Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Archive for the ‘abuse of power’ Category

Because we’re the good guys

Posted by Charles II on September 17, 2014

James Bamford, NYT (via Atrios):

IN Moscow this summer, while reporting a story for Wired magazine, I had the rare opportunity to hang out for three days with Edward J. Snowden. …

Among his most shocking discoveries, he told me, was the fact that the N.S.A. was routinely passing along the private communications of Americans to a large and very secretive Israeli military organization known as Unit 8200. This transfer of intercepts, he said, included the contents of the communications….

Mr. Snowden stressed that the transfer of intercepts to Israel contained the communications — email as well as phone calls — of countless Arab- and Palestinian-Americans whose relatives in Israel and the Palestinian territories could become targets based on the communications.
….
It appears that Mr. Snowden’s fears were warranted. Last week, 43 veterans of Unit 8200 — many still serving in the reserves — accused the organization of startling abuses. In a letter to their commanders, to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and to the head of the Israeli army, they charged that Israel used information collected against innocent Palestinians for “political persecution.” In testimonies and interviews given to the media, they specified that data were gathered on Palestinians’ sexual orientations, infidelities, money problems, family medical conditions and other private matters that could be used to coerce Palestinians into becoming collaborators or create divisions in their society.

The veterans of Unit 8200 declared that they had a “moral duty” to no longer “take part in the state’s actions against Palestinians.” An Israeli military spokesman disputed the letter’s overall drift but said the charges would be examined.

But of course it’s ok, because we’re the good guys. Jodi Rudoren, NYT:

For a 29-year-old captain whose eight years in the unit ended in 2011, the transformational moment came in watching “The Lives of Others,” a 2006 film about the operations of the East German secret police.

“I felt a lot of sympathy for the victims in the film of the intelligence,” the captain said. “But I did feel a weird, confusing sense of similarity, I identified myself with the intelligence workers. That we were similar to the kind of oppressive intelligence in oppressive regimes really was a deep realization that makes us all feel that we have to take responsibility.”

Posted in abuse of power, israel, NSA eavesdropping | Leave a Comment »

Juan Cole made the Bush White House Enemies’ List

Posted by Charles II on December 9, 2013

Congratulations, Juan! And thank you, James Risen (via Eschaton):

Glenn L. Carle, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer who was a top counterterrorism official during the administration of President George W. Bush, said the White House at least twice asked intelligence officials to gather sensitive information on Juan Cole, a University of Michigan professor who writes an influential blog that criticized the war.

Posted in abuse of power, Bush, Busheviks, Juan Cole | Comments Off

Allegation that BP may be harassing, issuing death threats against critics

Posted by Charles II on November 21, 2013

Dahr Jamail, Al Jazeera (via t/o):

[Through international PR company Ogilvy & Mather,] BP has been accused of hiring internet “trolls” to purposefully attack, harass, and sometimes threaten people who have been critical of how the oil giant has handled its disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

[On the BP America Facebook page,] when people posted comments that were critical of how BP was handling the crisis, they were often attacked, bullied, and sometimes directly threatened.

Threats included identifying where somebody lived, an internet troll making reference to having a shotgun and making use of it, and “others just being more derogatory”, according to [Government Accountability Project investigator Shanna] Devine. “We’ve seen all this documentation and that’s why we thought it was worth bringing to the ombudsman’s office of BP, and we told them we thought some of it even warranted calling the police about.”

One troll using the name “Griffin” makes several allusions to gun violence, while another, named “Ken Smith” also harassed and threatened users, even going so far as to edit a photo of a BP critic’s pet bird into the crosshairs of a gunsight, before posting the photo online – along with photos of an arsenal of semi-automatic weapons.

Another instance occurred involving “Griffin” and an environmentalist who posted a picture of a rendition of Mother Earth saying “Mother Earth Has Been Waiting for Her Day in Court, BP”. “Griffin” posted a comment to the picture that read, “A few rounds from a .50 cal will stop that b**ch”.

According to Marie, Lockman and GAP, BP’s “astroturfing” efforts and use of “trolls” have been reported as pursuing users’ personal information, then tracking and posting IP addresses of users, contacting their employers, threatening to contact family members, and using photos of critics’ family members to create false Facebook profiles, and even threatening to affect the potential outcome of individual compensation claims against BP.

Linda Hooper Bui, an associate professor of entomology at Louisiana State University, experienced a different form of harassment from BP while working on a study about the impact of the oil disaster on spiders and insects.

“BP was desperately trying to control the science, and that was what I ran into,” Bui told Al Jazeera. According to her, BP’s chief science officer “tried to intimidate me”, and the harassment included BP “bullying my people” who were working in the field with her on her study that revealed how “insects and spiders in the oiled areas were completely decimated”.

While collecting data for the study, Bui and her colleagues regularly ran into problems with BP, she said.

“Local sheriffs working under the auspices of BP, as well as personnel with Wildlife and Fisheries, the US Coast Guard – all of these folks working under BP were preventing us from doing our job,” Bui explained. “We were barred from going into areas to collect data where we had previous data.”

Bui said personnel from the USCG, Fish and Wildlife, and even local sheriffs departments, always accompanied by BP staff, worked to prevent her from entering areas to collect data, confiscated her samples, and “if I’d refused to oblige they would have arrested me” – despite her having state permits to carry out her work.

Posted in abuse of power, astroturf, corporatists, Flying Monkey Right, Oil | Comments Off

Stateless in Gaza

Posted by Charles II on October 15, 2013

Max Blumenthal, TomDispatch (via t/o)

[Israeli PM Benjamin] Netanyahu has updated the smokescreen strategy….his government was preparing to implement the Prawer Plan, a blueprint for the expulsion of 40,000 indigenous Bedouin citizens of Israel from their ancestral Negev Desert communities that promised to “concentrate” them in state-run, reservation-style townships. Authored by Netanyahu’s planning policy chief, Ehud Prawer, and passed by a majority of the members of the mainstream Israeli political parties in the Knesset, the Prawer Plan is only one element of the government’s emerging program to dominate all space and the lives of all people between the river (the Jordan) and the sea (the Mediterranean).

The products of continuous dispossession, many of these [Bedouin] communities are surrounded by petrochemical waste dumps and have been transformed into cancer clusters, while state campaigns of aerial crop destruction and livestock eradication have decimated their sources of subsistence.

Although residents like al-Ahmed carry Israeli citizenship, they are unable to benefit from the public services that Jews in neighboring communities receive. The roads to unrecognized villages like Umm al-Hiran are lined with electric wires, but the Bedouins are barred from connecting to the public grid. Their homes and mosques have been designated “illegal” constructions and are routinely marked for demolition.

The Bedouin are comparable to Native Americans, living in the southern (Negev) desert in the general vicinity of Gaza. Israel appears to have discovered the same “solution” as the US government.

Posted in abuse of power, Conflict in the Middle East | Comments Off

Thumbing through your dossier

Posted by Charles II on September 29, 2013

Laura Poitras and James Risen have published a story in the NYT that comes close to saying that the government has a dossier on every citizen (via Bob Swern at DK):

Since 2010, the National Security Agency has been exploiting its huge collections of data to create sophisticated graphs of some Americans’ social connections that can identify their associates, their locations at certain times, their traveling companions and other personal information, according to newly disclosed documents and interviews with officials.

The spy agency began allowing the analysis of phone call and e-mail logs in November 2010 to examine Americans’ networks of associations for foreign intelligence purposes….

The agency was authorized to conduct “large-scale graph analysis on very large sets of communications metadata without having to check foreignness” of every e-mail address, phone number or other identifier, the document said.

N.S.A. officials declined to say how many Americans have been caught up in the effort, including people involved in no wrongdoing.

The agency did say that the large database of Americans’ domestic phone call records… was excluded.

In the 2011 memo explaining the shift, N.S.A. analysts were told that they could trace the contacts of Americans as long as they cited a foreign intelligence justification. That could include anything from ties to terrorism, weapons proliferation or international drug smuggling to spying on conversations of foreign politicians, business figures or activists. [emphasis added]

Why construct a dossier if you have all the data? Then you can use a search program to compile a dossier on any individual in nanoseconds, and deny you are keeping a dossier on anyone besides “suspects.” When anyone’s past actions can be compiled at will, everyone is a suspect, if only a future one.

By the way, I added the bolding because that’s a point that analysts like Bob Swern and Marcy seem to have missed. What conceivable legitimate function does targeting people based on their conversations with otherwise non-criminal businessmen, politicians, or activists have?

Posted in abuse of power, totalitarianism, wiretapping | 1 Comment »

The NSA has met the enemy, and it is you

Posted by Charles II on September 25, 2013

Greenwald:

A well-known and highly respected Yemeni anti-drone activist was detained yesterday by UK officials under that country’s “anti-terrorism” law at Gatwick Airport, where he had traveled to speak at an event. Baraa Shiban, the project co-ordinator for the London-based legal charity Reprieve, was held for an hour and a half and repeatedly questioned about his anti-drone work and political views regarding human rights abuses in Yemen.

When he objected that his political views had no relevance to security concerns, UK law enforcement officials threatened to detain him for the full nine hours allowed by the Terrorism Act of 2000..
….
…perceiving drone opponents as “threats” or even “adversaries” is hardly new. Top secret US government documents obtained by the Guardian from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden characterize even the most basic political and legal opposition to drone attacks as part of “propaganda campaigns” from America’s “adversaries”.

The entry is part of a top secret internal US government website, similar in appearance to the online Wikipedia site. According to a June interview with Snowden in Hong Kong, the only individuals empowered to write these entries are those “with top secret clearance and public key infrastructure certificates”, special access cards enabling unique access to certain parts of NSA systems. He added that the entries are “peer reviewed” and that every edit made is recorded by user.

Also yesterday, the Libyan-American rapper Khaled Ahmed, better known by his stage name “Khaled M”, was removed from an airplane in the US without any explanation. …this was part of ongoing harassment he experiences when flying ….

Finally, Sarah Abdurrahman, an American Muslim and producer of the NPR program “On the Media”, was detained for 6 hours at the US border in Niagra Falls when returning from a vacation in Canada with her family (all US citizens).

The NSA is deep into policing political views. I happen to believe that drones are a lot less bad than, say, B-52s. But someone who believes that they represent illegal targeted assassination–and poorly targeted assassination at that– has a legitimate argument that deserves to be heard and not criminalized. Criminalizing dissent is the hallmark of totalitarianism.

Posted in abuse of power, NSA eavesdropping, terrorism, totalitarianism | 2 Comments »

And then there’s corporate espionage

Posted by Charles II on September 5, 2013

Ryan Gallagher, Slate:

The secretive surveillance technology industry does its best to fly under the radar. But the shadowy companies selling controversial spy tools to governments are being exposed to public scrutiny whether they like it or not, thanks to a new WikiLeaks project.

On Wednesday, the whistleblower organization published a new trove of documents that reveal the surveillance equipment being sold by more than 90 firms to authorities across the world as part of a burgeoning clandestine market in electronic spying. The documents shed light on the growing catalog of surveillance devices being offered to governments, ranging from portable transceivers that can sweep up thousands of phone calls to Trojan spyware designed to help police and intelligence agencies hack into computers and mobile phones to monitor chats and emails.

Dubbed the “SpyFiles” by WikiLeaks, the release builds on a previous surveillance industry exposé by the group in 2011, and comes amid unprecedented international discussion about government spying tactics disclosed in June by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

RT has more.

Posted in abuse of power, Wikileaks, wiretapping | Comments Off

NSA has compromised most encryption

Posted by Charles II on September 5, 2013

Crossposted from DK

I remember when I was thought silly for saying this. James Ball, Julian Borger, and Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian:

US and British intelligence agencies have successfully cracked much of the online encryption relied upon by hundreds of millions of people to protect the privacy of their personal data, online transactions and emails, according to top-secret documents revealed by former contractor Edward Snowden.

The files show that the National Security Agency and its UK counterpart GCHQ have broadly compromised the guarantees that internet companies have given consumers to reassure them that their communications, online banking and medical records would be indecipherable to criminals or governments.

Among other things, the program is designed to “insert vulnerabilities into commercial encryption systems”.

Independent security experts have long suspected that the NSA has been introducing weaknesses into security standards, a fact confirmed for the first time by another secret document. It shows the agency worked covertly to get its own version of a draft security standard issued by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology approved for worldwide use in 2006.

Documents show that Edgehill’s initial aim was to to decode the encrypted traffic certified by three major (unnamed) internet companies and 30 types of Virtual Private Network (VPN) – used by businesses to provide secure remote access to their systems. By 2015, GCHQ hoped to have cracked the codes used by 15 major internet companies, and 300 VPNs.

Another program, codenamed Cheesy Name, was aimed at singling out encryption keys, known as ‘certificates’, that might be vulnerable to being cracked by GCHQ supercomputers.

This was a view echoed in a recent paper by Stephanie Pell, a former prosecutor at the US Department of Justice and non-resident fellow at the Center for Internet and Security at Stanford Law School.

“[An] encrypted communications system with a lawful interception back door is far more likely to result in the catastrophic loss of communications confidentiality than a system that never has access to the unencrypted communications of its users,” she states.

And if you want the details, they are here.

So, even if users of e-mail do have a reasonabel expectation of privacy, they don’t. Because NSA says so.

This is bad for legitimate business and people trying to resist despotism abroad, because as Stephanie Pell says, deliberately broken software is more susceptible to being broken by other methods.

Posted in abuse of power, NSA eavesdropping, totalitarianism, wiretapping | 1 Comment »

US was in on the intimidation of Miranda and The Guardian

Posted by Charles II on August 22, 2013

Mark Hosenball, Reuters:

One U.S. security official told Reuters that one of the main purposes of the British government’s detention and questioning of Miranda was to send a message to recipients of Snowden’s materials, including the Guardian, that the British government was serious about trying to shut down the leaks.

For the US to know the motives of the British government strongly suggests we approved of this action, since the motive of intimidating journalists is despicable and if we did not approve of it, we would have said so.

Posted in abuse of power, NSA eavesdropping, wiretapping | Comments Off

Spy for us or go to jail

Posted by Charles II on August 20, 2013

The next escalation in the US government’s determination to make itself odious to all mankind appears to have arrived as an order to Lavabit to spy on its customers or go to jail (Mike Masnick, Techdirt, via martini at dk)

The founder of Lavabit received a court order, whose nature he cannot disclose, presumably because it is a national security letter. Since Lavabit doesn’t hold any information, it has no information to give to the feds. Rather than comply with the order, the owner decided to shut his business.

Now the Feds are threatening to arrest him for closing the company.

It does not require higher mathematics to deduce that they wanted him to keep the company open so they could establish a backdoor on all his customers.

When does DHS change its name to NKVD?

Posted in abuse of power, wiretapping | 2 Comments »

 
%d bloggers like this: