Archive for Privacy

Jul
06

Feeling Violated?

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They see London.
They see France.
Baby pics you sent your aunt.

The Washington Post reports today,

Ordinary Internet users, American and non-American alike, far outnumber legally targeted foreigners in the communications intercepted by theNational Security Agency from U.S. digital networks, according to a four-month investigation by The Washington Post.

Nine of 10 account holders found in a large cache of intercepted conversations, which former NSA contractor Edward Snowden provided in full to The Post, were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else.

Love letters and baby pictures of innocent bystanders, Edward Snowden told the Post, of no intelligence value today, continue to be stored by the NSA. As late as May, the NSA had denied Snowden had access to FISA content.

Many other files, described as useless by the analysts but nonetheless retained, have a startlingly intimate, even voyeuristic quality. They tell stories of love and heartbreak, illicit sexual liaisons, mental-health crises, political and religious conversions, financial anxieties and disappointed hopes. The daily lives of more than 10,000 account holders who were not targeted are catalogued and recorded nevertheless.

As a piping engineer, work searches including terms such as nipple (threaded pipe nipple), diaphragm (valve type), or just “pipe” can get your account flagged by an overzealous corporate “nanny watch” program scanning for drug- or sex-related searches. Joking about anything terrorist-related in an airport can get you hauled aside and questioned. Heaven help you if you comment on any Middle East-related news in an email to the wrong person.

Ah, freedom.

Categories : International, Privacy
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Nov
22

No ID Required To Buy An Election, Just To Vote In One

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The GOP insists you prove your identity to vote. But if you want to spend millions to sway U.S. elections, they’ll protect your anonymity, even if you are a non-citizen. Harold Meyerson writes:

Voter suppression has become the linchpin of Republican strategy. After Mitt Romney’s defeat in 2012, the GOP was briefly abuzz with talk of expanding the party’s appeal to young and Latino voters. Instead, the party doubled down on its opposition to immigration reform and its support for cultural conservatism — positions tantamount to electoral suicide unless the youth and minority vote can be suppressed.

Meyerson discusses the “interstate shell games” wealthy right-wing donors play to prevent the public from knowing the their identities as the sources of so much negative campaign “speech.”

But you may need a court order to get the documentation they insist you must produce before you can exercise your right to vote. This passes for common sense in some sectors.

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Here’s another rude awakening. (Like you needed one.) Stay tuned for the debunk.

Michele Catalano was looking for information online about pressure cookers. Her husband, in the same time frame, was Googling backpacks. Wednesday morning, six men from a joint terrorism task force showed up at their house to see if they were terrorists. Which prompts the question: How’d the government know what they were Googling?

If the Catalanos had really had something to hide, the authorities might have arrived with a ram and drawn weapons. Butt they didn’t, so it’s all good.

Thursday afternoon, Atlantic was still unsure which “joint terrorism task force” dropped by for a casual search of the Long Island home.

Welcome to the United States of Suspects. Can you smell the freedom? This is your government on secrecy and undisclosed budgets:

One hundred times a week, groups of six armed men drive to houses in three black SUVs, conducting consented-if-casual searches of the property perhaps in part because of things people looked up online.

But the NSA doesn’t collect data on Americans, so this certainly won’t happen to you.

No, no, no. You don’t have all the facts we can’t give you, says the NSA.

Well, you can rest easy. The Suffolk County Police Department insists it wasn’t the NSA sniffing the Catalanos’ home web surfing that prompted the police visit. They claim it was a search performed on a work computer, just citizens informing on citizens:

Suffolk County Criminal Intelligence Detectives received a tip from a Bay Shore based computer company regarding suspicious computer searches conducted by a recently released employee. The former employee’s computer searches took place on this employee’s workplace computer. On that computer, the employee searched the terms “pressure cooker bombs” and “backpacks.”

After interviewing the company representatives, Suffolk County Police Detectives visited the subject’s home to ask about the suspicious internet searches. The incident was investigated by Suffolk County Police Department’s Criminal Intelligence Detectives and was determined to be non-criminal in nature.

What a relief! I mean, there used to be this country named East Germany known for citizens informing on one another. Does anyone else remember that? There was a wall or something. I vaguely remember watching it being torn down on TV in 1989. I was beginning to think some American entrepreneurs bought it and moved it to the U.S. as an attraction. And Stasi with it.

Meanwhile the Edward Snowden saga continues, with allegations that the NSA can review “emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals.”

Now, as I understand it, some people in this country get all hot and bothered about big gummint programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. The idea that We the People are asked to pay out large chunks of money on expensive medical procedures just to keep fellow Americans nearing the end of their tenure on Earth from dying for a few more weeks fails any kind of rational cost-benefit analysis.

But We the People spending we don’t know and it would be unpatriotic and a threat to national security to ask how many hundreds of billions each year on a national security apparatus that employs they can’t tell you how many people to snoop into your Amazon purchases and emails because you might be a terrorist in the name of keeping even one more American from dying in a terrorist incident perpetrated by we don’t know who until one happens and we couldn’t tell you anyway and We the People can’t cost-benefit the program because we don’t know what we get for our money and if you tell anyone how much it costs you’ll be prosecuted, the same people who think big-gummint spending on end-of-life medical care for old people makes no sense think this does.

(Cross-posted from Crooks and Liars.)

Categories : National, Parties, Privacy
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NSFW from Lee Camp:

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Categories : National, Privacy
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Jun
06

Two Speeches

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It occurred to me tonight to juxtapose two speeches. I was reminded of the first by Digby, who posted The Day of Affirmation speech by Robert Kennedy, from 1966. That led me to remember the second, the famous “Yes We Can” speech by President Obama which was his message upon coming in second in the New Hampshire primary to Hillary Clinton early in 2008. Read More→

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May
17

Colonist v. Royalist

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Maybe it was the flurry of ALEC-backed legislation in Raleigh. Or maybe the vote suppression legislation. But something about Moral Mondays in Raleigh reminded me of this post from March 2011 as events unfolded in Madison, WI:


Colonist or Royalist?

It’s what every American should be asking themselves this week. The Tea Party too.

Do you stand with the modern-day British East India Corporations and their masters (the Kochs, the Olins, the Bradleys and other royals that want to unmake the American Century and rig American democracy like they rigged the financial markets)? Or do you stand with the people in your community? Who do you serve?

It’s pretty clear who Gov. Scott Walker and the GOP leadership in Wisconsin serves. They and their brethren and Forbes 400 patrons have declared open war on the middle class, with rafts of industry ghost-written legislation in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana — in about half the states. To strip the collective bargaining rights of political enemies, to defund public schools (and teachers), to suppress the vote by requiring photo IDs (Jim Crow, Jr.), to dissolve elected local governments in a corporate coup d’état, to arrogate sweeping executive authority over state agencies in a single unelected … tzar(?), to transfer tax dollars from the poor and middle class to give tax breaks to corporations, the works — all supported by the same press-shy billionaire ideologues behind Americans for Prosperity and the American Legislative Exchange Council. As the fake “Koch” phone call demonstrated, they don’t care about your jobs or your economy, and they don’t care about you.

So where do you stand? Colonist or Royalist?

Pretty sure those guys are followers, not leaders. Look, this is a movement named for a famously expensive act of vandalism against the private assets of the British East India Company, probably the largest corporation of its day. A company so in bed with the British government — and Members of Parliament — that their tax subsidies were allowing them to undercut the price of illegal tea smuggled in from Holland. This pissed off the smugglers. Royally.

It’s hard to imagine the Walter Mittys in that video lifting a finger against their corporate overlords like the patriots they fancy thyemselves. I’d charge them with false advertising, but they’ve helped their masters see to it that there’s little funding for enforcement of consumer protection laws against corporations. Pretty much the sort of thing going on in Raleigh right now.

Go figure.

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Go read Jane Mayer’s latest at the New Yorker about the warrantless wiretap program and Thomas Drake, enemy of the state(?). It seems they could have done their data mining with a modicum of protection for Americans’ privacy. They chose not to. A teaser:

She asked [General Michael] Hayden why the N.S.A. had chosen not to include privacy protections for Americans. She says that he “kept not answering. Finally, he mumbled, and looked down, and said, ‘We didn’t need them. We had the power.’ He didn’t even look me in the eye. I was flabbergasted.” She asked him directly if the government was getting warrants for domestic surveillance, and he admitted that it was not.

But wait, there’s more:

The Supreme Court rules that In an 8-to-1 decision, the high court sought to clarify an exception to the Fourth Amendment’s requirement that police obtain a court-authorized search warrant before entering a private home.

The justices said in certain emergency circumstances a warrant is not necessary, provided that law enforcement officials act reasonably in compliance with Fourth Amendment protections and do not threaten to violate them.

Their appearance at your door might even create the “emergency circumstance” that leads to busting in your door, which is what provoked the court case in the first place.

How many of the amendments out of the first ten do we have left?
And where are those vocal opponents of “big government”?

Categories : National, Privacy
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Dec
05

Reaction To The WikiLeaks Reaction

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The successive waves of document dumps by WikiLeaks have revealed just how much goes on behind the scenes, some aimed at driving the public to where leaders want to go. I am old enough (barely) to remember the Gulf of Tonkin incidents. Signal intelligence declassified by the National Security Agency in 2005 reveals that Americans were the first to fire (warning shots unreported at the time) in the first incident and the second reported incident – as we already knew – never took place. The USS Maddox took a single bullet hole. No Americans were injured. But records doctored to support claims of a second attack gave the Johnson administration a blank check to escalate the Vietnam war. Nearly 60,000 Americans and countless numbers in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia lost their lives in the aftermath. Because of leaks, Americans did not have to wait forty years to find out about the lies behind nonexistent WMDs, prisoner abuse and government-sponsored torture. Lies and secrecy seem to have a pretty high potential for doing great harm. It’s hard to imagine what greater damage the truth can do.

And now some reaction to the reaction to the WikiLeaks document release.

The Independent of London:

Beyond the inadvisability of giving unlimited access to diplomatic cables to plainly unreliable employees, the leaks so far have done remarkably little harm to the reputation of the US internationally. But the apparent marshalling of corporate America, assorted showboating legislators and, quite possibly, techno-savvy “patriots” acting as guerrilla deniers of service in an attempt to harass WikiLeaks out of existence may be what, in the end, does the real harm. The country’s over-reaction is looking increasingly like that of a bully who, having had his nose put slightly out of joint, is determined to batter the upstart into a pulp. If America wanted to convince the entire online world that it has no sense of perspective, the past few days have been a triumph. Talk of boycotts is now in the air.

Daniel Ellsberg has already started one:
Read More→

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Your security apparatus at work:

These events took place roughly between 5:30 and 6:30 AM, November 13th in Terminal 2 of the San Diego International Airport. I’m writing this approximately 2 1/2 hours after the events transpired …

Essentially, it was please step out of line, sir, so we can pat you down. We know where the WMDs are. They’re in the area around your crotch and east, west, south and north somewhat. Go read/watch it. It’s too long and complicated to recount. The would-be flier observes:

Every attempt to blow up a plane since 9/11 has been stopped by passengers after the government failed to provide protection for them. Every incident, however, has been met by throwing more money and less sensibility at the problem. Aside from securing the cockpit doors and the realization by passengers that they must fend for themselves because they’re more likely to be killed by a hijacker than flown safely to their destination where the hijacker’s demands can be met, security is largely the same as it was before 9/11.

The only thing changing is the amount of money being spent on the problem and the constant erosion of liberty, and all I did was draw attention to this. If you want to argue that the airlines are private, you’re preaching to the choir. I refused the x-ray machine, and then I refused a groping by a government official. I mildly protested, and when they told me that I could submit to the screening or leave the airport, I left peacefully. The only time I got angry during the entire encounter was when I was unlawfully detained and threatened with a lawsuit and a fine.

If you think the government is protecting you, ask yourself this: If the official at the end of the video thought I had an incendiary device, why would he want me to go *back* into a small area crowded with hundreds of people instead of leaving the airport as quickly as possible?

Security is everyone’s responsibility. To ensure you have a pleasant passage through our airport… [timestamp 55 sec]

Categories : News, Privacy, Transportation
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Dec
01

The Elephant’s Graveyard

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I’ve gotten a lot of guff for my post last week handicapping the Republican congressional primary field here in the 11th…not for what I predicted so much as the fact that the prediction appeared here in this pinko e-rag and under my own shiny new byline. You see, for today’s Republicans, this is a betrayal of the first order: “Thou shalt not lie with liberals as with conservatives: it is an abomination!”

Of course, there are so many orders of betrayal among local Republicans these days it’s kind of hard to keep track anymore.

Having worked for Republican candidates all my life and professionally for the last three years here in Asheville — heck, above my screen hangs a picture of me and President Reagan at a White House Christmas Party and another of me and President George H.W. Bush at a private BBQ on the south lawn of the White House; I could go on, but you get the idea — I can honestly say that I can’t see this happening again anytime soon. The Republican Party I knew for so many years has gone off the rails — effectively destroyed here locally from within — by sanctimonious bigots, religious zealots, misanthropic doctrinaire Randians, and most importantly by piss-poor, unelectable candidates.

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