architects of Facebook, comes on the heels of last week's hearings by Congressional committees about Russian interference in the 2016 election, where the general counsels of Facebook, Alphabet (parent of Google and YouTube), and Twitter attempted to deflect responsibility for manipulation of their platforms.

The term "addiction" is no exaggeration. The average consumer checks his or her smartphone 150 times a day, making more than 2,000 swipes and touches. The applications they use most frequently are owned by Facebook and Alphabet, and the usage of those products is still increasing.

In terms of scale, Facebook and YouTube are similar to Christianity and Islam respectively. More than 2 billion people use Facebook every month, 1.3 billion check in every day. More than 1.5 billion people use YouTube. Other services owned by these companies also have user populations of 1 billion or more.

Facebook and Alphabet are huge because users are willing to trade privacy and openness for "convenient and free." Content creators resisted at first, but user demand forced them to surrender control and profits to Facebook and Alphabet.

The sad truth is that Facebook and Alphabet have behaved irresponsibly in the pursuit of massive profits. They have consciously combined persuasive techniques developed by propagandists and the gambling industry with technology in ways that threaten public health and democracy. The issue, however, is not social networking or search. It is advertising business models. Let me explain.

From the earliest days of tabloid newspapers, publishers realized the power of exploiting human emotions. To win a battle for attention, publishers must give users "what they want," content that appeals to emotions, rather than intellect. Substance cannot compete with sensation, which must be amplified constantly, lest consumers get distracted and move on.

"If it bleeds, it leads" has guided editorial choices for more than 150 years, but has only become a threat to society in the past decade, since the introduction of smartphones. Media delivery platforms like newspapers, television, books, and even computers are persuasive, but people only engage with them for a few hours each day and every person receives the same content.

Today's battle for attention is not a fair fight. Every competitor exploits the same techniques, but Facebook and Alphabet have prohibitive advantages: personalization and smartphones. Unlike older media, Facebook and Alphabet know essentially everything about their users, tracking them everywhere they go on the web and often beyond.

By making every experience free and easy, Facebook and Alphabet became gatekeepers on the internet, giving them levels of control and profitability previously unknown in media. They exploit data to customize each user's experience and siphon profits from content creators. Thanks to smartphones, the battle for attention now takes place on a single platform that is available every waking moment. Competitors to Facebook and Alphabet do not have a prayer.

Facebook and Alphabet monetize content through advertising that is targeted more precisely than has ever been possible before. The platforms create "filter bubbles" around each user, confirming pre-existing beliefs and often creating the illusion that everyone shares the same views. Platforms do this because it is profitable. The downside of filter bubbles is that beliefs become more rigid and extreme. Users are less open to new ideas and even to facts.

Of the millions of pieces of content that Facebook can show each user at a given time, they choose the handful most likely to maximize profits. If it were not for the advertising business model, Facebook might choose content that informs, inspires, or enriches users. Instead, the user experience on Facebook is dominated by appeals to fear and anger. This would be bad enough, but reality is worse.

Any advertiser can get access to any Facebook user over unsupervised, automated systems. Five million advertisers do so every month. The Russians took advantage of this first to sow discord among Americans and then to interfere in the 2016 election. Other bad actors exploited Facebook in other areas. One company surveilled protest groups and marketed that data to police departments.

Financial institutions were investigated for using Facebook advertising tools to discriminate on the basis of race. Facebook is not the only problem. Alphabet provides Chromebooks to elementary schools with the objective of capturing the attention, and perhaps even behavioral data, about children. At the same time, Alphabet's YouTube Kids is a site filled with inappropriate content that creates addiction in children far too young to resist.

While optimizing for profit is understandable and generally appropriate, Facebook and Alphabet have caused harm that requires serious discussion and remediation.

Facebook and Alphabet assert they are not media companies and therefore are not responsible for what third parties do on their platforms. While that position might be reasonable from start-ups, it is not appropriate from companies who control seven of the top 10 platforms on the internet and exhibit the behaviors of monopolies.

Society regulates products that create addiction. We have laws to prevent discrimination and election manipulation. None of these regulations and laws has yet been applied to Facebook and Google . The time has come.

Roger McNamee is Managing Director at Elevation Partners and an early stage investor in Google and Facebook.

[Nov 29, 2017] Google clearly can not be trusted

Anonymous , Disclaimer November 25, 2017 at 7:52 pm GMT

@m___

Boycott Google!!!! They clearly can not be trusted. Do you want to find only the websites that Google wants you to see? Then use a Google Search engine. Don't search on Google.

-- There are other search engines out there. But some of the ones that claim to preserve your privacy from Google's ever present snooping still search on Google. They just hide your IP by searching through another website. But there are other search engines out there that offer unbiased and uncensored searching.

Also, don't use Gmail. – Google spies on everything you say. That's not really a secret. They do it to make money selling y our info to advertising. Don't be surprised if after you tell your parents the happy news that they will soon have a grandchild if every Google ad on every webpage you visit wants to sell you baby furniture and baby food and lots of other baby stuff.

Don't use Google drive or spreadsheets or docs.

-- Again, Google spies on all of this to make money for themselves by selling your secrets.

Find other video venues than YouTube.

-- You are going to have to anyways, now that Google is actively censoring the content. Clearly, if you want to see anything that Google doesn't want you to see, you are going to have to find alternatives to Youtube . and they are there.

[Nov 22, 2017] MoA - Google Does Evil

Notable quotes:
"... Up to about 2006 or 2007 Google ..."
"... Google's algorithms now amount to censorship. Since August it downgrades websites that offer alternative views to the left of the pack. Searches that earlier led to the World Socialist Web Site or to Media Matters no longer show these sites, or show them way down the result pages. Traffic to these sites collapsed. ..."
"... Google has become a prime cooperator and contractor for U.S. intelligence services. The private data it collects from it users is fed the dark-site's databases. ..."
"... Since its beginning Google had some intimate connections with U.S. intelligence services (Long read: part 1 , part 2 ). The relation is a two way street. Google Earth and its map products were, for example, originally created by U.S. intelligence services . They were given to Google for practically nothing. Google makes profits from advertisements within those products. It is providing special versions back to the intelligence people. One can only speculate how much of its user data comes with those versions. ..."
"... Google, Twitter, Facebook -- these companies may never have been entirely neutral and non-partisan in the past, but we now know that they are most certainly not. They may not be wholly enthusiastic about filtering content, but it is clear they are now under great political pressure to do so. ..."
"... Google is pure propaganda, deepstate tool. ..."
"... Given how the Democratic Party actually blocks change, I consider them to be nothing more than controlled opposition. There is solid bi-partisan ("establishment") agreement on certain issues (not a complete list): ..."
Nov 22, 2017 | www.moonofalabama.org

Up to about 2006 or 2007 Google provided an excellent search engine. It then started to prioritize and present more general results even where one searched for very specific information. It became cumbersome to search for and find details. The situation has since further deteriorated.

The Google News search is now completely useless. It delivers the main stream media trash without showing divergent views or opinions. What is the use of a search result page that links to twenty sites with the same slightly rewritten Associated Press story?

Google's algorithms now amount to censorship. Since August it downgrades websites that offer alternative views to the left of the pack. Searches that earlier led to the World Socialist Web Site or to Media Matters no longer show these sites, or show them way down the result pages. Traffic to these sites collapsed.

This week Google announced that it will censor RT.com , the website of the international Russian TV station: Google will 'de-rank' RT articles to make them harder to find – Eric Schmidt . Schmidt, the CEO of Google and its parent company Alphabet , claims that he is "very strongly not in favor of censorship." That is a laughable. Intentional downgrading a website that has relevant content IS censorship. Down-ranking means that less people will find and come to the site. Its content will have less viewers. It will be censored out of the public perception.

The original Google algorithm used the number of links to one site as a measure for its relevance. It was reasonable. In 2004 Google's founder proclaimed :

"Our search results are the best we know how to produce. They are unbiased and objective, and we do not accept payment for them or for inclusion or more frequent updating We believe it is important for everyone to have access to the best information and research, not only to the information people pay for you to see."

Back then the motto of Google was "Don't be evil". When its new parent company Alphabet was launched that motto was discarded .

Google has become a prime cooperator and contractor for U.S. intelligence services. The private data it collects from it users is fed the dark-site's databases.

But its new evilness is not restricted to data. The company ran a campaign against homeless people near its headquarter in Venice California ( video ). Google conspired with other tech-giants to keep the wages of its engineers down.

Since its beginning Google had some intimate connections with U.S. intelligence services (Long read: part 1 , part 2 ). The relation is a two way street. Google Earth and its map products were, for example, originally created by U.S. intelligence services . They were given to Google for practically nothing. Google makes profits from advertisements within those products. It is providing special versions back to the intelligence people. One can only speculate how much of its user data comes with those versions.

Google 's smartphone operation system Android collects users' locations even when location services are disabled . There is no technical reason to do such. There is no reasonable explanation from Google why it does so.

Google early on sold out to the Democrats. Eric Schmidt is a Clinton/Obama acolyte. During the Obama administration Goggle's staff had at least 427 meetings at the White House . Emails from the letterbox of Clinton advisor Podesta, published by Wikileaks, show how Schmidt offered to promote Clinton even a year before she launched her campaign. Google paid staff helped her to organize.

Maybe Google was just buying goodwill with the White House to protect itself against the various anti-trust lawsuits it is engulfed in. It will do anything to avoid regulation of its monopolistic position and to protect its highly profitable business.

It is now, like other internet companies, under pressure to support the war party in creating a new Cold War with Russia. The "de-ranking" of RT.com show that it is willing to do so. It is degrading the quality of its product in exchange for political good-will from warmongers.

The best and most benign search engine available now is DuckDuckGo . Its quality is as good as Google's once was.

I recommend to use it as the standard and to avoid Google and its products wherever possible.

It is evil.

Posted by b on November 22, 2017 at 01:02 PM | Permalink

Jeff | Nov 22, 2017 1:07:25 PM | 1

I use Quant as search engine, and avoid Google as much as possible.

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Nov 22, 2017 1:36:43 PM | 2

I now use yandex for all things political. Duckduck go is also censored. A subject I was researching in 2013 no longer appears in duckduckgo search results.
Two hours of searching using every search term I could think of produced nothing. On yandex, first search term, first page, third result brought up reference to the Australian court case I was looking for and had previously researched on duckduckgo. On looking into it, I found some changes were made in duckduckgo sometime in 2014.

Colin | Nov 22, 2017 1:55:45 PM | 3

Google, Twitter, Facebook -- these companies may never have been entirely neutral and non-partisan in the past, but we now know that they are most certainly not. They may not be wholly enthusiastic about filtering content, but it is clear they are now under great political pressure to do so.
xor | Nov 22, 2017 2:11:03 PM | 4
I've been using DuckDuckGo for a couple of years now and it's quite good. It's mainly focussed on English sites (my impression at least) but has less robots that track websites so updates are slightly less frequent. I've tried to shun Google products as much as I can which is not easy (even MoA uses Google's recaptcha). These are:
  • Google search engine
  • Google analytics/adsense/jquery-libs-hosted-on-google/double click which are included in ALMOST EVERY web page! Included in government, porn, tax, health, gaming, ... sites that track your behaviour as in how many seconds do you read, how long does it take you to scroll the page, from which page did you come, what's you relegion, your sexual preference, your habits... .
  • GMail LOL, I'm baffled by the stupidity and ignorance of people of giving their mailbox to a marketing company. I also tend to avoid sending mails to GMail accounts.
  • Google Maps (I mainly use www.openstreetmap.org)
  • Android on any device (even Linux' running on top of Andriod are unsafe regardles of what idiots claim). Why carry a tracking device that can even be remotely turned on to record your speech and photgraph (front+back camera) the surroundings?!
  • Although there is Chrome, some whores at Firefox decided it was a good idea to strongly interweave Google in it. Activate Wireshark once and visit any HTTPS website without the slighest link to Google. Still you will see all your visited web sites are being reported to Google. To disable that particular behaviour (there is other also!) you have to DISABLE, not enable, "Block reported web forgeries" and "Block reported attack sites".

The problem is Wikipedia also has been suffering from the same bias and censership illness as Google. Wikipedia for one can not be consulted for something that's remotely related to politics. Whenever you correct an article or add something very touchy even when there is undesputed evidence from let's say Wikileaks, the Wikipedia gate keepers delete it with a comment like "if it's not in a NYT article, Guardian or other MSM you can't add it".

Mina | Nov 22, 2017 2:27:02 PM | 9
What about epic browser?
Anonymous | Nov 22, 2017 2:29:24 PM | 10
Google's Eric Schmidt, arbiter of news, has long history with Obama & Clinton
http://world.news.digitaltippingpoint.com/news/googles-eric-schmidt-arbiter-of-news-has-long-history-with-obama-clinton

Google is pure propaganda, deepstate tool. RT / Sputnik is only the beginning in this attack on freedom of speech.

Jackrabbit | Nov 22, 2017 2:30:54 PM | 11
Other recommendations:

>> Firefox web browser
They just released a new version, "Firefox Quantum", that is about as fast as Chrome.

Also: use Noscript and Privacy Badger addons

>> Keepass to save passwords. Keep the password database on a thumb drive for added safety.

Temporarily Sane | Nov 22, 2017 2:33:45 PM | 12
@1 Jeff

Qwant = Bing (Microsoft)

Duck Duck Go and Startpage (if you want Google results) are the way to go.

Peter AU 1 | Nov 22, 2017 2:36:46 PM | 13
Thought I had corrected typos @2 before posting...

I had been using yandex browser for most things as I find it better to use than firefox, but a couple of months back found I could not post comments to the likes of MoA, so use firefox for the blogs, with duckduckgo to look up non political stuff like gardening, and yandex for most everything else.

Anonymous | Nov 22, 2017 2:48:40 PM | 14
VPN also.

I don't think we are far off where people will get punished by law for their views and/or blogs like these will get shut down.
That there is already illegal spying by western states on people like us is also on going no doubt about it.

Jackrabbit | Nov 22, 2017 2:49:35 PM | 15
b: Google early on sold out to the Democrats.

Given how the Democratic Party actually blocks change, I consider them to be nothing more than controlled opposition. There is solid bi-partisan ("establishment") agreement on certain issues (not a complete list):

>> pervasive surveillance ("If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear") ;

>> propaganda (MSM fake news is OK; what YOU say will get close examination) ;

>> militarism (laud the police/military at every opportunity - these heroes can do no wrong, even when their commanders order them to do so) ;

>> Israel ;

>> corporate welfare and "trickle-down" economics (despite it's having been debunked).

[Nov 11, 2017] Why You Should NEVER Buy an Amazon Echo or Even Get Near One

Nov 11, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

flora , November 10, 2017 at 9:37 am

A lot of people seem to think that because they aren't doing anything wrong now, that today's innocent behavior will still be seen as innocent 10 or 15 years from now.

Just imagine what some future Sen. Joe McCarthy could do with these stored conversations and meta data, say 15 years from now, if the political winds shift again. Imagine some future blowhard, publicity seeking politician whipping up a hysteria for political purposes, destroying careers of people in the process. Imagine "Are you now, or have you every been a member of a club that read and discussed book X ?" for example. Today's perfectly innocent actions being twisted to fit a narrative for political gain years from now. It's not paranoia to consider the possibility.

Keeping Echo and its like out of the house could be considered an insurance practice against future political opportunists, imo.

D , November 10, 2017 at 4:19 pm

I think we should all let it really sink in that people are perfectly happy giving up their privacy. All this talk about people not realizing that they are is naive, they just don't care. much like they just can't bothered to go vote.

You're kidding right? No one I know is, and there've been numerous commenters on this site who've noted they aren't. So all of us are nobodies? You've taken an actual count? You think all of the horrid toys recording children to cloud databases is okay? And what about those millions who have no internet access, you've asked them, or are they not worthy of any consideration?

Lastly, as someone who's never used Amazon, Facebook, or Google services, outside of using Google search in the early 2000's, I'm quite sick of being potentially pulled into someone else's willful giveaway of my private information, conversation, or photograph. I was more than disturbed to find some idiot behind the counter using his Alexa at a store I visited. People have a right to give up their own information, but no right whatsoever to give up someone else's without informed consent.

[Nov 11, 2017] Why You Should NEVER Buy an Amazon Echo or Even Get Near One

Nov 11, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

flora , November 10, 2017 at 9:37 am

A lot of people seem to think that because they aren't doing anything wrong now, that today's innocent behavior will still be seen as innocent 10 or 15 years from now.

Just imagine what some future Sen. Joe McCarthy could do with these stored conversations and meta data, say 15 years from now, if the political winds shift again. Imagine some future blowhard, publicity seeking politician whipping up a hysteria for political purposes, destroying careers of people in the process. Imagine "Are you now, or have you every been a member of a club that read and discussed book X ?" for example. Today's perfectly innocent actions being twisted to fit a narrative for political gain years from now. It's not paranoia to consider the possibility.

Keeping Echo and its like out of the house could be considered an insurance practice against future political opportunists, imo.

D , November 10, 2017 at 4:19 pm

I think we should all let it really sink in that people are perfectly happy giving up their privacy. All this talk about people not realizing that they are is naive, they just don't care. much like they just can't bothered to go vote.

You're kidding right? No one I know is, and there've been numerous commenters on this site who've noted they aren't. So all of us are nobodies? You've taken an actual count? You think all of the horrid toys recording children to cloud databases is okay? And what about those millions who have no internet access, you've asked them, or are they not worthy of any consideration?

Lastly, as someone who's never used Amazon, Facebook, or Google services, outside of using Google search in the early 2000's, I'm quite sick of being potentially pulled into someone else's willful giveaway of my private information, conversation, or photograph. I was more than disturbed to find some idiot behind the counter using his Alexa at a store I visited. People have a right to give up their own information, but no right whatsoever to give up someone else's without informed consent.

[Nov 10, 2017] Why You Should NEVER Buy an Amazon Echo or Even Get Near One

Notable quotes:
"... What bothers me is articles in mainstream media sources that assume that most people own and use these devices. Most people I know (and I'm not an old codger) either can't afford, don't want to waste time or are afraid of this junk. ..."
"... The mainstream media has long been entangled with tech monopolies, providing their every 'innovation' with not just a sheen of legitimacy, but an aura of inevitability. ..."
"... The fact that Twitter has hit something of a wall in terms of active users and that its influence on anything is far from established is never mentioned. And as this site has thoroughly investigated, the same combination of tech-ignorance and PR leg work continues to dominate coverage of Uber. ..."
"... The people I know who use it the most and with the least critical of an eye are those who didn't grow up with it – people in their 30s-40s. ..."
"... The younger ones, for whom smartphones were a fact of life rather than some new thing that appeared in a blaze of publicity, are more literate in both their uses and their more sinister significance. ..."
"... Then there's cost. A true stateful packet inspection firewall with separate DMZ implemented in stand-alone hardware is impractical and expensive for a typical user. ..."
"... The ShieldsUP! site might be of help to some commentators and is easy to use to test your firewall- https://www.grc.com/x/ne.dll?bh0bkyd2 ..."
"... By Any Means Necessary ..."
"... by the late cold war, the US had the ability to transmit fake radio conversations from surveillance aircraft using voices constructed from the content of previous intercepts. ..."
"... A couple of very old data points to flesh this out more. Two decades ago I read that mobs like the US State Department would play classic music at meetings so that the old laser-detecting vibrations-to-record-voices trick would not work but that probably does not work any more. ..."
"... Likewise with 'smart' TVs. Why aren't there closing cases, drapes, and other furniture for the niche consumer who wants them? There is nothing inherently attractive about a blank LCD screen. ..."
"... phone cases with small sliding doors over the rear camera ..."
"... While the article is written with respect to surveillance's impact on the individual it is important to note that the new technology here is the aggregation of surveillance onto crowds. The individual is less important than the group. Manage the group and the individual is easy. ..."
"... We also own and use cell phones and laptops that have the same functions, with no more compunction. I'm sure there are people and settings for which this warning is appropriate, but I'm personally unconcerned. Certainly any technology can be misused, but this one is pretty far down my list of worries. ..."
"... Frankly, whatever expectation of privacy you have in your daily life is unwarranted. The genie is out of the bottle -- and it's sitting in your car, your purse, on the shelf, in your 'smart' TV etc. I believe we have to adapt, each in our own way and in accordance with our degree of paranoia, because none of this is going away. Just because you don't invite Alexa into you home doesn't mean her cousins aren't going to drop by. ..."
"... Frankly, whatever expectation of privacy you have in your daily life is unwarranted. The genie is out of the bottle -- and it's sitting in your car, your purse, on the shelf, in your 'smart' TV etc. ..."
"... The problem is really one of data retention; as usual there is no reason for a voice assistant to run in some megacorp's private cloud. We all have hefty computers at home more than capable of running these things and keeping the whole thing private – the voice data, the request, etc. ..."
"... No relatively advanced nation state with a decent-sized security state apparatus is going to allow a native high tech firm to flourish without a heavily deal of cooperation. ..."
"... Hell, in most cases in the U.S. it is the defensive industry since the end of WW2 that is a key player in terms of early rounds of funding and forming links to corporate research centers & university researchers. ..."
"... As far as I'm concerned, Amazon and Google ARE (at least a part of) the state security apparatus. Links between the NSA and Google have been well-established, and Amazon is a CIA contractor. ..."
"... When he was approached by family for advice on which of these devices to buy, he flat out told them they are all generally equal [for personal use], the question is who do you want to collect your data? ..."
"... Actually, I wonder if it would be useful to buy one under your name, and then play a pre-recorded message next to it over and over again just for the purposes of spoofing or giving bad data to Google/Amazon/NSA/etc. as a counter-survellience measure. This way, if you are an activist or protester, you can give them a steady stream of bad or useless data in whatever file they have collected on you to make your "profile" extremely inaccurate. ..."
"... Two, if you have my skillset and want to know if Echo is transmitting data to Amazon at any given time, do a packet capture on your network and find out. You won't see what's being sent because it's encrypted obviously, but you can see how much data is being sent, which is enough to know if the Echo is sending all the sounds it hears. It is not. ..."
"... Well if you consider that when I launch this page, 25 trackers attempt to launch and follow my browsing then it is not just Amazon who are playing this game ..."
Nov 09, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Enrique Bermudez , , November 9, 2017 at 6:30 am

"Don't buy the stupid Alexa/google assistant/etc" is a take of such obviousness that I wonder why it even needs to be made.

Why anyone would want one of these things if not a brain-dead marketing slave is completely beyond me. What exactly can it do that you can't do more or less just as easily from a smartphone or PC? I hate smartphones but obviously have one because of the potential uses in terms of having internet access in your pocket if away from home, etc etc. Alexa is in your home only. Where you have a PC.

How is Alexa better than just going to one's laptop and entering a search query? Isn't, clearly. Can be much more precise with the computer.

Reminds me of last year's tech crap marketing gimmick – the smart watch. Which, uh, does what your phone (that you need to have to make the smart watch work) does but not as well and on a microscopic screen.

Or crap gimmick prior – Windows 8. Yaaay! No more need for a mouse and keyboard! Can do everything (with far less precision) via a touch-screen! Except a mouse/keyboard setup will always work 100x better.

fajensen , , November 9, 2017 at 6:46 am

It needs to be made because 24/7 surveillance is being integrated into products that one does not specifically buy from Google/Apple/Amazon.

Sonos One, an internet loudspeaker / sound system that one uses with services like Spotify, for example, comes with voice control now ( https://www.hifiklubben.se/streaming/sonos/sonos-one-tradlos-hogtalare )

The "smart" digital plague will spread to the entire product range, one suspect. Can one maybe dodge for another 10 years by buying Now -- perhaps -- OTOH maybe "They" can update the thing remotely and suddenly those CIA ghouls are inside of my bedroom!

The "voice activated" business models needs to go the way of the 3D Television!

Bugs Bunny , , November 9, 2017 at 8:23 am

What bothers me is articles in mainstream media sources that assume that most people own and use these devices. Most people I know (and I'm not an old codger) either can't afford, don't want to waste time or are afraid of this junk.

That said, my bourgeois American friends are all fully equipped with all the latest Apple products even if they don't know what they need them for. Which means that the devices get passed on to their kids and then they spend all their time playing mindless games and watching weird Youtube video on it. The old Macs pile up in a closet and the Apple TV sits disused next to the flat screen.

tempestteacup , , November 9, 2017 at 3:06 pm

The mainstream media has long been entangled with tech monopolies, providing their every 'innovation' with not just a sheen of legitimacy, but an aura of inevitability. Here is the execrable Suzanne Moore in yesterday's Guardian, in an article that was actually about something entirely different (chaos in the Tory Party):

As someone who once got a driving licence when they really shouldn't have, I am looking forward to driverless cars. It's a shame a lot of people will lose their livelihoods, but, hey ho, that's the future. In fact, it feels a lot like the present. We currently have a driverless government. No one is in control – but nor is there a robotic system effective enough to govern us.

Some of it could be explained as common or garden ignorance of what technology does, its possibilities and how it actually operates. Some because columnists love invoking poorly understood subjects that provide a platform for aggrandising visions of the future. But I remember, too, that a few years ago marked a perceptible shift not just to reliance on Twitter utterances for reportage but the characterising of what was said there as a significant source of public opinion. Suddenly, it was all over the place – number of retweets, trending hashtags, sick burns. The fact that Twitter has hit something of a wall in terms of active users and that its influence on anything is far from established is never mentioned. And as this site has thoroughly investigated, the same combination of tech-ignorance and PR leg work continues to dominate coverage of Uber.

I'll leave my tinfoil hat in its bandbox and allow others to infer why exactly this might be so. From personal experience, which includes quite a lot of contact with people in their late teens and early 20s, the ubiquity of these technologies is well overstated. It may even be the case that social media have already peaked in their present form.

The people I know who use it the most and with the least critical of an eye are those who didn't grow up with it – people in their 30s-40s.

The younger ones, for whom smartphones were a fact of life rather than some new thing that appeared in a blaze of publicity, are more literate in both their uses and their more sinister significance.

Wisdom Seeker , , November 9, 2017 at 3:25 pm

re: "articles in mainstream media sources that assume that most people own and use these devices" That's done on purpose, part of the social conditioning done by the media, on behalf of their customers, the advertisers. I'm not an Ayn Rand fan, but this process of media manipulation was described in The Fountainhead (1943).

MarkE , , November 9, 2017 at 10:04 am

Agree. The triviality of the benefits of this new technology is mind-blowing compared with the price in privacy. My rules for living with technology:

– assume that anything you say over the phone or transmit over the internet has been broadcast,

– use all the other privacy measures you can – tape over the camera, disable microphones and Bluetooth, etc

– if it's not worth reading the fine print before you press "accept" it's not worth having – do nothing through the Cloud

– stay at least two generations behind the latest release for anything

– someone else can pay the higher price, work out the bugs and find the privacy landmines

Notorious P.A.T. , , November 9, 2017 at 12:23 pm

a brain-dead marketing slave

Oh, please. Many people just like to have the "latest thing." Many others perceive devices like this as labor-saving machines, whether they really are or not. Don't be so condescending.

Octopii , , November 9, 2017 at 4:14 pm

I used to work in home technology in a very wealthy market, and my clients were eager for voice control. We could wire the house to the teeth, sell all kinds of very nifty touchscreens and ipad apps and remote controls (with racks of electronics at the head end). Shortly after the Echo was released I came upon the lady of one house listening to music from it in the kitchen. What she said is seared into my memory as something so shocking that I had to reevaluate the profession I'd been in for fifteen years. She loved the thing. It was so easy – just say "play ____" and that is it.

Their audio system was a marvel, one of the best sounding houses I've ever done. She didn't care, didn't care to use it. Reduced friction is the most important thing. That is why people buy these devices. They're inexpensive and they're easy.

It's like candy – the sweetness masks the hazard.

jrs , , November 9, 2017 at 4:41 pm

"What exactly can it do that you can't do more or less just as easily from a smartphone or PC?"

yes and the spying can be done by a smartphone too, and a PC (well to a limited degree with the PC I guess, not many PCs with voice recognition as far as I know,)

Ook , , November 9, 2017 at 8:38 pm

Actually, I don't know of many PCs without voice recognition, and this goes back 10 years or so.

jackiebass , , November 9, 2017 at 6:51 am

Devises like an iPad or cell phone that does a voice search can also do this. When you purchase technology you are giving up your privacy. even if you don't you can be tracked by computer controlled cameras with scanners. I believe Britain is ahead of the US in public surveillance. I think they are actually the test ground that will later be implemented in the US. Like in Orwell's 1984 big brother is always watching. I've read this book 3 times and probably will reread it again in the near future.

Yves Smith Post author , , November 9, 2017 at 7:15 am

I don't own any of those either. And with the Echo you are allowing much greater intrusion, since while TPTB can activate your phone/voice activated cell as a listening device, the Echo is on by default all the time.

jrs , , November 9, 2017 at 4:51 pm

Yes, they are universally surveiling your driving as well if they want to, tracking your vehicle multiple times as you cross town. Whether everyone is important enough to get this treatment or only activists depends I guess. And you can't opt out of that just by not buying something. Don't buy a car? Oh maybe, if we assume they aren't watching public transit, which I'm sure they are some.

cnchal , , November 9, 2017 at 6:58 am

Alexa – fuck off. A gibberish generator is called for, to piss into Bezos cloud.

Michael Fiorillo , , November 9, 2017 at 7:35 am

Indeed, everyone's default program should be "Contaminate the data!"

PDB , , November 9, 2017 at 12:35 pm

Either that or tell your Echo about how great Trump is.

QuarterBack , , November 9, 2017 at 7:36 am

As these spy technologies become more and more ubiquitous and capable, I am actually less worried about what various nation states may be using them for than what nefarious man on the street players might be able to accomplish by leveraging bits of this very powerful, expanding, and largely unprotected ecosystem.

For every James Bond or 1984 scenario, there are thousands of potential applications for conmen, stalkers, insider traders, jealous spouses, off-the-reservation Deputy Sheriffs, sociopathic pranksters, and on and on. Like it or not, this genie has left the bottle and is here to stay. As a society, we need to get smart fast about the power and very real threats that this infrastructure makes possible. If we don't start focusing significant attention on how to mitigate these threats, we will experience and very painful period while the inmates run the asylum.

Troutwaxer , , November 9, 2017 at 10:15 pm

"The street finds it's own uses for things." – William Gibson

Wade Riddick , , November 9, 2017 at 7:42 am

Apple was confronted with the same problem in facial recognition for the iPhone X but – like the fingerprints – the facial data is stored on the user's device, processed by local AI (the Bionic CPU) and never sent to Apple – which is marginally better.

You have the same problem with On-Star in your car and the new internet connected TVs. Most computers have mics too.

The more IoT they throw at things, the more points of failure there are from Russian hackers to EMP. There needs to be backup manual on/off and operations designed into everything. I grew up coding and there's no way I let coders steer my car.

I also grew up the son of a prosecutor. No way I tell someone what I had for lunch or where I'm going.

The 'sharing economy' boils down to a loss of property rights. The right of ownership is the right to exclude someone else from using your property and the socialists in corporate America don't want you telling them they can't have access to your stuff.

The real issue here isn't just theft; it's also trespass. What happens when people start planting evidence of contraband on these systems now that we can fake people's voices with all these samples?

How long will it be before we leap from fake news to fake evidence?

"Alexa, how do you weaponize anthrax?"

Left in Wisconsin , , November 9, 2017 at 11:01 am

I think it's a comment about the ability of products you ostensibly own to spy on you and share information with our corporate overlords without your consent. Granted socialism is a term variously defined by different people but I'm not sure this fits the anyone's definition. Unless, like some, one thinks fascists are socialists.

Wisdom Seeker , , November 9, 2017 at 3:35 pm

"socialists in corporate America"

Not the same kind of socialism that most here conceive of. But read that in the mindset of, say, banking policy before/after the Great Recession ("privatize the gains and socialize the losses"), Google ("all of society's data belong to us"), or any of the various cartels ("let's rewrite the tax code again for our benefit at society's expense") and you understand that what he means is that the corporate "socialists" want society/government to give them more more more.

Wade Riddick , , November 9, 2017 at 8:17 pm

Thanks for defending me! You're right. I was pointing out the socialization of risk.

After some reflection, I would also place this issue in the broader context of the wars of enclosure, given the recent anniversary of the Charter of the Forest. We've lost the forest. Now we're literally losing our homes from the inside out, from forged foreclosure docs to eavesdropping from inside the house. (Except the landlord doesn't even need the eaves for eavesdropping anymore.)

As the immortal bards of the internet might phrase it, All your Cheezeburgers is ours.

Trjckster , , November 9, 2017 at 7:48 am

For accuracy I need to clarify this quote from CNET:

Amazon Echo is always listening. From the moment you wake up Echo to the end of your command, your voice is recorded and transcribed.

Echo may always to listening, but that doesn't mean it is always recording and sending audio to Amazon, the key phrase not covered is "the moment you wake up Echo". The "wake word" used to trigger an Echo (or Siri/Cortana/Google) is a critical design limitation that these assistants have to work around, as for responsiveness/accuracy the voice recognition needs to be done on the device itself. This is why the "wake word" is limited to one or a small set of words (Alexa/Echo/Computer), as detecting it is quite difficult to do on simple hardware locally and quickly.

Now, this doesn't rule out the Echo just sending audio all the time, but it would be consume a lot of bandwidth/storage/processing to do so, making it impractical to do so on a large scale and easily noticeable. I could imagine the NSA/CIA having a backdoor to do so (on individual devices) but not doing so all the time.

Yves Smith Post author , , November 9, 2017 at 8:15 am

Please re-read what I wrote.

First, voice does not take much bandwidth. These devices are in homes with friggin' Netflix or Google Prime streaming accounts, and you can still do other stuff like have your kids do their homework on the Internet at the same time. There's no bandwidth constraint here.

Second, my issue isn't Amazon. My issue is what we know from Snowden, that pretty much all Internet-enabled devices with a camera or a mike are able to spy on you. They can be turned on without you knowing it even when they appear to be off. Here you have Echo-Google Home which is on all the time, listening all the time, and Snowden made clear what the NSA wants is total data capture. IMHO is is incredibly naive to think they won't do that.

Odysseus , , November 9, 2017 at 10:46 am

There's no bandwidth constraint here.

Yes, but just because something is possible doesn't mean it's mandatory. Batman was just a movie. The capability to drill down and spot check people of interest is different than the capability to run large scale correlation across geographically large territories, or even target city blocks.

Home networks can be air gapped and firewalled in ways that ensure that you control what gets out. That's harder to do for things like cell phones, which is why Snowden had to take more extreme measures there. Alexa devices don't yet come with an integrated cell phone.

There are some serious privacy implications, but they're a step or two further way from immediate real world implementations.

https://www.wired.com/story/the-first-alexa-phone-gets-amazon-even-closer-to-total-domination/

Clive , , November 9, 2017 at 11:18 am

Firstly, the unshakable faith I see that people have in their tech is startling. Firewalls are most definitely not infallible because testing their implementations and configurations is such a lengthy process which most people have neither the time nor the skill to conduct properly. Most of us just accept the out of the box settings and leave it at that.

Then there's cost. A true stateful packet inspection firewall with separate DMZ implemented in stand-alone hardware is impractical and expensive for a typical user. So while anorak-wearing tech-savvy people might consider it, the vast majority of Echo / Google Home / Siri users definitely would not. I'm a bit of an anorak so could do all the things I've mentioned in terms of having the requisite knowledge, but there are way, way too many taxes on my time already to make me set aside the mental and time requirements this would entail. Not least because you have to keep testing at regular intervals just in case some update or behind-your-back policy changes got done by your ISP or O/S vendor as part of, ironically, security patches. You can't merely set it up and then leave it alone from there on in.

Finally, all firewalls are a compromise between allowing necessary access to the outside world and cutting off things you don't want to get through. There's no getting around this. So there's no magic bullet. What you can do is reduce the attack surfaces. Echo et al are a big screaming "aim here" sign.

The Rev Kev , , November 9, 2017 at 6:15 pm

The ShieldsUP! site might be of help to some commentators and is easy to use to test your firewall- https://www.grc.com/x/ne.dll?bh0bkyd2

Joel , , November 9, 2017 at 2:31 pm

The point isn't that the NSA can or will spy on *everyone* just that can and do spy on *anyone.*

Mike , , November 9, 2017 at 7:53 am

I wonder about the future of this voice technology and responses to it.

1. If someone records enough samples of my voice (like when I answer telemarketing calls), can that person fool the bank software and log in as me?

2. Can there be an app that puts some voice emulator on my device, to then transmit a created voice to Amazon or Google? And could that made-up voice be changed every so often? (I guess I would need to tell Amazon/Google "just got a house sitter, work with that person." )

JeffC , , November 9, 2017 at 9:13 am

On question #1: William Burrows 2001 book By Any Means Necessary on the history of cold war surveillance flights near to and over the USSR mentions that by the late cold war, the US had the ability to transmit fake radio conversations from surveillance aircraft using voices constructed from the content of previous intercepts.

As a signal-processing engineer myself, I don't find the capability at all surprising. From a technical point of view, it's close to obvious. What is perhaps more surprising is this capability being mentioned in an unclassified publication. Apparently the censors thought it obvious as well.

Hunkerin' Down , , November 9, 2017 at 8:05 pm

Call me circumspect, or various other words. I don't answer calls from unknown numbers, and screen the known numbers to let the other person speak first, in part to assess if it is a live person whose voice I recognize. I assume that any caller may record my voice, and that more recording means more opportunity to manipulate digital capture records to deploy in any number of auto-response scenarios to my detriment. That only covers my abode. Then I need to be concerned about being out among 'em. Casual conversations anywhere could lead to unwanted consequences.

Now I need to get to work on that Faraday wardrobe.

David , , November 9, 2017 at 8:09 am

The "spooky technologies" you mention are indeed decades old. Essentially, for example, if you want to have a private meeting in any confined space with a window, you need not only to leave all electronic gadgets outside (that probably includes Apple Watches) but pull the curtains or otherwise find a way of stopping the glass pane from vibrating to the sound of your voice. And never sit with your computer in a position from which the screen is visible, even from a long distance.

As usual, it will be less the technologies themselves than the clever ideas for misusing them that are the problem. And if history is any guide, we have no idea, at the moment, what they will be. But what's already clear is that real-time monitoring of the movements, speech and even emotions of citizens by any reasonably advanced state is not that far away.

The Rev Kev , , November 9, 2017 at 6:35 pm

A couple of very old data points to flesh this out more. Two decades ago I read that mobs like the US State Department would play classic music at meetings so that the old laser-detecting vibrations-to-record-voices trick would not work but that probably does not work any more.

And for never sitting with your computer in a position from which the screen is visible, well, years ago I read that you can have a van parked nearby that would hone in on the radiation that your monitor would give off. Using that info, it would then in real time reconstruct exactly what you are seeing on your own screen.

These days those seem almost quaint now. These days you would probably have someone from a three-letter agency sit in his office and say Siri/Alexa/Echo give us a transcript of everything said in Frank's home and include whatever passwords he says and then sit down and watch a mirror image of Frank's computer monitor on a corner of his own.

A few years ago a journalist reporting on mobs like these watched as the article she was composing was being deleted right in front of her. She wistfully wondered if the person that was deleting her work at least liked what they read first.

rcd , , November 9, 2017 at 8:09 am

About a year ago, my husband and I were working at home and happened to discuss the problems we were having with our washer/dryer. Within 10 minutes, on the home page of a.n. other financial blog, an ad appeared in the r/h margin advertising .washer/dryers.

cocomaan , , November 9, 2017 at 8:12 am

I purposely destroyed the mics on the laptops in my house and have a separate peripheral mic I hook in if I need to talk to someone. Otherwise cell phones are kept in a separate room from my wife and I and tape over all the webcams.

What I really want to do is get a dedicated microwave to put our phones in at night as a faraday cage. Need to find some space to do that.

I know some people that have an Echo in their bedroom. Bizarre. But like self driving cars, all it will take is one incident of creepiness for the market to start to turn the other way. Amazon better behave itself.

Yves Smith Post author , , November 9, 2017 at 8:21 am

Is there an easy way to disable the mics in the laptops? I need to do that.

They sell phone Faraday sleeves on the Internet. You can test if they really work by trying to call your phone. I plan to get one. They have bigger sizes for tablets and laptops, and IIRC even a backpack.

likbez, November 9, 2017 at 11:31 pm

A drop of glue can help and is much simpler ;-). Without air flow sensitivity of the mic drops dramatically. In most cases collection of metadata (your calls, browsing history, email headers, etc) is enough for you already to be like a bug under the microscope.

The recording of conversations, unless you are a high value target, is completely redundant.

cocomaan , , November 9, 2017 at 8:33 am

There are ways to disable onboard mics through your settings. However, given what Snowden is saying about remote access, all the backdoors in major operating systems probably means someone can turn them back on without much effort.

Given how crappy most onboard mics are on laptops and the like, you might as well just shred them anyway. They are usually located next to the webcam inside a tiny hole. I just took an unbent paperclip, shoved it in there, and scratched around. I did this and tested the mic in the settings until it didn't register my voice.

There's probably more graceful ways to do it but that's how I handle things, hah! Next up will be my mini faraday cages, thanks for the recc.

The Rev Kev , , November 9, 2017 at 8:49 am

I don't think that there are any good answers here. Consider, Mark Zuckerberg who can afford to spend billions on his own computer security but still tapes over his laptop's camera and mics as revealed in a candid foto ( https://www.hackread.com/mark-zuckerbergs-laptop-cam-tape/ ) taken last year. The future seemed so simple in Star Trek when you would talk to the computer from any part of the ship – even though it was foreseen that sometimes there might be problems ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVA5HSE6igQ ). It was also clear here that your personal logs were your own and that they could be only accessed for vital reasons.

These smart devices like Alexa and Echo are like those smart TVs that not only have an inbuilt microphone (always on) and an internal camera filming what is in front of the TV but also having face recognition technology built in and all connected to servers. It creeps me out thinking about having one that could not only record your private conversations with your wife but would put them through truth-lie algorithms to tell when you lie. If hacked, it takes blackmail to a whole other level. That anecdote by rcd confirmed my worst suspicions. As far as those devices are concerned, not with this little black duck!

lb , , November 9, 2017 at 10:11 am

Technologies can be surreptitiously remotely enabled/manipulated on any device with some way in (probably via networking, possibly via the same listening system with different cues -- imagine your TV saying a secret code word to Alexa to put it in permanent-recording mode). This sort of use has been OK'd by the courts under warrant, sometimes, in cars via OnStar, et al. Whenever you disable a technology in the software menu of the device, there is the possibility of someone else re-enabling it (or the software ignoring your request) without your consent or awareness.

As a security researcher I've wanted to see a movement for DIY hardware toggles for sensitive components in a device. It should be possible to sever signals to/from any such component, or better, to de-power the component without compromising device integrity/stability. Any camera, microphone or biometric scanner is obviously sensitive. Any component of telephony, from cellular to wi-fi (those things announce your presence to the world as they 'scan', constantly, and can be responsive when the device is off!) to near-field communication is sensitive. You (should) want a physical airplane-mode toggle, not just a software configuration option that you're supposed to trust. This needs to apply to all of the devices in one's life and all of the components. As we enumerate the bits on a phone, the same logic must apply to a car (how many of us know how many microphones are there and where?). And we should expect vendors to make this impossible (out of apathy or out of defense of their own ability to listen). Maybe some vendors could court the security-minded and work to provide physically-auditable toggles but I doubt any market-based solution would solve this problem much.

(Asofyet I haven't seen a lot of movement on the DIY toggle front though maybe I've missed an example. I'm not a good person to start the work as I have a reverse midas touch with hardware hacking).

Knowing the possibility of a device lying to its user as to the disabling of snooping technology (or the possibility that something else was physically installed to spy), Bunnie and Snowden wrote guides for detecting that signaling is in use regardless of software settings, as a manual for journalists and others worried about it. Start here and search for more: https://www.pubpub.org/pub/direct-radio-introspection . I think those guys also talk about mitigation in newer work.

Just my two cents as to where a gap exists. Hopefully I'm not now on a !@#$list of the surveillance state just for thinking this aloud

FluffytheObeseCat , , November 9, 2017 at 1:40 pm

All our electronic appliances are wide open by default, and I don't know why that fact is not addressed in the aftermarket. The total absence of aftermarket hard switches, camera covers, apertures, etc. is freakishly weird. It has been obvious for years that there is a small, but potentially profitable market for such items. It's as if the home 'window treatments' business were suddenly eradicated. As if shades and curtains simply didn't exist.

I do not understand why cell phone cases with small sliding doors over the rear camera aren't part of every major vendors product line up. Yet, there is no 'Speck' or 'Kate Spade' branded phone case on the market that allows the owner to cover even one camera.

Likewise with 'smart' TVs. Why aren't there closing cases, drapes, and other furniture for the niche consumer who wants them? There is nothing inherently attractive about a blank LCD screen. Hiding it behind a mahogany door seems more normal than not (particularly in an era when the wealthy hide their refrigerators and dishwashers behind cabinetry that matches the shelving). I truly remember more closed cases for TVs 20 years ago, when you needed a great cabinet to hold a 20" deep CRT in the living room. Shutters or doors on the central space of the 'entertainment center' armoire were common then.

Grebo , , November 9, 2017 at 7:53 pm

phone cases with small sliding doors over the rear camera

I used to have a Nokia which had a large sliding door over the camera. Opening it would activate the camera without having to fumble with any buttons or slidey icons. The shutter was a tactile button on the side too. Great for capturing fleeting moments as it would be ready to go in half a second. They won't do it now because it would make the phone too fat.

Carolinian , , November 9, 2017 at 8:14 am

One could point out that Snowden also did things like put mobile phones in the microwave (Faraday cage) and advised taking the battery out of cellphones, including the dumb kind, when not in use. And while not many of us have Echo–one hopes–we almost all have computers which are surveillance engines of the finest kind.

To me Echo is just another one of Bezos' dumb ideas to go with drone deliveries and no checkout retail stores. The haystack problem suggests electronic surveillance isn't all it's cracked up to be and these capabilities somehow fail to prevent domestic terrorism, mass shootings and all the other horrors that go on.

ambrit , , November 9, 2017 at 8:24 am

The other social cost of this, mentioned in passing, is the drive of corporations to get rid of even more workers. Out of work phone call centre people need to eat too. Unlike the promises during the original industrial revolutions, there seem not to be compensating forms of employment being promised or created to 'take up the slack' of the displaced workers.
Jackpot City, here we come!

jCandlish , , November 9, 2017 at 8:34 am

While the article is written with respect to surveillance's impact on the individual it is important to note that the new technology here is the aggregation of surveillance onto crowds. The individual is less important than the group. Manage the group and the individual is easy.

QuarterBack , , November 9, 2017 at 9:34 am

This reminds me of a long running (half) joke idea i had for a business plan. The premise is to perform various actions that will attract your street address to direct mail campaigns, then when your (snail mail) mailbox gets bombarded by junk mail, you can just sell the inbound stream to recycling plants. $$$ Whatcha think?

Doctor Duck , , November 9, 2017 at 8:48 am

I don't see a need per se for the Echo Dot we own, but it does provide some utility and (more often) amusement. And I realize that this is a species of "if you have nothing to hide ", but honestly, there's nothing said in its presence that could be remotely considered dangerous, incriminating or embarrassing.

We also own and use cell phones and laptops that have the same functions, with no more compunction. I'm sure there are people and settings for which this warning is appropriate, but I'm personally unconcerned. Certainly any technology can be misused, but this one is pretty far down my list of worries.

Frankly, whatever expectation of privacy you have in your daily life is unwarranted. The genie is out of the bottle -- and it's sitting in your car, your purse, on the shelf, in your 'smart' TV etc. I believe we have to adapt, each in our own way and in accordance with our degree of paranoia, because none of this is going away. Just because you don't invite Alexa into you home doesn't mean her cousins aren't going to drop by.

tegnost , , November 9, 2017 at 10:11 am

" Frankly, whatever expectation of privacy you have in your daily life is unwarranted. The genie is out of the bottle -- and it's sitting in your car, your purse, on the shelf, in your 'smart' TV etc. "

So there's no alternative, then? Of course I have a flip phone, listen to football on the the old combo cassette/radio "boom box", You are describing the state of affairs for my wealthier friends, however, and agree that those of you who feel confident enough in your circumstances to feel there is nothing you do that needs to be hidden, I'd say you and they are cognitively captured by faith in tech, but all that tech money comes from people who don't respect the need for privacy such as yourself. I'd say the genie is in fact out of the bottle and his name is donald trump, if I had a dime for every time I heard a techie or mba say "there's going to be winner's and loser's, with the tacit assumption being there will be a lot more losers than winners, and the tech/mba guys will always be the winners somehow this phrase that was once so popular has disappeared down the memory hole because the tech/mba crowd who are so intent on screwing everyone else because tina actually found themselves to be the losers. Whoocoodanode. Anecdotally and slightly off topic, a friend was attacked yesterday in seattle by one of the ubiquitous homeless people armed with a knife ("huge box cutter, didn't think you could buy one that big") in an upscale neighborhood. Luckily his car door was still open and he was able to get back in and lock the doors while the guy laid waste to his paint job. Picture these homeless people (who it doesn't really need to be pointed out don't have smart tv, iphone 10x, or modern equipment on their 72 pinto or winnebago) start to get together because they truly have nothing else to lose to the bezos of the world and start to attack you in your pseudo safe environment. When there are roving bands of these people you'll wish the donald was your biggest problem. So I've got a right back atcha, whatever expectation of safety and security you have is wildly misguided The genie has a message for you, we live a rapaciously greedy, stratified, and mean spirited country, and you'll get what you deserve, good and hard.
http://i0.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/facebook/000/299/691/1a4.jpg

JDHE , , November 9, 2017 at 10:20 am

Sounds like the "I don't see race" solution to electronic privacy invasion. Equally naive and regressive.

lyman alpha blob , , November 9, 2017 at 1:52 pm

there's nothing said in its presence that could be remotely considered dangerous, incriminating or embarrassing.

So presumably you are able to see into the future to know who will be in charge of deciding what exactly is considered dangerous, incriminating or embarrassing? Quite a gift you have

Scylla , , November 9, 2017 at 9:14 am

Not that anyone here is contemplating murder, but this is relevant to the conversation, I am sure: Amazon gives up Echo data to police in murder investigation

Eclair , , November 9, 2017 at 10:04 am

Not to make light of the intrusion problems posed by owning smart phones, smart TV's and laptops with cameras and microphones (I, too, have been rattled by seeing ads on websites for objects or conditions that I and my spouse had been discussing a day earlier), but I would be more likely to purchase a voice-activated command system that had a male persona; I would love to call out, lazily, "Ralph (or 'Bob' or 'James'), shut the friggin' cupboard doors and chill a glass of Pinot Grigio to exactly 51 degrees."

saurabh , , November 9, 2017 at 10:19 am

The problem is really one of data retention; as usual there is no reason for a voice assistant to run in some megacorp's private cloud. We all have hefty computers at home more than capable of running these things and keeping the whole thing private – the voice data, the request, etc.

It would not be hard to organize a free software project to make an Alexa quality voice assistant that you can run on a private computer; with an internet connection you can even run a client to it from your phone.

This is the only way to freedom from the surveillance system; the alternative is simply refusing the technology. However, so far we have really failed at delivering good free software in these areas (voice commands and also mobile phones in general); we have no one to blame but ourselves for this. Passively hoping the megacorps will behave morally seems to not be working.

Craig H. , , November 9, 2017 at 10:22 am

"This call is being recorded for quality control purposes."

Yesterday my fidelity service rep invited me to have my voice print archived so that they could save me the inconvenience of having to provide those security details like my mom's maiden name and the street I grew up on. Our conversation was less than ten minutes at that point and he had a desktop widget running that told him they had collected sufficient voice data on me to do this.

I opted out.

"for quality control purposes" = "for quality control purposes and whatever the NSA and CIA see fit to do with it"

Dita , , November 9, 2017 at 10:54 am

Disturbing, to say the least, and kind of puts Amazon's commitment to hire military personnel in a[n even more] sinister light. Amazon is closely associating itself with the military because grateful patriotism, even as it takes losses to destroy other businesses. Huh.
http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20171109005408/en/

MG , , November 9, 2017 at 7:09 pm

No relatively advanced nation state with a decent-sized security state apparatus is going to allow a native high tech firm to flourish without a heavily deal of cooperation.

Hell, in most cases in the U.S. it is the defensive industry since the end of WW2 that is a key player in terms of early rounds of funding and forming links to corporate research centers & university researchers.

Just look at the role DARPA has played already in driverless technology. Their fingerprints are all over it and it is easily found in the public domain.

TruNorth , , November 9, 2017 at 10:58 am

I'd like to add this bit of info to this commentary FYI it is a hot subject in my neck of the woods.

http://www.azcentral.com/story/money/business/2014/12/12/state-settles-smart-meter-debate/20343257/

XXYY , , November 9, 2017 at 11:40 am

The good discussion in this article is just one facet of a much larger change to our society. In the old days, the presumption was that everything one did was private unless specific steps were taken to make it public, perhaps holding a press conference, or doing it in the middle of a busy street or a public square.

More recently, this has changed. Now, the presumption must be that everything one does is public, unless specific steps are taken to make it private. (I won't presume to outline the steps one needs to take for privacy, since this changes every day. A general statement would be that much of the privacy invasion is technological, and the older the technology one surrounds oneself with is, the less likely one is to have one's activities publicized.)

It's hard to overstate the impact of this change, and everyone, including individuals all the way up to very large businesses, is obviously still grappling with it. It's hard to say overall whether this change is a good or a bad thing, but there is clearly no rolling back the clock.

foghorn longhorn , , November 9, 2017 at 2:54 pm

Way back in 81, I hired on as a residential telephone tech for GTE. They actually had a document called "The Telephoneman Oath" that all employees were required to read and sign. It specifically said that all conversations you heard while testing lines were private and confidential. Period. If you divulged to anyone any conversation you would be summarily terminated. Period. If you heard a convo about say a plot to kill somebody and you notified your boss or the authorities, terminated. Period. No exceptions. My how times have changed.

Bobby Gladd , , November 9, 2017 at 12:26 pm

See The AI Now 2017 Report. " (pdf)

I've apprised them of this post.

readerOfTeaLeaves , , November 9, 2017 at 12:34 pm

Looks like my minuscule investment in the Fundraiser category of 'More Meetups', along with that mutual investment of so many other NCers, is already beginning to pay out phenomenal dividends. Thanks to all ;-)

annenigma , , November 9, 2017 at 12:42 pm

About 3 years ago when I moved back to my state, I went to a credit union to open a checking account. I favor credit unions over banks, but lately I've noticed some of them are getting a lot more commercialized as they merge and grow.

Anyway, I was told I had to wait to set it up with the branch manager who was at lunch. When she returned and was entering my information on her computer, some red text caught my eye even though the screen was mostly angled away from me so I couldn't actually read it. To me it suggested some kind of alert or cue for something important, who knows. It did serve to alert my own curiosity.

Then in the process of setting up the account, out of the blue the manager asked me about my pets. Since I don't have any, that conversation should have been very brief but somehow she managed to prolong it somehow, maybe asking why not but I forget now. That would be the kind of question that would immediately start people talking, but it came out so awkwardly in the timing that I got the impression it wasn't social as much a business related. At any rate, it did eliciting more conversation from me other than the brief but relevant answers I gave her for my account information.

Before I left, I also noticed a box directly in front of me on her desk. It caught my eye because it was placed near the edge, not set back closer to her but I really didn't give it any more attention other than that. But combined with the pet questioning and red text, I later wondered if my voice had been recorded for some kind of security program.

Naturally they'd only get a voice recording when they could capture someone's natural voice in a relaxed conversation, such as about beloved pets. After all, if you're not aware you're being recorded, you don't get tense vocal cords or try too hard to enunciate. Plus it's only for security reasons, right? So why tell us? The things they do for security has to be secret, otherwise it's not secure!

But my suspicious mind thinks that whenever valuable personal identifiers are collected by any business or government entity for any reason, and certainly when it's incentivized or written into the fine print of Patriot Act type laws, it ends up in Utah repository.

COLLECT IT ALL is not just a conspiracy theory anymore.

Or am I just being paranoid?

geoff , , November 9, 2017 at 12:51 pm

" Apart from the creepy crawley ‎surveillance aspect (and Google/Amazon bother me far more than the state security apparatus " (Clive, from the original article.)

As far as I'm concerned, Amazon and Google ARE (at least a part of) the state security apparatus. Links between the NSA and Google have been well-established, and Amazon is a CIA contractor.

http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/5/6/nsa-chief-google.html
http://www.defenseone.com/technology/2014/07/how-cia-partnered-amazon-and-changed-intelligence/88555/

(Hope that's not too many links!)

Lee , , November 9, 2017 at 12:58 pm

Live interview re this topic and more. Interview will be archived at the site soon. https://ww2.kqed.org/forum/2017/11/08/graphic-novel-explores-the-history-of-drone-warfare/

Also, Krasny interviewed Snowden last night from the Curran theater in SF. I assume this will also become available on their archive. https://sfcurran.com/the-currant/interviews/

Host: Michael Krasny
NOVEMBER 9, 2017
SHARE
Episode airs November 9, 2017 at 9:30 AM
Investigative journalist Pratap Chatterjee and editorial cartoonist Khalil Bendib present a history of drone warfare and mass surveillance in "VERAX," a graphic novel. The first half of the book profiles famous whistleblowers like Julian Assange and Edward Snowden. In the second half, Chatterjee investigates the murky background of drone warfare and its ethical implications. We talk to both authors about their new book and unexpected approach.

Guests:
Khalil Bendib, editorial cartoonist and graphic novelist; co-creator, "VERAX: The True History of Whistleblowers, Drone Warfare and Mass Surveillance"; co-host, "Voices of the Middle East"

Pratap Chatterjee, executive director, CorpWatch; co-author, "VERAX: The True History of Whistleblowers, Drone Warfare, and Mass Surveillance"

eYelladog , , November 9, 2017 at 1:42 pm

I have a friend who works with C-Suite types in tech from major companies (sorry, I won't name names or companies). These people he works with on his account have basically told him that Amazon has hit a homerun with Echo based on its mic and how it can single out a voice in a crowd. Everybody else is playing catch up on Alexa just like they are playing catch up on AWS. This was over a year ago.

When he was approached by family for advice on which of these devices to buy, he flat out told them they are all generally equal [for personal use], the question is who do you want to collect your data?

Hepativore , , November 9, 2017 at 2:53 pm

Actually, I wonder if it would be useful to buy one under your name, and then play a pre-recorded message next to it over and over again just for the purposes of spoofing or giving bad data to Google/Amazon/NSA/etc. as a counter-survellience measure. This way, if you are an activist or protester, you can give them a steady stream of bad or useless data in whatever file they have collected on you to make your "profile" extremely inaccurate.

Bryan , , November 9, 2017 at 3:36 pm

I work in info security. I have an Echo, though admittedly not in my bedroom. I think your threat model is wrong, for a couple of reasons. One, the Echo's ability to distinguish voices isn't what you're portraying. Anyone in the house (or people on TV, in a few infamous cases) can in fact order from Amazon using the account linked to the Echo via smartphone app.

Two, if you have my skillset and want to know if Echo is transmitting data to Amazon at any given time, do a packet capture on your network and find out. You won't see what's being sent because it's encrypted obviously, but you can see how much data is being sent, which is enough to know if the Echo is sending all the sounds it hears. It is not.

Of course that could be a capability that has to be turned on remotely. But because the Echo has to be connected to a wifi network that people like me can sniff, the NSA/FBI/whatever would be taking the chance in doing that that the person under surveillance will immediately know based on the amount of data being sent spiking.

There's no such chance with a cellphone. What's more, my cellphone is not a fat cylinder I leave in my living room all day; it goes with me. What's more than that, to listen in on it the government would have to work with Verizon, a company we know is slavishly supine to their every whim and has been for a couple of generations, and not Amazon, a company where they might bump up against all sorts of inconvenient technolibertarians who'd be outraged at the concept.

Can the NSA listen to me on my Echo should I ever come to their attention? I'd assume yes. Would they ever given all their other options? Can't see why.

likbez , November 10, 2017 at 12:37 am
Thank you for your post !

Excessive paranoia is as counterproductive as excessive negligence as for your Internet and phone communications privacy.

Of course that could be a capability that has to be turned on remotely. But because the Echo has to be connected to a wifi network that people like me can sniff, the NSA/FBI/whatever would be taking the chance in doing that that the person under surveillance will immediately know based on the amount of data being sent spiking.

While the reality can be a little bit more complex (buffering and shadowing can be used to hide traffic) the fact of any "rogue" transmission of large amount of data allow rather simple detection (to say nothing about possibility of setting a "honeypot") actually is a valuable inoculation from excessive "they listen to my mic and watch me on my camera" paranoia.

People whose conversations and electronic communications are really interesting to authorities (like foreign diplomats. mafia bosses, etc ) are by-and-large aware about this is and take various kinds of countermeasures. This defense-offence game is centuries old.

It is important to understand that even without listening to any conversation, your electronic communications footprint produces enough information to make any retired STASI operative blue from envy. Any additional "intrusive" monitoring (for example, recording and transcribing your conversations) has it costs and excessive monitoring is counterproductive as it hide tiny useful signal in the huge amount of "noise". So your conclusion is a valuable one and well worth repeating:

Can the NSA listen to me on my Echo should I ever come to their attention? I'd assume yes. Would they ever given all their other options? Can't see why.

The truth is that for them because of "other options" it does not make much sense to listen to any conversations or watch your surroundings on video to monitor you very closely.

johnnyb , , November 9, 2017 at 4:04 pm

I do not have an echo but I do have the amazon app on my android phone. I am getting paranoid. When my family and I speak of something at the dinner table the next day my Amazon account will suggest related items for purchase. Once or twice, ok, it's random. It is not random after months of me noticing this. I was speaking with a colleague about an amazon business account and I – 30 min later – received an email from Amazon asking if I was interested in an Amazon business account. The app is listening. I'm sure of it.

Propertius , , November 9, 2017 at 5:18 pm

There have been confirmed cases of Alexa responding to strangers' voices: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/tv-news-anchors-report-accidentally-sets-off-viewers-amazons-echo-dots/

This is also true for Siri, with some pretty scary consequences:

https://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2016/09/22/siri-opens-smart-lock-to-let-neighbor-walk-into-a-locked-house/

I would never have one of these bloody things in my house.

Eureka Springs , , November 9, 2017 at 8:01 pm

I'm reminded of discussions here on NC about the energy used per bitcoin and I wonder how much energy used per bitperson snoop might be? I bet it's a shockingly high number. What a waste.

catsick , , November 9, 2017 at 9:16 pm

Well if you consider that when I launch this page, 25 trackers attempt to launch and follow my browsing then it is not just Amazon who are playing this game

[Nov 10, 2017] Yves Smith

Nov 10, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Post author , November 10, 2017 at 1:20 am

I don't buy that. Although my professional life is on the Web via my expressing my views on the site, my personal life isn't anywhere near as readily accessible as for most people. For instance, I do such a huge amount of Web surfing for professional reasons you'd be hard pressed to identify what was personal in that.

likbez , November 10, 2017 at 2:26 pm

Thank you for your comment. It is awaiting moderation. Click here to learn more about our moderation process and comments policies.

"my personal life isn't anywhere near as readily accessible"

Not true. It is readily assessable. For example, looking for medical information (WebMD, etc), drugs, watching movies, sport sites, music sites that you visit, porno sites for males, set of your posts, shopping at Amazon, reviews, if any, etc usually are very informative as for your "personal life".

Social sites on which person posts represent so called "set of active sites set". The mere fact that a person posts on Naked Capitalism on a recurrent basis represents what it is called a "signature" -- which means that some subset of person interests can be extrapolated from the interests of other visitors to the same site. This "preference" can be correlated with your others postings, vocabulary that you use in them, "trigger phases" ( http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/24/homeland-security-manual_n_1299908.html ), their frequency and other similar "markers".

All this helps to create your "Web profile" which includes your education level, set of hobbies, political views, medical problems, personal problems, financial problems, etc. Tell me now that your personal life is not accessible.

Each Web site from the point of view of Web log analysis has a certain "attributes" and the level of "affinity" to similar sites which often link to this site (for example for naked capitalism Alexa lists wolfstreet.com, economicoutlook.net, cepr.net, truthdig.com and mishtalk.com as "similar")

If you visit set of "affiliated sites" that increases probability that you belong to certain social strata, or share certain interests/views.

Look at https://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/nakedcapitalism.com for the set of metrics computed.

All that means that for any person the history of Web activities for a year or more allows to create Web profile (or dossier, if you wish) in which professional interests and personal interests somewhat overlap (especially if you work from home), but some (or even large) part of them still can be distinguished.

You can actually create you own Web profile yourself installing Web proxy and using some scripts like AWstats. That's a very interesting and educational exercise. Of course, if you a programmer you can write your own scripts or enhance existing to get more information. But in any case just looking at your one year Web stats you probably will be surprised how much of your "personal interests" can be deduced from this profile. First of all just the list of sites you visit recurrently creates a certain profile. Also from them you can calculate certain integral metrics, for example something like "index of loyalty/political correctness" (I heard that China is doing or planning to do something along those lines).

Also "professional interests" related Web surfing of not, there are certain "outliers sites" that you visit and certain "trigger sites/pages" which allow to narrow the set of your personal "trait" visible in your Web profile. Which, among other things, can help to identify you on other devices even if you do not login to any sites.

Bulk of surfing can be discarded, but just timestamps give quite a bit information about your personal life, about how you plan you day, etc. If for example a person usually spend 10 hours a day surfing the Web that fact alone is an important part of the Web profile characterizing the person as "Web junky".

Which usually tells a lot about this particular person personal life and even allows to deduce some personal traits.

Outliers, sites not commonly visited by similar surfers, might be even more interesting.

Also interesting is how your Web browsing "footprint" evolves from one month to another.

For example set of sites that there were prominent in the past disappeared from your Web profile might suggest that a certain problem is solved, or put on backburner, etc. And many other things along those lines.

[Nov 10, 2017] What part of your personal life can be deduced from your Web logs

Nov 10, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

likbez , November 9, 2017 at 11:31 pm

A drop of glue can help and is much simpler ;-). Without air flow sensitivity of the mic drops dramatically.

In most cases collection of metadata (your calls, browsing history, email headers, etc) is enough for you already to be like a bug under the microscope.

The recording of conversations, unless you are high value target, is completely redundant.

Yves Smith Post author , November 10, 2017 at 1:20 am

I don't buy that. Although my professional life is on the Web via my expressing my views on the site, my personal life isn't anywhere near as readily accessible as for most people. For instance, I do such a huge amount of Web surfing for professional reasons you'd be hard pressed to identify what was personal in that.

likbez , November 10, 2017 at 2:26 pm

"my personal life isn't anywhere near as readily accessible"

Not true. It is readily assessable. For example, looking for medical information (WebMD, etc), drugs, watching movies, sport sites, music sites that you visit, porno sites for males, set of your posts, shopping at Amazon, reviews, if any, etc usually are very informative as for your "personal life".

Social sites on which person posts represent so called "set of active sites set". The mere fact that a person posts on Naked Capitalism on a recurrent basis represents what it is called a "signature" -- which means that some subset of person interests can be extrapolated from the interests of other visitors to the same site. This "preference" can be correlated with your others postings, vocabulary that you use in them, "trigger phases" ( http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/24/homeland-security-manual_n_1299908.html ), their frequency and other similar "markers".

All this helps to create your "Web profile" which includes your education level, set of hobbies, political views, medical problems, personal problems, financial problems, etc. Tell me now that your personal life is not accessible.

Each Web site from the point of view of Web log analysis has a certain "attributes" and the level of "affinity" to similar sites which often link to this site (for example for naked capitalism Alexa lists wolfstreet.com, economicoutlook.net, cepr.net, truthdig.com and mishtalk.com as "similar")

If you visit set of "affiliated sites" that increases probability that you belong to certain social strata, or share certain interests/views.

Look at https://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/nakedcapitalism.com for the set of metrics computed.

All that means that for any person the history of Web activities for a year or more allows to create Web profile (or dossier, if you wish) in which professional interests and personal interests somewhat overlap (especially if you work from home), but some (or even large) part of them still can be distinguished.

You can actually create you own Web profile yourself installing Web proxy and using some scripts like AWstats. That's a very interesting and educational exercise. Of course, if you a programmer you can write your own scripts or enhance existing to get more information. But in any case just looking at your one year Web stats you probably will be surprised how much of your "personal interests" can be deduced from this profile. First of all just the list of sites you visit recurrently creates a certain profile. Also from them you can calculate certain integral metrics, for example something like "index of loyalty/political correctness" (I heard that China is doing or planning to do something along those lines).

Also "professional interests" related Web surfing of not, there are certain "outliers sites" that you visit and certain "trigger sites/pages" which allow to narrow the set of your personal "trait" visible in your Web profile. Which, among other things, can help to identify you on other devices even if you do not login to any sites.

Bulk of surfing can be discarded, but just timestamps give quite a bit information about your personal life, about how you plan you day, etc. If for example a person usually spend 10 hours a day surfing the Web that fact alone is an important part of the Web profile characterizing the person as "Web junky".

Which usually tells a lot about this particular person personal life and even allows to deduce some personal traits.

Outliers, sites not commonly visited by similar surfers, might be even more interesting.

Also interesting is how your Web browsing "footprint" evolves from one month to another.

For example, if set of sites that there were prominent in the past disappeared from your Web profile, that might suggest that a certain problem is solved, or put on backburner, etc. And many other things along those lines.

fajensen , November 10, 2017 at 2:23 pm

No. There isn't an easy way. If you can find the actual microphone opening you can carefully fill the microphone with a solvent based glue using a syringe and a needle. One does not want to break it, because maybe the OS/drivers checks for the presence of the physical device and then there is an error code logged and one is tagged. Disabling the microphone is not always very practical. On MacBook Pros, at least one mike is under the left loudspeaker grid and one cannot get at it without disassembly.

Then the question is, is this the only one? There could be several, they are so cheap and small. Some might be "secret sauce", perhaps used for making certain vendors video call application superior to the others, and not visible to the OS in the normal way.

The loudspeakers -- are also microphones; if there is something going on where the audio system tracks the voltage applied to the speakers, maybe to shape / improve the sound, perhaps that signal is available to the CPU somehow and can be recovered. There are other embedded devices that can be made to work like microphones. Accelerometers used to protect the hard disk when one drops the laptop and the WiFi signals themselves, which can be used for RADAR-like surveillance and maybe audio extraction too. Currently, this is only for people with nation-state tools and hacking capability.

If the opposition is the common crook looking for insider information or a stalker, then it might be OK with disabling the regular microphone.

Nation States or Rogue Law Enforcement . One can pretty much forget about it! In that situation one should not be near anything electronic at all when discussing serious things, and one should take care to not be visible on cameras. Computers are good a lip-reading too.

There is a book, "Cryptoguide for Journalists", sadly in Danish Only but the authors does link to tools that are English and probably useful, the EFF has something similar in English:

EFF -> https://ssd.eff.org
UK Info (nerdy!) -> https://securityinabox.org/en/
links to tools -> http://www.journalismfund.eu/sites/default/files/Digital%20Security_0.pdf
Book Info -> https://www.cryptoguide.dk/english

lb , November 9, 2017 at 10:11 am

Technologies can be surreptitiously remotely enabled/manipulated on any device with some way in (probably via networking, possibly via the same listening system with different cues -- imagine your TV saying a secret code word to Alexa to put it in permanent-recording mode). This sort of use has been OK'd by the courts under warrant, sometimes, in cars via OnStar, et al. Whenever you disable a technology in the software menu of the device, there is the possibility of someone else re-enabling it (or the software ignoring your request) without your consent or awareness.

As a security researcher I've wanted to see a movement for DIY hardware toggles for sensitive components in a device. It should be possible to sever signals to/from any such component, or better, to de-power the component without compromising device integrity/stability. Any camera, microphone or biometric scanner is obviously sensitive. Any component of telephony, from cellular to wi-fi (those things announce your presence to the world as they 'scan', constantly, and can be responsive when the device is off!) to near-field communication is sensitive. You (should) want a physical airplane-mode toggle, not just a software configuration option that you're supposed to trust. This needs to apply to all of the devices in one's life and all of the components. As we enumerate the bits on a phone, the same logic must apply to a car (how many of us know how many microphones are there and where?). And we should expect vendors to make this impossible (out of apathy or out of defense of their own ability to listen). Maybe some vendors could court the security-minded and work to provide physically-auditable toggles but I doubt any market-based solution would solve this problem much.

(Asofyet I haven't seen a lot of movement on the DIY toggle front though maybe I've missed an example. I'm not a good person to start the work as I have a reverse midas touch with hardware hacking).

Knowing the possibility of a device lying to its user as to the disabling of snooping technology (or the possibility that something else was physically installed to spy), Bunnie and Snowden wrote guides for detecting that signaling is in use regardless of software settings, as a manual for journalists and others worried about it. Start here and search for more: https://www.pubpub.org/pub/direct-radio-introspection . I think those guys also talk about mitigation in newer work.

Just my two cents as to where a gap exists. Hopefully I'm not now on a !@#$list of the surveillance state just for thinking this aloud

[Nov 10, 2017] What part of your personal life can be deduced from your Web logs

Nov 10, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

likbez , November 9, 2017 at 11:31 pm

A drop of glue can help and is much simpler ;-). Without air flow sensitivity of the mic drops dramatically.

In most cases collection of metadata (your calls, browsing history, email headers, etc) is enough for you already to be like a bug under the microscope.

The recording of conversations, unless you are high value target, is completely redundant.

Yves Smith Post author , November 10, 2017 at 1:20 am

I don't buy that. Although my professional life is on the Web via my expressing my views on the site, my personal life isn't anywhere near as readily accessible as for most people. For instance, I do such a huge amount of Web surfing for professional reasons you'd be hard pressed to identify what was personal in that.

likbez , November 10, 2017 at 2:26 pm

"my personal life isn't anywhere near as readily accessible"

Not true. It is readily assessable. For example, looking for medical information (WebMD, etc), drugs, watching movies, sport sites, music sites that you visit, porno sites for males, set of your posts, shopping at Amazon, reviews, if any, etc usually are very informative as for your "personal life".

Social sites on which person posts represent so called "set of active sites set". The mere fact that a person posts on Naked Capitalism on a recurrent basis represents what it is called a "signature" -- which means that some subset of person interests can be extrapolated from the interests of other visitors to the same site. This "preference" can be correlated with your others postings, vocabulary that you use in them, "trigger phases" ( http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/24/homeland-security-manual_n_1299908.html ), their frequency and other similar "markers".

All this helps to create your "Web profile" which includes your education level, set of hobbies, political views, medical problems, personal problems, financial problems, etc. Tell me now that your personal life is not accessible.

Each Web site from the point of view of Web log analysis has a certain "attributes" and the level of "affinity" to similar sites which often link to this site (for example for naked capitalism Alexa lists wolfstreet.com, economicoutlook.net, cepr.net, truthdig.com and mishtalk.com as "similar")

If you visit set of "affiliated sites" that increases probability that you belong to certain social strata, or share certain interests/views.

Look at https://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/nakedcapitalism.com for the set of metrics computed.

All that means that for any person the history of Web activities for a year or more allows to create Web profile (or dossier, if you wish) in which professional interests and personal interests somewhat overlap (especially if you work from home), but some (or even large) part of them still can be distinguished.

You can actually create you own Web profile yourself installing Web proxy and using some scripts like AWstats. That's a very interesting and educational exercise. Of course, if you a programmer you can write your own scripts or enhance existing to get more information. But in any case just looking at your one year Web stats you probably will be surprised how much of your "personal interests" can be deduced from this profile. First of all just the list of sites you visit recurrently creates a certain profile. Also from them you can calculate certain integral metrics, for example something like "index of loyalty/political correctness" (I heard that China is doing or planning to do something along those lines).

Also "professional interests" related Web surfing of not, there are certain "outliers sites" that you visit and certain "trigger sites/pages" which allow to narrow the set of your personal "trait" visible in your Web profile. Which, among other things, can help to identify you on other devices even if you do not login to any sites.

Bulk of surfing can be discarded, but just timestamps give quite a bit information about your personal life, about how you plan you day, etc. If for example a person usually spend 10 hours a day surfing the Web that fact alone is an important part of the Web profile characterizing the person as "Web junky".

Which usually tells a lot about this particular person personal life and even allows to deduce some personal traits.

Outliers, sites not commonly visited by similar surfers, might be even more interesting.

Also interesting is how your Web browsing "footprint" evolves from one month to another.

For example, if set of sites that there were prominent in the past disappeared from your Web profile, that might suggest that a certain problem is solved, or put on backburner, etc. And many other things along those lines.

fajensen , November 10, 2017 at 2:23 pm

No. There isn't an easy way. If you can find the actual microphone opening you can carefully fill the microphone with a solvent based glue using a syringe and a needle. One does not want to break it, because maybe the OS/drivers checks for the presence of the physical device and then there is an error code logged and one is tagged. Disabling the microphone is not always very practical. On MacBook Pros, at least one mike is under the left loudspeaker grid and one cannot get at it without disassembly.

Then the question is, is this the only one? There could be several, they are so cheap and small. Some might be "secret sauce", perhaps used for making certain vendors video call application superior to the others, and not visible to the OS in the normal way.

The loudspeakers -- are also microphones; if there is something going on where the audio system tracks the voltage applied to the speakers, maybe to shape / improve the sound, perhaps that signal is available to the CPU somehow and can be recovered. There are other embedded devices that can be made to work like microphones. Accelerometers used to protect the hard disk when one drops the laptop and the WiFi signals themselves, which can be used for RADAR-like surveillance and maybe audio extraction too. Currently, this is only for people with nation-state tools and hacking capability.

If the opposition is the common crook looking for insider information or a stalker, then it might be OK with disabling the regular microphone.

Nation States or Rogue Law Enforcement . One can pretty much forget about it! In that situation one should not be near anything electronic at all when discussing serious things, and one should take care to not be visible on cameras. Computers are good a lip-reading too.

There is a book, "Cryptoguide for Journalists", sadly in Danish Only but the authors does link to tools that are English and probably useful, the EFF has something similar in English:

EFF -> https://ssd.eff.org
UK Info (nerdy!) -> https://securityinabox.org/en/
links to tools -> http://www.journalismfund.eu/sites/default/files/Digital%20Security_0.pdf
Book Info -> https://www.cryptoguide.dk/english

lb , November 9, 2017 at 10:11 am

Technologies can be surreptitiously remotely enabled/manipulated on any device with some way in (probably via networking, possibly via the same listening system with different cues -- imagine your TV saying a secret code word to Alexa to put it in permanent-recording mode). This sort of use has been OK'd by the courts under warrant, sometimes, in cars via OnStar, et al. Whenever you disable a technology in the software menu of the device, there is the possibility of someone else re-enabling it (or the software ignoring your request) without your consent or awareness.

As a security researcher I've wanted to see a movement for DIY hardware toggles for sensitive components in a device. It should be possible to sever signals to/from any such component, or better, to de-power the component without compromising device integrity/stability. Any camera, microphone or biometric scanner is obviously sensitive. Any component of telephony, from cellular to wi-fi (those things announce your presence to the world as they 'scan', constantly, and can be responsive when the device is off!) to near-field communication is sensitive. You (should) want a physical airplane-mode toggle, not just a software configuration option that you're supposed to trust. This needs to apply to all of the devices in one's life and all of the components. As we enumerate the bits on a phone, the same logic must apply to a car (how many of us know how many microphones are there and where?). And we should expect vendors to make this impossible (out of apathy or out of defense of their own ability to listen). Maybe some vendors could court the security-minded and work to provide physically-auditable toggles but I doubt any market-based solution would solve this problem much.

(Asofyet I haven't seen a lot of movement on the DIY toggle front though maybe I've missed an example. I'm not a good person to start the work as I have a reverse midas touch with hardware hacking).

Knowing the possibility of a device lying to its user as to the disabling of snooping technology (or the possibility that something else was physically installed to spy), Bunnie and Snowden wrote guides for detecting that signaling is in use regardless of software settings, as a manual for journalists and others worried about it. Start here and search for more: https://www.pubpub.org/pub/direct-radio-introspection . I think those guys also talk about mitigation in newer work.

Just my two cents as to where a gap exists. Hopefully I'm not now on a !@#$list of the surveillance state just for thinking this aloud

[Nov 10, 2017] Yves Smith

Nov 10, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Post author , November 10, 2017 at 1:20 am

I don't buy that. Although my professional life is on the Web via my expressing my views on the site, my personal life isn't anywhere near as readily accessible as for most people. For instance, I do such a huge amount of Web surfing for professional reasons you'd be hard pressed to identify what was personal in that.

likbez , November 10, 2017 at 2:26 pm

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"my personal life isn't anywhere near as readily accessible"

Not true. It is readily assessable. For example, looking for medical information (WebMD, etc), drugs, watching movies, sport sites, music sites that you visit, porno sites for males, set of your posts, shopping at Amazon, reviews, if any, etc usually are very informative as for your "personal life".

Social sites on which person posts represent so called "set of active sites set". The mere fact that a person posts on Naked Capitalism on a recurrent basis represents what it is called a "signature" -- which means that some subset of person interests can be extrapolated from the interests of other visitors to the same site. This "preference" can be correlated with your others postings, vocabulary that you use in them, "trigger phases" ( http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/24/homeland-security-manual_n_1299908.html ), their frequency and other similar "markers".

All this helps to create your "Web profile" which includes your education level, set of hobbies, political views, medical problems, personal problems, financial problems, etc. Tell me now that your personal life is not accessible.

Each Web site from the point of view of Web log analysis has a certain "attributes" and the level of "affinity" to similar sites which often link to this site (for example for naked capitalism Alexa lists wolfstreet.com, economicoutlook.net, cepr.net, truthdig.com and mishtalk.com as "similar")

If you visit set of "affiliated sites" that increases probability that you belong to certain social strata, or share certain interests/views.

Look at https://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/nakedcapitalism.com for the set of metrics computed.

All that means that for any person the history of Web activities for a year or more allows to create Web profile (or dossier, if you wish) in which professional interests and personal interests somewhat overlap (especially if you work from home), but some (or even large) part of them still can be distinguished.

You can actually create you own Web profile yourself installing Web proxy and using some scripts like AWstats. That's a very interesting and educational exercise. Of course, if you a programmer you can write your own scripts or enhance existing to get more information. But in any case just looking at your one year Web stats you probably will be surprised how much of your "personal interests" can be deduced from this profile. First of all just the list of sites you visit recurrently creates a certain profile. Also from them you can calculate certain integral metrics, for example something like "index of loyalty/political correctness" (I heard that China is doing or planning to do something along those lines).

Also "professional interests" related Web surfing of not, there are certain "outliers sites" that you visit and certain "trigger sites/pages" which allow to narrow the set of your personal "trait" visible in your Web profile. Which, among other things, can help to identify you on other devices even if you do not login to any sites.

Bulk of surfing can be discarded, but just timestamps give quite a bit information about your personal life, about how you plan you day, etc. If for example a person usually spend 10 hours a day surfing the Web that fact alone is an important part of the Web profile characterizing the person as "Web junky".

Which usually tells a lot about this particular person personal life and even allows to deduce some personal traits.

Outliers, sites not commonly visited by similar surfers, might be even more interesting.

Also interesting is how your Web browsing "footprint" evolves from one month to another.

For example set of sites that there were prominent in the past disappeared from your Web profile might suggest that a certain problem is solved, or put on backburner, etc. And many other things along those lines.

[Nov 08, 2017] Learning to Love McCarthyism by Robert Parry

Highly recommended!
Russiagate witch hunt is destroying CIA franchise in Facebook and Twitter, which were used by many Russians and Eastern Europeans in general.
One telling sign of the national security state is "demonizing enemies of the state" including using neo-McCarthyism methods, typically for Russiagate.
In the beginning, "Russiagate" was about alleged actions by Russian secret services. Evidence for these allegations has never emerged, and it seems that the Russiagate conspiracy theorists largely gave up on this part (they still sometimes write about it as if it was an established fact, but since the only thing in support of it they can adduce is the canard about the 17 intelligence services, it probably is not that interesting any more).
Now, they have dropped the mask, and the object of their hatred are openly all Russian people, as the new Undermensch. If these people and US MSM recognized the reality that they are now a particularly rabid part of the xenophobic far right in the United States
Notable quotes:
"... Buried in the story's "jump" is the acknowledgement that Milner's "companies sold those holdings several years ago." But such is the anti-Russia madness gripping the Establishment of Washington and New York that any contact with any Russian constitutes a scandal worthy of front-page coverage. On Monday, The Washington Post published a page-one article entitled, "9 in Trump's orbit had contacts with Russians." ..."
"... The anti-Russian madness has reached such extremes that even when you say something that's obviously true – but that RT, the Russian television network, also reported – you are attacked for spreading "Russian propaganda." ..."
"... We saw that when former Democratic National Committee chairwoman Donna Brazile disclosed in her new book that she considered the possibility of replacing Hillary Clinton on the Democratic ticket after Clinton's public fainting spell and worries about her health. ..."
"... In other words, the go-to excuse for everything these days is to blame the Russians and smear anyone who says anything – no matter how true – if it also was reported on RT. ..."
"... The CIA has an entire bureaucracy dedicated to propaganda and disinformation, with some of those efforts farmed out to newer entities such as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) or paid for by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). NATO has a special command in Latvia that undertakes "strategic communications." ..."
"... Israel is another skilled player in this field, tapping into its supporters around the world to harass people who criticize the Zionist project. Indeed, since the 1980s, Israel has pioneered many of the tactics of computer spying and sabotage that were adopted and expanded by America's National Security Agency, explaining why the Obama administration teamed up with Israel in a scheme to plant malicious code into Iranian centrifuges to sabotage Iran's nuclear program. ..."
"... And, if you're really concerned about foreign interference in U.S. elections and policies, there's the remarkable influence of Israel and its perceived ability to effect the defeat of almost any politician who deviates from what the Israeli government wants, going back at least to the 1980s when Sen. Chuck Percy and Rep. Paul Findley were among the political casualties after pursuing contacts with the Palestinians. ..."
"... The answer seems to be the widespread hatred for President Trump combined with vested interests in favor of whipping up the New Cold War. That is a goal valued by both the Military-Industrial Complex, which sees trillions of dollars in strategic weapons systems in the future, and the neoconservatives, who view Russia as a threat to their "regime change" agendas for Syria and Iran. ..."
"... After all, if Russia and its independent-minded President Putin can be beaten back and beaten down, then a big obstacle to the neocon/Israeli goal of expanding the Mideast wars will be removed. ..."
"... Right now, the neocons are openly lusting for a "regime change" in Moscow despite the obvious risks that such turmoil in a nuclear-armed country might create, including the possibility that Putin would be succeeded not by some compliant Western client like the late Boris Yeltsin but by an extreme nationalist who might consider launching a nuclear strike to protect the honor of Mother Russia. ..."
"... The likely outcome from the anti-Russian show trials on Capitol Hill is that technology giants will bow to the bipartisan demand for new algorithms and other methods for stigmatizing, marginalizing and eliminating information that challenges the mainstream storylines in the cause of fighting "Russian propaganda." ..."
"... America's Stolen Narrative, ..."
"... witch hunt by congressional Democrats, working with the intelligence agencies and leading media outlets, to legitimize censorship and attack free speech on the Internet. ..."
"... The aim of this campaign is to claim that social conflict within the United States arises not from the scale of social inequality in America, greater than in any other country in the developed world, but rather from the actions of "outside agitators" working in the service of the Kremlin. ..."
"... The McCarthyite witch hunts of the 1950s sought to suppress left-wing thought and label all forms of dissent as illegitimate and treasonous. Those who led them worked to purge left-wing opinion from Hollywood, the trade unions and the universities. ..."
"... Likewise, the new McCarthyism is aimed at creating a political climate in which left-wing organizations and figures are demonized as agents of the Kremlin who are essentially engaged in treasonous activity deserving of criminal prosecution. ..."
"... Danny there was a time not to long ago, I would have said of how we are 'moving towards' to us becoming a police state, well instead replace that prediction of 'moving towards' to the stark reality to be described as 'that now we are', and there you will have it that we have finally arrived to becoming a full blown 'police state'. ..."
"... Thanks to Mr. Parry for this very fair and complete review of the latest attempts to generate a fake foreign enemy. The tyrant over a democracy must generate fake foreign enemies to pose falsely as a protector, so as to demand domestic power and accuse his opponents of disloyalty, as Aristotle and Plato warned thousands of years ago. ..."
"... The insanity of the entire "Russian hacking" narrative has been revealed over and over, including this past weekend when +/-100 Clinton loyalists published a screed on Medium saying Donna Brazile had been taken in by Russian propaganda. ..."
"... I have come to expect just about anything when it comes to Russia-Gate, but I was taken aback by the Hillary bots' accusation that videos of Hillary stumbling and others showing her apparently having a fit of some kind and also needing to be helped up the steps to someone's house -- which were taken by Americans and shown by Americans and seen by millions of shocked Americans -- were driven by Russia-Gate. ..."
"... Now, since the extremist xenophobic idea that contact with *any* Russians is a scandal has taken hold in the United States, people are probably not too eager to mention these contacts in these atmosphere of extreme xenophobic anti-Russian hatred in today's United States. Furthermore, people who have contact with large numbers of people probably really have difficulties remembering and listing these all. ..."
"... Their contacts are with Russian business and maybe the Russian mob, not the Russian state. There is really not question that Trump and his cronies are crooks, but they are crooks in the US and in all the other countries where they do business, not just Russia. I'm sure Mueller will be able to tie Trump directly to some of the sleeze. But there is no evidence that the Russian government is involved in any of it. "Russia-gate" implies Russian government involvement, not just random Russians. There is no evidence of that and moreover the logic is against. ..."
"... Mr. Cash . I think George Papadopoulis, Trump's young Aide, was an inside mole for neocon pro-Israel interests. Those interests needed to knock the unreliable President Trump out of the way to get the "system" back where it belonged – in their pocket. Papadopoulis, on his own, was rummaging around making Trump/Russian connections that finally ended with the the William (Richard?) Browder (well-known Washington DC neocon)/Natalia Veselnitskaya/Donald Trump, Jr. fiasco. The Trumps knew nothing of those negotiations, and young Trump left when he realized Natalia was only interested in Americans being allowed to adopt Russian children again and had no dirt on Hillary. ..."
"... It was never my impression that Cold War liberals opposed McCarthy or the anti-Communist witch hunt. Where they didn't gleefully join in, they watched quietly from the sidelines while the American left was eviscerated, jailed, driven from public life. Then the liberals stepped in when it was clear things were going a little too far and just as the steam had run out of McCarthy's slander machine. ..."
"... At that point figures like Adlai Stevenson, Hubert Humphrey and John F. Kennedy found the path clear for their brand of political stagecraft. They were imperialists to a man, something they proved abundantly when given the chance. Liberals supplanted the left in U.S. life- in the unions, the teaching profession, publishing and every other field where criticism of the Cold War and the enduring prevalence of worker solidarity across international lines threatened the new order. ..."
"... The book concludes that by equating dissent with disloyalty, promoting guilt by association, and personally commanding loyalty programs, ""Truman and his advisors employed all the political and programmatic techniques that in later years were to become associated with the broad phenomenon of McCarthyism."" ..."
"... Formed by Google in June 2015 with Eliot Higgins of the Atlantic Council's Bellingcat as a founding member, the "First Draft" coalition includes all the usual mainstream media "partners" in "regime change" war propaganda: the Washington Post, New York Times, CNN, the UK Guardian and Telegraph, BBC News, the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensics Research Lab and Kiev-based Stopfake. ..."
"... In the beginning, "Russiagate" was about alleged actions by Russian secret services. Evidence for these allegations has never emerged, and it seems that the Russiagate conspiracy theorists largely gave up on this part (they still sometimes write about it as if it was an established fact, but since the only thing in support of it they can adduce is the canard about the 17 intelligence services, it probably is not that interesting any more) ..."
"... Now, they have dropped the mask, and the object of their hatred are openly all Russian people, anyone who is "Russian linked" by ever having logged in to social networks from Russia or using Cyrillic letters. If these people and their media at least recognized the reality that they are now a particularly rabid part of the xenophobic far right in the United States ..."
"... The interview of Roger Waters on RT is one of the best I have seen in a long while. I wish some other artists get the courage to raise their voices. The link to the Roger Waters interview is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7jcvfbLoIA This Roger Waters interview is worth watching. ..."
"... It would seem that everyone on the US telivision , newspaper and internet news has mastered the art of hand over mouth , gasp and looking horrified every time Russia is mentioned. It looks to me that the US is in the middle of another of it´s mid life crises. Panic reigns supreme every where. If it was not so sad it would be funny. i was born in the 1940s and remember the McCarthy witch hunts and the daily shower of people jumping out of windows as a result of it. ..."
"... In The Fifties (1993), American journalist and historian David Halberstam addressed the noxious effect of McCarthyism: "McCarthy's carnival like four year spree of accusation charges, and threats touched something deep in the American body politic, something that lasted long after his own recklessness, carelessness and boozing ended his career in shame." (page 53) ..."
"... Halberstam specifically discussed how readily the so-called "free" press acquiesced to McCarthy's masquerading: "The real scandal in all this was the behavior of the members of the Washington press corps, who, more often than not, knew better. They were delighted to be a part of his traveling road show, chronicling each charge and then moving on to the next town, instead of bothering to stay behind and follow up. They had little interest in reporting how careless McCarthy was or how little it all meant to him." (page 55) ..."
"... Why have they not investigated James Comey? Why has the MSM instead created a Russian Boogeyman? Why was he invited to testify about the Russian connection but never cross examined about his own influence? Why is the clearest reason for election meddling by James Comey not even spoken of by the MSM? This is because the MSM does not want to cover events as they happened but wants to recreate a alternate reality suitable to themselves which serves their interests and convinces us that the MSM has no part at all in downplaying the involvement of themselves in the election but wants to create a foreign enemy to blame. ..."
Nov 08, 2017 | consortiumnews.com

Special Report: Many American liberals who once denounced McCarthyism as evil are now learning to love the ugly tactic when it can be used to advance the Russia-gate "scandal" and silence dissent, reports Robert Parry.

The New York Times has finally detected some modern-day McCarthyism, but not in the anti-Russia hysteria that the newspaper has fueled for several years amid the smearing of American skeptics as "useful idiots" and the like. No, the Times editors are accusing a Long Island Republican of McCarthyism for linking his Democratic rival to "New York City special interest groups." As the Times laments, "It's the old guilt by association."

Yet, the Times sees no McCarthyism in the frenzy of Russia-bashing and guilt by association for any American who can be linked even indirectly to any Russian who might have some ill-defined links to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

On Monday, in the same edition that expressed editorial outrage over that Long Island political ad's McCarthyism, the Times ran two front-page articles under the headline: "A Complex Paper Trail: Blurring Kremlin's Ties to Key U.S. Businesses."

The two subheads read: " Shipping Firm Links Commerce Chief to Putin 'Cronies' " and " Millions in Facebook Shares Rooted in Russian Cash ." The latter story, which meshes nicely with the current U.S. political pressure on Facebook and Twitter to get in line behind the New Cold War against Russia, cites investments by Russian Yuri Milner that date back to the start of the decade.

Buried in the story's "jump" is the acknowledgement that Milner's "companies sold those holdings several years ago." But such is the anti-Russia madness gripping the Establishment of Washington and New York that any contact with any Russian constitutes a scandal worthy of front-page coverage. On Monday, The Washington Post published a page-one article entitled, "9 in Trump's orbit had contacts with Russians."

The anti-Russian madness has reached such extremes that even when you say something that's obviously true – but that RT, the Russian television network, also reported – you are attacked for spreading "Russian propaganda."

We saw that when former Democratic National Committee chairwoman Donna Brazile disclosed in her new book that she considered the possibility of replacing Hillary Clinton on the Democratic ticket after Clinton's public fainting spell and worries about her health.

Though there was a video of Clinton's collapse on Sept. 11, 2016, followed by her departure from the campaign trail to fight pneumonia – not to mention her earlier scare with blood clots – the response from a group of 100 Clinton supporters was to question Brazile's patriotism: "It is particularly troubling and puzzling that she would seemingly buy into false Russian-fueled propaganda, spread by both the Russians and our opponents about our candidate's health."

In other words, the go-to excuse for everything these days is to blame the Russians and smear anyone who says anything – no matter how true – if it also was reported on RT.

Pressing the Tech Companies

Just as Sen. Joe McCarthy liked to haul suspected "communists" and "fellow-travelers" before his committee in the 1950s, the New McCarthyism has its own witch-hunt hearings, such as last week's Senate grilling of executives from Facebook, Twitter and Google for supposedly allowing Russians to have input into the Internet's social networks. Executives from Facebook, Twitter and Google hauled before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on crime and terrorism on Oct. 31, 2017. Trying to appease Congress and fend off threats of government regulation, the rich tech companies displayed their eagerness to eradicate any Russian taint.

Twitter's general counsel Sean J. Edgett told the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on crime and terrorism that Twitter adopted an "expansive approach to defining what qualifies as a Russian-linked account."

Edgett said the criteria included "whether the account was created in Russia, whether the user registered the account with a Russian phone carrier or a Russian email address, whether the user's display name contains Cyrillic characters, whether the user frequently Tweets in Russian, and whether the user has logged in from any Russian IP address, even a single time. We considered an account to be Russian-linked if it had even one of the relevant criteria."

The trouble with Twitter's methodology was that none of those criteria would connect an account to the Russian government, let alone Russian intelligence or some Kremlin-controlled "troll farm." But the criteria could capture individual Russians with no link to the Kremlin as well as people who weren't Russian at all, including, say, American or European visitors to Russia who logged onto Twitter through a Moscow hotel.

Also left unsaid is that Russians are not the only national group that uses the Cyrillic alphabet. It is considered a standard script for writing in Belarus, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Serbo-Croatia and Ukraine. So, for instance, a Ukrainian using the Cyrillic alphabet could end up falling into the category of "Russian-linked" even if he or she hated Putin.

Twitter's attorney also said the company conducted a separate analysis from information provided by unidentified "third party sources" who pointed toward accounts supposedly controlled by the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency (IRA), totaling 2,752 accounts. The IRA is typically described in the U.S. press as a "troll farm" which employs tech-savvy employees who combat news and opinions that are hostile to Russia and the Russian government. But exactly how those specific accounts were traced back to this organization was not made clear.

And, to put that number in some perspective, Twitter claims 330 million active monthly users, which makes the 2,752 accounts less than 0.001 percent of the total.

The Trouble with 'Trolling'

While the Russia-gate investigation has sought to portray the IRA effort as exotic and somehow unique to Russia, the strategy is followed by any number of governments, political movements and corporations – sometimes using enthusiastic volunteers but often employing professionals skilled at challenging critical information or at least muddying the waters.

Those of us who operate on the Internet are familiar with harassment from "trolls" who may use access to "comment" sections to inject propaganda and disinformation to sow confusion, to cause disruption, or to discredit the site by promoting ugly opinions and nutty conspiracy theories.

As annoying as this "trolling" is, it's just a modern version of more traditional strategies used by powerful entities for generations – hiring public-relations specialists, lobbyists, lawyers and supposedly impartial "activists" to burnish images, fend off negative news and intimidate nosy investigators. In this competition, modern Russia is both a late-comer and a piker.

The U.S. government fields legions of publicists, propagandists, paid journalists, psy-ops specialists , contractors and non-governmental organizations to promote Washington's positions and undermine rivals through information warfare.

The CIA has an entire bureaucracy dedicated to propaganda and disinformation, with some of those efforts farmed out to newer entities such as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) or paid for by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). NATO has a special command in Latvia that undertakes "strategic communications."

Israel is another skilled player in this field, tapping into its supporters around the world to harass people who criticize the Zionist project. Indeed, since the 1980s, Israel has pioneered many of the tactics of computer spying and sabotage that were adopted and expanded by America's National Security Agency, explaining why the Obama administration teamed up with Israel in a scheme to plant malicious code into Iranian centrifuges to sabotage Iran's nuclear program.

It's also ironic that the U.S. government touted social media as a great benefit in advancing so-called "color revolutions" aimed at "regime change" in troublesome countries. For instance, when the "green revolution" was underway in Iran in 2009 after the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Obama administration asked Twitter to postpone scheduled maintenance so the street protesters could continue using the platform to organize against Ahmadinejad and to distribute their side of the story to the outside world.

During the so-called Arab Spring in 2011, Facebook, Twitter and Skype won praise as a means of organizing mass demonstrations to destabilize governments in Tunisia, Egypt and Syria. Back then, the U.S. government denounced any attempts to throttle these social media platforms and the free flow of information that they permitted as proof of dictatorship.

Social media also was a favorite of the U.S. government in Ukraine in 2013-14 when the Maidan protests exploited these platforms to help destabilize and ultimately overthrow the elected government of Ukraine, the key event that launched the New Cold War with Russia.

Swinging the Social Media Club

The truth is that, in those instances, the U.S. governments and its agencies were eagerly exploiting the platforms to advance Washington's geopolitical agenda by disseminating American propaganda and deploying U.S.-funded non-governmental organizations, which taught activists how to use social media to advance "regime change" scenarios.

A White Helmets volunteer pointing to the aftermath of a military attack.

While these uprisings were sold to Western audiences as genuine outpourings of public anger – and there surely was some of that – the protests also benefited from U.S. funding and expertise. In particular, NED and USAID provided money, equipment and training for anti-government operatives challenging regimes in U.S. disfavor.

One of the most successful of these propaganda operations occurred in Syria where anti-government rebels operating in areas controlled by Al Qaeda and its fellow Islamic militants used social media to get their messaging to Western mainstream journalists who couldn't enter those sectors without fear of beheading.

Since the rebels' goal of overthrowing President Bashar al-Assad meshed with the objectives of the U.S. government and its allies in Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, Western journalists uncritically accepted the words and images provided by Al Qaeda's collaborators.

The success of this propaganda was so extraordinary that the White Helmets, a "civil defense" group that worked in Al Qaeda territory, became the go-to source for dramatic video and even was awarded the short-documentary Oscar for an info-mercial produced for Netflix – despite evidence that the White Helmets were staging some of the scenes for propaganda purposes.

Indeed, one argument for believing that Putin and the Kremlin might have "meddled" in last year's U.S. election is that they could have felt it was time to give the United States a taste of its own medicine.

After all, the United States intervened in the 1996 Russian election to ensure the continued rule of the corrupt and pliable Boris Yeltsin. And there were the U.S.-backed street protests in Moscow against the 2011 and 2012 elections in which Putin strengthened his political mandate. Those protests earned the "color" designation the "snow revolution."

However, whatever Russia may or may not have done before last year's U.S. election, the Russia-gate investigations have always sought to exaggerate the impact of that alleged "meddling" and molded the narrative to whatever weak evidence was available.

The original storyline was that Putin authorized the "hacking" of Democratic emails as part of a "disinformation" operation to undermine Hillary Clinton's candidacy and to help elect Donald Trump – although no hard evidence has been presented to establish that Putin gave such an order or that Russia "hacked" the emails. WikiLeaks has repeatedly denied getting the emails from Russia, which also denies any meddling.

Further, the emails were not "disinformation"; they were both real and, in many cases, newsworthy. The DNC emails provided evidence that the DNC unethically tilted the playing field in favor of Clinton and against Sen. Bernie Sanders, a point that Brazile also discovered in reviewing staffing and financing relationships that Clinton had with the DNC under the prior chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

The purloined emails of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta revealed the contents of Clinton's paid speeches to Wall Street (information that she was trying to hide from voters) and pay-to-play features of the Clinton Foundation.

A Manchurian Candidate?

Still, the original narrative was that Putin wanted his Manchurian Candidate (Trump) in the White House and took the extraordinary risk of infuriating the odds-on favorite (Clinton) by releasing the emails even though they appeared unlikely to prevent Clinton's victory. So, there was always that logical gap in the Russia-gate theory.

Since then, however, the U.S. mainstream narrative has shifted, in part, because the evidence of Russian election "meddling" was so shaky. Under intense congressional pressure to find something, Facebook reported $100,000 in allegedly "Russian-linked" ads purchased in 2015-17, but noted that only 44 percent were bought before the election. So, not only was the "Russian-linked" pebble tiny – compared to Facebook's annual revenue of $27 billion – but more than half of the pebble was tossed into this very large lake after Clinton had already lost.

So, the storyline was transformed into some vague Russian scheme to exacerbate social tensions in the United States by taking different sides of hot-button issues, such as police brutality against blacks. The New York Times reported that one of these "Russian-linked" pages featured photos of cute puppies , which the Times speculated must have had some evil purpose although it was hard to fathom. (Oh, those devious Russians!).

The estimate of how many Americans may have seen one of these "Russian-linked" ads also keeps growing, now up to as many as 126 million or about one-third of the U.S. population. Of course, the way the Internet works – with any item possibly going viral – you might as well say the ads could have reached billions of people.

Whenever I write an article or send out a Tweet, I too could be reaching 126 million or even billions of people, but the reality is that I'd be lucky if the number were in the thousands. But amid the Russia-gate frenzy, no exaggeration is too outlandish or too extreme.

Another odd element of Russia-gate is that the intensity of this investigation is disproportionate to the lack of interest shown toward far better documented cases of actual foreign-government interference in American elections and policymaking.

For instance, the major U.S. media long ignored the extremely well-documented case of Richard Nixon colluding with South Vietnamese officials to sabotage President Lyndon Johnson's Vietnam War peace talks to gain an advantage for Nixon in the 1968 election. That important chapter of history only gained The New York Times' seal of approval earlier this year after the Times had dismissed the earlier volumes of evidence as "rumors."

In the 1980 election, Ronald Reagan's team – especially his campaign director William Casey in collaboration with Israel and Iran – appeared to have gone behind President Jimmy Carter's back to undercut Carter's negotiations to free 52 American hostages then held in Iran and essentially doom Carter's reelection hopes.

There were a couple of dozen witnesses to that scheme who spoke with me and other investigative journalists – as well as documentary evidence showing that President Reagan did authorize secret arms shipments to Iran via Israel shortly after the hostages were freed during Reagan's inauguration on Jan. 20, 1981.

However, since Vice President (later President) George H.W. Bush, who was implicated in the scheme, was well-liked on both sides of the aisle and because Reagan had become a Republican icon, the October Surprise case of 1980 was pooh-poohed by the major media and dismissed by a congressional investigation in the early 1990s. Despite the extraordinary number of witnesses and supporting documents, Wikipedia listed the scandal as a "conspiracy theory."

Israeli Influence

And, if you're really concerned about foreign interference in U.S. elections and policies, there's the remarkable influence of Israel and its perceived ability to effect the defeat of almost any politician who deviates from what the Israeli government wants, going back at least to the 1980s when Sen. Chuck Percy and Rep. Paul Findley were among the political casualties after pursuing contacts with the Palestinians.

If anyone doubts how Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has continued to pull the strings of U.S. politicians, just watch one of his record-tying three addresses to joint sessions of Congress and count how often Republicans and Democrats jump to their feet in enthusiastic applause. (The only other foreign leader to get the joint-session honor three times was Great Britain's Prime Minister Winston Churchill.)

So, what makes Russia-gate different from the other cases? Did Putin conspire with Trump to extend a bloody war as Nixon did with the South Vietnamese leaders? Did Putin lengthen the captivity of U.S. hostages to give Trump a political edge? Did Putin manipulate U.S. policy in the Middle East to entice President George W. Bush to invade Iraq and set the region ablaze, as Israel's Netanyahu did? Is Putin even now pushing for wider Mideast wars, as Netanyahu is?

Indeed, one point that's never addressed in any serious way is why is the U.S. so angry with Russia while these other cases, in which U.S. interests were clearly damaged and American democracy compromised, were treated largely as non-stories.

Why is Russia-gate a big deal while the other cases weren't? Why are opposite rules in play now – with Democrats, many Republicans and the major news media flogging fragile "links," needling what little evidence there is, and assuming the worst rather than insisting that only perfect evidence and perfect witnesses be accepted as in the earlier cases?

The answer seems to be the widespread hatred for President Trump combined with vested interests in favor of whipping up the New Cold War. That is a goal valued by both the Military-Industrial Complex, which sees trillions of dollars in strategic weapons systems in the future, and the neoconservatives, who view Russia as a threat to their "regime change" agendas for Syria and Iran.

After all, if Russia and its independent-minded President Putin can be beaten back and beaten down, then a big obstacle to the neocon/Israeli goal of expanding the Mideast wars will be removed.

Right now, the neocons are openly lusting for a "regime change" in Moscow despite the obvious risks that such turmoil in a nuclear-armed country might create, including the possibility that Putin would be succeeded not by some compliant Western client like the late Boris Yeltsin but by an extreme nationalist who might consider launching a nuclear strike to protect the honor of Mother Russia.

The Democrats, the liberals and even many progressives justify their collusion with the neocons by the need to remove Trump by any means necessary and "stop fascism." But their contempt for Trump and their exaggeration of the "Hitler" threat that this incompetent buffoon supposedly poses have blinded them to the extraordinary risks attendant to their course of action and how they are playing into the hands of the war-hungry neocons.

A Smokescreen for Repression

There also seems to be little or no concern that the Establishment is using Russia-gate as a smokescreen for clamping down on independent media sites on the Internet. Traditional supporters of civil liberties have looked the other way as the rights of people associated with the Trump campaign have been trampled and journalists who simply question the State Department's narratives on, say, Syria and Ukraine are denounced as "Moscow stooges" and "useful idiots."

The likely outcome from the anti-Russian show trials on Capitol Hill is that technology giants will bow to the bipartisan demand for new algorithms and other methods for stigmatizing, marginalizing and eliminating information that challenges the mainstream storylines in the cause of fighting "Russian propaganda."

The warning from powerful senators was crystal clear. "I don't think you get it," Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, warned social media executives last week. "You bear this responsibility. You created these platforms, and now they are being misused. And you have to be the ones who do something about it. Or we will."

As this authoritarian if not totalitarian future looms and as the dangers of nuclear annihilation from an intentional or unintentional nuclear war with Russia grow, many people who should know better are caught up in the Russia-gate frenzy.

I used to think that liberals and progressives opposed McCarthyism because they regarded it as a grave threat to freedom of thought and to genuine democracy, but now it appears that they have learned to love McCarthyism except, of course, when it rears its ugly head in some Long Island political ad criticizing New York City.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America's Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com ).

Joe Tedesky , November 6, 2017 at 3:12 pm

I watched the C-Span 'Russian/2016 Election Investigation Hearings' in horror, as each congressperson grilled the Hi-Tech executives in a way to suggest that our First Amendment Rights are now on life support, and our Congress is ready to pull the plug at any moment. I thought, of how this wasn't the America I was brought up to believe in. So as I have reached the age in life where nothing should surprise me, I realize now how fragile our Rights are, in this warring nation that calls itself America.

When it comes to Israel I have two names, Jonathan Pollard & the USS Liberty, and with that, that is enough said.

Danny Weil , November 6, 2017 at 6:33 pm

This week's congressional hearings on "extremist content" on the Internet mark a new stage in the McCarthyite witch hunt by congressional Democrats, working with the intelligence agencies and leading media outlets, to legitimize censorship and attack free speech on the Internet.

One after another, congressmen and senators goaded representatives of Google, Twitter and Facebook to admit that their platforms were used to sow "social divisions" and "extremist" political opinions. The aim of this campaign is to claim that social conflict within the United States arises not from the scale of social inequality in America, greater than in any other country in the developed world, but rather from the actions of "outside agitators" working in the service of the Kremlin.

The hearings revolved around claims that Russia sought to "weaponize" the Internet by harnessing social anger within the United States. "Russia," said Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, promoted "discord in the US by inflaming passions on a range of divisive issues." It sought to "mobilize real Americans to sign online petitions and join rallies and protests."

The McCarthyite witch hunts of the 1950s sought to suppress left-wing thought and label all forms of dissent as illegitimate and treasonous. Those who led them worked to purge left-wing opinion from Hollywood, the trade unions and the universities.

Likewise, the new McCarthyism is aimed at creating a political climate in which left-wing organizations and figures are demonized as agents of the Kremlin who are essentially engaged in treasonous activity deserving of criminal prosecution.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/11/03/pers-n03.html

Joe Tedesky , November 7, 2017 at 12:32 am

Thanks for the informative link Danny.

Watching this Orwellian tragedy play out in our American society, where our Congress is insisting that disclaimers and restrictions be placed upon suspicious adbuys and editorial essays, is counterintuitive to what we Americans were brought up to belief. Why, all my life teachers, and adults, would warn us students of reading the news to not to believe everything we read as pure fact, but to research a subject before coming to a conclusion toward your accepting an opinion to wit. And with these warnings of avoiding us being suckered into a wrong belief, we were told that this was the price we were required to pay for having a free press society. This freedom of speech was, and has always been the bedrock of our hopes and wishes for our belief in the American Dream.

Danny there was a time not to long ago, I would have said of how we are 'moving towards' to us becoming a police state, well instead replace that prediction of 'moving towards' to the stark reality to be described as 'that now we are', and there you will have it that we have finally arrived to becoming a full blown 'police state'. Little by little, and especially since 911 one by one our civil liberties were taken away. Here again our freedom of speech is being destroyed, and with this America is now where Germany had been in the mid-thirties. America's own guilty conscience is rapidly doing some physiological projections onto their imaginary villain Russia.

All I keep hearing is my dear sweet mother lecturing me on how one lie always leads to another lie until the truth will finally jump up and bite you in the ass, and think to myself of how wise my mother had been with her young girl Southside philosophy. May you Rest In Peace Mum.

Martin , November 7, 2017 at 3:21 pm

Yankees chicks are coming home to roost. So many peoples rights and lives had to be extinguished for Americans to have the illusion of pursuing their happiness, well, what goes around comes around.

Gregory Herr , November 7, 2017 at 8:39 pm

Gee wiz Adam Schiff you make it sound as if signing petitions and rallying to causes and civil protests are unamerican or something. And Russians on the internet are harnessing social anger! Pathetic. These jerks who would have us believe they are interested in "saving" democracy or stopping fascism have sure got it backward.

Geoffrey de Galles</