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The Great SIM Heist: How Spies Stole the Keys to the Encryption Castle AMERICAN AND BRITISH spies hacked into the internal computer network of the largest manufacturer of SIM cards in the world, stealing encryption keys used to protect the privacy of cellphone communications across the globe, according to top-secret documents provided to The Intercept by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The hack was perpetrated by a joint unit consisting of operatives from the NSA and its British counterpart Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ. The breach, detailed in a secret 2010 GCHQ document, gave the surveillance agencies the potential to secretly monitor a large portion of the world’s cellular communications, including both voice and data.
The company targeted by the intelligence agencies, Gemalto, is a multinational firm incorporated in the Netherlands that makes the chips used in mobile phones and next-generation credit cards. Among its clients are AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint and some 450 wireless network providers around the world. The company operates in 85 countries and has more than 40 manufacturing facilities. One of its three global headquarters is in Austin, Texas and it has a large factory in Pennsylvania.
In all, Gemalto produces some 2 billion SIM cards a year. Its motto is “Security to be Free.”
With these stolen encryption keys, intelligence agencies can monitor mobile communications without seeking or receiving approval from telecom companies and foreign governments. Possessing the keys also sidesteps the need to get a warrant or a wiretap, while leaving no trace on the wireless provider’s network that the communications were intercepted. Bulk key theft additionally enables the intelligence agencies to unlock any previously encrypted communications they had already intercepted, but did not yet have the ability to decrypt. (The Intercept)
What the Fake Syria Sniper Boy Video Tell Us About Media Experts Many mainstream media websites helped a fake video go viral this month. The video showing a young Syrian boy running through sniper fire to save a little girl, was exposed as a fake when the Norwegian producer Lars Klevberg made the fact public. One of the stated aims of the Norwegian film makers was to “see how the media would respond to a fake video.” This article examines how that experiment went.
The western press very quickly accepted the video as real and used it to support the US administration’s narrative on Syria. Many top US news sources began to spread the story. Even though the producer said he explicitly added big hints that the video was fake, like the children surviving multiple gun shots.
Propagating false stories on Syria, is nothing new for the western press. In the lead up to the conflict many stories were exposed as frauds, such as the Anti-government activist “Gay Girl in Damascus” which turned out to be a middle-aged American man in Scotland. Syrian Danny Abdul Dayem which was frequently interviewed by CNN was using fake gun fire and flames in his interviews.
The fake sniper video wasn’t enough to support US government narratives by itself, as the now deleted original upload didn’t suggest the identity of the snipers. So the west’s media suggested that it was Syrian military snipers that were targeting the children without any evidence. Journalists failed to mention how they reached the conclusion that an actor in Malta was shot by the Syrian military. It may be that the western press is quick to trust pro-rebel sources, as the video was uploaded by the pro-rebel Sham Times along with their own twist. (New Eastern Outlook)
Just Two Words From Apple On The NSA's iPhone Hacking Show How The Tech Community Now Hates The NSA If Walmart or McDonald's began describing the Obama Administration as an unconstitutional threat to the privacy of its customers, it would be front page/holy-cow news.
But that's what is happening in Silicon Valley right now, with America's biggest tech companies.
The most interesting two words in Apple's official statement today on the news that the NSA can put spyware on 100% of Apple's products, including the iPhone, are these: "malicious hackers."
The company said it was unaware of the NSA's hacking program, called "DROPOUTJEEP," and that it was working to end the breach. But note that Apple's statement went out of its way to portray the U.S. government as a security threat:
We will continue to use our resources to stay ahead of malicious hackers and defend our customers from security attacks, regardless of who’s behind them. (Business Insider)
NASA funding shuffle alarms planetary scientists -- Agency restructuring will postpone a major grants programme for one Scott Guzewich spent six years as a weather forecaster in the US Air Force before switching to his dream career as a planetary scientist. Guzewich now studies the Martian atmosphere as a postdoctoral fellow at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
But Guzewich’s dream job may be turning into a nightmare. On 3 December, NASA’s planetary science division announced a restructuring of how it funds its various research and analysis programmes. And what sounded like a bureaucratic shuffle touched a raw nerve among US planetary scientists, who already feel singled out in an era of shrinking budgets.
In particular, a newly formed research programme that will cover roughly half of all planetary science proposals will not be calling for new grant submissions in 2014. Researchers who draw the bulk of their salaries from grants will have no place to apply.
“Now I have to basically skip 2014 and submit in 2015,” says Guzewich. “If nothing gets funded in that call, then I guess it’s time for me to go to Walmart.”
Almost all US planetary scientists are funded, at least in part, by NASA’s US$1.2-billion planetary sciences division. Many older and more established researchers get money from individual missions such as the Mars Curiosity rover or the Cassini Saturn probe. Younger scientists, such as Guzewich, must rely more heavily on the roughly $250-million pot known as the research and analysis budget. This is the money designated to scientists exploring the data streaming back from planetary missions. According to a 2010 survey by the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, nearly half of US planetary scientists depend on this programme for more than half of their salaries. (Nature)
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)
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)
Electronic Dance Music’s Love Affair With Ecstasy: A History -- The drug and the music evolved together over years, making EDM a radically different culture today than it was when it started. We don't know much about Meredith Hunter other than that he killed the American Hippie. We know that his friends called him Murdock, and that he was 18, and that there were three weeks until the last day of the 1960s. 300,000 people had gathered at the Altamont Raceway Park near San Francisco for Woodstock’s Pacific reincarnation, but of the increasingly violent masses, he was the only one who stormed the stage with a gun, and the only one who was stabbed to death by a Hell’s Angel.
Today, we know Hunter mostly in the context of his death, but even there he’s just a metaphor. In the rise-and-fall narrative of hippie culture, he is simply the Altamont tragedy, and Altamont is known as the day the music died.
In his reflections on the recent anniversary of the September 11th attacks, John Cassidy discusses the human “saliency bias”—our habit of forming memories around jarring events rather than, say, a series of minor incidents whose impact nets about equal. This mechanism explains how and why history can link a generation’s implosion to one day at the end of the decade. For both sides of the culture, the tragedy’s gruesome rawness gave legitimacy to the concern that peace and love were quite literally killing the country.
Consider Olivia Rotondo, whose by-all-accounts-normal life suggests that her death could have happened to anyone. Four hours after tweeting her excitement about the Electric Zoo Festival on New York City’s Randall’s Island, she collapsed in front of a paramedic, saying the seven words that in the weeks since have become a macabre Exhibit A in the campaign against the drug that is said to have killed her.
“I just took six hits of Molly.”
She died that night. Jeffrey Russ, a 23-year old also believed to have taken MDMA (the drug’s proper name) had passed away 18 hours earlier. The following day—what would have been the grand finale to the three-day gyration of 100,000 neon-clad ravers—Randall’s Island was deserted and silent.
“If you look at electronic dance music culture, it seems to be more diverse, more accepting of the 'other', more welcoming of gay people—a counter-ethos of 'we’re in it together.' There’s a spiritual aspect to it.”
Since it first plugged in its equipment five summers ago, Electric Zoo has marked the end of the annual electronic festival season in the United States, the centerpiece each year of one of the country’s most mainstream and lucrative new artistic industries. In 2012, electronic dance music (EDM) spawned eleven platinum hits and increased the population of Miami by one quarter for one of the biggest American musical events since Woodstock. It has repackaged and commoditized the two-decade-old EDM mantra of “Peace, Love, Unity, and Respect” (usually abbreviated to “PLUR”) that apparently captures what this whole vision, with its bass drops and Day-Glo campiness, and a certain synthetic chemical stimulant, has always been about. (The Atlantic)
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)
'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 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)
Lid of Boston Marathon pressure cooker bomb was found on sixth floor rooftop of hotel 35 yards away -- and guests thought it was a hubcap New crime scene photographs from the first blast confirms that a pressure cooker was used in the device ~
Lid of pressure cooker found on rooftop of building 35 yards away ~
Other photographs submitted to the FBI reveal the scene before and after the second bomb detonated ~
Devices were designed to act as 'Claymore' anti-personnel devices - which are meant to maim on the battlefield ~
An orange and grey bag can be seen on the opposite side of barriers to spectators before the second blast ~
The pressure-cooker bombs were packed with shards of metal, nails and ball bearings ~
Devices are frequently used in Afghanistan, India, Nepal and Pakistan, according to Homeland Security - The force of the first blast at the Boston marathon was so strong, the lid of the pressure cooker bomb was found on the sixth-floor roof of a hotel 35 yards away from the explosion site and is now a vital clue in the investigation.
A guest at the Charlesmark Hotel discovered the crucial piece of evidence just minutes after the blast. He picked up the twisted metal – believing it was a hubcap from a vehicle damaged in the bomb – and gave it to a policeman.
Twenty-four hours later he was quizzed by FBI agents, who revealed the mangled metal was one of biggest clues so far in the search for the terrorists who killed three and injured 183 others. (UK Daily Mail)
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)
CNN ANALYST: 'RIGHT-WING EXTREMISTS' COULD BE BEHIND BOSTON MARATHON BOMBING Less than two hours after the horrific bombing at the Boston Marathon, CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen was already speculating that "right-wing extremists" could be behind the attack. He told CNN anchor Jake Tapper:
I'm reminded of Oklahoma City, which was a bombing, which was initially treated as a gas explosion. First reports are often erroneous. (Breitbart)
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)
Statement from Crisis Actors We are outraged by Florida Atlantic University Professor James Tracy's deliberate promotion of rumor and innuendo to link Crisis Actors to the Sandy Hook shootings of December 14, 2012. We do not engage our actors in any real-world crisis events, and none of our performances may be presented at any time as a real-world event.
James Tracy copied his material from blogs and YouTube channels that manufacture malicious rumors and false accusations.
It is obvious to James Tracy and FAU that these sites pander to followers who need only rumor and innuendo to carry out a relentless hate attack against the Sandy Hook community as well as Crisis Actors.
These followers' online campaign of threats and defamation continues to this day, and interferes with official investigations into the Newtown tragedy. How can James Tracy and the university shrug off any responsibility for the pain they are causing?
Click to watch this hate attack in real time on Twitter. (Crisis Actors)
Self-professed 'gun nut' Keith Ratliff found fatally shot in the head in suspected homicide 'Every one of you should be able to own an assault weapon of your choice,' Ratliff posted last year on YouTube. Ratliff was a channel producer for the FPSRussia, one of the top 10 most popular channels on YouTube. The channel features a man in Russian accent test firing various assault weapons and has 3.4 million subscribers. - In a rather macabre bit of irony, a self-professed "gun nut" who was a YouTube channel producer for fellow gun enthusiasts was found fatally shot in the head in his Carnesville, Ga., home on Jan. 3. Police are investigating the case as a homicide.
Keith Ratliff, 32, was a channel producer for the popular FPSRussia firearms channel on YouTube, according to FoxNews.com. The channel boasts 3.4 million subscribers and has more than 537 million video views. The videos largely consist of a man with a Russian accent test firing various high-powered firearms. The channel is ranked as one of the top 10 channels on YouTube.
Police found numerous weapons at the crime scene, according to WSB-TV. Some of the weapons were even manufactured by Ratliff himself. "He (Ratliff) did sustain a gunshot wound that was not self-inflicted,” Mike Ayers of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation told FoxNews.com. (New York Daily News)
Sandy Hook School Massacre Timeline The following timeline of the December 14 mass killing of 20 children and 8 adults in Newtown Connecticut attempts to demonstrate how the event was presented to the public by corporate news media. The chronological assemblage of coverage is not comprehensive of all reports published on the incident but rather seeks to verify how the storyline was to a substantial degree constructed by federal and state law enforcement authorities and major media around the theory that 20-year-old Adam Lanza was the sole agent in the massacre.
This scenario became an established reality through the news media’s pronounced repetition of the lone gunman narrative and meme. This proposed scenario significantly obscured the fact that police encountered and apprehended two additional shooting suspects on the school’s grounds within minutes of the crime. These suspects remain unaccounted for by authorities but the roles they may have played arguably correlate with the shifting information presented by authorities and major news media on injuries and weapons vis-à-vis the mass carnage meted out in the school. While the certain detainment of additional suspects was pointed to by alternative news media, including Natural News, Infowars, Veterans Today and Global Research in the days following the tragedy, the untenable lone gunman narrative has become firmly established in the public psyche via an overwhelming chorus of corporate media reports and interpretations. (Memory Hole Blog)
There's Little We Can Do to Prevent Another Massacre -- The things that would work are impractical and unconstitutional. The things we can do won't work. There just aren't good words to talk about Newtown. It is a crime that literally defies imagination--hell, it flings imagination down and dances upon its head. No one reading this can imagine strolling into an elementary school and opening fire on a bunch of small children. You can't imagine even wanting to.
Most crimes are motivated by unlovely impulses that are at least comprehensible: the desire for money, sex, respect, revenge. We don't do these things because we have been taught that "good people don't do that!"--and we want to think of ourselves as good people, or at least have the neighbors and our parents think of us as good people. Or perhaps we're merely afraid of getting caught and punished. But we can understand why people want to--we know what someone is after when they hold up a liquor store, or even kills their spouse for the insurance money. Understanding is not sanction: these crimes still have the power to anger and horrify. But they're comprehensible, and that comprehensibility is surprisingly comforting.
The alternative is Newtown. When one tries to picture the mind that plans it, one quickly comes to a dead end. Even if I had been raised with no moral laws at all, even if there were no cops and no prisons, I'm pretty sure that I still wouldn't want to spend a crisp Friday morning shooting cowering children. Trying to climb this mountain of wickedness is like trying to climb a glass wall with your bare hands. What happened there is pure evil, and evil, unlike common badness, gives an ordinary mind no foothold. (The Daily Beast)
What’s Your Meme? Changing the Climate Change Conversation Yes we can! Ermahgerd. Occupy. I had a dream. Haters gonna hate. Tear down this wall! Gangnam Style. Drill, baby, drill.
We are constantly bombarded by memes in our daily lives. Some spontaneously flare up and then burn out as quickly as they appeared, while others stick around for decades. We hardly consider their presence, much less contemplate their possible influence on our lives.
Researchers in the emerging field of meme science are digging deeper, however, investigating how and why these sticky phrases or trends sink into our cultural psyche and subconsciously influence the way we process the world around us.
“Our goal is to introduce rigorous market research tools that have been developed for the corporate sector and apply them to the most pressing social issues in the world,” said Joe Brewer, co-founder of DarwinSF, a San Francisco-based company founded six months ago to help identify and spread memes that may influence significant global issues, starting with climate change. (New York Times)
Hacker finds McAfee through phone trail Weeks of international intrigue about the whereabouts of tech millionaire John McAfee ended Tuesday after the internet pioneer made an elementary digital mistake that highlighted the fraught relationship Americans have with what they once quaintly called "the telephone".
That homely communication tool, wired into walls everywhere for the better part of a century, has become an untethered emailer, browser, banker, shopper, movie viewer, music player and - to an extent that few appreciate - digital spy of extraordinary power.
McAfee, 67, who founded the popular antivirus company that bears his name, has been wanted for questioning by police in Belize since a neighbour turned up dead of a gunshot wound near McAfee's beachside home on November 11. The troubled tech savant, insisting that he had no role in the shooting, went on the run and has been taunting police by blog, Twitter and occasional podcast. (The Sydney Morning Herald)
Senate bill rewrite lets feds read your e-mail without warrants Proposed law scheduled for a vote next week originally increased Americans' e-mail privacy. Then law enforcement complained. Now it increases government access to e-mail and other digital files. - A Senate proposal touted as protecting Americans' e-mail privacy has been quietly rewritten, giving government agencies more surveillance power than they possess under current law, CNET has learned.
Patrick Leahy, the influential Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has dramatically reshaped his legislation in response to law enforcement concerns, according to three individuals who have been negotiating with Leahy's staff over the changes. A vote on his bill, which now authorizes warrantless access to Americans' e-mail, is scheduled for next week. (CNet News)
SGI Twitter Heat Map: Supercomputer Shows Where Angriest Tweeters Live Twitter may be full of jibber-jabber, but that doesn't mean this social networking site can't give us a little insight about what the world is thinking.
Silicon Graphics International, or SGI, has partnered with researchers from the University of Illinois to scan international tweets in a project dubbed the Global Twitter Heartbeat. By using SGI's UV 2000 Big Brain supercomputer, the researchers created real-time heat maps of positive and negative sentiments expressed via Twitter. (The Huffington Post)
Obama's Second Term Foreign Policy Will Bring New Challenges Over Drone Strikes On Wednesday morning, as many Americans sifted through the voter data and exit poll numbers of President Barack Obama's reelection the night before, the Twitter feeds of close watchers of Yemen lit up with reports of another sort of presidential event: an apparent U.S. drone strike had killed several individuals in that country.
There was no way of being certain if the strike was indeed American, or for that matter if it was a drone strike at all, although it had all the markings of one.
"All signs (after dark, suspicions of locals, target) point to Sanhan strike being a US drone," Yemen-based freelance journalist Adam Baron wrote on Twitter.
Several other analysts concurred.
A White House spokesman did not respond to a request for comment. If it were a American strike, of course, it would have to have been authorized by Obama.
Whatever its provenance, the strike served as a macabre reminder of the burdens that Obama faces as he turns his attention away from the campaign and back to the business of being commander in chief. (Huffington Post)
Congressmen Seek To Lift Propaganda Ban: Propaganda that was supposed to target foreigners could now be aimed at Americans, reversing a longstanding policy. "Disconcerting and dangerous," says Shank. An amendment that would legalize the use of propaganda on American audiences is being inserted into the latest defense authorization bill, BuzzFeed has learned.
The amendment would “strike the current ban on domestic dissemination” of propaganda material produced by the State Department and the independent Broadcasting Board of Governors, according to the summary of the law at the House Rules Committee’s official website.
The tweak to the bill would essentially neutralize two previous acts—the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 and Foreign Relations Authorization Act in 1987—that had been passed to protect U.S. audiences from our own government’s misinformation campaigns.
The bi-partisan amendment is sponsored by Rep. Mac Thornberry from Texas and Rep. Adam Smith from Washington State.
In a little noticed press release earlier in the week — buried beneath the other high-profile issues in the $642 billion defense bill, including indefinite detention and a prohibition on gay marriage at military installations — Thornberry warned that in the Internet age, the current law “ties the hands of America’s diplomatic officials, military, and others by inhibiting our ability to effectively communicate in a credible way.” (Buzz Feed)
Twitter adopts country-specific censorship regime how will that work? - As Xeni wrote, Twitter has adopted Google's tactics for coping with legally binding censorship demands: from now on, when it receives a legal demand to censor a tweet, it will only censor that tweet for users in the country from which the demand emanates. Other countries' users will still see it. Users in the censored country will see a notice that material has been censored. Additionally, all censorship demands will be archived at Chillngeffects.org, a clearinghouse that tracks Internet censorship.
In many ways, this is preferable to the existing system, whereby legally enforceable censorship orders would affect all Twitter users. And of course, Twitter only has to honor censorship demands in countries where it has offices and assets; Lower Pottsylvania can require removal of every mention of Glorious Leader, but unless Twitter has an office there, it can safely ignore the orders (JWZ points out that Twitter has opened offices in many cenorious countries and plans to open offices in more, because there's money to be had by setting up local operations there). (Boing Boing)
Is internet access a human right? As family life migrates online and the web becomes the home of free expression, it's getting harder for courts to prevent individuals going online - A recent United Nations Human Rights Council report examined the important question of whether internet access is a human right.
While the Special Rapporteur's conclusions are nuanced in respect of blocking sites or providing limited access, he is clear that restricting access completely will always be a breach of article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the right to freedom of expression.
But not everyone agrees with the UN's conclusion. Vint Cerf, a so-called "father of the internet" and a vice-president at Google, argued in a New York Times editorial that internet access is not a human right:
The best way to characterise human rights is to identify the outcomes that we are trying to ensure. These include critical freedoms like freedom of speech and freedom of access to information — and those are not necessarily bound to any particular technology at any particular time. Indeed, even the United Nations report, which was widely hailed as declaring internet access a human right, acknowledged that the internet was valuable as a means to an end, not as an end in itself. (London Guardian)
The 'Occupy' movement lives Gina Glantz was most recently an adjunct lecturer at the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School.
The hashtag #occupywallstreet inspired the most basic of organizing strategies: sit-ins. OWS sit-ins became encampments, many of which are now being dismantled by law enforcement and debilitated by weather. As the movement is increasingly out of the sight of pundits and the popular media, and criticized as leaderless and lacking a clear purpose, it has become fashionable to talk about OWS as inevitably failing. This is a mistake. Encampment “occupiers” come and go; hashtag followers live on in cyberspace, where OWS is spawning leaders and developing goals, just not in the way that most people are accustomed to.
●The Occupy Wiki Research Group, of which I am a member, has a robust online dialogue among college professors, organizing practitioners and activists. Weekly phone calls refine their efforts.
●Occupytogether.org was started by two designers who couldn’t get to New York so tried to track, on their own, activities around the country. Overwhelmed by the volume, they recently incorporated MeetUp.com into their site.
●Maps depicting FourSquare locations using the Occupy Wall Street hashtag show thousands of check-ins across the country.
●Students at Boulder Digital Works at the University of Colorado built Occupationalist.org, which describes itself as “an impartial and real-time view of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Covering history as it unfolds. No filters. No delays.”
●An urban gardening advocate’s blog about how Occupy Wall Street can help communities seeking to take over empty lots is circulating on Facebook. (Washington Post)
Indefinite Detention Law Hall of Shame: List of Senators Who Voted Yes on the NDAA bill Below is the list of the Senators who voted yes on the NDAA bill which provides for indefinite detention of "any person who has committed a belligerent act" (See section 1031 (b) 2 of s1867 (National Defense Authorization Act of 2012). The term "belligerent act" is extremely wide and could applied to any form of resistance including protesting in the streets or even speaking out against the U.S. government. Be sure to also visit the list of the twitter ids for the senators who voted for NDAA below. (Waiting for the Storm)
The New Progressive Movement (Opinion) OCCUPY WALL STREET and its allied movements around the country are more than a walk in the park. They are most likely the start of a new era in America. Historians have noted that American politics moves in long swings. We are at the end of the 30-year Reagan era, a period that has culminated in soaring income for the top 1 percent and crushing unemployment or income stagnation for much of the rest. The overarching challenge of the coming years is to restore prosperity and power for the 99 percent.
Thirty years ago, a newly elected Ronald Reagan made a fateful judgment: “Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.” Taxes for the rich were slashed, as were outlays on public services and investments as a share of national income. Only the military and a few big transfer programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and veterans’ benefits were exempted from the squeeze.
Reagan’s was a fateful misdiagnosis. He completely overlooked the real issue — the rise of global competition in the information age — and fought a bogeyman, the government. Decades on, America pays the price of that misdiagnosis, with a nation singularly unprepared to face the global economic, energy and environmental challenges of our time. (New York Times)
Occupy Oakland Deposits $20K at ... Wells Fargo: But don't worry, it's only for a little while! So much for Bank Transfer Day and, you know, railing against Wall Street: Occupy Oakland took its $20,000 straight to Wells Fargo, the fourth-largest bank holding company in the US. The group’s general assembly agreed—just about unanimously—to temporarily put the large donation from Occupy Wall Street into the big bank Monday, the San Francisco Examiner reports. Not surprisingly, the 162-8 vote (16 abstained) led to outrage on Twitter.
TSA officer faces dismissal over 'get your freak on, girl' note in luggage An airplane baggage screener faces dismissal for leaving a note in a passenger's bag that said "Get Your Freak On, Girl" after discovering a vibrator.
The Transportation Security Administration "has initiated action to remove the individual from federal service," an agency spokesperson said. "Like all federal employees, this individual is entitled to due process and protected by the Privacy Act. During the removal action process, the employee will not perform any screening duties."
The agency randomly selects checked baggage for screening on flights originating in the United States. Lawyer and writer Jill Filipovic tweeted a picture of the note Monday and later blogged about it on Feministe.
"This is what TSA will do when they inspect a bag you checked and find a, um, 'personal item,' " she wrote. "Total violation of privacy, wildly inappropriate and clearly not OK, but I also just died laughing in my hotel room." (CNN)
In Protest, the Power of Place THE ever expanding Occupy Wall Street movement, with encampments now not only in Lower Manhattan but also in Washington, London and other cities, proves among other things that no matter how instrumental new media have become in spreading protest these days, nothing replaces people taking to the streets.
Another reminder came late last week when the landlord of Zuccotti Park, where the demonstrators in New York City have settled, at the last minute withdrew a request for police assistance in cleaning up the park. This, at least temporarily, averted a confrontation in front of the global media over what protesters regarded as just a pretext to evict them.
We tend to underestimate the political power of physical places. Then Tahrir Square comes along. Now it’s Zuccotti Park, until four weeks ago an utterly obscure city-block-size downtown plaza with a few trees and concrete benches, around the corner from ground zero and two blocks north of Wall Street on Broadway. A few hundred people with ponchos and sleeping bags have put it on the map.
Kent State, Tiananmen Square, the Berlin Wall: we clearly use locales, edifices, architecture to house our memories and political energy. Politics troubles our consciences. But places haunt our imaginations. (New York Times)
Behind the Story: MoJo's Investigation of Terrorism Informants Maybe you've wondered, on occasion of a press conference announcing another major terrorism bust: Why does it seem as if the FBI's undercover operatives actually encouraged—even thought up—the plot? Why do the targets come off as hapless losers unable to organize so much as a poker game? How come it was the government that provided the fake conspiracy, the fake car bomb or missile, even the fake Al Qaeda oath?
Trevor Aaronson wondered, too, and because he's an investigative reporter, he decided to do something about it: look at every terrorism case the government has prosecuted since 9/11 and dig through the evidence and testimony. The result is the lead story in our new magazine cover package, "Terrorists for the FBI."
Among the project's conclusions:
Nearly half the prosecutions involved the use of informants, many of them incentivized by money (operatives can be paid as much as $100,000 per assignment) or the need to work off criminal or immigration violations.
Sting operations resulted in prosecutions against 158 defendants. Of that total, 49 defendants participated in plots led by an agent provocateur—an FBI operative instigating terrorist action.
With three exceptions, all of the high-profile domestic terror plots of the last decade were actually FBI stings.
In all, this investigation reviewed more than 500 domestic terror prosecutions (for more details, see our charts page and searchable database). How did we identify them? The federal government unwittingly helped with this research in a huge way: Attorney General Eric Holder in March 2010 testified before Congress as the Obama administration sought to put 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed on trial in Manhattan—a plan it ultimately abandoned. One of the documents submitted to Congress was a list of all successful terrorism prosecutions from 9/11 through 2009. (Mother Jones)
Revolution U: What Egypt Learned From The Students Who Overthrew Milosevic Early in 2008, workers at a government-owned textile factory in the Egyptian mill town of El-Mahalla el-Kubra announced that they were going on strike on the first Sunday in April to protest high food prices and low wages. They caught the attention of a group of tech-savvy young people an hour's drive to the south in the capital city of Cairo, who started a Facebook group to organize protests and strikes on April 6 throughout Egypt in solidarity with the mill workers. To their shock, the page quickly acquired some 70,000 followers.
But what worked so smoothly online proved much more difficult on the street. Police occupied the factory in Mahalla and headed off the strike. The demonstrations there turned violent: Protesters set fire to buildings, and police started shooting, killing at least two people. The solidarity protests around Egypt, meanwhile, fizzled out, in most places blocked by police. The Facebook organizers had never agreed on tactics, whether Egyptians should stay home or fill the streets in protest. People knew they wanted to do something. But no one had a clear idea of what that something was.
The botched April 6 protests, the leaders realized in their aftermath, had been an object lesson in the limits of social networking as a tool of democratic revolution. Facebook could bring together tens of thousands of sympathizers online, but it couldn't organize them once they logged off. It was a useful communication tool to call people to -- well, to what? The April 6 leaders did not know the answer to this question. So they decided to learn from others who did. In the summer of 2009, Mohamed Adel, a 20-year-old blogger and April 6 activist, went to Belgrade, Serbia. (Foreign Policy)
The Digital Disruption: Connectivity and the Diffusion of Power Increased connectivity allows for the spread of liberal, open values but also poses a number of dangers. To foster the free flow of information and challenge authoritarian regimes, democratic states will have to learn to create alliances with people and companies at the forefront of the information revolution.
ERIC SCHMIDT is Chair and CEO of Google. He is a Member of the President's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology and Chair of the New America Foundation. JARED COHEN is Director of Google Ideas. He is an Adjunct Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of Children of Jihad and One Hundred Days of Silence: America and the Rwanda Genocide. - The advent and power of connection technologies -- tools that connect people to vast amounts of information and to one another -- will make the twenty-first century all about surprises. Governments will be caught off-guard when large numbers of their citizens, armed with virtually nothing but cell phones, take part in mini-rebellions that challenge their authority. For the media, reporting will increasingly become a collaborative enterprise between traditional news organizations and the quickly growing number of citizen journalists. And technology companies will find themselves outsmarted by their competition and surprised by consumers who have little loyalty and no patience.
Today, more than 50 percent of the world's population has access to some combination of cell phones (five billion users) and the Internet (two billion). These people communicate within and across borders, forming virtual communities that empower citizens at the expense of governments. New intermediaries make it possible to develop and distribute content across old boundaries, lowering barriers to entry. Whereas the traditional press is called the fourth estate, this space might be called the "interconnected estate" -- a place where any person with access to the Internet, regardless of living standard or nationality, is given a voice and the power to effect change. (Foreign Affairs)
Urban model for cybersecurity ed: San Diego A Slovakian antivirus company with its American headquarters in San Diego is trying to make good cybersecurity just as much a part of the local fabric as good beaches and Chargers football.
Eset launched the Securing Our eCity program with the San Diego Chamber of Commerce two years ago to offer free workshops to consumers and small businesses on how to stay safe online. Today it has become a model for similar initiatives being launched in Malaysia, Buenos Aires, and London. And it helped with the creation of the Stop Think Connect campaign launched last week as part of National Cyber Security Awareness month.
"San Diego is the first community to implement the messaging in a complete awareness campaign," with billboards, public service announcements, and radio and print ads, Darin Andersen, chief operating officer at Eset, told CNET in an interview this week. (CNET News)
Third Party Rising by Thomas Friedman - A friend in the U.S. military sent me an e-mail last week with a quote from the historian Lewis Mumford’s book, “The Condition of Man,” about the development of civilization. Mumford was describing Rome’s decline: “Everyone aimed at security: no one accepted responsibility. What was plainly lacking, long before the barbarian invasions had done their work, long before economic dislocations became serious, was an inner go. Rome’s life was now an imitation of life: a mere holding on. Security was the watchword — as if life knew any other stability than through constant change, or any form of security except through a constant willingness to take risks.”
It was one of those history passages that echo so loudly in the present that it sends a shiver down my spine — way, way too close for comfort.
I’ve just spent a week in Silicon Valley, talking with technologists from Apple, Twitter, LinkedIn, Intel, Cisco and SRI and can definitively report that this region has not lost its “inner go.” But in talks here and elsewhere I continue to be astounded by the level of disgust with Washington, D.C., and our two-party system — so much so that I am ready to hazard a prediction: Barring a transformation of the Democratic and Republican Parties, there is going to be a serious third party candidate in 2012, with a serious political movement behind him or her — one definitely big enough to impact the election’s outcome. (New York Times)
Wiretapping the Internet On Monday, The New York Times reported that President Obama will seek sweeping laws enabling law enforcement to more easily eavesdrop on the internet. Technologies are changing, the administration argues, and modern digital systems aren't as easy to monitor as traditional telephones.
The government wants to force companies to redesign their communications systems and information networks to facilitate surveillance, and to provide law enforcement with back doors that enable them to bypass any security measures.
The proposal may seem extreme, but -- unfortunately -- it's not unique. Just a few months ago, the governments of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and India threatened to ban BlackBerry devices unless the company made eavesdropping easier. China has already built a massive internet surveillance system to better control its citizens. (Bruce Schneier)
EXCLUSIVE-Cyber bill would give U.S. emergency powers * Tech companies skeptical of costs, requirements
* Senate majority leader pushing cybersecurity proposal
* Cybersecurity expert says bill is "pretty vanilla stuff" - Proposed cybersecurity legislation circulating on Capitol Hill would give the president the power to declare an emergency in the case of big online attacks and force some businesses to beef up their cyber defenses and submit to scrutiny.
The draft bill, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, allows the president to declare an emergency if there is an imminent threat to the U.S. electrical grid or other critical infrastructure such as the water supply or financial network because of a cyber attack.
Industries, companies or portions of companies could be temporarily shut down, or be required to take other steps to address threats.
The emergency declaration would last for 30 days, unless the president renews it. It cannot last more than 90 days without action from Congress.
The draft is a combination of two cybersecurity bills which were merged into one at the urging of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. "It (the draft bill) is something that we hope to be able to pass before the end of the year, if we can," Reid spokeswoman Regan Lachapelle told Reuters. (Reuters)
Obama Is Preparing to Bomb Iran After about two and a half years during which the danger of war between the United States and Iran was at a relatively low level, this threat is now rapidly increasing. A pattern of political and diplomatic events, military deployments, and media chatter now indicates that Anglo-American ruling circles, acting through the troubled Obama administration, are currently gearing up for a campaign of bombing against Iran, combined with special forces incursions designed to stir up rebellions among the non-Persian nationalities of the Islamic Republic. Naturally, the probability of a new fake Gulf of Tonkin incident or false flag terror attack staged by the Anglo-American war party and attributed to Iran or its proxies is also growing rapidly. (Webster Tarpley)
Google's Deep CIA Connections The western media is currently full of articles on Google's 'threat to quit China' over internet censorship issues, and the company's 'suspicion' that the Chinese government was behind attempts to 'break-in' to several Google email accounts used by 'Chinese dissidents'.
However, the media has almost completely failed to report that Google's surface concern over 'human rights' in China is belied by its their deep involvement with some of the worst human rights abuses on the planet:
Google is, in fact, is a key participant in U.S. military and CIA intelligence operations involving torture; subversion of foreign governments; illegal wars of aggression; and military occupations of countries which have never attacked the U.S. and which have cost hundreds of thousands of lives in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and elsewhere. (Pravda)
EXCLUSIVE: W.H. collects Web users' data without notice The White House is collecting and storing comments and videos placed on its social-networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube without notifying or asking the consent of the site users, a failure that appears to run counter to President Obama's promise of a transparent government and his pledge to protect privacy on the Internet.
Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said the White House signaled that it would insist on open dealings with Internet users and, in fact, should feel obliged to disclose that it is collecting such information.
"The White House has not been adequately transparent, particularly on how it makes use of new social media techniques, such as this example," he said. (Washington Times)
Swine Flu Campaign Waits on Vaccine Only Third of Supply Is Expected for First Round of Vast Effort - "This is potentially the largest mass-vaccination program in human history," said Howard Markel, a professor of medical history at the University of Michigan who is advising the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as it spearheads the effort (Washington Post)
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