Thursday, March 26, 2015

It's OK to leak government secrets - as long as it benefits politicians


When it comes to classified information, some leaks are more equal than others. If you are a whistleblower like Edward Snowden, who tells the press about illegal, immoral or embarrassing government actions, you will face jail time. But it’s often another story for US government officials leaking information for their own political benefit.

Two stories this week perfectly illustrate this hypocrisy and how, despite their unprecedented crackdown on sources and whistleblowers, the Obama administration - like every administration before it - loves to use leaks, if and when it suits them.

Consider a government leak that ran in the New York Times on Monday. The article was about 300 of Hillary Clinton’s now notorious State Department emails, which had been hidden away on her private server for years and were turned over to Congress as part of the never-ending Benghazi investigation. “Four senior government officials” described the content of her emails to New York Times journalists in minute detail “on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to jeopardize their access to secret information”.

Surely the Obama administration will promptly root out and prosecute those leakers, right? After all, the emails haven’t gone through a security review and the chances of them discussing classified information are extremely high. (Even if they don’t, the Espionage Act doesn’t require the information to be classified anyways, only that information leaked be “related to national defense”.) But those emails supposedly clear Clinton of any wrongdoing in the Benghazi affair, which likely makes the leak in the administration’s interest...

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The F.B.I. Deemed Agents Faultless in 150 Shootings

WASHINGTON — After contradictory stories emerged about an F.B.I. agent’s killing last month of a Chechen man in Orlando, Fla., who was being questioned over ties to the Boston Marathon bombing suspects, the bureau reassured the public that it would clear up the murky episode.

“The F.B.I. takes very seriously any shooting incidents involving our agents, and as such we have an effective, time-tested process for addressing them internally,” a bureau spokesman said.

But if such internal investigations are time-tested, their outcomes are also predictable: from 1993 to early 2011, F.B.I. agents fatally shot about 70 “subjects” and wounded about 80 others — and every one of those episodes was deemed justified, according to interviews and internal F.B.I. records obtained by The New York Times through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

The last two years have followed the same pattern: an F.B.I. spokesman said that since 2011, there had been no findings of improper intentional shootings...

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/19/us/in-150-shootings-the-fbi-deemed-agents-faultless.html

THE CIA AGAINST LATIN AMERICA - SPECIAL CASE: ECUADOR

The CIA Against Latin America: Special Case Ecuador by Cantankerous Buddha

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Where Is Germany's Gold?

Peter Boehringer hates the word “conspiracy.” It implies something crazy, and if you spend even a little time with the 45-year-old German, it becomes clear he’s driven by a desire for order. On a recent morning in Munich, he’s dressed in a cobalt blue shirt that matches his blue tie and blue eyes. His black hair is cropped close above his receded hairline. In his gray Volkswagen minivan, the cup holder contains two identical water bottles, each filled to the same level. At the end of a daylong interview, for which Boehringer has arranged an hour-by-hour itinerary, he sends a follow-up e-mail with a numbered summation of points he’s made. No. 2 says that the crusade he’s been waging for the last three years is simply about transparency. “Questions,” he writes, “by definition cannot be ‘conspiracy theories.’ ”

Boehringer is a gold bug, a member of the impassioned tribe of investors and academics who distrust central banks and paper money, unless the governments that print it will exchange the cash for gold or silver from their vaults. He has an asset management firm that invests his own money and that of clients in gold, silver, and mining stocks, and he’s a founder of the nonprofit German Precious Metal Society, which educates the public about “the craziness of unbacked monetary systems,” he says. In short, Boehringer is worried that the global economy is built on a fiction of currencies that aren’t backed by precious metals. Which is why he set out to make sure the gold that Germany and other nations say they have actually exists.

Almost half of Germany’s gold resides at 33 Liberty St., the headquarters of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 80 feet below street level in a vault that sits on Manhattan’s bedrock. In 2012, Boehringer started a campaign on his blog to bring it home. He argued the gold should be shipped to the German central bank in Frankfurt. The hoard, amassed during Germany’s postwar boom, had never been subject to a published bar-by-bar physical review by its owners...

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2015-02-05/germany-s-gold-repatriation-activist-peter-boehringer-gets-results

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Wolf Is Guarding the Hen House: The Government’s War on Cyberterrorism


The game is rigged, the network is bugged, the government talks double-speak, the courts are complicit and there’s nothing you can do about it.”—David Kravets, reporting for Wired


Nothing you write, say, text, tweet or share via phone or computer is private anymore. As constitutional law professor Garrett Epps points out, “Big Brother is watching…. Big Brother may be watching you right now, and you may never know. Since 9/11, our national life has changed forever. Surveillance is the new normal.”

This is the reality of the internet-dependent, plugged-in life of most Americans today.

A process which started shortly after 9/11 with programs such as Total Information Awareness (the predecessor to the government’s present surveillance programs) has grown into a full-fledged campaign of warrantless surveillance, electronic tracking and data mining, thanks to federal agents who have been given carte blanche access to the vast majority of electronic communications in America. Their methods completely undermine constitution safeguards, and yet no federal agency, president, court or legislature has stepped up to halt this assault on our rights.

For the most part, surveillance, data mining, etc., is a technological, jargon-laden swamp through which the average American would prefer not to wander. Consequently, most Americans remain relatively oblivious to the government’s ever-expanding surveillance powers, appear unconcerned about the fact that the government is spying on them, and seem untroubled that there is no way of opting out of this system. This state of delirium lasts only until those same individuals find themselves arrested or detained for something they did, said or bought that runs afoul of the government’s lowering threshold for what constitutes criminal activity.

All the while, Congress, the courts, and the president (starting with George W. Bush and expanding exponentially under Barack Obama) continue to erect an electronic concentration camp the likes of which have never been seen before...

https://www.rutherford.org/publications_resources/john_whiteheads_commentary/the_wolf_is_guarding_the_hen_house_the_governments_war_on_cyberterrorism

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The NSA Is Going to Love These USB-C Charging Cables

Thanks to Apple's new MacBook and Google's new Chromebook Pixel, USB-C has arrived. A single flavor of cable for all your charging and connectivity needs? Hell yes. But that convenience doesn't come without a cost; our computers will be more vulnerable than ever to malware attacks, from hackers and surveillance agencies alike.

The trouble with USB-C stems from the fact that the USB standard isn't very secure. Last year, researchers wrote a piece of malware called BadUSB which attaches to your computer using USB devices like phone chargers or thumb drives. Once connected, the malware basically takes over a computer imperceptibly. The scariest part is that the malware is written directly to the USB controller chip's firmware, which means that it's virtually undetectable and so far, unfixable.

Before USB-C, there was a way to keep yourself somewhat safe. As long as you kept tabs on your cables, and never stuck random USB sticks into your computer, you could theoretically keep it clean. But as The Verge points out, the BadUSB vulnerability still hasn't been fixed in USB-C, and now the insecure port is the slot where you connect your power supply. Heck, it's shaping up to be the slot where you connect everything. You have no choice but to use it every day. Think about how often you've borrowed a stranger's power cable to get charged up. Asking for a charge from a stranger is like having unprotected sex with someone you picked up at the club.

What the Verge fails to mention however, is that it's potentially much worse than that. If everyone is using the same power charger, it's not just renegade hackers posing as creative professionals in coffee shops that you need to worry about. With USB-C, the surveillance establishment suddenly has a huge incentive to figure out how to sneak a compromised cable into your power hole...

http://gizmodo.com/he-nsa-is-going-to-love-these-usb-c-charging-cables-1691781672

Nasa validates 'impossible' space drive

Nasa is a major player in space science, so when a team from the agency this week presents evidence that "impossible" microwave thrusters seem to work, something strange is definitely going on. Either the results are completely wrong, or Nasa has confirmed a major breakthrough in space propulsion.

British scientist Roger Shawyer has been trying to interest people in his EmDrive for some years through his company SPR Ltd. Shawyer claims the EmDrive converts electric power into thrust, without the need for any propellant by bouncing microwaves around in a closed container. He has built a number of demonstration systems, but critics reject his relativity-based theory and insist that, according to the law of conservation of momentum, it cannot work.

According to good scientific practice, an independent third party needed to replicate Shawyer's results. As Wired.co.uk reported, this happened last year when a Chinese team built its own EmDrive and confirmed that it produced 720 mN (about 72 grams) of thrust, enough for a practical satellite thruster. Such a thruster could be powered by solar electricity, eliminating the need for the supply of propellant that occupies up to half the launch mass of many satellites. The Chinese work attracted little attention; it seems that nobody in the West believed in it...

http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2014-07/31/nasa-validates-impossible-space-drive

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The CIA is giving its surveillance tech to US law enforcement


The Justice Department's newest electronic dragnet--plane-mounted "dirtboxes" that can slurp thousands of cellular phone ID's from the air -- was originally developed by the CIA to hunt terrorists in the Middle East, The Wall Street Journal reports. Now however, it's being used domestically to track American citizens. That's not good.

According to a new report from the WSJ, the US Marshals Service, with assistance from both the CIA and Boeing, developed these Cessna-mounted devices. They are electronic sniffers that mimic cellular tower signals to incite any cellular telephone within range to broadcast its identifying registration information. It's essentially an aerial man-in-the-middle attack and one that has cost US taxpayers more than $100 million to create. With this information, US Marshals can effectively locate, identify, and lock on to specific cell phones -- out of a sample population of thousands or even tens of thousands of devices -- to within an accuracy of just three yards. What's more, once the suspect phone is found, Marshals can then listen in on any calls originating from it. According to the WSJ, these devices have been in operation since 2007, mounted on Cessna aircraft flying out of five metropolitan airfields throughout the US and can access a majority of the US population.

This isn't the first time that this technology has been put to use by US officials, mind you. Dirtbox technology first debuted in the Middle East where it was utilized in the hunt for terrorists in both Afghanistan and Iraq. However, this new program marks a troubling collaboration between domestic law enforcement and the nation spy agency that blurs a very important operational distinction between the two agencies...

http://www.engadget.com/2015/03/10/the-cia-is-giving-its-surveillance-tech-to-us-law-enforcement/

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The spy who came in from al-Qaeda

Bosnia

Dean was brought up in Saudi Arabia, where opposition to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s made military jihad a noble concept. He was a teenager when Yugoslavia splintered, and Bosnian Muslims found themselves in mortal danger from Serb nationalists. He and a friend, Khalid al-Hajj - later to become the leader of al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia - set off to become mujahideen.

I would say it was the most eye-opening experience I ever had. I was a bookish nerd from Saudi Arabia just weeks ago and then suddenly I find myself prancing up on the mountains of Bosnia holding an AK-47 feeling a sense of immense empowerment - and the feeling that I was participating in writing history rather than just watching history on the side.

And also at the same time, being in the military training camps, receiving knowledge that I never thought in a thousand years I would be receiving about warfare and war tactics and military manoeuvres, and to be receiving it alongside people from many different nationalities, with the one common factor among them that they were all Muslims. And they were all there in order to participate in the jihad in defence of the Bosnian population, was in itself also an overwhelming experience.

Q: You weren't afraid?...

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-31700894