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Silicon Valley Will Not Save You from the Surveillance State

Silicon Valley Will Not Save You from the Surveillance State

There was something quite odd about the very welcome news that some Google employees were objecting to a military contract, namely all the other Google military contracts. My sense of the oddness of this was heightened by reading Yasha Levine’s new book, Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet.

I invited Levine on my radio show (it will air in the coming weeks) and asked him what he thought was motivating the revolt over at Google. Were they objecting to a particular kind of weapon, in the manner that some people rather bizarrely object to drones only if they are automated but not if a human pushes the murder button? Were they actually clueless about their own company?

Levine’s answer requires investigation but certainly makes an interesting hypothesis. He said that all during the Obama years, the tech press and community aired no concerns whatsoever about militarism, whereas since the arrival of Trump such talk is to be heard and read. Levine maintains that Google employees do not object to militarism, they object to Trumpian militarism.

I had hoped for and wrongly predicted this phenomenon in the general public the moment Trump gained the throne. Is it possible that it’s finally begun, but begun in Silicon Valley?

Levine’s book describes Google and other internet corporations as major military and spy contractors from the beginning. Google partnered with Lockheed Martin on parts of the war on Iraq and is a major partner of the military, the CIA, the NSA, etc. Surveillance Valley goes back to the post-WWII origins of today’s military madness. Military experiments as preparation for war, “field tested” in Vietnam, and supported by President Kennedy as appropriately hi-tech and modern, were actually war and developed into one of the worst wars ever seen. Vietnam was mass-surveilled — or the attempt was made and foiled with bags of urine and other low-tech tricks.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Wiretap Rooms

THE WIRETAP ROOMS

The NSA’s Hidden Spy Hubs in Eight U.S. Cities

THE SECRETS ARE hidden behind fortified walls in cities across the United States, inside towering, windowless skyscrapers and fortress-like concrete structures that were built to withstand earthquakes and even nuclear attack. Thousands of people pass by the buildings each day and rarely give them a second glance, because their function is not publicly known. They are an integral part of one of the world’s largest telecommunications networks – and they are also linked to a controversial National Security Agency surveillance program.

Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. In each of these cities, The Intercept has identified an AT&T facility containing networking equipment that transports large quantities of internet traffic across the United States and the world. A body of evidence – including classified NSA documents, public records, and interviews with several former AT&T employees – indicates that the buildings are central to an NSA spying initiative that has for years monitored billions of emails, phone calls, and online chats passing across U.S. territory.

The NSA considers AT&T to be one of its most trusted partners and has lauded the company’s “extreme willingness to help.” It is a collaboration that dates back decades. Little known, however, is that its scope is not restricted to AT&T’s customers. According to the NSA’s documents, it values AT&T not only because it “has access to information that transits the nation,” but also because it maintains unique relationships with other phone and internet providers. The NSA exploits these relationships for surveillance purposes, commandeering AT&T’s massive infrastructure and using it as a platform to covertly tap into communications processed by other companies.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Edward Snowden: ‘The people are still powerless, but now they’re aware’

Five years after historic NSA leaks, whistleblower tells the Guardian he has no regrets

Edward Snowden remains in exile in Russia.
Edward Snowden remains in exile in Russia. Photograph: Lindsay Mills

Edward Snowden has no regrets five years on from leaking the biggest cache of top-secret documents in history. He is wanted by the US. He is in exile in Russia. But he is satisfied with the way his revelations of mass surveillance have rocked governments, intelligence agencies and major internet companies.

In a phone interview to mark the anniversary of the day the Guardian broke the story, he recalled the day his world – and that of many others around the globe – changed for good. He went to sleep in his Hong Kong hotel room and when he woke, the news that the National Security Agency had been vacuuming up the phone data of millions of Americans had been live for several hours.

Snowden knew at that moment his old life was over. “It was scary but it was liberating,” he said. “There was a sense of finality. There was no going back.”

What has happened in the five years since? He is one of the most famous fugitives in the world, the subject of an Oscar-winning documentary, a Hollywood movie, and at least a dozen books. The US and UK governments, on the basis of his revelations, have faced court challenges to surveillance laws. New legislation has been passed in both countries. The internet companies, responding to a public backlash over privacy, have made encryption commonplace.

Snowden, weighing up the changes, said some privacy campaigners had expressed disappointment with how things have developed, but he did not share it. “People say nothing has changed: that there is still mass surveillance. That is not how you measure change. Look back before 2013 and look at what has happened since. Everything changed.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Tripling Its Collection, NSA Sucked Up Over 530 Million US Phone Records in 2017

Tripling Its Collection, NSA Sucked Up Over 530 Million US Phone Records in 2017

“Overall, the numbers show that the scale of warrantless surveillance is growing at a significant rate,” says POGO’s Jake Laperruque.

In 2017, the NSA tripled the amount of data it collected from U.S. phones. (Image EFF Photos/flickr/cc)

In 2017, the NSA tripled the amount of data it collected from U.S. phones. (Image EFF Photos/flickr/cc)

The National Security Agency (NSA) collected over 530 million phone records of Americans in 2017—that’s three times the amount the spy agency sucked up in 2016.

The figures were released Friday in an annual report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).

It shows that the number of “call detail records” the agency collected from telecommunications providers during Trump’s first year in office was 534 million, compared to 151 million the year prior.

“The intelligence community’s transparency has yet to extend to explaining dramatic increases in their collection,” said Robyn Greene, policy counsel at the Open Technology Institute.

The content of the calls itself is not collected but so-called “metadata,” which, as Gizmodo notes, “is supposedly anonymous, but it can easily be used to identify an individual. The information can also be paired with other publicly available information from social media and other sources to paint a surprisingly detailed picture of a person’s life.”

The report also revealed that the agency, using its controversial Section 702 authority, increased the number of foreign targets of warrantless surveillance. It was 129,080 in 2017 compared to 106,469 in 2016.

As digital rights group EFF noted earlier this year,

Under Section 702, the NSA collects billions of communications, including those belonging to innocent Americans who are not actually targeted. These communications are then placed in databases that other intelligence and law enforcement agencies can access—for purposes unrelated to national security—without a warrant or any judicial review.

“Overall,” Jake Laperruque, senior counsel at the Project On Government Oversight, said to ZDNet, “the numbers show that the scale of warrantless surveillance is growing at a significant rate, but ODNI still won’t tell Americans how much it affects them.”

The NSA Wants a Skeleton Key to Everyone’s Encrypted Data

The NSA Wants a Skeleton Key to Everyone’s Encrypted Data

Encryption can protect personal data from government intrusion, which means the government wants the key to break it.

Like it or not, you are your data. In this day and age, your receipts, social media activity, public records, GPS data, and internet search history are the proof of who you are. And while you may have thought you had secrets, the Federal Government would like the rest of them.

The seemingly innocuous pieces of information we trade away every day create a detailed mosaic of our lives used to target advertising and create personality profiles that are exploited by the FBI, political operatives like Cambridge Analytica, and Russian propagandists.

And those are just the legal shenanigans! Instances of malicious hacking that jeopardize social security numbers and other important data are on the rise as well.

But all hope is not lost! There is but one meaningful defense against such intrusions, one used by whistleblowers, banks, the government (often poorly), and college students: encryption.

Encryption Is Powerful, so Naturally the Government Wants to Control It

Encryption, to oversimplify, is the process of putting your data in a combination locked safe, and it’s becoming more popular. Like all passcodes, these combinations are best stored non-electronically.

Automatically encrypted search engines and internet services simplify the process for users. They protect individuals’ data from hacking, theft, and even the government, but they also retain a repository for all the combinations they use to lock data up.

This is the Trojan horse the NSA means to use to gain access to your private data even when it is encrypted.

But that may soon change.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Know Your History: Google Has Been a Military-Intel Contractor from the Very Beginning

Levine’s investigative reporting on the connection between the Silicon Valley tech giants and the military-intelligence community has been praised by high-level NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake, and many others. [See my interviews of Drake here:

“Google has partnered with the United States Department of Defense to help the agency develop artificial intelligence for analyzing drone footage, a move that set off a firestorm among employees of the technology giant when they learned of Google’s involvement.” — Gizmodo / March 6, 2018

Gizmodo’s report on Google’s work for the Pentagon has been making headlines all day. It’s also thrown the normally placid halls of Google’s Mountain View HQ into chaos. Seems that Googlers can’t believe that their awesome company would get involved in something as heinous as helping the Pentagon increase its drone targeting capability.

But the fact that Google helps the military build more efficient systems of surveillance and death shouldn’t be surprising, especially not to Google employees. The truth is that Google has spent the last 15 years selling souped-up versions of its information technology to military and intelligence agencies, local police departments, and military contractors of all size and specialization — including outfits that sell predictive policing tech deployed in cities across America today.

As I outline in my book Surveillance Valley, it started in 2003 with customized Google search solutions for data hosted by the CIA and NSA. The company’s military contracting work then began to expand in a major way after 2004, when Google cofounder Sergey Brin pushed for buying Keyhole, a mapping startup backed by the CIA and the NGA, a sister agency to the NSA that handles spy satellite intelligence.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Snowden Explains Deep State’s Influence on Presidents Obama, Trump

Famed whistleblower Edward Snowden was recently interviewed by Italian publication La Repubblic. The publication noted the 5-year mark of Snowden’s historic act of blowing the whistle on the NSA’s expansive surveillance programs and that “many thought he would end up very badly, but when he connects via videolink for this interview with la Repubblica, he seems to be doing very well: the frank smile and peaceful face of someone who is easy in his mind.”

In an excerpt from the exclusive interview, Snowden explained how the presidencies of both Obama and Trump are shaped by the Deep State following an illuminating question by journalist Stefania Maurizi.

Stefania Maurizi: We saw that President Obama, who was an outsider to the US military-intelligence complex, initially wanted to reign in the abuses of agencies like the CIA and the NSA, but in the end he did very little. Now we see a confrontation between president Trump and so-called Deep State, which includes the CIA and the NSA. Can a US president govern in opposition to such powerful entities?

Edward Snowden: Obama is certainly an instructive case. This is a president who campaigned on a platform of ending warrantless wiretapping in the United States, he said “that’s not who we are, that’s not what we do,” and once he became the president, he expanded the program.  He said he was going to close Guantanamo but he kept it open, he said he was going to limit extrajudicial killings and drone strikes that has been so routine in the Bush years. But Obama went on to authorize vastly more drone strikes than Bush. It became an industry.

As for this idea that there is a Deep State, now the Deep State is not just the intelligence agencies, it is really a way of referring to the career bureaucracy of government. These are officials who sit in powerful positions, who don’t leave when presidents do, who watch presidents come and go, they influence policy, they influence presidents and say: this is what we have always done, this is what we must do, and if you don’t do this, people will die.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Facebook: Six Degrees of Giant Squid


Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) German artist, philosopher, composer, mystic Cosmic Tree
All of a sudden, politicians in the EU, UK, and USA all want to talk to Mark Zuckerberg. That’s a bad enough sign all by itself. It means they all either have been asleep, complicit, or they’re not very bright. The media tries to convince us the Facebook ‘scandal’ is about Trump, Russia (yawn..) and elections. It’s not. Not even close.

If Zuckerberg ever shows up for any of these meetings with ‘worried’ politicians, he’ll come with a cabal of lawyers in tow, and they’ll put the blame on anyone but Facebook and say the company was tricked by devious parties who didn’t live up to their legal agreements.

After that, the argument won’t be whether Facebook broke any laws for allowing data breaches, but whether their data use policy itself is, and always was, illegal. Now, Facebook has been around for a few years, with their policies, and nobody ever raised their voices. Not really, that is.

And then it’ll all fizzle out, amid some additional grandstanding from all involved, face-saving galore, and more blame for Trump and Russia.

The new European Parliament chief Antonio Tajani said yesterday: “We’ve invited Mark Zuckerberg to the European Parliament. Facebook needs to clarify before the representatives of 500 million Europeans that personal data is not being used to manipulate democracy.”

That’s all you need to know, really. Personal data can be used to manipulate anything as long as it’s not democracy. Or at least democracy as the Brussels elite choose to define it.

First: this is not about Cambridge Analytica, it’s about Facebook. Or rather, it’s about the entire social media and search industry, as well as its connections to the intelligence community. Don’t ever again see Google or Facebook as not being part of that.

What Facebook enabled Cambridge Analytica to do, it will do ten times bigger itself. And it sells licences to do it to probably thousands of other ‘developers’. The CIA and NSA may have unlimited powers, but prior to Alphabet and Facebook, they never had the databases. They do now, and they’re using them. ‘Manipulate democracy’? What democracy?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

The NSA Worked to ‘Track Down’ Bitcoin Users, Snowden Documents Reveal

THE NSA WORKED TO “TRACK DOWN” BITCOIN USERS, SNOWDEN DOCUMENTS REVEAL

INTERNET PARANOIACS DRAWN to bitcoin have long indulged fantasies of American spies subverting the booming, controversial digital currency. Increasingly popular among get-rich-quick speculators, bitcoin started out as a high-minded project to make financial transactions public and mathematically verifiable — while also offering discretion. Governments, with a vested interest in controlling how money moves, would, some of bitcoin’s fierce advocates believed, naturally try and thwart the coming techno-libertarian financial order.

It turns out the conspiracy theorists were onto something. Classified documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden show that the National Security Agency indeed worked urgently to target bitcoin users around the world — and wielded at least one mysterious source of information to “help track down senders and receivers of Bitcoins,” according to a top-secret passage in an internal NSA report dating to March 2013. The data source appears to have leveraged the NSA’s ability to harvest and analyze raw, global internet traffic while also exploiting an unnamed software program that purported to offer anonymity to users, according to other documents.

Although the agency was interested in surveilling some competing cryptocurrencies, “Bitcoin is #1 priority,” a March 15, 2013 internal NSA report stated.

The documents indicate that “tracking down” bitcoin users went well beyond closely examining bitcoin’s public transaction ledger, known as the Blockchain, where users are typically referred to through anonymous identifiers; the tracking may also have involved gathering intimate details of these users’ computers. The NSA collected some bitcoin users’ password information, internet activity, and a type of unique device identification number known as a MAC address, a March 29, 2013 NSA memo suggested. In the same document, analysts also discussed tracking internet users’ internet addresses, network ports, and timestamps to identify “BITCOIN Targets.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Edward Snowden: Facebook Is A Surveillance Company Rebranded As “Social Media”

NSA whistleblower and former CIA employee Edward Snowden slammed Facebook in a Saturday tweet following the suspension of Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL) and its political data analytics firm, Cambridge Analytica, over what Facebook says was imporoper use of collected data.

In a nutshell, in 2015 Cambridge Analytica bought data from a University of Cambridge psychology professor, Dr. Aleksandr Kogan, who had developed an app called “thisisyourdigitallife” that vacuumed up loads of information on users and their contacts. After making Kogan and Cambridge Analytica promise to delete the data the app had gathered, Facebook received reports (from sources they would not identify) which claimed that not all the data had been deleted – which led the social media giant to delete Cambridge Analytica and parent company SCL’s accounts.

“By passing information on to a third party, including SCL/Cambridge Analytica and Christopher Wylie of Eunoia Technologies, he violated our platform policies. When we learned of this violation in 2015, we removed his app from Facebook and demanded certifications from Kogan and all parties he had given data to that the information had been destroyed. Cambridge Analytica, Kogan and Wylie all certified to us that they destroyed the data.” –Facebook

Of note, Cambridge Analytica worked for Ted Cruz and Ben Carson during the 2016 election before contracting with the Trump campaign. Cruz stopped using CA after their data modeling failed to identify likely supporters. 

Cambridge Analytica has vehemently denied any wrongdoing in a statement.

In response to the ban, Edward Snowden fired off two tweets on Saturday criticizing Facebook, and claimed social media companies were simply “surveillance companies” who engaged in a “successful deception” by rebranding themselves.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Tell Me More About How Google Isn’t Part Of The Government And Can Therefore Censor Whoever It Wants?

Tell Me More About How Google Isn’t Part Of The Government And Can Therefore Censor Whoever It Wants?

When you tell an establishment Democrat that Google’s hiding and removal of content is a dangerous form of censorship, they often magically transform into Ayn Rand right before your eyes.

“It’s a private company and they can do what they like with their property,” they will tell you. “It’s insane to say that a private company regulating its own affairs is the same as government censorship!”

This is absurd on its surface, because Google is not separate from the government in any meaningful way. It has been financially intertwined with US intelligence agencies since its very inception when it received research grants from the CIA and NSA for mass surveillance, pours massive amounts of money into federal lobbying and DC think tanks, has a cozy relationship with the NSA and multiple defense contracts.

“Some of Google’s partnerships with the intelligence community are so close and cooperative, and have been going on for so long, that it’s not easy to discern where Google Inc ends and government spook operations begin,” wrote journalist Yasha Levine in a 2014 Pando Daily article titled “Oakland emails give another glimpse into the Google-Military-Surveillance Complex”.

“The purchase of Keyhole was a major milestone for Google, marking the moment the company stopped being a purely consumer-facing Internet company and began integrating with the US government,” Levine wrote in a recent blog post about his book Surveillance Valley. “While Google’s public relations team did its best to keep the company wrapped in a false aura of geeky altruism, company executives pursued an aggressive strategy to become the Lockheed Martin of the Internet Age.”

And now we learn from Gizmodo that Google has also been helping with AI for the Pentagon’s drone program.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

To Stop War, Do What Katharine Gun Did

To Stop War, Do What Katharine Gun Did

Legendary whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg’s advice to stop current and future wars is simple: do what Katharine Gun did, writes Norman Solomon.


Daniel Ellsberg has a message that managers of the warfare state don’t want people to hear.

“If you have information that bears on deception or illegality in pursuing wrongful policies or an aggressive war,” he said in a statement released last week, “don’t wait to put that out and think about it, consider acting in a timely way at whatever cost to yourself…. Do what Katharine Gun did.”

Front page of The Observer from March 3, 2003

If you don’t know what Katharine Gun did, chalk that up to the media power of the war system.

Ellsberg’s video statement went public as this month began, just before the 15th anniversary of when a British newspaper, the Observer, revealed a secret NSA memo – thanks to Katharine Gun. At the UK’s intelligence agency GCHQ, about 100 people received the same email memo from the National Security Agency on the last day of January 2003, seven weeks before the invasion of Iraq got underway. Only Katharine Gun, at great personal risk, decided to leak the document.

If more people had taken such risks in early 2003, the Iraq War might have been prevented. If more people were willing to take such risks in 2018, the current military slaughter in several nations, mainly funded by U.S. taxpayers, might be curtailed if not stopped. Blockage of information about past whistleblowing deprives the public of inspiring role models.

That’s the kind of reality George Orwell was referring to when he wrote: “Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Leaked Files Show How NSA Tracks Other Countries’ Hackers

FILE - In this June 6, 2013 file photo, the National Security Agency (NSA) campus in Fort Meade, Md. Some U.S. states are reviewing their election systems for signs of intrusion after a leaked NSA report describes a hacking effort by Russian military intelligence. There’s no indication so far that potential intrusions affected voting or ballot counting. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
AP

LEAKED FILES SHOW HOW NSA TRACKS OTHER COUNTRIES’ HACKERS

WHEN THE MYSTERIOUS entity known as “Shadow Brokers” released a tranche of stolen NSA hacking tools to the internet a year ago, most experts who studied the material honed in on the most potent tools, so-called “zero-day” exploits that could be used to install malware and take over machines. But a group of Hungarian security researchers spotted something else in the data, a collection of scripts and scanning tools the NSA uses to detect other nation-state hackers on the machines it infects.

It turns out those scripts and tools are just as interesting as the exploits. They show that in 2013 — the year the NSA tools were believed to have been stolen by Shadow Brokers  — the agency was tracking at least 45 different nation-state operations, known in the security community as Advanced Persistent Threats, or APTs. Some of these appear to be operations known by the broader security community — but some may be threat actors and operations currently unknown to researchers.

The scripts and scanning tools dumped by Shadow Brokers and studied by the Hungarians were created by an NSA team known as Territorial Dispute, or TeDi. Intelligence sources told The Intercept the NSA established the team after hackers, believed to be from China, stole designs for the military’s Joint Strike Fighter plane, along with other sensitive data, from U.S. defense contractors in 2007; the team was supposed to detect and counter sophisticated nation-state attackers more quickly, when they first began to emerge online.

“As opposed to the U.S. only finding out in five years that everything was stolen, their goal was to try to figure out when it was being stolen in real time,” one intelligence source told The Intercept.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Powerful Global Spy Alliance You Never Knew Existed

Photo: Kristian Laemmle-Ruff

THE POWERFUL GLOBAL SPY ALLIANCE YOU NEVER KNEW EXISTED

IT IS ONE of the world’s most powerful alliances. And yet most people have probably never heard of it, because its existence is a closely guarded government secret.The “SIGINT Seniors” is a spy agency coalition that meets annually to collaborate on global security issues. It has two divisions, each focusing on different parts of the world: SIGINT Seniors Europe and SIGINT Seniors Pacific. Both are led by the U.S. National Security Agency, and together they include representatives from at least 17 other countries. Members of the group are from spy agencies that eavesdrop on communications – a practice known as “signals intelligence,” or SIGINT.

Details about the meetings of the SIGINT Seniors are disclosed in a batch of classified documents from the NSA’s internal newsletter SIDToday, provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden and published today by The Intercept. The documents shine light on the secret history of the coalition, the issues that the participating agencies have focused on in recent years, and the systems that allow allied countries to share sensitive surveillance data with each other.

The SIGINT Seniors Europe was formed in 1982, amid the Cold War. Back then, the alliance had nine members, whose primary focus was on uncovering information about the Soviet Union’s military. Following the attacks on the U.S. in September 2001, the group grew to 14 and began focusing its efforts on counterterrorism.

The core participants of the Seniors Europe are the surveillance agencies from the so-called Five Eyes: the NSA and its counterparts from the U.K., Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. As of April 2013, the other members were intelligence agencies from Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, and Sweden.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Tor Project “Almost 100% Funded By The US Government”: FOIA

The Tor Project – a private nonprofit known as the “NSA-proof” gateway to the “dark web,” turns out to be almost “100% funded by the US government” according to documents obtained by investigative journalist and author Yasha Levine.

The Tor browser, launched in 2001, utilizes so-called “onion routing” technology developed by the US Navy in 1998 to provide anonymity over computer networks.

In a recent blog post, Levine details how he was able to obtain roughly 2,500 pages of correspondence via FOIA requests while performing research for a book. The documents include strategy, contract, budgets and status updates between the Tor project and its primary source of funding; a CIA spinoff known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which “oversees America’s foreign broadcasting operations like Radio Free Asia and Radio Free Europe.”

By following the money, I discovered that Tor was not a grassroots. I was able to show that despite its indie radical cred and claims to help its users protect themselves from government surveillance online, Tor was almost 100% funded by three U.S. National Security agencies: the Navy, the State Department and the BBG. Following the money revealed that Tor was not a grassroots outfit, but a military contractor with its own government contractor number. In other words: it was a privatized extension of the very same government that it claimed to be fighting.

The documents conclusively showed that Tor is not independent at all. The organization did not have free reign to do whatever it wanted, but was kept on a very short leash and bound by contracts with strict contractual obligations. It was also required to file detailed monthly status reports that gave the U.S. government a clear picture of what Tor employees were developing, where they went and who they saw. Yasha Levine

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

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