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Feb. 11 2014 "The Day WE Fight Back"

John Dolva

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On February 11, a broad coalition of internet-involved organizations will go online to protest massive electronic surveillance by various governments. The action hopes to repeat the successful beating of SOPA/PIPA bills in 2012.

The protest was announced on the anniversary of Aaron Swartz’s suicide and is dedicated to his memory. The software engineer and online freedom activist took his life in 2013 amid prosecution over alleged illegal downloading of a large number of academic journal articles, the charges which could have landed him in jail for up to 35 years.

“If Aaron were alive, he'd be on the front lines, fighting against a world in which governments observe, collect, and analyze our every digital action,” the protest coordination website said.

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Speaking at a SOPA campaign, Swartz had said: "There's a battle going on right now, a battle to define everything that happens on the internet in terms of traditional things that the law understands. Is sharing a video on Bit Torrent like shoplifting from a movie store? Or is it like loaning a videotape to a friend? Is reloading a webpage over and over again like a peaceful virtual sit-in or a violent smashing of shop windows? Is the freedom to connect like freedom of speech or like the freedom to murder? This bill would be a huge, potentially permanent, loss. If we lost the ability to communicate with each other over the internet, it would be a change to the Bill of Rights. The freedoms guaranteed in our constitution, the freedoms our country had been built on, would be suddenly deleted. New technology, instead of bringing us greater freedom, would have snuffed out fundamental rights we'd always taken for granted.

"… And it will happen again. Sure, it will have yet another name, and maybe a different excuse, and probably do its damage in a different way. But make no mistake – the enemies of the freedom to connect have not disappeared. The fire in those politicians' eyes hasn't been put out. There are a lot of people, a lot of powerful people, who want to clamp down on the internet. And to be honest, there aren't a whole lot who have a vested interest in protecting it from all of that. Even some of the biggest companies, some of the biggest internet companies to put it frankly, would benefit from a world in which their little competitors could get censored."

Inside Story Americas examines the principles of Swartz's advocacy and why he is receiving a lot of coverage.

Joining the discussion with presenter Shihab Rattansi are guests: Lawrence Lessig, a professor at Harvard Law School and a friend of Swartz; Tim Lee, a technology writer and adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute; and Maria Bustillos who covers technology for theawl.com.

"It's very important to make a distinction between Swartz's activism with respect to copyright. He was not looking for people who are rights holders not be able to get paid, he wasn't one of these people who thought there should be no such thing as copyright. He wanted to liberate public access documents that we pay for as taxpayers like in research institutions and elsewhere that should be free for people to access and use."

Maria Bustillos, a writer and journalist

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  • Official statement from family and partner of Aaron Swartz

    Our beloved brother, son, friend, and partner Aaron Swartz hanged himself on Friday in his Brooklyn apartment. We are in shock, and have not yet come to terms with his passing.

    Aaron’s insatiable curiosity, creativity, and brilliance; his reflexive empathy and capacity for selfless, boundless love; his refusal to accept injustice as inevitable—these gifts made the world, and our lives, far brighter. We’re grateful for our time with him, to those who loved him and stood with him, and to all of those who continue his work for a better world.

    Aaron’s commitment to social justice was profound, and defined his life. He was instrumental to the defeat of an Internet censorship bill; he fought for a more democratic, open, and accountable political system; and he helped to create, build, and preserve a dizzying range of scholarly projects that extended the scope and accessibility of human knowledge. He used his prodigious skills as a programmer and technologist not to enrich himself but to make the Internet and the world a fairer, better place. His deeply humane writing touched minds and hearts across generations and continents. He earned the friendship of thousands and the respect and support of millions more.

    Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death. The US Attorney’s office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims. Meanwhile, unlike JSTOR, MIT refused to stand up for Aaron and its own community’s most cherished principles.

    Today, we grieve for the extraordinary and irreplaceable man that we have lost.

    12 Jan 2013


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Obama’s War on Freedom

Global Research, January 17, 2014

Perhaps no president in US history disappointed supporters more than Obama. He pledged “change you can believe it.” He promised hope.

He did Lincoln one better. He fooled most people enough times to matter. He never cared about rule of law principles. He trashed them in office. He deplores democratic values.

He’s beholden to monied interests. “Yes we can” conceals his dark side duplicity. He made America look increasingly like Guatemala. Nothing ahead suggests change.

International, constitutional and US statute laws don’t matter. Bush declared them null and void. So did Obama.

He presides over a ruthless police state apparatus. No one is free and safe. Big Brother watches everyone. Mass surveillance is official US policy.

On Friday, Obama will announce so-called new guidelines. He’ll ask Congress for help. Expect business as usual to continue. Expect worse than ever ahead. Expect lies claiming otherwise.

Ending the fake war on terror matters. So does halting mass surveillance entirely. Restoring rule of law freedoms matters most.

Expect Obama’s war to destroy them to continue. When Bush signed the Patriot Act into law, Center for Constitutional Rights senior litigation attorney Nancy Chang asked: “What’s so patriotic about trampling on the Bill of Rights?”

In March 2006, Congress renewed most Patriot Act powers. In May 2011, Congress and Obama extended key ones for another four years.

They include mass surveillance. Domestic spying increased markedly under Obama. Anything goes more than ever became policy. It remains so.

Expect the worst of what’s ongoing to continue. Expect another Obama pledge to be broken.

Expect the worst of mass surveillance to remain official US policy. Expect fake national security threats given as reasons.

Expect hyped fear to continue. Expect freedom to keep eroding en route to disappearing altogether.

Spying in America is institutionalized. Big Brother is no longer fiction. State-of-the-art technology permits the worst of what’s ongoing.

Decades earlier spying was crude compared to today’s. Modern capability is unprecedented. Virtually everyone can be monitored everywhere at all times.

Nothing too secret or personal can escape scrutiny. NSA technology permits monitoring offline computers. It’s done through radio waves.

At least 100,000 computers worldwide include software enabling it. Perhaps they all will eventually.

NSA can penetrate computers covertly. It can alter data without Internet access. It can create a digital highway for cyberattacks.

Its program is code-named “Quantum.” According to cybersecurity expert James Andrew Lewis:

“What’s new here is the scale and sophistication of (NSA’s) ability to get into computers and networks to which no one had ever had access before.”

“Some of these capabilities have been around for a while, but the combination of learning how to penetrate systems to insert software and learning how to do that using radio frequencies has given the US a window it’s never had before.”

Expect NSA to take full advantage. Perhaps everyone connected online will be monitored this way eventually.

Perhaps targeted individuals will be attacked this way. Expect greater than ever harm committed.

Expect Obama and Congress to do nothing to stop it. Manufactured threats permit the worst of what’s ongoing. Domestic spying more than ever is institutionalized.

In August 2007, candidate Obama addressed the Woodrow Wilson Center. He lied like he always does. He does it shamelessly. It’s part of his DNA.

He addressed many issues. He lied about every one. He promised real change if elected president. He exceeds the worst of George Bush.

We lost our “basic values,” he said. We got “color-coded politics of fear” instead.

He argued against waging one war after another. He promised to close Guantanamo straightaway in office.

It’s “time to turn a page,” he said. We’ll “restore our values.” We’ll “secure a more resilient homeland.”

We’ll end wars that shouldn’t be waged, he said. “The solution in Afghanistan is not just military. (It’s) political and economic.”

“(T)he days of compromising our values are over.”

Obama promised to “adhere to the Geneva Conventions.” He trashed them straightaway in office. He systematically violates rule of law principles. Nothing impedes his ruthlessness.

No promise is too sacred not to break. He pledged “no more illegal wiretapping of American citizens.”

“No more national security letters (NSLs) to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime.”

Most people never heard of them. Many are victims without knowing it. Others are gagged from discussing them.

They involve abusive police state intrusions. Patriot Act authority gives FBI operatives access to whatever personal information they want.

No court approval is needed. Most targeted individuals committed no crimes. They planned none. It doesn’t matter.

NSL use is unconstitutional. Obama continues the worst of Bush administration abuses. Another promise made. Another broken.

“No more tracking citizens who do nothing more than protest a misguided war,” he said. “No more ignoring the law when it is inconvenient.”

“That is not who we are…We will again set an example for the world that the law is not subject to the whims of stubborn rulers, and that justice is not arbitrary.”

Obama pledged to end violating civil liberties. He called doing so unacceptable. He exceeded the worst of Bush administration policies.

He lies claiming otherwise. He trashed rule of law principles. He mocks democratic values.

He declared cyberwar on ordinary Americans. He supports draconian cybersecurity legislation.

Cyber-preemption increases police state power. Homeland repression is worse than ever.

Administration policies are the most secretive in US history. They’re the most lawless and out-of-control.

On January 15, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) asked: “Will Obama Hit the Mark on Real NSA Reform?”

He’ll announce so-called changes. He’ll claim he supports reform. “What can we expect,” asked EFF?

“Many people are (justifiably) skeptical…Instead of actually stopping the spying, Obama could just make a pronouncement calling for more transparency or additional layers of bureaucratic oversight.”

“(H)e could duck the most important thing (needed) to show leadership: rein in government surveillance.”

EFF offered “common-sense fixes.” They address key issues. Don’t expect Obama to change anything meaningful. Expect worse than ever practices ahead. EFF reforms include:

(1) “Stop mass surveillance of digital communications and communication records.” Stop using legislative or Executive Order cover to justify the unjustifiable.

(2) “Protect the privacy rights of foreigners.” Calling them fair game doesn’t wash.

(3) “Don’t turn communications companies into the new Big Brother: no data retention mandate.” End NSA’s telecommunications collection program.

(4) Require judicial authorization for National Security Letters. End gag order authority. Rein in lawless FBI practices. Restore rule of law principles.

(5) “Stop undermining Internet security, weakening encryption, and infiltrating companies.” Abolish these practices once and for all.

(6) “Oppose the FISA Improvements Act (FIA).” Senator Dianne Feinstein (D. CA) sponsored it. She chairs the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

On October 31, FIA was introduced. Senate Intelligence Committee members approved it. They voted 11 to 4 in favor. Legislation awaits a full floor vote.

It’s a fake fix. Enactment would enhance NSA spying. It’ll codify it into law.

(7) “Reject the third party doctrine.” Obama should say data held by third parties (like phone and Internet companies) have “the same constitutional protections as data stored at home.”

(8) “Provide a full public accounting of our surveillance apparatus.” End administration secrecy. Tell Americans and others what they deserve to know.

(9) “Reform the state secrets privilege and stop over-classifying.” Sunlight more than ever is needed. Public accountability is most of all. End rule of law abuses.

(10) “Reform the FISA court: provide a public advocate and stop secret law.” FISA court judges are secretive, unaccountable and rubber-stamp. Abolishing their authority entirely should be ordered.

(11) “Protect national security whistleblowers working for the public good.” Candidate Obama called whistleblowing “acts of courage and patriotism.”

He pledged whistleblower protection, saying:

“Often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out.”

“We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance.”

He promised to do it. He promised protection. He’s targeted more whistleblowers than all his predecessors combined. It bears repeating. Another promise made. Another broken.

(12) “Criminal defendants should know if national security surveillance is being used against them.” Failing to do so violates Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights.

They guarantee defendants “meaningful opportunity” to effectively challenge government accusations.

EFF will score Obama’s Friday speech. It’ll publish its assessment online. It bears repeating. Policy pronouncements don’t matter. They ring hollow.

Enforcing rule of law principles alone counts. Obama betrayed the public trust. He’s done so consistently.

Expect no change going forward. Expect worse ahead than ever. Expect continuing police state lawlessness. Expect full-blown tyranny if not stopped. AFTER SPEECH SCORECARD = F


Edited by Steven Gaal
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  • 3 weeks later...
Friday, February 7, 2014
ACLU Seeks Information on FBI’s Secretive “Port Readers
Derrick Broze
Activist Post

On Wednesday the American Civil Liberties Union filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Federal Bureau of Investigations in an effort to find out details on a little known tool the Bureau uses to assist the National Security Agency in gathering data about Americans.

The tool, known as “port readers”, are capable of copying emails and instant messages in real time. The tool is supposed to delete the contents of the emails and leave only the “metadata” for the government. The FBI is currently working to install port readers on the networks of large telecommunications companies. In the ACLU’s request they asked for more information on the port readers. Specifically, the civil liberties group is seeking information on what metadata is being collected, how many Internet and phone service providers have installed them, how much information is collected so far, and whether or not the FBI can guarantee that information is not permanently stored by the government.

While the ACLU attempts to force the government to release pertinent information on the technology, we can gather a sense of what is being collected. The port readers were first described in August 2013 when CNET reported that a former government official stated that within the Bureau the software was known as a “harvesting program”. Another industry insider told CNET that the readers were “an interception device by definition.” AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Comcast, and Sprint declined to comment on the topic.

Foreign Policy also reported on the readers , stating that the FBI collects 13 separate fields of metadata. The exact fields and types of information are publicly unknown. We do know that the data can include the route a message takes over a network, IP addresses, and port numbers.
Hanni Fakhoury of the Electronic Frontier Foundation said, “The biggest fear is that the boxes are secretly storing something, or that they’re doing more than just simply allowing traffic to sift through and pulling out the routing information.”

So how do the port readers and the data collection happen without even a secret FISA court approval?

Using what are known as pen register and trap and trace orders large amounts of data can be intercepted with very little judicial oversight. The only requirement of a law enforcement officer making such an order is that the officer certify the results will be “relevant” to an investigation. Judges have stated in the past that they have almost no ability to deny pen register and trap and trace requests, and instead act as a rubber stamp for whatever is being requested.

The metadata collected can include IP addresses, Facebook correspondence, web site history, and more. However, with a pen register not all metadata is LEGALLY accessible. Although federal law says law enforcement can grab only “dialing, routing, addressing, or signaling information” without getting a court-approved wiretap, industry sources state that the FBI has configured its port reader to collect all metadata. This data collection would then render the programs, likely, illegal. This is yet another precarious legal gray area where data collection is concerned.

Although not much is known about port readers themselves there is some available data on the branch of the FBI carrying out the collection of information. Located at the Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia is the home of the FBI’s Operational Technology Division. Inside this compound is a mysterious organization called the Data Intercept Technology Unit or DITU. DITU handles the interception of data using the port readers.

Another interesting note is how the FBI and DITU assist the NSA with spying on Americans. The NSA is officially supposed to focus on international threats and not monitor activities of Americans. Whistleblower Edward Snowden obviously destroyed that myth last summer. However, DITU and the FBI still provide access to information that the NSA may not be able to access “legally”. Once the FBI’s port readers do their job, and DITU dissects the information, anything seen to be helpful can then be passed along to the NSA for further dissection and dissemination. All this seems to be operating under the guise of barely legal or outright flaunting of the law, both public law and leaked secret proceedings.

We live in an age where governments and private entities are becoming more and more engaged in monitoring and cataloguing of all aspects of daily life. Recent revelations have made it glaringly obvious to anyone paying attention that very little of our lives are “private” anymore. Free people should not be forced to sacrifice privacy in order to live and participate in the modern world. Stay vigilant and continue to spread awareness on the growing Surveillance State.

For More Information on the ACLU’s FOIA Request:
Edited by Steven Gaal
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Glenn Greenwald's new website launches with fresh NSA revelations :news

The Intercept one of several sites to be launched by new media company First Look, started by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar

theguardian.com,Monday 10 February 2014 11.39 EST


The Intercept’s editors are Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Jeremy Scahill. Photograph: /Public domain

A new website featuring journalist Glenn Greenwald and funded by the billionaire founder of eBay was unveiled early Monday, with two stories about US government surveillance.

The site, called the Intercept, reported Monday that the National Security Agency has used cell phone geolocation to help pinpoint targets for US drone strikes overseas, and published previously unseen photographs of major US intelligence facilities.

The Intercept is part of a suite of planned sites to be published by First Look media, founded by eBay chairman Pierre Omidyar. Its editors are Greenwald and fellow journalists Laura Poitras and Jeremy Scahill.

The Intercept will focus on reporting based on documents released by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the site’s editors said in an introductory statement. “Our focus in this very initial stage will be overwhelmingly on the NSA story,” the statement said.

The involvement of the NSA in the drone program was previously reported, based on information found in the Snowden documents. However, the Intercept story, written by Scahill and Greenwald, appears to add significant new sourcing from inside the drone program itself, citing an unnamed “former drone operator for the military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) who also worked with the NSA.”

The story quotes the former operator as saying that innocent people have “absolutely” been killed in strikes based on geolocation techniques that can find a mobile phone but cannot verify who is holding it.

The NSA declined to respond to questions for the article, the Intercept said.

The editors accelerated the launch of the site, their statement said, to fight intensifying attacks on journalists working on stories about government surveillance and other secret programs. Director of national intelligence James Clapper told Congress last month that Snowden had committed a crime and had “accomplices,” in a reference widely interpreted as threatening to journalists working on stories based on the Snowden documents.

Congressman Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican who heads the House intelligence committee, last week called Greenwald “a thief.”

“None of this will deter the journalism we are doing,” the editors’ statement said. “A primary function of the Intercept is to insist upon and defend our press freedoms from those who wish to infringe them.”

Further plans for the site include a column by Greenwald, who previously wrote for the Guardian.

Edited by Steven Gaal
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