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Paul Merrell

ACLU Demands Secret Court Hand Over Crucial Rulings On Surveillance Law - 0 views

  • The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a motion to reveal the secret court opinions with “novel or significant interpretations” of surveillance law, in a renewed push for government transparency. The motion, filed Wednesday by the ACLU and Yale Law School’s Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic, asks the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court, which rules on intelligence gathering activities in secret, to release 23 classified decisions it made between 9/11 and the passage of the USA Freedom Act in June 2015. As ACLU National Security Project staff attorney Patrick Toomey explains, the opinions are part of a “much larger collection of hidden rulings on all sorts of government surveillance activities that affect the privacy rights of Americans.” Among them is the court order that the government used to direct Yahoo to secretly scanits users’ emails for “a specific set of characters.” Toomey writes: These court rulings are essential for the public to understand how federal laws are being construed and implemented. They also show how constitutional protections for personal privacy and expressive activities are being enforced by the courts. In other words, access to these opinions is necessary for the public to properly oversee their government.
  • Although the USA Freedom Act requires the release of novel FISA court opinions on surveillance law, the government maintains that the rule does not apply retroactively—thereby protecting the panel from publishing many of its post-9/11 opinions, which helped create an “unprecedented buildup” of secret surveillance laws. Even after National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the scope of mass surveillance in 2013, sparking widespread outcry, dozens of rulings on spying operations remain hidden from the public eye, which stymies efforts to keep the government accountable, civil liberties advocates say. “These rulings are necessary to inform the public about the scope of the government’s surveillance powers today,” the ACLU’s motion states.
  • Toomey writes that the rulings helped influence a number of novel spying activities, including: The government’s use of malware, which it calls “Network Investigative Techniques” The government’s efforts to compel technology companies to weaken or circumvent their own encryption protocols The government’s efforts to compel technology companies to disclose their source code so that it can identify vulnerabilities The government’s use of “cybersignatures” to search through internet communications for evidence of computer intrusions The government’s use of stingray cell-phone tracking devices under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) The government’s warrantless surveillance of Americans under FISA Section 702—a controversial authority scheduled to expire in December 2017 The bulk collection of financial records by the CIA and FBI under Section 215 of the Patriot Act Without these rulings being made public, “it simply isn’t possible to understand the government’s claimed authority to conduct surveillance,” Toomey writes. As he told The Intercept on Wednesday, “The people of this country can’t hold the government accountable for its surveillance activities unless they know what our laws allow. These secret court opinions define the limits of the government’s spying powers. Their disclosure is essential for meaningful public oversight in our democracy.”
Paul Merrell

Open Access Can't Wait. Pass FASTR Now. | Electronic Frontier Foundation - 1 views

  • When you pay for federally funded research, you should be allowed to read it. That’s the idea behind the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (S.1701, H.R.3427), which was recently reintroduced in both houses of Congress. FASTR was first introduced in 2013, and while it has strong support in both parties, it has never gained enough momentum to pass. We need to change that. Let’s tell Congress that passing an open access law should be a top priority.
  • Tell Congress: It’s time to move FASTR The proposal is pretty simple: Under FASTR, every federal agency that spends more than $100 million on grants for research would be required to adopt an open access policy. The bill gives each agency flexibility to implement an open access policy suited to the work it funds, so long as research is available to the public after an “embargo period” of a year or less. One of the major points of contention around FASTR is how long that embargo period should be. Last year, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved FASTR unanimously, but only after extending that embargo period from six months to 12, putting FASTR in line with the 2013 White House open access memo. That’s the version that was recently reintroduced in the Senate.  The House bill, by contrast, sets the embargo period at six months. EFF supports a shorter period. Part of what’s important about open access is that it democratizes knowledge: when research is available to the public, you don’t need expensive journal subscriptions or paid access to academic databases in order to read it. A citizen scientist can use and build on the same body of knowledge as someone with institutional connections. But in the fast-moving world of scientific research, 12 months is an eternity. A shorter embargo is far from a radical proposition, especially in 2017. The landscape for academic publishing is very different from what it was when FASTR was first introduced, thanks in larger part to nongovernmental funders who already enforce open access mandates. Major foundations like Ford, Gates, and Hewlett have adopted strong open access policies requiring that research be not only available to the public, but also licensed to allow republishing and reuse by anyone.
  • Just last year, the Gates Foundation made headlines when it dropped the embargo period from its policy entirely, requiring that research be published openly immediately. After a brief standoff, major publishers began to accommodate Gates’ requirements. As a result, we finally have public confirmation of what we’ve always known: open access mandates don’t put publishers out of business; they push them to modernize their business models. Imagine how a strong open access mandate for government-funded research—with a requirement that that research be licensed openly—could transform publishing. FASTR may not be that law, but it’s a huge step in the right direction, and it’s the best option on the table today. Let’s urge Congress to pass a version of FASTR with an embargo period of six months or less, and then use it as a foundation for stronger open access in the future.
Paul Merrell

In Hearing on Internet Surveillance, Nobody Knows How Many Americans Impacted in Data Collection | Electronic Frontier Foundation - 0 views

  • The Senate Judiciary Committee held an open hearing today on the FISA Amendments Act, the law that ostensibly authorizes the digital surveillance of hundreds of millions of people both in the United States and around the world. Section 702 of the law, scheduled to expire next year, is designed to allow U.S. intelligence services to collect signals intelligence on foreign targets related to our national security interests. However—thanks to the leaks of many whistleblowers including Edward Snowden, the work of investigative journalists, and statements by public officials—we now know that the FISA Amendments Act has been used to sweep up data on hundreds of millions of people who have no connection to a terrorist investigation, including countless Americans. What do we mean by “countless”? As became increasingly clear in the hearing today, the exact number of Americans impacted by this surveillance is unknown. Senator Franken asked the panel of witnesses, “Is it possible for the government to provide an exact count of how many United States persons have been swept up in Section 702 surveillance? And if not the exact count, then what about an estimate?”
  • Elizabeth Goitein, the Brennan Center director whose articulate and thought-provoking testimony was the highlight of the hearing, noted that at this time an exact number would be difficult to provide. However, she asserted that an estimate should be possible for most if not all of the government’s surveillance programs. None of the other panel participants—which included David Medine and Rachel Brand of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board as well as Matthew Olsen of IronNet Cybersecurity and attorney Kenneth Wainstein—offered an estimate. Today’s hearing reaffirmed that it is not only the American people who are left in the dark about how many people or accounts are impacted by the NSA’s dragnet surveillance of the Internet. Even vital oversight committees in Congress like the Senate Judiciary Committee are left to speculate about just how far-reaching this surveillance is. It's part of the reason why we urged the House Judiciary Committee to demand that the Intelligence Community provide the public with a number. 
  • The lack of information makes rigorous oversight of the programs all but impossible. As Senator Franken put it in the hearing today, “When the public lacks even a rough sense of the scope of the government’s surveillance program, they have no way of knowing if the government is striking the right balance, whether we are safeguarding our national security without trampling on our citizens’ fundamental privacy rights. But the public can’t know if we succeed in striking that balance if they don’t even have the most basic information about our major surveillance programs."  Senator Patrick Leahy also questioned the panel about the “minimization procedures” associated with this type of surveillance, the privacy safeguard that is intended to ensure that irrelevant data and data on American citizens is swiftly deleted. Senator Leahy asked the panel: “Do you believe the current minimization procedures ensure that data about innocent Americans is deleted? Is that enough?”  David Medine, who recently announced his pending retirement from the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, answered unequivocally:
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  • Senator Leahy, they don’t. The minimization procedures call for the deletion of innocent Americans’ information upon discovery to determine whether it has any foreign intelligence value. But what the board’s report found is that in fact information is never deleted. It sits in the databases for 5 years, or sometimes longer. And so the minimization doesn’t really address the privacy concerns of incidentally collected communications—again, where there’s been no warrant at all in the process… In the United States, we simply can’t read people’s emails and listen to their phone calls without court approval, and the same should be true when the government shifts its attention to Americans under this program. One of the most startling exchanges from the hearing today came toward the end of the session, when Senator Dianne Feinstein—who also sits on the Intelligence Committee—seemed taken aback by Ms. Goitein’s mention of “backdoor searches.” 
  • Feinstein: Wow, wow. What do you call it? What’s a backdoor search? Goitein: Backdoor search is when the FBI or any other agency targets a U.S. person for a search of data that was collected under Section 702, which is supposed to be targeted against foreigners overseas. Feinstein: Regardless of the minimization that was properly carried out. Goitein: Well the data is searched in its unminimized form. So the FBI gets raw data, the NSA, the CIA get raw data. And they search that raw data using U.S. person identifiers. That’s what I’m referring to as backdoor searches. It’s deeply concerning that any member of Congress, much less a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee, might not be aware of the problem surrounding backdoor searches. In April 2014, the Director of National Intelligence acknowledged the searches of this data, which Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall termed “the ‘back-door search’ loophole in section 702.” The public was so incensed that the House of Representatives passed an amendment to that year's defense appropriations bill effectively banning the warrantless backdoor searches. Nonetheless, in the hearing today it seemed like Senator Feinstein might not recognize or appreciate the serious implications of allowing U.S. law enforcement agencies to query the raw data collected through these Internet surveillance programs. Hopefully today’s testimony helped convince the Senator that there is more to this topic than what she’s hearing in jargon-filled classified security briefings.
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    The 4th Amendment: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and *particularly describing the place to be searched, and the* persons or *things to be seized."* So much for the particularized description of the place to be searched and the thngs to be seized.  Fah! Who needs a Constitution, anyway .... 
Paul Merrell

Civil Rights Coalition files FCC Complaint Against Baltimore Police Department for Illegally Using Stingrays to Disrupt Cellular Communications | Electronic Frontier Foundation - 0 views

  • This week the Center for Media Justice, ColorOfChange.org, and New America’s Open Technology Institute filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission alleging the Baltimore police are violating the federal Communications Act by using cell site simulators, also known as Stingrays, that disrupt cellphone calls and interfere with the cellular network—and are doing so in a way that has a disproportionate impact on communities of color. Stingrays operate by mimicking a cell tower and directing all cellphones in a given area to route communications through the Stingray instead of the nearby tower. They are especially pernicious surveillance tools because they collect information on every single phone in a given area—not just the suspect’s phone—this means they allow the police to conduct indiscriminate, dragnet searches. They are also able to locate people inside traditionally-protected private spaces like homes, doctors’ offices, or places of worship. Stingrays can also be configured to capture the content of communications. Because Stingrays operate on the same spectrum as cellular networks but are not actually transmitting communications the way a cell tower would, they interfere with cell phone communications within as much as a 500 meter radius of the device (Baltimore’s devices may be limited to 200 meters). This means that any important phone call placed or text message sent within that radius may not get through. As the complaint notes, “[d]epending on the nature of an emergency, it may be urgently necessary for a caller to reach, for example, a parent or child, doctor, psychiatrist, school, hospital, poison control center, or suicide prevention hotline.” But these and even 911 calls could be blocked.
  • The Baltimore Police Department could be among the most prolific users of cell site simulator technology in the country. A Baltimore detective testified last year that the BPD used Stingrays 4,300 times between 2007 and 2015. Like other law enforcement agencies, Baltimore has used its devices for major and minor crimes—everything from trying to locate a man who had kidnapped two small children to trying to find another man who took his wife’s cellphone during an argument (and later returned it). According to logs obtained by USA Today, the Baltimore PD also used its Stingrays to locate witnesses, to investigate unarmed robberies, and for mysterious “other” purposes. And like other law enforcement agencies, the Baltimore PD has regularly withheld information about Stingrays from defense attorneys, judges, and the public. Moreover, according to the FCC complaint, the Baltimore PD’s use of Stingrays disproportionately impacts African American communities. Coming on the heels of a scathing Department of Justice report finding “BPD engages in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the Constitution or federal law,” this may not be surprising, but it still should be shocking. The DOJ’s investigation found that BPD not only regularly makes unconstitutional stops and arrests and uses excessive force within African-American communities but also retaliates against people for constitutionally protected expression, and uses enforcement strategies that produce “severe and unjustified disparities in the rates of stops, searches and arrests of African Americans.”
  • Adding Stingrays to this mix means that these same communities are subject to more surveillance that chills speech and are less able to make 911 and other emergency calls than communities where the police aren’t regularly using Stingrays. A map included in the FCC complaint shows exactly how this is impacting Baltimore’s African-American communities. It plots hundreds of addresses where USA Today discovered BPD was using Stingrays over a map of Baltimore’s black population based on 2010 Census data included in the DOJ’s recent report:
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  • The Communications Act gives the FCC the authority to regulate radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable communications in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. This includes being responsible for protecting cellphone networks from disruption and ensuring that emergency calls can be completed under any circumstances. And it requires the FCC to ensure that access to networks is available “to all people of the United States, without discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex.” Considering that the spectrum law enforcement is utilizing without permission is public property leased to private companies for the purpose of providing them next generation wireless communications, it goes without saying that the FCC has a duty to act.
  • But we should not assume that the Baltimore Police Department is an outlier—EFF has found that law enforcement has been secretly using stingrays for years and across the country. No community should have to speculate as to whether such a powerful surveillance technology is being used on its residents. Thus, we also ask the FCC to engage in a rule-making proceeding that addresses not only the problem of harmful interference but also the duty of every police department to use Stingrays in a constitutional way, and to publicly disclose—not hide—the facts around acquisition and use of this powerful wireless surveillance technology.  Anyone can support the complaint by tweeting at FCC Commissioners or by signing the petitions hosted by Color of Change or MAG-Net.
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    An important test case on the constitutionality of stingray mobile device surveillance.
Paul Merrell

U.S. vs. Facebook: A Playbook for SEC, DOJ and EDNY - 0 views

  • Six4Three recently published a playbook for the FTC to get to the bottom of Facebook’s secretive deals selling user data without privacy controls. In light of The New York Times article reporting multiple criminal investigations into Facebook surrounding these secretive deals, we’re publishing the playbook for criminal investigators.Perhaps the most important recognition at the outset is that the secretive deals that have been reported, whether those with a handful of device manufacturers or with 150 large technology companies, are just the tip of the iceberg. Those secretive deals handing over user data in exchange for gobs of cash were merely part and parcel of a much broader illegal scheme that begins with Facebook’s transition to mobile in 2012 and continues to this very day. We believe this illegal scheme amounts to a clear RICO violation. The United Kingdom Parliament agrees. Here’s how criminal investigators can overcome Facebook’s incredibly effective concealment campaign and bring a viable RICO case.Facebook’s pattern of racketeering activity is a play in three acts from at least 2012 to present. The first act is all about the desperation resulting from the collapse of Facebook’s desktop advertising business right around its IPO and the various securities violations that resulted. The second act is about covering up those securities violations by illegally building its mobile advertising business via extortion and wire fraud in order to close the gap in Facebook’s revenue projections before the world took notice, which likely resulted in additional securities violations. The third act is about covering up the extortion and wire fraud by lying to government officials investigating Facebook while continuing to effectuate the scheme. We are still in the third act.For almost a decade now Facebook has been covering up one illegal act with another in order to hide how it managed to ramp up its mobile advertising business faster than any other business in the history of capitalism. The abuses of Facebook’s data, from Russian interference in the 2016 election to Cambridge Analytica and Brexit, all stem in substantial part from the decisions Facebook knowingly, willfully and maliciously made to facilitate this criminal conspiracy. Put simply, Facebook’s transition to mobile destabilized the world.
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    This is so reminiscent of Microsoft tactics at the point that antitrust regulators stepped in.
Paul Merrell

Shaking My Head - Medium - 0 views

  • Last month, at the request of the Department of Justice, the Courts approved changes to the obscure Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which governs search and seizure. By the nature of this obscure bureaucratic process, these rules become law unless Congress rejects the changes before December 1, 2016.Today I, along with my colleagues Senators Paul from Kentucky, Baldwin from Wisconsin, and Daines and Tester from Montana, am introducing the Stopping Mass Hacking (SMH) Act (bill, summary), a bill to protect millions of law-abiding Americans from a massive expansion of government hacking and surveillance. Join the conversation with #SMHact.
  • For law enforcement to conduct a remote electronic search, they generally need to plant malware in — i.e. hack — a device. These rule changes will allow the government to search millions of computers with the warrant of a single judge. To me, that’s clearly a policy change that’s outside the scope of an “administrative change,” and it is something that Congress should consider. An agency with the record of the Justice Department shouldn’t be able to wave its arms and grant itself entirely new powers.
  • These changes say that if law enforcement doesn’t know where an electronic device is located, a magistrate judge will now have the the authority to issue a warrant to remotely search the device, anywhere in the world. While it may be appropriate to address the issue of allowing a remote electronic search for a device at an unknown location, Congress needs to consider what protections must be in place to protect Americans’ digital security and privacy. This is a new and uncertain area of law, so there needs to be full and careful debate. The ACLU has a thorough discussion of the Fourth Amendment ramifications and the technological questions at issue with these kinds of searches.The second part of the change to Rule 41 would give a magistrate judge the authority to issue a single warrant that would authorize the search of an unlimited number — potentially thousands or millions — of devices, located anywhere in the world. These changes would dramatically expand the government’s hacking and surveillance authority. The American public should understand that these changes won’t just affect criminals: computer security experts and civil liberties advocates say the amendments would also dramatically expand the government’s ability to hack the electronic devices of law-abiding Americans if their devices were affected by a computer attack. Devices will be subject to search if their owners were victims of a botnet attack — so the government will be treating victims of hacking the same way they treat the perpetrators.
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  • As the Center on Democracy and Technology has noted, there are approximately 500 million computers that fall under this rule. The public doesn’t know nearly enough about how law enforcement executes these hacks, and what risks these types of searches will pose. By compromising the computer’s system, the search might leave it open to other attackers or damage the computer they are searching.Don’t take it from me that this will impact your security, read more from security researchers Steven Bellovin, Matt Blaze and Susan Landau.Finally, these changes to Rule 41 would also give some types of electronic searches different, weaker notification requirements than physical searches. Under this new Rule, they are only required to make “reasonable efforts” to notify people that their computers were searched. This raises the possibility of the FBI hacking into a cyber attack victim’s computer and not telling them about it until afterward, if at all.
Paul Merrell

'Pardon Snowden' Campaign Takes Off As Sanders, Ellsberg, And Others Join - 0 views

  • Prominent activists, lawmakers, artists, academics, and other leading voices in civil society, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), are joining the campaign to get a pardon for National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden. “The information disclosed by Edward Snowden has allowed Congress and the American people to understand the degree to which the NSA has abused its authority and violated our constitutional rights,” Sanders wrote for the Guardian on Wednesday. “Now we must learn from the troubling revelations Mr. Snowden brought to light. Our intelligence and law enforcement agencies must be given the tools they need to protect us, but that can be done in a way that does not sacrifice our rights.” Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, who co-founded the public interest journalism advocacy group Freedom of the Press Foundation, where Snowden is a board member, also wrote, “Ed Snowden should be freed of the legal burden hanging over him. They should remove the indictment, pardon him if that’s the way to do it, so that he is no longer facing prison.” Snowden faces charges under the Espionage Act after he released classified NSA files to media outlets in 2013 exposing the U.S. government’s global mass surveillance operations. He fled to Hong Kong, then Russia, where he has been living under political asylum for the past three years.
  • The Pardon Snowden campaign, supported by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch (HRW), urgespeople around the world to write to Obama throughout his last four months in the White House.
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    If you want to take part, the action page is at https://www.pardonsnowden.org/
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Don't Wreck The Net! Respond By January 6th - 0 views

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    "The European Commission is asking the public critical questions about the future of our online world, but these questions are buried throughout a lengthy consultation survey that will probably make your eyes water. We need you to tackle the survey and make your voice heard. It's not easy, so we're here to help. Go ahead, take a look at the public consultation. It's got five pages of oblique questions and too much smallprint for anyone's taste. But it's really all asking one thing: what are the roles and responsibilities of service providers in the digital world? Our survey survival guide helps you overcome the bureaucratic barrier and answer that question, because it's at risk of being ignored."
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    "The European Commission is asking the public critical questions about the future of our online world, but these questions are buried throughout a lengthy consultation survey that will probably make your eyes water. We need you to tackle the survey and make your voice heard. It's not easy, so we're here to help. Go ahead, take a look at the public consultation. It's got five pages of oblique questions and too much smallprint for anyone's taste. But it's really all asking one thing: what are the roles and responsibilities of service providers in the digital world? Our survey survival guide helps you overcome the bureaucratic barrier and answer that question, because it's at risk of being ignored."
Paul Merrell

Senate narrowly rejects new FBI surveillance | TheHill - 0 views

  • The Senate narrowly rejected expanding the FBI's surveillance powers Wednesday in the wake of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.  Senators voted 58-38 on a procedural hurdle, with 60 votes needed to move forward. Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellOvernight Finance: Wall Street awaits Brexit result | Clinton touts biz support | New threat to Puerto Rico bill? | Dodd, Frank hit back The Trail 2016: Berning embers McConnell quashes Senate effort on guns MORE, who initially voted "yes," switched his vote, which allows him to potentially bring the measure back up. 
  • The Senate GOP proposal—being offered as an amendment to the Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill—would allow the FBI to use "national security letters" to obtain people's internet browsing history and other information without a warrant during a terrorism or federal intelligence probe.  It would also permanently extend a Patriot Act provision — currently set to expire in 2019 — meant to monitor "lone wolf" extremists.  Senate Republicans said they would likely be able to get enough votes if McConnell schedules a redo.
  • Asked if he anticipates supporters will be able to get 60 votes, Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenate to vote on two gun bills Senate Dems rip GOP on immigration ruling Post Orlando, hawks make a power play MORE (R-Texas) separately told reporters "that's certainly my expectation." McConnell urged support for the proposal earlier Wednesday, saying it would give the FBI to "connect the dots" in terrorist investigations.  "We can focus on defeating [the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria] or we can focus on partisan politics. Some of our colleagues many think this is all some game," he said. "I believe this is a serious moment that calls for serious solutions."  But Democrats—and some Republicans—raised concerns that the changes didn't go far enough to ensure Americans' privacy.  Sen. Ron WydenRon WydenPost Orlando, hawks make a power play Democrats seize spotlight with sit-in on guns Democrats stage sit-in on House floor to push for gun vote MORE (D-Ore.) blasted his colleagues for "hypocrisy" after a gunman killed 49 people and injured dozens more during the mass shooting in Orlando, Fla. "Due process ought to apply as it relates to guns, but due process wouldn't apply as it relates to the internet activity of millions of Americans," he said ahead of Wednesday's vote. "Supporters of this amendment...have suggested that Americans need to choose between protecting our security and protecting our constitutional right to privacy." 
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  • The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) also came out in opposition the Senate GOP proposal on Tuesday, warning it would urge lawmakers to vote against it. 
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    Too close for comfort and coming around the bernd again. 
Paul Merrell

Assange Keeps Warning Of AI Censorship, And It's Time We Started Listening - 0 views

  • Where power is not overtly totalitarian, wealthy elites have bought up all media, first in print, then radio, then television, and used it to advance narratives that are favorable to their interests. Not until humanity gained widespread access to the internet has our species had the ability to freely and easily share ideas and information on a large scale without regulation by the iron-fisted grip of power. This newfound ability arguably had a direct impact on the election for the most powerful elected office in the most powerful government in the world in 2016, as a leak publishing outlet combined with alternative and social media enabled ordinary Americans to tell one another their own stories about what they thought was going on in their country.This newly democratized narrative-generating power of the masses gave those in power an immense fright, and they’ve been working to restore the old order of power controlling information ever since. And the editor-in-chief of the aforementioned leak publishing outlet, WikiLeaks, has been repeatedly trying to warn us about this coming development.
  • In a statement that was recently read during the “Organising Resistance to Internet Censorship” webinar, sponsored by the World Socialist Web Site, Assange warned of how “digital super states” like Facebook and Google have been working to “re-establish discourse control”, giving authority over how ideas and information are shared back to those in power.Assange went on to say that the manipulative attempts of world power structures to regain control of discourse in the information age has been “operating at a scale, speed, and increasingly at a subtlety, that appears likely to eclipse human counter-measures.”What this means is that using increasingly more advanced forms of artificial intelligence, power structures are becoming more and more capable of controlling the ideas and information that people are able to access and share with one another, hide information which goes against the interests of those power structures and elevate narratives which support those interests, all of course while maintaining the illusion of freedom and lively debate.
  • To be clear, this is already happening. Due to a recent shift in Google’s “evaluation methods”, traffic to left-leaning and anti-establishment websites has plummeted, with sites like WikiLeaks, Alternet, Counterpunch, Global Research, Consortium News, Truthout, and WSWS losing up to 70 percent of the views they were getting prior to the changes. Powerful billionaire oligarchs Pierre Omidyar and George Soros are openly financing the development of “an automated fact-checking system” (AI) to hide “fake news” from the public.
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  • To make matters even worse, there’s no way to know the exact extent to which this is going on, because we know that we can absolutely count on the digital super states in question to lie about it. In the lead-up to the 2016 election, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was asked point-blank if Twitter was obstructing the #DNCLeaks from trending, a hashtag people were using to build awareness of the DNC emails which had just been published by WikiLeaks, and Dorsey flatly denied it. More than a year later, we learned from a prepared testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism by Twitter’s acting general counsel Sean J. Edgett that this was completely false and Twitter had indeed been doing exactly that to protect the interests of US political structures by sheltering the public from information allegedly gathered by Russian hackers.
  • Imagine going back to a world like the Middle Ages where you only knew the things your king wanted you to know, except you could still watch innocuous kitten videos on Youtube. That appears to be where we may be headed, and if that happens the possibility of any populist movement arising to hold power to account may be effectively locked out from the realm of possibility forever.To claim that these powerful new media corporations are just private companies practicing their freedom to determine what happens on their property is to bury your head in the sand and ignore the extent to which these digital super states are already inextricably interwoven with existing power structures. In a corporatist system of government, which America unquestionably has, corporate censorship is government censorship, of an even more pernicious strain than if Jeff Sessions were touring the country burning books. The more advanced artificial intelligence becomes, the more adept these power structures will become at manipulating us. Time to start paying very close attention to this.
Paul Merrell

Long-Secret Stingray Manuals Detail How Police Can Spy on Phones - 0 views

  • Harris Corp.’s Stingray surveillance device has been one of the most closely guarded secrets in law enforcement for more than 15 years. The company and its police clients across the United States have fought to keep information about the mobile phone-monitoring boxes from the public against which they are used. The Intercept has obtained several Harris instruction manuals spanning roughly 200 pages and meticulously detailing how to create a cellular surveillance dragnet. Harris has fought to keep its surveillance equipment, which carries price tags in the low six figures, hidden from both privacy activists and the general public, arguing that information about the gear could help criminals. Accordingly, an older Stingray manual released under the Freedom of Information Act to news website TheBlot.com last year was almost completely redacted. So too have law enforcement agencies at every level, across the country, evaded almost all attempts to learn how and why these extremely powerful tools are being used — though court battles have made it clear Stingrays are often deployed without any warrant. The San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department alone has snooped via Stingray, sans warrant, over 300 times.
  • The documents described and linked below, instruction manuals for the software used by Stingray operators, were provided to The Intercept as part of a larger cache believed to have originated with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Two of them contain a “distribution warning” saying they contain “Proprietary Information and the release of this document and the information contained herein is prohibited to the fullest extent allowable by law.”  Although “Stingray” has become a catch-all name for devices of its kind, often referred to as “IMSI catchers,” the manuals include instructions for a range of other Harris surveillance boxes, including the Hailstorm, ArrowHead, AmberJack, and KingFish. They make clear the capability of those devices and the Stingray II to spy on cellphones by, at minimum, tracking their connection to the simulated tower, information about their location, and certain “over the air” electronic messages sent to and from them. Wessler added that parts of the manuals make specific reference to permanently storing this data, something that American law enforcement has denied doing in the past.
  • One piece of Windows software used to control Harris’s spy boxes, software that appears to be sold under the name “Gemini,” allows police to track phones across 2G, 3G, and LTE networks. Another Harris app, “iDen Controller,” provides a litany of fine-grained options for tracking phones. A law enforcement agent using these pieces of software along with Harris hardware could not only track a large number of phones as they moved throughout a city but could also apply nicknames to certain phones to keep track of them in the future. The manual describing how to operate iDEN, the lengthiest document of the four at 156 pages, uses an example of a target (called a “subscriber”) tagged alternately as Green Boy and Green Ben:
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  • In order to maintain an uninterrupted connection to a target’s phone, the Harris software also offers the option of intentionally degrading (or “redirecting”) someone’s phone onto an inferior network, for example, knocking a connection from LTE to 2G:
  • A video of the Gemini software installed on a personal computer, obtained by The Intercept and embedded below, provides not only an extensive demonstration of the app but also underlines how accessible the mass surveillance code can be: Installing a complete warrantless surveillance suite is no more complicated than installing Skype. Indeed, software such as Photoshop or Microsoft Office, which require a registration key or some other proof of ownership, are more strictly controlled by their makers than software designed for cellular interception.
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