Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Death by Car-Hacking?

An interesting article and video at Forbes reveals nasty new car attacks by hacking their computers . Some excerpts:

Stomping on the brakes of a 3,500-pound Ford Escape that refuses to stop–or even slow down–produces a unique feeling of anxiety. In this case it also produces a deep groaning sound, like an angry water buffalo bellowing somewhere under the SUV’s chassis. The more I pound the pedal, the louder the groan gets–along with the delighted cackling of the two hackers sitting behind me in the backseat.
Luckily, all of this is happening at less than 5mph. So the Escape merely plows into a stand of 6-foot-high weeds growing in the abandoned parking lot of a South Bend, Ind. strip mall that Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek have chosen as the testing grounds for the day’s experiments, a few of which are shown in the video below. (When Miller discovered the brake-disabling trick, he wasn’t so lucky: The soccer-mom mobile barreled through his garage, crushing his lawn mower and inflicting $150 worth of damage to the rear wall.)
But Miller and Valasek’s work assumed physical access to the cars’ computers for a reason: Gaining wireless access to a car’s network is old news. A team of researchers at the University of Washington and the University of California, San Diego, experimenting on a sedan from an unnamed company in 2010, found that they could wirelessly penetrate the same critical systems Miller and Valasek targeted using the car’s OnStar-like cellular connection, Bluetooth bugs, a rogue Android app that synched with the car’s network from the driver’s smartphone or even a malicious audio file on a CD in the car’s stereo system. “Academics have shown you can get remote code execution,” says Valasek, using hacker jargon for the ability to start running commands on a system. “We showed you can do a lot of crazy things once you’re inside.”
In the meantime, Miller and Valasek argue that the best way to pressure car companies to secure their products is to show exactly what can be done with a multi-ton missile on wheels. Better to experience the panic of a digitally hijacked SUV now than when a more malicious attacker is in control. “If the only thing keeping you from crashing your car is that no one is talking about this,” says Miller, “then you’re not safe anyway.”

A recent car-crash-death that might have been by car-hacking: Michael Hastings, the reporter who brought down General McChrystal.

And of course, we should wonder about the car-crash-death of controlled demolition expert Danny Jowenko.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

"Fate of the Internet is the Story, not Snowden."

John Naughton has a thoughtful piece in The Guardian:  Edward Snowden's not the story. The Fate of the internet is. Some excerpts: 

Without him [Snowden], we would not know how the National Security Agency (NSA) had been able to access the emails, Facebook accounts and videos of citizens across the world; or how it had secretly acquired the phone records of millions of Americans; or how, through a secret court, it has been able to bend nine US internet companies to its demands for access to their users' data.
Similarly, without Snowden, we would not be debating whether the US government should have turned surveillance into a huge, privatised business, offering data-mining contracts to private contractors such asBooz Allen Hamilton and, in the process, high-level security clearance to thousands of people who shouldn't have it. Nor would there be – finally – a serious debate between Europe (excluding the UK, which in these matters is just an overseas franchise of the US) and the United States about where the proper balance between freedom and security lies....
As an antidote, here are some of the things we should be thinking about as a result of what we have learned so far.
The first is that the days of the internet as a truly global network are numbered. It was always a possibility that the system would eventually be Balkanised, ie divided into a number of geographical or jurisdiction-determined subnets as societies such as China, Russia, Iran and other Islamic states decided that they needed to control how their citizens communicated. Now, Balkanisation is a certainty.
Second, the issue of internet governance is about to become verycontentious. Given what we now know about how the US and its satraps have been abusing their privileged position in the global infrastructure, the idea that the western powers can be allowed to continue to control it has become untenable.
Third, as Evgeny Morozov has pointed out, the Obama administration's "internet freedom agenda" has been exposed as patronising cant. "Today," he writes, "the rhetoric of the 'internet freedom agenda' looks as trustworthy as George Bush's 'freedom agenda' after Abu Ghraib."...
They tell us, for example, that no US-based internet company can be trusted to protect our privacy or data. The fact is that Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft are all integral components of the US cyber-surveillance system. Nothing, but nothing, that is stored in their "cloud" services can be guaranteed to be safe from surveillance or from illicit downloading by employees of the consultancies employed by the NSA. That means that if you're thinking of outsourcing your troublesome IT operations to, say, Google or Microsoft, then think again.
And if you think that that sounds like the paranoid fantasising of a newspaper columnist, then consider what Neelie Kroes, vice-president of the European Commission, had to say on the matter recently. "If businesses or governments think they might be spied on," she said, "they will have less reason to trust the cloud, and it will be cloud providers who ultimately miss out. Why would you pay someone else to hold your commercial or other secrets, if you suspect or know they are being shared against your wishes? Front or back door – it doesn't matterany smart person doesn't want the information shared at all. Customers will act rationally and providers will miss out on a great opportunity."

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Would Marshall McLuhan have been a 9/11 Truther?

This quote makes me think he might have been:

  • "Only puny secrets need protection. Big discoveries are protected by public incredulity."

Friday, July 26, 2013

Do Split-Brains Demonstrate that We Are Made in the Image of the Trinity?

I've been looking over a couple of posts by VJ Torley, here and here, about what happens to people who have had surgery to permanently divide their left brain from their right brain.  Apparently they often experience something like split personalities, where each side of their brain tries to control their actions, or where they even have contradictory beliefs.  From what I understand the left brain is the linguistic, analytic part of us, and controls the right side of our bodies.  The right brain is the intuitive, emotional side of us, and controls our left side.

What I find interesting is the similarity in characteristics and function to two of the personalities of the Trinity.  God the Son is also know as the Word of God, and would be comparable to the linguistic, analytic side of God.  God the Spirit, or the Holy Spirit, would be comparable to the intuitive or emotional side of God. The Spirit is also the part of God that is associated with God's activity.

In the first chapter of Genesis, the Spirit of God hovers over the waters, waiting for God to speak.  Once God's Word is given, the Spirit acts on it and creates.  So there is order in the Persons of the Trinity:  God the Father speaks the Word of God and the Spirit of God acts.  Both the Word and the Spirit are in submission to the Father.

I imagine something like that is supposed to happen with us.  I don't know what part of us, if any,  is comparable to the Father.  But we are to be in submission to God the Father also, both our left and right brains, both our analytic and emotional sides.  And there should be the same order that we see in the Trinity.

But what's even more interesting is that all this time everyone has been complaining that we do not understand the Trinity - how three persons can be one thing.  Yet all this time we have been two persons in one thing.  

Thursday, July 25, 2013

New Political Alliances Against NSA Spying on Americans.

Glenn Greenwald reviews an amendment to de-fund NSA mass collection of phone records that was narrowly defeated yesterday in the House, 205-217. A couple of excerpts:

Using Orwellian language so extreme as to be darkly hilarious, this was the first line of the White House's statement opposing the amendment: "In light of the recent unauthorized disclosures, the President has said that he welcomes a debate about how best to simultaneously safeguard both our national security and the privacy of our citizens" (i.e.: we welcome the debate that has been exclusively enabled by that vile traitor, the same debate we've spent years trying to prevent with rampant abuse of our secrecy powers that has kept even the most basic facts about our spying activities concealed from the American people).
The White House then condemned Amash/Conyers this way: "This blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open, or deliberative process." What a multi-level masterpiece of Orwellian political deceit that sentence is. The highly surgical Amash/Conyers amendment - which would eliminate a single, specific NSA program of indiscriminate domestic spying - is a "blunt approach", but the Obama NSA's bulk, indiscriminate collection of all Americans' telephone records is not a "blunt approach". Even worse: Amash/Conyers - a House bill debated in public and then voted on in public - is not an "open or deliberative process", as opposed to the Obama administration's secret spying activities and the secret court that blesses its secret interpretations of law, which is "open and deliberative". That anyone can write a statement like the one that came from the Obama White House without dying of shame, or giggles, is impressive....

That's why the only defenders of the NSA at this point are the decaying establishment leadership of both political parties whose allegiance is to the sprawling permanent power faction in Washington and the private industry that owns and controls it. They're aligned against long-time liberals, the new breed of small government conservatives, the ACLU and other civil liberties groups, many of their own members, and increasingly the American people, who have grown tired of, and immune to, the relentless fear-mongering.
The sooner the myth of "intractable partisan warfare" is dispelled, the better. The establishment leadership of the two parties collaborate on far more than they fight. That is a basic truth that needs to be understood. As John Boehner joined with Nancy Peolsi, as Eric Cantor whipped support for the Obama White House, as Michele Bachmann and Peter King stood with Steny Hoyer to attack NSA critics as Terrorist-Lovers, yesterday was a significant step toward accomplishing that.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Drone Hunting: The Next Big Thing?

The town of Deer Trail, Colorado may be selling drone-hunting licenses, both as a symbolic protest against our surveillance state and as a fundraiser. If they make enough money, I could see other towns adopting the ordinance...then states...then regions...then?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Prothero and Luskin both Recommend Valentine and Erwin's Erwin and Valentine's The Cambrian Explosion.

Paleontologist Donald Prothero, in a scathing review of Stephen Meyer's Darwin's Doubt, recommends that

For a good account by real paleontologists who know what they're doing, see the excellent recent book by Valentine and Erwin, 2013, which gives an accurate view of the "Cambrian diversification."

Ironically, the Discovery Institute's Casey Luskin also recommends reading Erwin and Valentine's book, quoting from it extensively to show that it supports Stephen Meyer's contentions.

Now if both the critic and the supporter of Meyer's book recommend reading Erwin and Valentine, then perhaps we should read Erwin and Valentine first.  I'm half-way through Meyer's book, so I think I'll go ahead and finish it.  But for the lucky reader who hasn't started Meyer's, yet, Erwin and Valentine's is only $55.99.

Or you can wait for the movie.

 HT: Larry Moran for pointing out Prothero review.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Second Anniversary of Danny Jowenko's Death

I thought it was today, but apparently it was July 16th. This article in explains the significance of controlled demolition expert, Danny Jowenko, to the 9/11 Truth Movement.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Jimmy Carter: "America Does Not Have a Functioning Democracy."

The former President of the United States also supports Edward Snowden:

Former President Jimmy Carter announced support for NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden this week, saying that his uncovering of the agency’s massive surveillance programs had proven “beneficial.”
Speaking at a closed-door event in Atlanta covered by German newspaper Der Spiegel, Carter also criticized the NSA’s domestic spying as damaging to the core of the nation’s principles.“America does not have a functioning democracy at this point in time,” Carter said, according to a translation by Inquisitr.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Has Senator Feinstein been Blackmailed?

Interesting interview of whistleblower Russ Tice, who claims that the NSA wiretapped Senator Diane Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee (which oversees the NSA). So what does it mean if the NSA is overseeing their overseers?

Feinstein to NSA chief, General Keith Alexander:  " I'd like more information on what kind of spying on Americans you're doing, and why you think it's important. "

Alexander to Feinstein:  "We just happen to have some very interesting phone conversations of yours as a sample of what kind of spying we do, and we think you'll understand why we think it is so important."

Feinstein (after briefly listening to the tapes):  "Oh, I see.  Well yes, I guess that is important.  What can I do to help your organization out?"

Alexander:  "Just tell everyone that what we are doing is necessary for national security and that Edward Snowden is a traitor."

Feinstein:  "Yes sir."

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Hypocrisy of Democrats about Snowden, Greenwald and the NSA

Glenn Greenwald says something very interesting in an interview with Harper's Magazine:

Have you felt as though the criticisms lobbed at Snowden have been extended to you? Obviously from people like Peter King, but elsewhere, too?
Sure, there are people on the right who have done that, like Marc Thiessen, who wrote a column in the Washington Post saying that I had committed multiple felonies, kind of echoing Peter King. But interestingly the most vicious and vehement attacks on my reporting have come from Democrats. Democrats and progressives are the ones who were my loudest cheerleaders when I was writing this stuff about the Bush Administration, and they’ve become the primary source of hostility and contempt now that I’m writing the same exact stuff about Obama.
Is it disheartening to see such a 180-degree turn from former supporters?
I remember I would go around in 2007 and 2008 giving speeches about the Bush Administration, and people would sometimes say to me, “Don’t you realize that once Democrats get into office they’re going to do these same things, and all your allies who are now cheering for you are going to support those policies?” And I would say, “I don’t believe that’s true” — like their dignity would not allow them to spend eight years shrieking about the horrors of these policies, only to turn around and support them because a Democrat was doing it. I turned out to be totally wrong.  

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Snowden's Disclosures Inspire More Lawsuits Against NSA and Former Senator Praises Him

Fire Dog Lake reports on more organizations bringing lawsuits against the NSA, because of Edward Snowden's whistleblowing. And former GOP senator Gordon Humphrey praises Snowden's efforts.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Greenwald: The Crux of the NSA Story: "Collect it All."

Glenn Greenwald offers his comments on a Washington Post profile of NSA director, General Keith Alexander.  Originally I was just going to quote a couple of excerpts from Greenwald, but he's too good to pick out just a paragraph or two.  So here's about two-thirds of it:

Aside from how obviously menacing and even creepy it is to have a state collect all forms of human communication - to have the explicit policy that literally no electronic communication can ever be free of US collection and monitoring - there's no legal authority for the NSA to do this. Therefore:
[E]ven his defenders say Alexander's aggressiveness has sometimes taken him to the outer edge of his legal authority."

"The outer edge of his legal authority": that's official-Washington-speak for "breaking the law", at least when it comes to talking about powerful DC officials (in Washington, only the powerless are said to have broken the law, which is why so many media figures so freely call Edward Snowden a criminal for having told his fellow citizens about all this, but would never dare use the same language for James Clapper for having lied to Congress about all of this, which is a felony). That the NSA's "collect it all" approach to surveillance has no legal authority is clear:
"One Democrat who confronted Alexander at a congressional hearing last month accused the NSA of crossing a line by collecting the cellphone records of millions of Americans.
'What authorization gave you the grounds for acquiring my cellphone data?' demanded Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), waving his mobile phone at the four-star general."
 I know this is not as exciting to some media figures as Snowden's asylum drama or his speculated personality traits. But that the NSA is collecting all forms of electronic communications between Americans as well as people around the world - and, as I've said many times, thereby attempting by definition to destroy any remnants of privacy both in the US and globally - is as serious of a story as it gets, particularly given that it's all being done in secret. Here's another former NSA whistleblower, from the Post article, explaining why that is:
"'He is absolutely obsessed and completely driven to take it all, whenever possible," said Thomas Drake, a former NSA official and whistleblower. The continuation of Alexander's policies, Drake said, would result in the 'complete evisceration of our civil liberties.'"
Numerous NSA documents we've already published demonstrate that the NSA's goal is to collect, monitor and store every telephone and internet communication that takes place inside the US and on the earth. It already collects billions of calls and emails every single day. Still another former NSA whistleblower, the mathematician William Binney, has said that the NSA has "assembled on the order of 20 trillion transactions about US citizens with other US citizens" and that "estimate only was involving phone calls and emails."
That is the definition of a ubiquitous surveillance state - and it's been built in the dark, without the knowledge of the American people or people around the world, even though it's aimed at them. How anyone could think this should have all remained concealed - that it would have been better had it just been left to fester and grow in the dark - is truly mystifying.
Perhaps the coining of a punchy phrase by the Washington Post to describe all of this - "collect it all" - will help those DC media figures who keep lamenting their own refusal to cover the substance of the NSA stories begin to figure out why they should cover the substance and how they can. The rest of the world is having no trouble focusing on the substance of these revelations - rather than the trivial dramas surrounding the person who enabled us to know of all this - and discussing why those revelations are so disturbing. Perhaps US media figures can now follow that example.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

High School Physics Teacher Makes NIST Look Silly

He's only a high school physics teacher, but if you watch the youtube video, David Chandler made NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) look silly, first saying that free fall couldn't have happened in the collapse of WTC7, then revising their report and admitting that free fall did occur. Of course, they didn't revise their computer model, which doesn't show free fall, nor explain how it could have happened. So when people say that you must have engineering background before you can doubt the official account of the WTC collapses, perhaps you could suggest that they take a high school physics class.

 See also:

NIST Finally Admits Freefall, Part II


NIST Finall Admits Freefall, Part III

Friday, July 12, 2013

Nick Matzke on 9/11 Truthers: Do They Need to Be Experts?

Nick Matke has recently trashed reviewed Stephen Meyer's new book, Darwin's Doubt, and in this post is responding to Casey Luskin's attempt to defend the book. I'm still working my way through the book (one of the very slow readers), and really have nothing to add to the debate at this time. David Berlinski has decided to join the fray. I'll be curious to see if Nick responds. But what did grab my attention was one of Nick's final comments in his response to Luskin:

" This kind of thinking [Luskin's] is no better than 9-11 truther conspiracy thinking, sans knowledge of building engineering and similar necessary background."

The implication is that if one isn't an architect or engineer, then one has no business being a 9/11 Truther.  But as I commented in Nick's post:

Hi Nick,
If by “9/11 Truther” you mean someone who thinks there should be a new, independent investigation of 9/11, then one can be a competent Truther without sufficient knowledge of engineering. One only needs to know that an incomplete investigation was carried out the first time, such as not replicating the molten yellow metal pouring from the South Tower; not replicating the eutectically melted steel found by FEMA; not testing the dust for explosive residues; not explaining how WTC7 fell a [sic]  free fall acceleration for almost two and a half seconds; and not releasing the computer data for NIST’s computer animation of WTC7’s collapse.

In other words, all one needs to know is that the official investigations never did the science that a proper investigation would have required.  Further, one need not base one's suspicions of the offical version of 9/11 on any technical evidence. Jon Gold, for example, offers fifty reasons for a new investigation, none of which deals with technical evidence.

Sometimes I wonder if people such as Nick Matzke hide behind accusations of 9/11 Truthers not having the expertise necessary to support their suspicions, because they do not want to deal with the possibility that the truth of 9/11 is far more sinister than they thought.  For if 9/11 was an "inside job," then nearly all of our government's foreign policies since then, and many of its domestic policies (including spying on its citizens), have been based on a lie.   And that is a truth that would be very difficult to live with.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

What Makes Edward Snowden Different from all other NSA Whistleblowers?

Thom Hartmann reports what others also have reported: Edward Snowden's release of classified documents indicating that the NSA has been spying on Americans has removed a number of hurdles to several pending lawsuits against the NSA. There have been other NSA whistleblowers in the past: William Binney, Thomas Drake, Russ Tice, and others. But none of them went so far as to make public actual classified documents supporting their accusations that the NSA has been spying on us. By refraining to do so, they stayed within the boundaries of the law, and though the U.S. government tried to bring legal action against them, and made their lives very difficult, in the end they were not able to successfully prosecute them. Snowden has crossed the Rubicon, so to speak. He has released classified documentation to the press. Officially, this makes him a lawbreaker and subject to prosecution. Yet without his actions, it's very unlikely that any legal action against our government spying on us could be upheld in court. That may change now. And for that, Snowden deserves our gratitude and moral support.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Sunset Limited

I recently watched the very good film, The Sunset Limited, that I recommend to just about anyone who isn't contemplating suicide. It stars Tommie Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson. Jackson has just rescued Jones from an attempted suicide and now the two of them are back in Jackson's apartment, where a discussion of the meaning of life takes place. I'm not completely happy with the way it ends, but it's still worth watching. It's written by Cormac McCarthy, whom I am told also wrote "No Country for Old Men," and "The Road." I saw a movie starring Jones and Jackson back in the late 90s. They play off each other very well and make this film a must see (unless you're thinking of stepping in front of a train).  I think you can find a decent version of it on youtube somewhere.

UPDATE:  Maybe I should add a teaser:  Jackson plays a convicted murderer who had a jailhouse conversion to Christianity, and Jones plays an atheist. 

UPDATE #2:  From a friend:  "AFyi, I was searching and discovered that the link you sent is of lesser quality that a broken up posting by "Bagelboy615." When you type in "Sunset Limited Part 1,"  part 2, etc., it comes up."  

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Daniel Ellsberg: Snowden Right to Leave the U.S.

From The Huffington Post:

"Daniel Ellsberg, the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers, said on Monday that he supports Edward Snowden's decision to flee the United States."  [His statement]:

I hope Snowden's revelations will spark a movement to rescue our democracy, but he could not be part of that movement had he stayed here. There is zero chance that he would be allowed out on bail if he returned now and close to no chance that, had he not left the country, he would have been granted bail. Instead, he would be in a prison cell like Bradley Manning, incommunicado.
He would almost certainly be confined in total isolation, even longer than the more than eight months Manning suffered during his three years of imprisonment before his trial began recently. The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Torture described Manning's conditions as "cruel, inhuman and degrading." (That realistic prospect, by itself, is grounds for most countries granting Snowden asylum, if they could withstand bullying and bribery from the United States.)
But Snowden's contribution to the noble cause of restoring the First, Fourth and Fifth amendments to the Constitution is in his documents. It depends in no way on his reputation or estimates of his character or motives -- still less, on his presence in a courtroom arguing the current charges, or his living the rest of his life in prison. Nothing worthwhile would be served, in my opinion, by Snowden voluntarily surrendering to U.S. authorities given the current state of the law.

Monday, July 8, 2013

New Peer Reviewed Paper on the WTC Collapses

HT: Adam Taylor

A 9/11 Truther paper, of course:  Some Misunderstandings Related to WTC Collapse Analysis.

 The abstract:

  This article elaborates on variables associated with the collapse of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. The previously published quantifications of inertia, column capacity, and the assumptions related to the beginning of downward motion, are examined and corrected. The reasons for false conclusions reached in several previous analyses are presented.

Congratulations to Gregory Szuladziński, Anthony Szamboti, and Richard Johns. UPDATE: Other peer reviewed 9/11 Truther papers.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

"No, the Obama administration is afraid of you."

Glenn Greenwald has confirmed that a Wikileaks release was actually written by Edward Snowden. I've copied it from the Huffington Post and pasted it here:

"One week ago I left Hong Kong after it became clear that my freedom and safety were under threat for revealing the truth. My continued liberty has been owed to the efforts of friends new and old, family, and others who I have never met and probably never will. I trusted them with my life and they returned that trust with a faith in me for which I will always be thankful.
On Thursday, President Obama declared before the world that he would not permit any diplomatic "wheeling and dealing" over my case. Yet now it is being reported that after promising not to do so, the President ordered his Vice President to pressure the leaders of nations from which I have requested protection to deny my asylum petitions.
This kind of deception from a world leader is not justice, and neither is the extralegal penalty of exile. These are the old, bad tools of political aggression. Their purpose is to frighten, not me, but those who would come after me.
For decades the United States of America have been one of the strongest defenders of the human right to seek asylum. Sadly, this right, laid out and voted for by the U.S. in Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is now being rejected by the current government of my country. The Obama administration has now adopted the strategy of using citizenship as a weapon. Although I am convicted of nothing, it has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person. Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right. A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum.
In the end the Obama administration is not afraid of whistleblowers like me, Bradley Manning or Thomas Drake. We are stateless, imprisoned, or powerless. No, the Obama administration is afraid of you. It is afraid of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised — and it should be.
I am unbowed in my convictions and impressed at the efforts taken by so many."
Edward Joseph Snowden
Monday 1st July 2013
But are we "an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised"?


"I'm not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker."

Thus spoke President Obama about attempts to capture Edward Snowden during a visit to Senegal. Instead, the President twisted the arms of our allies to close their airspace and force the landing of the plane of the president of a sovereign nation, in order to try to capture "a 29-year-old-hacker."

This should make us wonder:  why is this 29-year-old-hacker so important to the President? UPDATE: If,  this article's argument that forcing down the Bolivian president's plane was an act of piracy is correct, then what does that say about America and its allies?

Friday, July 5, 2013

A Surveillance State Means No More Whistleblowers

A friend sent me this post from Jesselyn Radack's blog. Radack was an attorney with the Department of Justice in 2001, and advised the people holding the "American Taliban," Jeffrey Walker Lindh not to interview him without his lawyer being present. They ignored her advice, interrogated him (probably using waterboarding), and then called her back and said, "Oops. We interviewed him. Now what?" She then told them they could use the information for military purposes, but not for evidence in a trial. Again, they ignored her advice and used it in the trial. She found out that her email advice to the prosecution was "lost." She recovered it from her computer, gave a copy to her supervisor and resigned. When she found out that the illegally obtained evidence was being used against Lindh at his trial, she leaked the emails to Newsweek reporter Michael Isikoff. The leaks saved Lindh from getting the death sentence.  Somehow the FBI was able to obtain Isikoff's phone records and tracked down the leaks to Radack.  Consequently, her life was made a hell by the government for the next decade

In her post, Radack points out one of the true dangers of a surveillance state:  If whistleblowers know that every attempt at communication with the press will be observed by the government, then there will be no more whistleblowers.  In a democracy, we depend upon the honesty of our government.  Whistleblowers are one of the major means of insuring this honesty.  Without them, what goes on in government will remain a complete black box.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Denouncing Snowden Distracts, by Design, from Dastardly Deeds of Others

Guardian jounalist Glenn Greenwald grows grim:

"The first NSA story to be reported was our June 6 article which exposed the bulk, indiscriminate collection by the US Government of the telephone records of tens of millions of Americans. Ever since then, it has been undeniably clear that James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence,outright lied to the US Senate - specifically to the Intelligence Committee, the body charged with oversight over surveillance programs - when he said "no, sir" in response to this question from Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden: "Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?" 

That Clapper fundamentally misled Congress is beyond dispute. The DNI himself has now been forced by our stories to admit that his statement was, in his words, "clearly erroneous" and to apologize. But he did this only once our front-page revelations forced him to do so: in other words, what he's sorry about is that he got caught lying to the Senate. And as Salon's David Sirota adeptly documented on Friday, Clapper is still spouting falsehoods as he apologizes and attempts to explain why he did it.
How is this not a huge scandal? Intentionally deceiving Congress is a felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison for each offense. Reagan administration officials were convicted of misleading Congress as part of the Iran-contra scandal and other controversies, and sports stars have been prosecuted by the Obama DOJ based on allegations they have done so.
Beyond its criminality, lying to Congress destroys the pretense of oversight. Obviously, members of Congress cannot exercise any actual oversight over programs which are being concealed by deceitful national security officials....
Defending the Obama administration, Paul Krugman pronounced that "the NSA stuff is a policy dispute, not the kind of scandal the right wing wants." Really? In what conceivable sense is this not a serious scandal? If you, as an American citizen, let alone a journalist, don't find it deeply objectionable when top national security officials systematically mislead your representatives in Congress about how the government is spying on you, and repeatedly lie publicly about resulting political controversies over that spying, what is objectionable? If having the NSA engage in secret, indiscriminate domestic spying that warps if not outright violates legal limits isn't a "scandal", then what is?
For many media and political elites, the answer to that question seems clear: what's truly objectionable to them is when powerless individuals blow the whistle on deceitful national security state officials. Hence the endless fixation on Edward Snowden's tone and choice of asylum providers, the flamboyant denunciations of this "29-year-old hacker" for the crime of exposing what our government leaders are doing in the dark, and all sorts of mockery over the drama that resulted from the due-process-free revocation of his passport. This is what our media stars and progressive columnists, pundits and bloggers are obsessing over in the hope of distracting attention away from the surveillance misconduct of top-level Obama officials and their serial deceit about it.
What kind of journalist - or citizen - would focus more on Edward Snowden's tonal oddities and travel drama than on the fact that top US officials have been deceitfully concealing a massive, worldwide spying apparatus being constructed with virtually no accountability or oversight? Just ponder what it says about someone who cares more about, and is angrier about, Edward Snowden's exposure of these facts than they are about James Clapper's falsehoods and the NSA's excesses."

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Call Congress and President about Binney's Two Degrees of Separation Solution for NSA

Former NSA administrator and whistleblower, William Binney, offered a simple way for the NSA to protect us from terrorists without invading our privacy. He calls it the two degrees of separation solution. The NSA would be allowed to monitor foreign terrorists, their communications with people inside the U.S., and the communications of those people, also. All other data would be thrown away. Thus, if you had no contact with terrorists or people who support them, then your private communications would remain private.

I'm willing to bet that 99% of us want to be protected from foreign terrorists, but also want to maintain as much of our privacy as possible.  Binney's solution seems to be a reasonable compromise.  I suggest that we call, email, or write our Congressional representatives and urge them to support his solution.  We should also urge them to grant immunity to Edward Snowden and all other whistleblowers, since they are our insurance policy against government abuse of our civil rights, including the right to privacy. Mr. Snowden has put his life on the line, hoping that the American public would realize the danger of the Orwellian state we are entering. Urging Congress to do more to protect our privacy and to grant him immunity is the least we can do.

Monday, July 1, 2013

NSA Whistleblower William Binney: Simple Way to Detect Terrorists Without Invading Our Privacy

Democracy Now!'s interview of NSA whistleblower William Binney is worth watching. Among the interesting things he has to say is that there is an easy way to screen for terrorists without invading our privacy:

 "Personally, I’ve had the view for any—for quite a number of decades, that the Congress and the administration have been—have been fed by the intelligence community what I call technobabble. In other words, they’re being bamboozled into thinking a certain way, that they have to do this in order to get terrorists. And that’s simply false. There’s a simple way to do it that would protect people’s privacy and not invade anybody’s telephone records or email. And that’s to say, if you have a terrorist, and he calls somebody in the United States—I call this the two-degree principle—that’s one degree of communication separation. Then you look at that as a target, and you collect that, and then you look also at the person in the United States and who they talk to. That could represent the—that’s a zone of suspicion that would, in effect, be basically a support network for that person inside the country. That defines your terrorist relationship, and that’s how you look at that. And the rest of the communication of the U.S. people don’t mean anything, as relevant, and none of that’s relevant to what’s going on there. And you also have to look at the jihadi-type sites, those that advocate jihad or violence and so on, and you see who is accessing those sites. That’s easy to monitor that, and it doesn’t invade anybody’s privacy that’s been absolutely doing nothing of—that should be in any way considered suspicious."