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"I don't think the report is true, but these crises work for those who want to make fights between people." Kulam Dastagir, 28, a bird seller in Afghanistan

EFF Statement on President Obama's Cybersecurity Legislative Proposal | Electronic Frontier Foundation
Topic: Miscellaneous 12:35 am EST, Jan 14, 2015

Introducing information sharing proposals with broad liability protections, increasing penalties under the already draconian Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and potentially decreasing the protections granted to consumers under state data breach law are both unnecessary and unwelcome.


EFF Statement on President Obama's Cybersecurity Legislative Proposal | Electronic Frontier Foundation

R. Crumb on the Cartoon War
Topic: Miscellaneous 4:21 am EST, Jan 12, 2015

Given the stream of uninformed politically partisan claptrap coming out of all sides on the American political spectrum at the moment this link is worth sharing. R. Crumb understands Charlie Hebdo in context.

R. Crumb on the Cartoon War

RE: with blindfold removed
Topic: Miscellaneous 9:22 am EST, Jan 11, 2015

Teju Cole:

It is necessary to understand that free speech and other expressions of liberté are already in crisis in Western societies; the crisis was not precipitated by three deranged gunmen.

We may not be able to attend to each outrage in every corner of the world, but we should at least pause to consider how it is that mainstream opinion so quickly decides that certain violent deaths are more meaningful, and more worthy of commemoration, than others.

For what its worth, I am extremely unimpressed with this and the hoard of similar pieces streaming out of the American left at the moment. Nearly every argument that is made in this essay is refutable, from the extremely ignorant mischaracterization of Charlie Hebdo as racist, to the false equivalency regarding people who violated security clearances.

It seems that people on the left just aren't comfortable with the fact that sometimes, members of the oppressed masses that they take pity on do things which are, in fact, evil, and not merely an understandable reaction to their circumstances. Evil is a thing that people are capable of regardless of their social position. It is not something that the powers that be have a monopoly on.

RE: with blindfold removed

Don't you dare call it an intelligence failure.
Topic: Miscellaneous 12:04 am EST, Jan 11, 2015

It seems the unease I expressed earlier in the week was warranted.

We were told that we needed to record everybody's telecom metadata in order to find the needles in the haystack. Its not clear that many needles have been found that way, but regardless, we already had THESE particular needles. We didn't need the telecom metadata program to find them. And, apparently, having the needles isn't enough.

A rational question to ask is why, if these people were on watch lists, were they able to successfully carry out an attack? If its a matter of resources, then its reasonable to ask why we don't invest more resources in actually keeping track of known suspected terrorists? If there isn't enough money to go around, perhaps that is because we've spent too much money chasing unknown unknowns and not enough money chasing known unknowns? Even if you don't buy that, then perhaps you'd accept that you simply ought to be spending more total money on anti-terrorism if your country is being deluged with militants returning from Syria and you can't keep track of them all effectively?

Of course, we're not going to be allowed to ask those questions.You see, there is no such thing as an "intelligence failure." The intelligence community is beyond question and it is not appropriate to think critically about their strategy or focus.

The problem we have is the ancient right of habeas corpus. If you want fewer terrorist attacks, you're going to have to get rid of that.

Nice western civilization you've got there, with all your silly little historical precedents. It would be a shame if something happened to it.

RE: there's a lot of nodding
Topic: Miscellaneous 6:52 pm EST, Jan  9, 2015

James Comey:

In the wake of Mr. Snowden’s so-called revelations, there’s a wind blowing that I worry has blown what is a healthy skepticism of government power—I think everybody should be skeptical of government—to a cynicism so that people don’t want to be with us anymore. Meet us out behind the 7-Eleven late at night and I’ll talk to you as long as nobody sees me. Or wear a bag over my head to a meeting with the government. Because there is this wind blowing that there’s something bad if you’re touching the United States Government. We have to build even though there’s that wind. We’ve got to do our best to speak into that wind to try to explain how we’re using our authorities in the government.

How does healthy skepticism turn into cynicism?

Our public policy is an agreement, between the government, and the people, regarding what the government may and may not do. Those of us who are concerned about civil liberties, we often don't like where that agreement ends up.

Its important to appreciate that a lot of the people who the government wants to work with - a lot of the people in the private sector who protect the Internet - they care about civil liberties. They care about civil liberties because they are engineers, and to engineers, civil liberties seem logical.

Why should we care especially about civil liberties? Why programmers, more than dentists or salesmen or landscapers?

Let me put the case in terms a government official would appreciate. Civil liberties are not just an ornament, or a quaint American tradition. Civil liberties make countries rich. If you made a graph of GNP per capita vs. civil liberties, you'd notice a definite trend. Could civil liberties really be a cause, rather than just an effect? I think so. I think a society in which people can do and say what they want will also tend to be one in which the most efficient solutions win, rather than those sponsored by the most influential people. Authoritarian countries become corrupt; corrupt countries become poor; and poor countries are weak. It seems to me there is a Laffer curve for government power, just as for tax revenues. At least, it seems likely enough that it would be stupid to try the experiment and find out. Unlike high tax rates, you can't repeal totalitarianism if it turns out to be a mistake.

This is why hackers worry. The government spying on people doesn't literally make programmers write worse code. It just leads eventually to a world in which bad ideas win. And because this is so important to hackers, they're especially sensitive to it.

So the people that you need to work with, James Comey, the people who run this cyber world that is changing everything, many of those people are people who care about civil liberties. And people who care about civil liberties often don't like where the agree... [ Read More (0.3k in body) ]

RE: there's a lot of nodding

RE: disappointing, if not surprising
Topic: Miscellaneous 5:11 pm EST, Jan  9, 2015

noteworthy wrote:

We don't remove generals for battlefield failures? More context please.

Fresh Air:

His new book, The Generals, is about what he sees as a decline of American military leadership; it offers an argument about why the wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan have been so long and so frustrating.

He says it boils down to one word: accountability.

We've had several terrorist incidents in the west in the past few years, and consistently it seems the people involved were already on watch lists. The Tsarnaev brothers, these people in France. They were already known to be dangerous.

The point is that nearly a decade and a half after 9/11 we're still not connecting the dots.

The whole problem was that the dots weren't getting connected, and instead of figuring out how to connect them, we've been busy building warehouses of additional dots.

How many hundreds of millions are we spending hauling meta-data in from all over the world? What if instead of collecting data on everybody's Grandma, we spent those funds looking more closely at the people that we already have some actual basis to suspect might be involved in Terrorism?

Successful attacks are battle field failures and should demand reconsideration of our approach. Mass surveillance may be draining resources away from the focus that is needed.

RE: disappointing, if not surprising

The first congressman to battle the NSA is dead. No-one noticed, no-one cares. | PandoDaily
Topic: Miscellaneous 2:11 pm EST, Jan  5, 2015

What Pike and Church were uncovering turned out to be something much darker and harder to process than Watergate. With Watergate, there was a simpler narrative that reaffirmed America’s own fairytales about itself: Here was a bad apple, Nixon, and a few bad apples around him, eventually exposed and overthrown by the good guys—the valiant press, the politicians with integrity—proving that the American System worked after all.

But what the Pike Committee (and to a lesser extent the Church Committee) revealed was something much more systemic, much more complex and depressing to grapple with.

The first congressman to battle the NSA is dead. No-one noticed, no-one cares. | PandoDaily

Documents Shed Light on Border Laptop Searches | American Civil Liberties Union
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:49 am EST, Jan  3, 2015

House’s case provides a perfect example of how the government uses its border search authority to skirt the protections afforded by the Fourth Amendment. The government enjoys wider latitude to search people and their belongings at the border than it possesses elsewhere, for the purpose of protecting our borders. But the settlement documents demonstrate that the seizure of House’s computer was unrelated to border security or customs enforcement. It was simply an opportunity to conduct a suspicionless search that no court would ever have approved inside the country.

The records also show that HSI was acting in cooperation with—and perhaps at the request of—the Department of Justice, the Department of State, and the Army’s Criminal Investigative Division, not to protect our borders but to further a domestic investigation of the WikiLeaks disclosures. House’s connection to Manning through the Bradley Manning Support Network made him a target of that investigation. The government then used its access to airline passenger information to learn when and where David House, and others, would be traveling across our border (see the document here), and laid in wait to seize his computer and other electronic devices.

What we already knew - the border search exemption is used systematically as an end run around the Fourth Amendment.

Documents Shed Light on Border Laptop Searches | American Civil Liberties Union

Katie Moussouris on Twitter:
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:47 am EST, Jan  3, 2015

I really did have to decrypt my HD flying through CDG in France. I really had nothing to hide, but that's not the point, is it?

On the topic of unease...

Katie Moussouris on Twitter:

Topic: Miscellaneous 4:32 pm EST, Jan  2, 2015

I have to admit that I feel a great deal of unease sliding into 2015.

The fact that the Communications Decency Act was overturned on Constitutional grounds sent me on a 20 year misadventure in which I thought that Constitutional rights might matter. We can see now what their limits are.

The NSA operates a nationwide, domestic telecom metadata surveillance system without authorization from Congress. It's clearly unlawful, and that doesn't matter.

Its defenders claim loudly that it is lawful, and loudly attack anyone who knows better, while quietly telling the courts to not actually rule on the statutory question. They never intended to tell us about this program in the first place, and as this is supposed to be a Democracy, the telling us about it is a necessary part of making it lawful. But they didn't tell us, and now that its out anyway, they've been able to keep operating it regardless. Our authorization is obviously not required.

The NSA also monitored the content of all emails and text messages sent in the Salt Lake City area during 2002. Even the thin legal rationalizations propping up the meta-data program don't support that sort of surveillance system, so we don't talk about it.

If we can go on for year after year avoiding the question of what the law actually is, then in the end, the laws are irrelevant. They are an inconvenience to be navigated through artful spin. One might even find doing so to be sporting.

I had a brief moment of hope that the recent protests over the deaths of unarmed people at the hands of police would lead to a constructive dialog. Barack Obama finally seemed to be doing something that people put him in office to do. But, that possibility has now past. We've had two innocent officers murdered, and in response a host of guilty ones have literally turned their backs on Democracy.

That is our future. The police turning their backs on the people.

The police and the military are increasingly tribes of their own, separate from the rest of us, using THEIR monopoly on the use of force to negotiate with US for their interests, as it is in every failed state in the world. God forbid there are more attacks on the police - this could get much, much worse.

This year Congress will finally authorize the domestic surveillance program by law, making it a permanent fixture, and opening the door to the deployment of a similar meta-data collection infrastructure in the Internet. A record of every website you click on will be kept for 5 years, just in case you do something wrong, and we want to have a look at what you've been reading about.

The following year, we'll be asked to choose whether we want Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton to be the next President of the United States, the most authoritarian pair of choices this country has ever seen. Neither will have a problem with selling more armor to the local governments. Neither is going to ratchet down the drug war. Neither will oppose secret domestic surveillance programs. Neither will do anything to contain the influence of special interests. Neither will do things to promote innovation. Both are very likely to involve the country in wars, and with gas prices dropping through the floor, there are going to be plenty of states out there with their backs against the wall - dry powder that could rapidly ignite.

We seem to be at the beginning of a dark time.

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