January 16, 2012
The New American
By Joe Wolverton II
With so many of our most essential liberties under attack from the oligarchy on the Potomac, it is little wonder that the freedom of the press and speech are next on the government guillotine.
The Department of Homeland Security’s National Operations Center (NOC) released its Publicly Available Social Media Monitoring and Situational Awareness Initiative last year and in that report the intelligence-gathering arm of the DHS, the Office of Operations Coordination and Planning (OPS) gives itself permission to “gather, store, analyze, and disseminate” data on millions of users of social media (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube) and business networking sites (Linkedin).
Specifically, the Initiative sets out the plan and purpose behind the DHS’s collection of personal information from news anchors, journalists, reporters, or anyone else who posts articles, comments, or other information to many popular web outlets. The report defines the target audience as anyone who may use “traditional and/or social media in real time to keep their audience situationally aware and informed.”
Journalists and bloggers need not worry, however. DHS promises that it will not routinely gather and use Personally Identifiable Information (PII). From the abstract of the Initiative:
While this Initiative is not designed to actively collect Personally Identifiable Information (PII), OPS is conducting this update to the Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) because this initiative may now collect and disseminate PII for certain narrowly tailored categories. For example, in the event of an in extremis situation involving potential life and death, OPS will share certain PII with the responding authority in order for them to take the necessary actions to save a life, such as name and location of a person calling for help buried under rubble, or hiding in a hotel room when the hotel is under attack by terrorists.
In other words, the government promises that all the personal electronic data that it monitors and records will only be used in “narrowly tailored” circumstances, saving a life, for example. There is no requirement that the data be used only in those instances, but there is a promise that it will be.
This unconstitutional, unwarranted search of private information is designed by DHS “to provide situational awareness and establish a common operating picture” of target audiences.
January 11th, 2011
By: Bruce Drake
Jared Loughner, the 22-year-old suspect accused of shooting Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in a rampage that killed six people and wounded more than a dozen others, had a history of troubling behavior that surfaced in rambling postings on his MySpace page, YouTube videos and classes he attended at Pima Community College in Tucson.
One of his videos prompted college officials to suspend him and tell his parents that he would have to get a mental health evaluation if he wanted to return to school, according to the New York Times. Loughner attended Pima from the summer of 2005 until October when he withdrew after his suspension.
Loughner tried to enlist in the Army in 2008 and took a physical. But First Sgt. Brian Homme, a Tucson recruiter, told the Arizona Daily Star that he was rejected as unqualified. Citing confidentiality rules, the Army did not make public its reasons.
Officials said that Loughner so far is not cooperating with their investigation.
Caitlin Parker, a former friend of Loughner, told ABC News that Loughner had once met Giffords.
“As I knew him more and more after high school, he got a little bit more odd,” Parker said. “I mean, he was obsessed with the 2012 prophecy. I mean, he met Gabrielle Giffords once in ’07 and told me he asked her some question that made absolutely no sense to me, but he said, ‘I can’t believe she doesn’t understand it. Politicians just don’t get it.’”
The federal complaint filed Sunday containing the charges against Loughner said that investigators found a letter from Giffords in a safe at Loughner’s house thanking him for attending one of her “Congress on Your Corner” meetings in 2007. The complaint added: “Also recovered in the safe was an enveloped with handwriting on the envelope stating ‘I planned ahead,’ and ‘My assassination’ and the name ‘Giffords’ along with what appears to be Loughner’s signature.”
At college, Loughner “disrupted class frequently with nonsensical outbursts,” according to Lynda Sorenson, who told the Daily Star she once took a math class with him.
Another former classmate of Loughner’s, Lydian Ali, told the Star, that Loughner would frequently laugh aloud to himself during an advanced poetry class that they took.
Loughner’s writings and videos, which were mostly blocks of text, ranged from what appeared to be grievances against the college to disconnected thoughts on mind control and establishing a new currency.
“This video is my introduction to you!” said one white type-on-black-background screen from a YouTube video. “My favorite activity is conscience dreaming; the greatest inspiration for my political business information. Some of you don’t dream – sadly.”
Tommy Marriotti, a high school friend of Loughner, told the Daily Star that “conscience dreaming” – trying to manipulate your dreams – was an interest that Loughner had pursued.
(Loughner’s original YouTube postings are no longer available on the website but others have reposted them, and the content of this one is consistent with published accounts of others who viewed them).
In the video he described as his introduction, Loughner said, ” The current government officials are in power for their currency! If you’re treasurer of a new money system, then you’re responsible for the distributing of a new currency. We now know – the treasurer for a new money system, is the distributor of the new currency. As a result, the people approve a new money system which is promising new information that’s accurate, and we truly believe in a new currency. Above all, have your new currency, listener?”
In another posting, he said, “I won’t pay debt with a currency that’s not backed by gold and silver.”
February 5, 2010
By Declan McCullagh
Anyone with an e-mail account likely knows that police can peek inside it if they have a paper search warrant.
But cybercrime investigators are frustrated by the speed of traditional methods of faxing, mailing, or e-mailing companies these documents. They’re pushing for the creation of a national Web interface linking police computers with those of Internet and e-mail providers so requests can be sent and received electronically.
CNET has reviewed a survey scheduled to be released at a federal task force meeting on Thursday, which says that law enforcement agencies are virtually unanimous in calling for such an interface to be created. Eighty-nine percent of police surveyed, it says, want to be able to “exchange legal process requests and responses to legal process” through an encrypted, police-only “nationwide computer network.”The survey, according to two people with knowledge of the situation, is part of a broader push from law enforcement agencies to alter the ground rules of online investigations. Other components include renewed calls for laws requiring Internet companies to store data about their users for up to five years and increased pressure on companies to respond to police inquiries in hours instead of days.
But the most controversial element is probably the private Web interface, which raises novel security and privacy concerns, especially in the wake of a recent inspector general’s report (PDF) from the Justice Department. The 289-page report detailed how the FBI obtained Americans’ telephone records by citing nonexistent emergencies and simply asking for the data or writing phone numbers on a sticky note rather than following procedures required by law.
Some companies already have police-only Web interfaces. Sprint Nextel operates what it calls the L-Site, also known as the “legal compliance secure Web portal.” The company even has offered a course that “will teach you how to create and track legal demands through L-site. Learn to navigate and securely download requested records.” Cox Communications makes its price list for complying with police requests public; a 30-day wiretap is $3,500.
The police survey is not exactly unbiased: its author is Frank Kardasz, who is scheduled to present it at a meeting (PDF) of the Online Safety and Technology Working Group, organized by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Kardasz, a sergeant in the Phoenix police department and a project director of Arizona’s Internet Crimes Against Children task force, said in an e-mail exchange on Tuesday that he is still revising the document and was unable to discuss it.
In an incendiary October 2009 essay, however, Kardasz wrote that Internet service providers that do not keep records long enough “are the unwitting facilitators of Internet crimes against children” and called for new laws to “mandate data preservation and reporting.” He predicts that those companies will begin to face civil lawsuits because of their “lethargic investigative process.”
“It sounds very dangerous,” says Lee Tien, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, referring to the police-only Web interface. “Let’s assume you set this sort of thing up. What does that mean in terms of what the law enforcement officer be able to do? Would they be able to fish through transactional information for anyone? I don’t understand how you create a system like this without it.”
What police see in ISPs
Kardasz’s survey, based on questionnaires completed by 100 police investigators, says that 61 percent of them had their investigations harmed “because data was not retained” and only 40 percent were satisfied with the timeliness of responses from Internet providers. It also says: “89 percent of investigators agreed that a nationwide computer network should be established for the purpose of linking ISPs with law enforcement agencies so that they may exchange legal process requests and responses to legal process. Authorized users would communicate through encrypted virtual private networks in order to maintain the security of the data.”
Some of the responses to other questions: “AT&T is very prompt.” “Cox Communications seems to be the worst.” “Places like Yahoo can take a month for basic subscriber info which is also a problem.” “AT&T Mobility does not keep a log at all.” “MySpace give (sic) me the quickest response and they have been very pro-police.”
Hemanshu (Hemu) Nigam, MySpace’s chief security officer, said in an interview with CNET on Tuesday that: “You can be very supportive of law enforcement investigations and at the same time be very cognizant and supportive of the privacy rights of our users. Every time a legal process comes in, whether it’s a subpoena or a search order, we do a legal review to make sure it’s appropriate.”
Nigam said that MySpace accepts law enforcement requests through e-mail, fax, and postal mail, and that it has a 24-hour operations center that tries to respond to requests soon after they’ve been reviewed to make sure state and federal laws are being followed. MySpace does not have a police-only Web interface, he said.
Creating a national police-only network would be problematic, Nigam said. “I wish I knew the number of local police agencies in the country, or even police officers in the country,” he said. “Right there that would tell you how difficult it would be to implement, even though ideally it would be a good thing.”
Another obstacle to creating a nation-wide Web interface for cops–one wag has dubbed it “DragNet,” and another “Porknet”–is that some of its thousands of users could be infected by viruses and other malware. Once an infected computer is hooked up to the national network, it could leak confidential information about ongoing investigations.
Jim Harper, a policy analyst at the free-market Cato Institute, says that he welcomes the idea of a police-only Web interface as long as it’s designed carefully. “A system like this should have strong logins, should require that the request be documented fully, and should produce statistical information so there can be strong oversight,” he says. “I think that’s a good thing to have.”
July 7, 2009
By Christian Engström
If you search for Elvis Presley in Wikipedia, you will find a lot of text and a few pictures that have been cleared for distribution. But you will find no music and no film clips, due to copyright restrictions. What we think of as our common cultural heritage is not “ours” at all.
On MySpace and YouTube, creative people post audio and video remixes for others to enjoy, until they are replaced by take-down notices handed out by big film and record companies. Technology opens up possibilities; copyright law shuts them down.
This was never the intent. Copyright was meant to encourage culture, not restrict it. This is reason enough for reform. But the current regime has even more damaging effects. In order to uphold copyright laws, governments are beginning to restrict our right to communicate with each other in private, without being monitored.
File-sharing occurs whenever one individual sends a file to another. The only way to even try to limit this process is to monitor all communication between ordinary people. Despite the crackdown on Napster, Kazaa and other peer-to-peer services over the past decade, the volume of file-sharing has grown exponentially. Even if the authorities closed down all other possibilities, people could still send copyrighted files as attachments to e-mails or through private networks. If people start doing that, should we give the government the right to monitor all mail and all encrypted networks? Whenever there are ways of communicating in private, they will be used to share copyrighted material. If you want to stop people doing this, you must remove the right to communicate in private. There is no other option. Society has to make a choice.
The world is at a crossroads. The internet and new information technologies are so powerful that no matter what we do, society will change. But the direction has not been decided.
The technology could be used to create a Big Brother society beyond our nightmares, where governments and corporations monitor every detail of our lives. In the former East Germany, the government needed tens of thousands of employees to keep track of the citizens using typewriters, pencils and index cards. Today a computer can do the same thing a million times faster, at the push of a button. There are many politicians who want to push that button.
The same technology could instead be used to create a society that embraces spontaneity, collaboration and diversity. Where the citizens are no longer passive consumers being fed information and culture through one-way media, but are instead active participants collaborating on a journey into the future.
The internet it still in its infancy, but already we see fantastic things appearing as if by magic. Take Linux, the free computer operating system, or Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Witness the participatory culture of MySpace and YouTube, or the growth of the Pirate Bay, which makes the world’s culture easily available to anybody with an internet connection. But where technology opens up new possibilities, our intellectual property laws do their best to restrict them. Linux is held back by patents, the rest of the examples by copyright.
The public increasingly recognises the need for reform. That was why Piratpartiet – the Pirate party – won 7.1 per cent of the popular vote in Sweden in the European Union elections. This gave us a seat in the European parliament for the first time.
Our manifesto is to reform copyright laws and gradually abolish the patent system. We oppose mass surveillance and censorship on the net, as in the rest of society. We want to make the EU more democratic and transparent. This is our entire platform.
We intend to devote all our time and energy to protecting the fundamental civil liberties on the net and elsewhere. Seven per cent of Swedish voters agreed with us that it makes sense to put other political differences aside in order to ensure this.
Political decisions taken over the next five years are likely to set the course we take into the information society, and will affect the lives of millions for many years into the future. Will we let our fears lead us towards a dystopian Big Brother state, or will we have the courage and wisdom to choose an exciting future in a free and open society?
The information revolution is happening here and now. It is up to us to decide what future we want.