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Bernie Sanders to NSA: Spying on Hill? Sen. Bernie Sanders sent a letter Friday to the director of the National Security Agency asking if the agency is spying or has ever spied on members of Congress.
The Vermont independent said he was "deeply concerned" about the NSA's collection of information on Americans and called reports that the agency listens in on foreign leaders "disturbing."
"I am writing today to ask you one very simple question," Sanders wrote in the letter addressed to NSA Director Keith Alexander. "Has the NSA spied, or is the NSA currently spying, on members of Congress or other American elected officials? 'Spying' would include gathering metadata on calls made from official or personal phones, content from websites visited or emails sent, or collecting any other data from a third party not made available to the general public in the regular course of business." (Politico)
Google Adds to Its Menagerie of Robots BigDog, Cheetah, WildCat and Atlas have joined Google’s growing robot menagerie.
Google confirmed on Friday that it had completed the acquisition of Boston Dynamics, an engineering company that has designed mobile research robots for the Pentagon. The company, based in Waltham, Mass., has gained an international reputation for machines that walk with an uncanny sense of balance and even — cheetahlike — run faster than the fastest humans.
It is the eighth robotics company that Google has acquired in the last half-year. Executives at the Internet giant are circumspect about what exactly they plan to do with their robot collection. But Boston Dynamics and its animal kingdom-themed machines bring significant cachet to Google’s robotic efforts, which are being led by Andy Rubin, the Google executive who spearheaded the development of Android, the world’s most widely used smartphone software. (New York Times)
Google robots may pose challenge to Amazon drones Google has revealed it has taken over seven robotics companies in the past half a year and has begun hiring staff to develop its own product.
A spokesman confirmed the effort was being headed up by Andy Rubin, who was previously in charge of the Android operating system.
The spokesman was unwilling to discuss what kind of robot was being developed.
But the New York Times reports that at this stage Google does not plan to sell the resulting product to consumers.
Schaft Google has hired a team of Japanese engineers who make humanoid robots
Instead, the newspaper suggests, Google's robots could be paired with its self-driving car research to help automate the delivery of goods to people's doors.
It notes the company has recently begun a same-day grocery delivery service in San Francisco and San Jose, called Google Shopping Express. (BBC)
The internet mystery that has the world baffled For the past two years, a mysterious online organisation has been setting the world's finest code-breakers a series of seemingly unsolveable problems. But to what end? Welcome to the world of Cicada 3301 - One evening in January last year, Joel Eriksson, a 34-year-old computer analyst from Uppsala in Sweden, was trawling the web, looking for distraction, when he came across a message on an internet forum. The message was in stark white type, against a black background.
“Hello,” it said. “We are looking for highly intelligent individuals. To find them, we have devised a test. There is a message hidden in this image. Find it, and it will lead you on the road to finding us. We look forward to meeting the few that will make it all the way through. Good luck.”
The message was signed: "3301”.
A self-confessed IT security "freak” and a skilled cryptographer, Eriksson’s interest was immediately piqued. This was – he knew – an example of digital steganography: the concealment of secret information within a digital file. Most often seen in conjunction with image files, a recipient who can work out the code – for example, to alter the colour of every 100th pixel – can retrieve an entirely different image from the randomised background "noise”. (London Telegraph)
Arrest in U.S. Shuts Down a Black Market for Narcotics Nearly everything about Silk Road was shrouded in secrecy.
It began in 2011 as an underground online marketplace for drug users, a site where endless varieties of marijuana — as well as LSD, ecstasy and prescription pills — could be bought from sellers across the world. It branched out to other illicit goods, including forged documents, and emerged as a black market version of eBay, where criminals could do business with more than 100,000 customers.
It worked on one basic principle: Everyone remained anonymous. Users could gain access to the network only through software meant to ensure anonymity. Credit cards and PayPal were not accepted. Bitcoins, a virtual currency, were, and even those transactions were scrambled. All that connected them in real life was a name, often fake, and the address to which the package would be sent.
And the mastermind behind Silk Road was cloaked in mystery, known as Dread Pirate Roberts, after a character in the movie “The Princess Bride.” But Silk Road went dark this week, and its owner was unmasked as Ross Ulbricht, 29, who is accused in a criminal complaint, among other things, of asking a man to kill a Silk Road vendor who had threatened to reveal the identities of others who used the site. (New York Times)
NSA stores metadata of millions of web users for up to a year, secret files show
Vast amounts of data kept in repository codenamed Marina -- Data retained regardless of whether person is NSA target -- Material used to build 'pattern-of-life' profiles of individuals - The National Security Agency is storing the online metadata of millions of internet users for up to a year, regardless of whether or not they are persons of interest to the agency, top secret documents reveal.
Metadata provides a record of almost anything a user does online, from browsing history – such as map searches and websites visited – to account details, email activity, and even some account passwords. This can be used to build a detailed picture of an individual's life.
The Obama administration has repeatedly stated that the NSA keeps only the content of messages and communications of people it is intentionally targeting – but internal documents reveal the agency retains vast amounts of metadata.
An introductory guide to digital network intelligence for NSA field agents, included in documents disclosed by former contractor Edward Snowden, describes the agency's metadata repository, codenamed Marina. Any computer metadata picked up by NSA collection systems is routed to the Marina database, the guide explains. Phone metadata is sent to a separate system.
• What is metadata? Find out with our interactive guide (London Guardian)
NSA Utah Data Center: frequently asked questions -- Intelligence » What happens there, why Utah and the Mormon query. With the opening of the National Security Agency’s Utah Data Center, The Tribune’s staff has compiled a list of common questions and their answers.
• Is someone at the Utah Data Center going to be reviewing my Internet and phone history?
All indications are no. First, we’ll give you the obligatory NSA refrain that it does not spy on Americans. Regardless, the Utah Data Center is a storage facility. Your digital footprint, or part of it, may reside there, but any analysis of whether your search engine queries for rifles or the latest BYU football news represents a national security threat will be done at other federal facilities by personnel who can remotely access the information stored in Bluffdale. The Utah Data Center is expected to have only 200 employees; not enough to sort through the records of the average American.
• How is the NSA going to sort all those records?
That remains to be seen. If the NSA has the name of a potential terrorist, technology is sufficient to find that person’s digital history. The trick is identifying terror suspects based on what they do online or on the phone before they commit a crime or associate with terror suspects and that is where the NSA is waiting for technology and mathematics to catch up. Private contractors have said the NSA has purchased Cray XC30 supercomputers. Industry officials say those machines can run up to 1 million Intel Xenon core processors simultaneously, enabling speeds of up to 100 petaflops. One petaflop is about one thousand trillion calculations per second. But it doesn’t matter how fast you can calculate if you don’t have the right algorithm. The NSA, other government agencies and private-sector scientists are racing to build new data-mining algorithms, drawing on a blend of mathematics, machine learning, artificial intelligence and database theory. In March, President Barack Obama announced a $200 million research initiative across seven federal agencies to advance techniques for data mining. This issue hits on one debate about the NSA and its intelligence-gathering. Critics have said the agency is collecting more data than it can manage and far, far more than can ever be useful. (Salt Lake Tribune)
N.S.A. Gathers Data on Social Connections of U.S. Citizens N.S.A. Gathers Data on Social Connections of U.S. Citizens - Since 2010, the National Security Agency has been exploiting its huge collections of data to create sophisticated graphs of some Americans’ social connections that can identify their associates, their locations at certain times, their traveling companions and other personal information, according to newly disclosed documents and interviews with officials.
The spy agency began allowing the analysis of phone call and e-mail logs in November 2010 to examine Americans’ networks of associations for foreign intelligence purposes after N.S.A. officials lifted restrictions on the practice, according to documents provided by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor.
The policy shift was intended to help the agency “discover and track” connections between intelligence targets overseas and people in the United States, according to an N.S.A. memorandum from January 2011. The agency was authorized to conduct “large-scale graph analysis on very large sets of communications metadata without having to check foreignness” of every e-mail address, phone number or other identifier, the document said. Because of concerns about infringing on the privacy of American citizens, the computer analysis of such data had previously been permitted only for foreigners.
The agency can augment the communications data with material from public, commercial and other sources, including bank codes, insurance information, Facebook profiles, passenger manifests, voter registration rolls and GPS location information, as well as property records and unspecified tax data, according to the documents. They do not indicate any restrictions on the use of such “enrichment” data, and several former senior Obama administration officials said the agency drew on it for both Americans and foreigners.
N.S.A. officials declined to say how many Americans have been caught up in the effort, including people involved in no wrongdoing. The documents do not describe what has resulted from the scrutiny, which links phone numbers and e-mails in a “contact chain” tied directly or indirectly to a person or organization overseas that is of foreign intelligence interest. (New York Times)
Shhh...the NSA's new data center may be open already Don't look for balloons or a big "Grand Opening" sign outside the National Security Agency's new Utah Data Center.
The facility is expected this fall to quietly begin sucking in massive amounts of information for the intelligence community and storing it in the cavernous buildings in Bluffdale, Utah, according to NSA officials — and it could be open now even as the agency faces scrutiny over efforts to collect data on Americans domestically.
NSA officials declined to say whether the center is already online, but the secret agency isn't known for celebrating the opening of classified buildings.
"We turn each machine on as it is installed, and the facility is ready for that installation to begin," NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines said recently in an interview.
The data center, one of several large computer facilities run by the agency, is one of six major hubs for the NSA and will not only serve as backup storage but also be networked into the government's intelligence gathering so analysts from other sites can access it in real time. (Salt Lake Tribune)
Marijuana investors commit more than $1 million after Denver meeting A medical marijuana grower works at his site at a rented Denver metro area warehouse in this November, 2010 file photo. (Joe Amon, The Denver Post)
Denver council passes historic retail marijuana rules and regulations
Federal government seeks banking solution for marijuana businesses
Colorado first state in country to finalize rules for recreational pot
Denver police defend decision to stand down during marijuana giveaway
Feds seek to legalize marijuana industry banking
Long line, but no hassles for free pot giveaway at Civic Center
Former Aurora Mayor Ed Tauer now in the pot regulation game
A Denver meeting of a marijuana industry investment group resulted in more than $1 million in new money being pumped into cannabis businesses, the group announced Wednesday.
Troy Dayton, the CEO of The ArcView Group, said members of the group's investor network are still sealing deals after Tuesday's meeting at the Denver Athletic Club, but he said the total invested is expected to be "well over $1 million." In addition, the investment group's members also raised $22,000 for flood relief, which Dayton said will be donated to the Lyons Community Foundation through a special fund-raising effort set up by the marijuana industry. (Denver Post)
Senate CR to strip Monsanto rider A controversial legislative rider added by Monsanto to the Agriculture Department budget last spring will no longer be effective after Sept. 30 under a draft stopgap government funding bill being drafted by Senate Democrats.
The provision touched off a storm last spring as critics accused Monsanto of “court-stripping” to protect its sales of the genetically modified seeds for which the St. Louis-based giant is a pioneer in commercializing.
The continuing resolution approved by the House last week would extend the rider without comment for the first months of the new fiscal year. But the Senate substitute, to be unveiled Wednesday, will explicitly go back and make clear that that Monsanto-backed provision will end this month.
“That provision will be gone,” said Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), confirming the change to POLITICO. The Center for Food Safety, a Washington-based non-profit, welcomed the decision as “a major victory for the food movement” and “sea change in a political climate that all too often allows corporate earmarks to slide through must-pass legislation.” (Politico)
German group claims to have hacked Apple iPhone fingerprint scanner A group of German hackers claimed to have cracked the iPhone fingerprint scanner on Sunday, just two days after Apple Inc(NSQ:AAPL) launched the technology that it promises will better protect devices from criminals and snoopers seeking access.
If the claim is verified, it will be embarrassing for Apple which is betting on the scanner to set its smartphone apart from new models of Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and others running the Android operating system of Google Inc (NSQ:GOOG).
Two prominent iPhone security experts told Reuters that they believed the German group, known as the Chaos Computing Club, or CCC, had succeeded in defeating Apple's Touch ID, though they had not personally replicated the work.
One of them, Charlie Miller, co-author of the iOS Hacker's Handbook, described the work as "a complete break" of Touch ID security. "It certainly opens up a new possibility for attackers."
Apple representatives did not respond to requests for comment.
CCC, one the world's largest and most respected hacking groups, posted a video on its website that appeared to show somebody accessing an iPhone 5S with a fabricated print. The site described how members of its biometrics team had cracked the new fingerprint reader, one of the few major high-tech features added to the latest version of the iPhone. (Reuters)
Dancing With Molly: The EDM Community Has an Honest Conversation About Drugs In the wake of the Electric Zoo tragedies, artists and industry insiders speak out on the problems and possible solutions.
The New York City Medical Examiner has determined that one of the two deaths at New York’s Electric Zoo Festival (August 30 - September 1) was caused by a chemical other than ecstasy. The tragedies, plus three other severe medical incidents, forced the festival to cancel its third and final day.
First reported by the New York Times last week, the findings state that the death of Jeffrey Russ, 23, was caused in part by methylone, a chemical agent frequently found in “bath salts” and increasingly in “Molly” -- a street term for what many consider to be MDMA or ecstasy. Methylone is also suspected to have played a role in the deaths of concertgoers at a Zedd show in Boston last month.
The realization has brought to the fore the age-old issue of abstinence versus education, this time as it relates to drug use, amongst key players in the EDM scene.
“Molly is a term for an adulterated mystery chemical you’re putting into your body with the intent to roll,” says Missi Wooldridge, board president of education-focused non-profit DanceSafe. “It’s rare to get anything even close to MDMA.” She went on to say that while the other chemicals, like methylone, create similar effects to those of MDMA, their dosages and pathology are different. Also unlike MDMA, Molly is typically in capsule rather than pill form, increasing the possibility of it being cut with other chemicals. (Billboard)
THE FUTURE OF EMPLOYMENT: HOW SUSCEPTIBLE ARE JOBS TO COMPUTERISATION? Abstract: We examine how susceptible jobs are to computerisation. To as-sess this, we begin by implementing a novel methodology to estimate the probability of computerisation for 702 detailed occupations, using a
Gaussian process classifier. Based on these estimates, we examine expected impacts of future computerisation on US labour market outcomes, with the primary objective of analysing the number of jobs at risk and the relationship between an occupation’s probability of computerisation, wages and educational attainment. According to our estimates, about 47 percent of total US employment is at risk. We further provide evidence that wages and educational attainment exhibit a strong negative relation-
ship with an occupation’s probability of computerisation. Keywords:Occupational Choice, Technological Change, Wage Inequality, Employment, Skill Demand (Oxford University)
Aaron Alexis Had 'Secret Clearance,' Employer Says About Washington Navy Yard Suspect Aaron Alexis, the 34-year-old suspect in Monday's shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard, had "secret" clearance and was assigned to start working there as a civilian contractor with a military-issued ID card, his firm's chief executive told Reuters.
"He did have a secret clearance. And he did have a CAC (common access card)," said Thomas Hoshko, CEO of The Experts Inc, which was helping service the Navy Marine Corps Intranet as a subcontractor for HP Enterprise Services, part of Hewlett-Packard Co.
Alexis, of Forth Worth, Texas, is suspected of opening fire at the Naval Sea Systems Command building in the Washington Navy Yard in a shooting that left 13 people dead, including the shooter. (Reuters)
Former NSA and CIA director says terrorists love using Gmail Former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden stood on the pulpit of a church across from the White House on Sunday and declared Gmail the preferred online service of terrorists. As part of an adult education forum at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Hayden gave a wide ranging speech on "the tension between security and liberty."
During the speech, he specifically defended Section 702 of the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act (FISA), which provides the legal basis for the PRISM program. In doing so, Hayden claimed "Gmail is the preferred Internet service provider of terrorists worldwide," presumably meaning online service rather than the actual provider of Internet service. He added: "I don't think you're going to see that in a Google commercial, but it's free, it's ubiquitous, so of course it is." - At one point, Hayden expressed a distaste for online anonymity, saying "The problem I have with the Internet is that it's anonymous." But he noted, there is a struggle over that issue even inside government. The issue came to a head during the Arab Spring movement when the State Department was funding technology to protect the anonymity of activists so governments could not track down or repress their voices.
"We have a very difficult time with this," Hayden said. He then asked, "is our vision of the World Wide Web the global digital commons -- at this point you should see butterflies flying here and soft background meadow-like music -- or a global free fire zone?" Given that Hayden also compared the Internet to the wild west and Somalia, Hayden clearly leans toward the "global free fire zone" vision of the Internet. (Washington Post)
Obama administration had restrictions on NSA reversed in 2011 The Obama administration secretly won permission from a surveillance court in 2011 to reverse restrictions on the National Security Agency’s use of intercepted phone calls and e-mails, permitting the agency to search deliberately for Americans’ communications in its massive databases, according to interviews with government officials and recently declassified material.
In addition, the court extended the length of time that the NSA is allowed to retain intercepted U.S. communications from five years to six years — and more under special circumstances, according to the documents, which include a recently released 2011 opinion by U.S. District Judge John D. Bates, then chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
What had not been previously acknowledged is that the court in 2008 imposed an explicit ban — at the government’s request — on those kinds of searches, that officials in 2011 got the court to lift the bar and that the search authority has been used.
Together the permission to search and to keep data longer expanded the NSA’s authority in significant ways without public debate or any specific authority from Congress. The administration’s assurances rely on legalistic definitions of the term “target” that can be at odds with ordinary English usage. The enlarged authority is part of a fundamental shift in the government’s approach to surveillance: collecting first, and protecting Americans’ privacy later. (Washington Post)
The US government has betrayed the internet. We need to take it back The NSA has undermined a fundamental social contract. We engineers built the internet -- and now we have to fix it - Government and industry have betrayed the internet, and us.
By subverting the internet at every level to make it a vast, multi-layered and robust surveillance platform, the NSA has undermined a fundamental social contract. The companies that build and manage our internet infrastructure, the companies that create and sell us our hardware and software, or the companies that host our data: we can no longer trust them to be ethical internet stewards.
This is not the internet the world needs, or the internet its creators envisioned. We need to take it back.
And by we, I mean the engineering community.
Yes, this is primarily a political problem, a policy matter that requires political intervention.
But this is also an engineering problem, and there are several things engineers can – and should – do.
One, we should expose. If you do not have a security clearance, and if you have not received a National Security Letter, you are not bound by a federal confidentially requirements or a gag order. If you have been contacted by the NSA to subvert a product or protocol, you need to come forward with your story. Your employer obligations don't cover illegal or unethical activity. If you work with classified data and are truly brave, expose what you know. We need whistleblowers. (London Guardian)
Exclusive: NSA Using Copyright Claims To Crush Free Speech? Can a government agency block criticism by claiming copyright infringement? Sounds a bit ridiculous but it is happening. The NSA is effectively stopping one small business owner from criticism, claiming that by using its name he has infringed on their copyright.
Can they do that?
This is a Reality Check you won’t see anywhere else.
This is a story I had a hard time believing until I looked into it for myself. Here is the backstory.
Dan McCall is the owner of a company that makes snarky t-shirts. The company is called Liberty Maniacs. Liberty Maniacs carry a number of t-shirts dealing with lack of privacy and the growing police state. They sell on a site called www.Zazzle.com
None of it has been a problem—until Liberty Maniacs released a shirt called “The NSA.”
The image looks like the NSA logo but has a motto that is clearly a pun—“Peeping while you are sleeping”—followed by the phrase “The NSA, the only part of government that actually listens.” (Ben Swann)
NSA broke privacy rules thousands of times per year, audit finds The National Security Agency has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broad new powers in 2008, according to an internal audit and other top-secret documents.
Most of the infractions involve unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the United States, both of which are restricted by statute and executive order. They range from significant violations of law to typographical errors that resulted in unintended interception of U.S. e-mails and telephone calls.
The documents, provided earlier this summer to The Washington Post by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, include a level of detail and analysis that is not routinely shared with Congress or the special court that oversees surveillance. In one of the documents, agency personnel are instructed to remove details and substitute more generic language in reports to the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
In one instance, the NSA decided that it need not report the unintended surveillance of Americans. A notable example in 2008 was the interception of a “large number” of calls placed from Washington when a programming error confused the U.S. area code 202 for 20, the international dialing code for Egypt, according to a “quality assurance” review that was not distributed to the NSA’s oversight staff. (Washington Post)
Exclusive: IRS manual detailed DEA's use of hidden intel evidence Details of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration program that feeds tips to federal agents and then instructs them to alter the investigative trail were published in a manual used by agents of the Internal Revenue Service for two years.
The practice of recreating the investigative trail, highly criticized by former prosecutors and defense lawyers after Reuters reported it this week, is now under review by the Justice Department. Two high-profile Republicans have also raised questions about the procedure.
A 350-word entry in the Internal Revenue Manual instructed agents of the U.S. tax agency to omit any reference to tips supplied by the DEA's Special Operations Division, especially from affidavits, court proceedings or investigative files. The entry was published and posted online in 2005 and 2006, and was removed in early 2007. The IRS is among two dozen arms of the government working with the Special Operations Division, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency.
An IRS spokesman had no comment on the entry or on why it was removed from the manual. Reuters recovered the previous editions from the archives of the Westlaw legal database, which is owned by Thomson Reuters Corp, the parent of this news agency. (Reuters)
Trail of U.S. Criminal Investigations Altered to Cover up DEA Unit’s Role as Data Source From a constitutional rights perspective, the latest revelation about the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is even more troubling than what’s been reported on National Security Agency (NSA) activities, according to legal experts.
An investigation by Reuters found a secretive DEA unit known as the Special Operations Division (SOD) has been helping state and local law enforcement with drug busts by providing information collected from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a “massive database of telephone records.”
That database, known as DICE, contains roughly a billion records and is accessed by about 10,000 law enforcement agents across the nation. SOD’s wiretap data usually comes from foreign governments, U.S. intelligence agencies or court-authorized domestic telephone surveillance.
But the disturbing part is the DEA requires police who receive the agency’s help to cover up the fact that they were given the tips—and not even tell defense lawyers, prosecutors and judges that their investigations began with the DEA. (AllGov)
Administration says it's serious about privacy, defends NSA programs The Obama administration says it takes privacy criticisms over its surveillance programs seriously while defending them to Congress and the U.S. public.
Obama met Thursday with a bipartisan group of lawmakers -- both critics and supporters -- to discuss surveillance activities of the National Security Agency. Also, NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander was on Capitol Hill to answer House lawmakers' questions in a classified briefing before the August recess, The Hill reported.
"Today's meeting was constructive and the President committed that he and his team would continue to work closely with the Congress on these matters in the weeks and months ahead," the White House said in a statement.
"We will continue to work through the August recess on proposals to improve transparency and strengthen privacy protections to further build the confidence of the American public in our nation's counterterrorism programs," the lawmakers said in a joint statement. (United Press International)
New York woman visited by police after researching pressure cookers online -- Long Island resident said her web search history and 'trying to learn how to cook lentils' prompted a visit from authorities but police say search was prompted by tipoff A New York woman says her family's interest in the purchase of pressure cookers and backpacks led to a home visit by six police investigators demanding information about her job, her husband's ancestry and the preparation of quinoa.
Michele Catalano, who lives in Long Island, New York, said her web searches for pressure cookers, her husband's hunt for backpacks and her "news junkie" son's craving for information on the Boston bombings had combined somewhere in the internet ether to create a "perfect storm of terrorism profiling".
Members of what she described as a "joint terrorism task force" descended on Catalano's home on Wednesday.
Catalano was at work, but her husband was sitting in the living room as the police arrived. She retold the experience in a post on Medium.com on Thursday. She attributed the raid largely to her hunt for a pressure cooker, an item used devastatingly, allegedly by the two Tsarnaev brothers, in Boston, but also used by millions across the country to prepare vegetables while retaining most of their nutrients.
The story later took on a different complexion when police finally explained that the investigation was prompted by searches a family member had made for pressure cooker bombs and backpacks made at his former workplace. The former employer, believing the searches to be suspicious, alerted police. Catalano said the family member was her husband. (London Guardian)
My Life in Circles: Why Metadata is Incredibly Intimate One of the most disingenuous arguments in the aftermath of the NSA spying revelations is that the American people shouldn't be concerned about the government hoovering up its sensitive information because it's only metadata--or a fancy way of saying data about the data.
"This is just metadata," Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein assured the American people, referring to the NSA's bulk collection of Americans call records. "There is no content involved." President Obama and his national security officials have made similar assurances.
Feel better? You shouldn't and here's why.
A tool developed by MIT Media Lab proves how intrusive the collection and analysis of metadata is over time, especially for those who are overly reliant on email as their main method of communication. Dubbed "Immersion," the tool analyzes the metadata--From, To, Cc and Timestamp fields-- from a volunteer's Gmail account and visualizes it. (American Civil Liberties Union)
Video of Clashes in Brazil Appears to Show Police Infiltrators Among Protesters Supporters of Brazil's protest movement and the police in Rio de Janeiro spent much of Tuesday arguing online over which side was to blame for violence at a demonstration the night before, at the start of a papal visit.
While neither side was able to produce definitive proof of who instigated the clashes on Monday near the governor’s palace in Rio, shortly after Pope Francis left the area, an examination of video recorded by witnesses, protesters and the police did appear to show undercover officers — called infiltrators by the protesters and intelligence agents by the authorities — at work.
A central piece of evidence in the arguments presented by both sides was 40 seconds of video released by Rio’s military police that showed a man near the front line between the two sides lighting and then hurling a Molotov cocktail, which exploded with a loud bang near officers in riot gear.
Video released by the military police in Rio de Janeiro recorded as a standoff between protesters and officers turned violent on Monday night.
Although the police provided the video to the newspaper O Globo, and issued an invitation to the public via Twitter to watch what the department described as images of the protester who started the confrontation by throwing a Molotov cocktail at officers, within hours the clip was mysteriously removed from YouTube. (New York Times)
Snowden's surveillance leaks open way for challenges to programs' constitutionality The recent disclosure of U.S. surveillance methods is providing opponents of classified programs with new openings to challenge their constitutionality, according to civil libertarians and some legal experts.
At least five cases have been filed in federal courts since the government’s widespread collection of telephone and Internet records was revealed last month. The lawsuits primarily target a program that scoops up the telephone records of millions of Americans from U.S. telecommunications companies.
Such cases face formidable obstacles. The government tends to fiercely resist them on national security grounds, and the surveillance is so secret that it’s hard to prove who was targeted. Nearly all of the roughly 70 suits filed after the George W. Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping was disclosed in 2005 have been dismissed.
But the legal landscape may be shifting, lawyers say, because the revelations by Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor and the principal source of the leaks, forced the government to acknowledge the programs and discuss them. That, they say, could help plaintiffs overcome government arguments that they lack the legal standing to sue or that cases should be thrown out because the programs are state secrets. A federal judge in California last week rejected the government’s argument that an earlier lawsuit over NSA surveillance should be dismissed on secrecy grounds. (Washington Post)
How Microsoft handed the NSA access to encrypted messages
• Secret files show scale of Silicon Valley co-operation on Prism
• Outlook.com encryption unlocked even before official launch
• Skype worked to enable Prism collection of video calls
• Company says it is legally compelled to comply - Microsoft has collaborated closely with US intelligence services to allow users' communications to be intercepted, including helping the National Security Agency to circumvent the company's own encryption, according to top-secret documents obtained by the Guardian.
The files provided by Edward Snowden illustrate the scale of co-operation between Silicon Valley and the intelligence agencies over the last three years. They also shed new light on the workings of the top-secret Prism program, which was disclosed by the Guardian and the Washington Post last month.
The documents show that:
• Microsoft helped the NSA to circumvent its encryption to address concerns that the agency would be unable to intercept web chats on the new Outlook.com portal;
• The agency already had pre-encryption stage access to email on Outlook.com, including Hotmail;
• The company worked with the FBI this year to allow the NSA easier access via Prism to its cloud storage service SkyDrive, which now has more than 250 million users worldwide;
• Microsoft also worked with the FBI's Data Intercept Unit to "understand" potential issues with a feature in Outlook.com that allows users to create email aliases;
• In July last year, nine months after Microsoft bought Skype, the NSA boasted that a new capability had tripled the amount of Skype video calls being collected through Prism;
• Material collected through Prism is routinely shared with the FBI and CIA, with one NSA document describing the program as a "team sport". (London Guardian)
Majority Views NSA Phone Tracking as Acceptable Anti-terror Tactic -- Public Says Investigate Terrorism, Even If It Intrudes on Privacy
Overview A majority of Americans -- 56% -- say the National Security Agency’s (NSA) program tracking the telephone records of millions of Americans is an acceptable way for the government to investigate terrorism, though a substantial minority -- 41% -- say it is unacceptable. And while the public is more evenly divided over the government’s monitoring of email and other online activities to prevent possible terrorism, these views are largely unchanged since 2002, shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center and The Washington Post, conducted June 6-9 among 1,004 adults, finds no indications that last week’s revelations of the government’s collection of phone records and internet data have altered fundamental public views about the tradeoff between investigating possible terrorism and protecting personal privacy.
Currently 62% say it is more important for the federal government to investigate possible terrorist threats, even if that intrudes on personal privacy. Just 34% say it is more important for the government not to intrude on personal privacy, even if that limits its ability to investigate possible terrorist threats.
These opinions have changed little since an ABC News/Washington Post survey in January 2006. Currently, there are only modest partisan differences in these opinions: 69% of Democrats say it is more important for the government to investigate terrorist threats, even at the expense of personal privacy, as do 62% of Republicans and 59% of independents. (Pew Research Center)
Why were roadblocks in St. Clair and Bibb counties asking for blood and DNA samples this weekend? St. Clair and Bibb county authorities are confirming there were roadblocks at several locations in their counties Friday and Saturday asking for blood and DNA samples. However, the samples were voluntary and motorists were paid for them as part of a study, they said.
According to Lt. Freddie Turrentine of the St. Clair County Sheriff's Department, it isn't the first time such roadblocks have occurred in the area.
"They were here in 2007," said Turrentine, the supervisor in charge of the roadblocks, which took place in several locations in St. Clair County Friday night, early Saturday morning and Saturday night and early Sunday morning. "It's just with social media and Facebook now, word of it has just exploded."
Turrentine said the roadblocks were part of a study conducted by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, working with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. St. Clair County was asked to participate by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs because it had worked with the group six years ago. (AL.com)
Boston bombing suspect cites U.S. wars as motivation, officials say The 19-year-old suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings has told interrogators that the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan motivated him and his brother to carry out the attack, according to U.S. officials familiar with the interviews.
From his hospital bed, where he is now listed in fair condition, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has acknowledged his role in planting the explosives near the marathon finish line on April 15, the officials said. The first successful large-scale bombing in the post-Sept. 11, 2001, era, the Boston attack killed three people and wounded more than 250 others.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe an ongoing investigation, said Dzhokhar and his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was killed by police as the two attempted to avoid capture, do not appear to have been directed by a foreign terrorist organization.
Rather, the officials said, the evidence so far suggests they were “self-radicalized” through Internet sites and U.S. actions in the Muslim world. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has specifically cited the U.S. war in Iraq, which ended in December 2011 with the removal of the last American forces, and the war in Afghanistan, where President Obama plans to end combat operations by the end of 2014.
Obama has made repairing U.S. relations with the Islamic world a foreign policy priority, even as he has expanded drone operations in Pakistan and other countries, which has inflamed Muslim public opinion. (Washington Post)
Chambliss: Law enforcement agency may have had info about Boston bombing in advance Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss told Channel 2 Action News late Tuesday afternoon that a law enforcement agency may have had information in advance of the Boston bombings that wasn't properly shared.
"There now appears that may have been some evidence that was obtained by one of the law enforcement agencies that did not get shared in a way that it could have been. If that turns out to be the case, then we have to determine whether or not that would have made a difference," Chambliss said.
Though Chambliss would not get into specifics on the information or whether or not the bombing could have been prevented, he told Channel 2 Action News that they will find out if someone dropped the ball.
"Information sharing between agencies is critical. And we created the Department of Homeland Security to supervise that. We created the National Counter Terrorism Center to be the collection point for all of this information, and we're going to get to the bottom of whether or not somebody along the way dropped the ball on some information and did not share it in a way that it should have been shared." (Associated Press)
Police Say The Naked Man Arrested In Boston Was Not Tamerlan Tsarnaev On Thursday night while police were hunting in Watertown, Mass. for bombing suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, at one point they arrested a naked man who looks a lot like Tamerlan.
Police say the naked man is not Tamerlan, despite various conspiracy theories going around the Internet.
According to the official account, Tamerlan died after a shootout with cops, riddled with bullets and shrapnel before being run over by his brother who was fleeing the scene in an SUV. (Business Insider)
Police, citizens and technology factor into Boston bombing probe Within hours of the Boston Marathon bombing, investigators were already overwhelmed. Bloody clothing, bags, shoes and other evidence from victims and witnesses were piling up. Videos and still images, thousands of them, were beginning to accumulate.
Quickly, the authorities secured a warehouse in Boston’s Seaport district and filled the sprawling space: On half of the vast floor, hundreds of pieces of bloody clothes were laid out to dry so they could be examined for forensic clues or flown to FBI labs at Quantico in Prince William County for testing. In the other half of the room, more than a dozen investigators sifted through hundreds of hours of video, looking for people “doing things that are different from what everybody else is doing,” Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis said in an interview Saturday.
The work was painstaking and mind-numbing: One agent watched the same segment of video 400 times. The goal was to construct a timeline of images, following possible suspects as they moved along the sidewalks, building a narrative out of a random jumble of pictures from thousands of different phones and cameras.
It took a couple of days, but analysts began to focus on two men in baseball caps who had brought heavy black bags into the crowd near the marathon’s finish line but left without those bags. The decisive moment came on Wednesday afternoon, when Massachusetts Gov. Deval L. Patrick (D) got a call from state police: The investigation had narrowed in on the man who would soon be known as Suspect No. 2, the man whom police captured Friday night bleeding and disoriented on a 22-foot boat in a Watertown driveway.
Patrick said the images of Suspect No. 2 reacting to the first explosion provided “highly incriminating” evidence, “a lot more than the public knows.”
How federal and local investigators sifted through that ocean of evidence and focused their search on two immigrant brothers is a story of advanced technology and old-fashioned citizen cooperation. It is an object lesson in how hard it is to separate the meaningful from the noise in a world awash with information. (Washington Post)
CISPA permits police to do warrantless database searches ~ Amendment was shot down that would have required warrants before police could peruse shared information for any evidence of hundreds of different crimes. A controversial data-sharing bill being debated today in the U.S. House of Representatives authorizes federal agencies to conduct warrantless searches of information they obtain from e-mail and Internet providers.
Rep. Alan Grayson, a Florida Democrat, proposed a one-sentence amendment (PDF) that would have required the National Security Agency, the FBI, Homeland Security, and other agencies to secure a "warrant obtained in accordance with the Fourth Amendment" before searching a database for evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
Grayson complained this morning on Twitter that House Republicans "wouldn't even allow debate on requiring a warrant before a search."
CISPA is controversial because it overrules all existing federal and state laws by saying "notwithstanding any other provision of law," including privacy policies and wiretap laws, companies may share cybersecurity-related information "with any other entity, including the federal government." It would not, however, require them to do so.
That language has alarmed dozens of advocacy groups, including the American Library Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Reporters Without Borders, which sent a letter (PDF) to Congress last month opposing CISPA. It says: "CISPA's information-sharing regime allows the transfer of vast amounts of data, including sensitive information like Internet records or the content of e-mails, to any agency in the government." President Obama this week threatened to veto CISPA.
CISPA's advocates say it's needed to encourage companies to share more information with the federal government, and to a lesser extent among themselves, especially in the wake of an increasing number of successful and attempted intrusions. A "Myth v. Fact" paper (PDF) prepared by the House Intelligence committee says any claim that "this legislation creates a wide-ranging government surveillance program" is a myth. (CNet)
'False-flag' meme goes mainstream on Boston Marathon bombings On September 11th, 2001, the US media began chanting “Bin Laden” in unison almost from the moment the attack was reported. The possibility that US government insiders had orchestrated the attack - in order to blame Muslims, launch wars on Muslim countries, and seize near-absolute power - was never mentioned.
Bin Laden's repeated statements that he deplored the 9/11 attacks, considered them un-Islamic, and suspected that American supporters of Israel were behind them failed to penetrate the corporate media bubble. When the FBI definitively stated that Bin Laden was “not wanted” for 9/11 because there was “no hard evidence” of his involvement, the media blacked out the story.
But after the Boston bombings of April 16th, 2013, even the corporate monopoly media could no longer ignore the possibility of a false-flag attack. Yahoo News asked “Who's behind the Boston Marathon bombings?” and offered 4 theories: (1) Islamic jihadists, (2) Right-wing militia types, (3) the government, and (4) a criminally-insane lone wolf.
Numbers (1), (2), and (4), of course, are the usual suspects. But including (3) “the government” on the suspects list is unprecedented for a mainstream news story reporting on a domestic terror incident. (Press TV)
Boston bombing: Guardsmen will continue police support In the aftermath of the deadly and devastating double-bomb blast that occurred on Monday, the Massachusetts National Guard continues to assist local and state authorities following the Patriot Day explosions near the Boston Marathon finish line, according to National Guard commanders during a Wednesday press briefing.
More than 400 Guardsmen who had been on duty to help law enforcement agencies keep the marathon’s route clear remain on duty to continue to assist local authorities. All of the Guardsmen are accounted for, and none were reported injured, Guard officials said.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and families that have been affected by this tragedy,” said Maj. Gen. L. Scott Rice, the state adjutant general. “The National Guard can be relied upon for our diverse emergency response and rapid deployment capabilities during times of need in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.” said Rice.
The 211th Military Police Battalion has been called upon to provide security. The Guard also is contributing transportation assets, including helicopters, commanders noted. (Examiner)
Boston Marathon bombings fuel conspiracy theories, speculation of false flag operations Within minutes of the fatal bomb blasts at the Boston Marathon, self-described "truthers" erupted worldwide across the Internet with conspiracy theories about the crime.
Their efforts to find sinister machinations in the tragedy seem, well, conspiratorial.
Maybe it was that guy supposedly spotted on the roof overlooking the marathoners' route, or disgruntled taxpayers, or the writers of the animated TV series "The Family Guy," or, of course, the federal government running another "false flag" operation to seize people's civil rights.
PHOTOS: 15 Boston Marathon bombing conspiracy theories (http://bit.ly/12nn6C8)
Front and center is conspiracy entrepreneur Alex Jones. An Austin, Texas-based writer, radio talk-show host and owner of the conspiracy site Infowars.com, he says the Newtown, Conn., elementary school massacre was a government plot. Within hours of the Boston explosions, Jones used a "falseflag" hashtag on Twitter to say: "Our hearts go out to those that are hurt or killed at the Boston marathon -- but this thing stinks to high heaven."
Another conspiracy writer attended Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick's Tuesday morning press briefing in Boston to ask: "Is this another false-flag attack staged to take our civil liberties?" He was dismissed with a perfunctory "no."
A false flag, which was first a trick by 18th-century naval captains who'd hoist flags of other nations when approaching an enemy vessel, now is used to describe an attempt to hide the identity of the person or group responsible for an operation. (NBC)
Al Sharpton's Radio Producer Tweets Speculation That 'Anti-Gov' Group Behind Boston Marathon Bombings At 3:38 p.m. Eastern, Huffington Post blogger and Al Sharpton radio producer Nida Khan speculated on Twitter that an anti-government group may be responsible for the deadly bombings at the Boston Marathon.
"We don't know anything yet of course, but it is tax day & my first thought was all these anti-gov groups, but who knows," tweeted Khan, who immediately received a lot of blowback on Twitter for politicizing the tragedy. But rather than back down, Khan defended her speculation in subsequent tweets like these:
"So ...according to conservatives tweeting me, it's ok to highlight that it could have been a terrorist group, but not an anti-gov group, smh" (News Busters)
Boston Marathon: Boston Globe Tweet Spurs Confusion The Boston Marathon explosion story is one of horrific proportions but there is one tweet floating around on the internet that is raising a few eyebrows. Why did the official Boston Globe Twitter account announce that there would be an explosion across from the library?
While many people think that this is a conspiracy, as seems to always be the case after a horrific attack, there's nothing to worry about here.
Though it all seems a bit confusing, the tweet, which was posted at 3:53 PM an hour after the explosions, talked of a "controlled explosion opposite the library." A screenshot showing a time stamp of 12:53 PM caused people to take this message to mean that the Globe knew about the blasts before they happened, but that isn't the case. It was actually an issue with time zones. The 12:53 tweet was from someone on the West Coast, who may or may not have wanted to cause confusion and panic by making it look like the tweet was posted before the blasts. (Gather)
WITH ABSOLUTELY NO EVIDENCE, ALEX JONES CALLS BOSTON MARATHON EXPLOSIONS A 'FALSE FLAG' OPERATION CONDUCTED BY THE GOV'T As authorities scramble to determine who is behind the horrific Boston Marathon explosions, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones already has a theory: It was a “false flag” operation conducted by the United States government.
No, he doesn’t have legitimate evidence to back up his claim, however, he points out that the Boston bomb squad was also conducting a bomb drill on Monday. It should be noted that it certainly wouldn’t be strange for the Boston bomb squad to be training with bombs on any given day. They are the bomb squad. (The Blaze)
Rehtaeh Parsons Rape Case Solved By Anonymous in Less Than 2 Hours Despite "No Evidence" When I was in the 9th grade, I held a knife to my jugular and gave serious thought to cutting it. I was 15 and had been the victim of relentless racial bullying for the better part of four years, and by the time I held that knife to my throat, I was desperate enough for it to end that my life meant nothing to me. The thought of my family and my grandfather in particular stopped me.
This isn't a story I regularly share for obvious reasons, and to be honest it's one I try to forget. Anytime I hear a story like Rehtaeh Parsons's, though, I can't help but think back to that day and wonder if the same things I thought went through her mind as well. The story of Rehtaeh is sadly typical these days; she went to a party, drank, was gang- raped by four boys, and then bullied so cruelly that she hung herself. The full story can be read in that link. My focus is on what happened after: How after a year of investigation, the police deduced that there wasn't enough evidence to charge any of the four assailants, and how Anonymous proved them wrong in two hours.
No, you didn't read that wrong. It only took two hours for the vigilante hacker group to show the world just how useless the RCMP (Who led the investigation) are. Rehtaeh's story stirred the so-called "Internet Hate Machine" into action, but it didn't take any kind of hacking to get down to the bones of the case and build the prosecution that the RCMP bungled in a show of failure and incompetence that would make the Three Stooges shake their heads in embarrassment. Once Anonymous made their rage and intent clear, they were flooded with witness testimony, and from there built the case of the RCMP’s incompetence on three points: that dozens of teens and adults had heard the rapists brag about taking part in the gang rape, that the photo taken of the rape was reportedly so widely circulated it's unlikely the authorities ever bothered to try and find it so they might look at the EXIF data, and that Parsons's school did nothing, despite the fact that child pornography was going viral in their hallways. (Policy Mic)
Conspiracy Theory Poll Results On our national poll this week we took the opportunity to poll 20 widespread and/or infamous conspiracy theories. Many of these theories are well known to the public, others perhaps to just the darker corners of the internet. Here’s what we found:
- 37% of voters believe global warming is a hoax, 51% do not. Republicans say global warming is a hoax by a 58-25 margin, Democrats disagree 11-77, and Independents are more split at 41-51. 61% of Romney voters believe global warming is a hoax
- 6% of voters believe Osama bin Laden is still alive
- 21% of voters say a UFO crashed in Roswell, NM in 1947 and the US government covered it up. More Romney voters (27%) than Obama voters (16%) believe in a UFO coverup
- 28% of voters believe secretive power elite with a globalist agenda is conspiring to eventually rule the world through an authoritarian world government, or New World Order. A plurality of Romney voters (38%) believe in the New World Order compared to 35% who don’t
- 28% of voters believe Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks. 36% of Romney voters believe Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11, 41% do not (Public Policy Polling)
Living With Less. A Lot Less. I LIVE in a 420-square-foot studio. I sleep in a bed that folds down from the wall. I have six dress shirts. I have 10 shallow bowls that I use for salads and main dishes. When people come over for dinner, I pull out my extendable dining room table. I don’t have a single CD or DVD and I have 10 percent of the books I once did.
I have come a long way from the life I had in the late ’90s, when, flush with cash from an Internet start-up sale, I had a giant house crammed with stuff — electronics and cars and appliances and gadgets.
Somehow this stuff ended up running my life, or a lot of it; the things I consumed ended up consuming me. My circumstances are unusual (not everyone gets an Internet windfall before turning 30), but my relationship with material things isn’t.
We live in a world of surfeit stuff, of big-box stores and 24-hour online shopping opportunities. Members of every socioeconomic bracket can and do deluge themselves with products.
There isn’t any indication that any of these things makes anyone any happier; in fact it seems the reverse may be true.
For me, it took 15 years, a great love and a lot of travel to get rid of all the inessential things I had collected and live a bigger, better, richer life with less. (New York Times)
'Privacy visor blocks facial recognition software' A pair of glasses dubbed a "privacy visor" has been developed to thwart hidden cameras using facial-recognition software.
The prototype spectacles have been designed by scientists at Tokyo's National Institute of Informatics.
The glasses are equipped with a near-infrared light source, which confuses the software without affecting vision.
Law enforcers, shops and social networks are increasingly using facial-recognition software.
Prof Isao Echizen said: "As a result of developments in facial recognition technology in Google images, Facebook et cetera and the popularisation of portable terminals that append photos with photographic information [geotags]... essential measures for preventing the invasion of privacy caused by photographs taken in secret and unintentional capture in camera images is now required." (BBC)
Make Your Own Products: 3D Printing Reaches Consumers Adore your Shih Tzu? Now it’s possible to create a tiny replica of Fluffy in figurine form for your office. You could also create customized jewelry or an iPhone case. What might be called extreme personalization is moving closer to mainstream consumers who don't want to invest in an industrial 3D printer themselves. This is all thanks to a number of companies whose mission is to give everyone access to high-end 3D technology normally used by large corporations to create product prototypes.
Using their services, you can go online to design and order custom products, whether you want to add your face in relief to a coffee mug or design your own iPhone case using intuitive 3D software. You simply download the free software on your computer, or in some cases even as an application for your phone, customize your product, and upload the digital file for the company to print. Or for more complicated projects, like creating a real-life action figure of your dog or yourself, you can visit a number of companies. Direct Dimensions, for instance, will do a full body scan – called a ShapeShot — for around a hundred dollars using a $60,000 handheld industrial video scanner to circle around you as it captures your 3D image. The company can then put together your digital file to print your real life action figure. (Time)
The Filabot will revolutionise the home 3D-printing market Got any spare Lego? Invention by American college student recycles plastic household scrap into 3D-printing material - DIY desktop 3D-printers may be taking off, with basic flatpack models available for as little as £250, but the printing material itself still has a hefty price tag. A 1kg spool of plastic filament – which is heated then squeezed out in layers like icing to create objects – costs around £50, keeping it in reach of only the most enthusiastic hobbyists.
But the home-printing revolution may now be on its way, thanks to an invention by American college student Tyler McNaney. The Filabot brings a miniature industrial recycling plant to your desktop, grinding down everyday plastic waste and transforming it into ready-to-use printing material.
Everything from water pipes to drinks bottles, plastic wrappers and Lego bricks can be fed into the contraption – which grinds, melts and extrudes the plastic into a filament of either 3mm or 1.75mm diameters. It can also melt down failed or broken 3D prints, allowing for increased trial and error, or the ability to upgrade redundant parts. (London Guardian)
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