Mercury Rising 鳯女

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Archive for July 15th, 2013

Broken Promis

Posted by Charles II on July 15, 2013

For those with long memories, Promis was a program developed in 1974 by Inslaw. The developers claimed DoJ ripped them off. The case swirled endlessly. According to Wikipedia:

A conspiracy theory developed around the case, with allegations that “back doors” had been inserted into the software so that whomever the Justice Department had sold it to could be spied upon.

Now, this is of historical curiosity only. But now a much more credible and threatening suggestion has been made. Steve Blank, Forbes:

Today every desktop and laptop computer has another way for the NSA to get inside.

Starting in 1996 with the Intel P6 (Pentium Pro) to today’s P7 chips (Core i7) these processors contain instructions that are reprogrammable in what is called microcode. Intel can fix bugs on the chips by reprogramming a microprocessors microcode with a patch. This patch, called a microcode update, can be loaded into a processor by using special CPU instructions reserved for this purpose. These updates are not permanent, which means each time you turn the computer on, its microprocessor is reset to its built-in microcode, and the update needs to be applied again (through a computer’s BIOS.).

The microcode is distributed by 1) Intel or by 2) Microsoft integrated into a BIOS or 3) as part of a Windows update. Unfortunately, the microcode update format is undocumented and the code is encrypted.

perhaps the NSA, working with Intel and/or Microsoft, have wittingly have put backdoors in the microcode updates.

The downside is that 1) backdoors can be hijacked by others with even worse intent. So if NSA has a microcode backdoor – who else is using it? and 2) What other pieces of our infrastructure, (routers, smartphones, military computers, satellites, etc) use processors with uploadable microcode?

Now, this is just a suggestion, not a fact. But it points to a serious potential problem. Even if you approve of NSA spying, do you approve of some unknown party who has compromised the encrypted keys having total control of your computer?

There are consequences well beyond what may happen to NSA capability, and tentative confirmation of Blank’s conjecture. Arvin Ganesan, CNN:

For the Internet companies named in reports on NSA surveillance, their bottom line is at risk because European markets are crucial for them. It is too early assess the impact on them, but the stakes are clearly huge. For example, Facebook has about 261 million active monthly European users, compared with about 195 million in the U.S. and Canada, and 22% of Apple’s net income came from Europe in the first quarter of 2013.

Europe was primed for a backlash against NSA spying because people care deeply about privacy after their experience of state intrusion in Nazi Germany and Communist Eastern Europe.

on July 11, The Guardian reported that Microsoft helped the NSA and FBI bypass its own encryption to access its users’ data, based on documents from Edward Snowden

Transparency is an important first step. Its absence only exacerbates a trust deficit that companies already had in Europe. And trust is crucial. Google’s chief legal officer recognized this on June 19 when he said, “Our business depends on the trust of our users,” during a Web chat about the NSA scandal. (emphasis added)


We’ve known about the dangers of backdoors at least since 1974 and Promis. It should have been obvious how dangerous this sort of thing is, especially given how dependent our entire economy is on computers and the Internet.

BTW, this points out that even encryption of communications is no guarantee of privacy. Until we regain respect for the Fourth Amendment, and have a government that understands that it’s in everyone’s best interests that they not know everything, one can predict that the downward spiral will not be broken.


Posted in NSA eavesdropping, wiretapping | 9 Comments »

Yes, “Stand Your Ground” Law Played A Role In Trayvon Martin’s Killing And Aftermath

Posted by Phoenix Woman on July 15, 2013

Media Matters has the details:

In fact, Florida’s self-defense laws set the framework by which Zimmerman was tried, setting the standard by which the jury would have to determine if Martin’s death resulted from the justifiable use of force. Indeed, the jury instructions in the case specifically mention that “If George Zimmerman was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in anyplace where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground” and use deadly force. 

From the instructions

In deciding whether George Zimmerman was justified in the use of deadly force, you must judge him by the circumstances by which he was surrounded at the time the force was used. The danger facing George Zimmerman need not have been actual; however, to justify the use of deadly force, the appearance of danger must have been so real that a reasonably cautious and prudent person under the same circumstances would have believed that the danger could be avoided only through the use of that force. Based upon appearances, George Zimmerman must have actually believed that the danger was real.

If George Zimmerman was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in anyplace where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he reasonably believed that it was necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

Former State Sen. Dan Gelber, who was a leading opponent of Stand Your Ground’s enactment, noted on his blog that those instructions differed widely from the instruction that would have been read to a jury before that law took effect. At that time, jury instructions would have stated:

“The defendant cannot justify the use of force likely to cause death or great bodily harm unless he used every reasonable means within his power and consistent with his own safety to avoid the danger before resorting to that force.

The fact that the defendant was wrongfully attacked cannot justify his use of force likely to cause death or great bodily harm if by retreating he could have avoided the need to use that force.”

Florida’s Stand Your Ground law also had ramifications on the case before the trial began and will continue now that it has concluded.

By the way, the SYG laws also will likely keep Trayvon’s family from getting justice even in a civil court:

Attorneys for Mr. Martin’s family said they are considering filing a civil lawsuit against Mr. Zimmerman, though they haven’t made a decision. “We’re still trying to make sense of the verdict in the criminal case,” said Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for the family. “We’ll be talking about our options going forward in the coming days.”

Such a case would face high hurdles, legal observers say. Mr. Zimmerman can seek immunity from civil lawsuits under Florida’s so-called Stand Your Ground law–something his attorney said he planned to do. “In effect, there will be no civil suits,” said Tamara Lave, a University of Miami law professor. “If there is a civil suit filed, it will be dismissed, and future ones will be barred.”

But of course that’s exactly why ALEC and their NRA pals pushed these SYG laws.

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“It Never Was America To Me.”

Posted by Phoenix Woman on July 15, 2013

From 1938, Langston Hughes brings us a poem about privilege and those who never fully (or even, for many, partly) in the American Dream:

Let America be America again. Let it be the dream it used to be. Let it be
the pioneer on the plain Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed– Let it be that great strong
land of love Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme That any man be
crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty Is crowned with no false patriotic
wreath, But opportunity is real, and life is free, Equality is in the air we

(There’s never been equality for me, Nor freedom in this “homeland of
the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark? And who are you that draws your
veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart, I am the Negro bearing
slavery’s scars. I am the red man driven from the land, I am the immigrant
clutching the hope I seek– And finding only the same old stupid plan Of dog eat
dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope, Tangled in that ancient
endless chain Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land! Of grab the gold! Of
grab the ways of satisfying need! Of work the men! Of take the pay! Of owning
everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil. I am the worker sold to the machine. I
am the Negro, servant to you all. I am the people, humble, hungry, mean– Hungry
yet today despite the dream. Beaten yet today–O, Pioneers! I am the man who
never got ahead, The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream In the Old World while still a
serf of kings, Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true, That even yet
its mighty daring sings In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned That’s
made America the land it has become. O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home– For I’m the one who left dark
Ireland’s shore, And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea, And torn from
Black Africa’s strand I came To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free? Not me? Surely not me? The millions on relief today? The
millions shot down when we strike? The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed And all the songs we’ve sung And all the hopes
we’ve held And all the flags we’ve hung, The millions who have nothing for our
pay– Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again– The land that never has been yet– And yet
must be–the land where every man is free. The land that’s mine–the poor
man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME– Who made America, Whose sweat and blood, whose
faith and pain, Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain, Must bring
back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose– The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives, We must take back our
land again, America!

O, yes, I say it plain, America never was America to me, And yet I swear this
oath– America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death, The rape and rot of graft,
and stealth, and lies, We, the people, must redeem The land, the mines, the
plants, the rivers. The mountains and the endless plain– All, all the stretch
of these great green states– And make America again!

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