Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for January 19th, 2015

Big Brother really is watching: British Spies Seized Emails to Reporters

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Democratic governments are falling rapidly—not in the usual way governments fall, but in the “democratic” part, since the national-security apparatus has become ascendant. James Glanz reports for the NY Times:

In November 2008, British spies captured email messages addressed to reporters and photographers with at least a dozen international news organizations, many United Nations officials, workers at far-flung oil companies and tens of thousands of other people, according to a newly disclosed classified document.

The document, a spreadsheet of some 70,000 lines — each with a brief summary of the information gleaned from a single intercept — is contained in a cache of British documents that are among the classified trove leaked by Edward J. Snowden, the former contractor for the National Security Agency.

There is no explanation of why the vast collection of messages was sucked into the global system of electronic surveillance created and maintained by British and American spies. But code words within the document suggest that it may be a glimpse of the colossal amount of information gathered each day before being “minimized,” or stripped of irrelevant material.

Time stamps in the spreadsheet suggest that it may represent no more than a few minutes of collection on a single day that November.

Why email messages traveling to reporters with news organizations were captured is also left unexplained in the document. Some of the captured messages contain email addresses associated with The Washington Post, Reuters, Le Monde and The Baltimore Sun. Messages to at least four New York Times reporters were intercepted.

The spreadsheet does not include the content of those messages, but they appear to be mass mailings to journalists around the world.

One Times journalist whose email address appears in one of the intercepts, Eric Schmitt, said that he was in Mali at the time.

The intercepts were made during a time of global turmoil: The financial crisis was in full swing, President Obama had just been elected and in late November, a Pakistani terrorist group would attack Mumbai, killing 166 people.

It is unclear whether any of those events can help explain the enormous rate of data collection on a single day, or whether the document provides a look at a routine moment. . .

Continue reading. In other words, the enormous collection of everything may well be exactly what NSA is doing—that certainly is quite clearly their intent, with appropriate database tools to drill down to get total information on any individual.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 January 2015 at 9:15 pm

Interesting (and fairly accurate) predictions: Enemy of the State

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Enemy of the State (which you can rent for $2.99, streaming SD from Amazon) stars Will Smith, Gene Hackman, John Voight, and has a cluster of good character actors in minor roles (e.g., Jack Black, Jake Busey, et al.). It was made in 1998, 17 years ago, and it has a pretty good fix on how NSA pretty much ignores the law to spy on everyone, which (as we have learned) it does in fact do and did for years under George W. Bush, totally illegal (as was the CIA torture program and doubtless much else carefully covered up) and how privacy is now a matter of government whim—and those who break these laws will not be in any way punished, but those who reveal that laws were broken will be hunted down and ruined—that’s Obama’s own contribution. He has shown real and profound vindictiveness in how he has treated whistleblowers who expose government incompetence or wrongdoing. The government is moving quickly to a secret/classified organization, hiding as much from citizens as they can get away with, and of course journalists—true journalists, not Gawker stories—are becoming scarce and threatened.

At any rate, it’s interesting to see how, 17 years ago, there was already awareness of the makeover of the US government.

Will Smith plays a terminally stupid man. For example, Gene Hackman, who plays a communications and security expert and former NSA employee, tells him at one point, while they are being chased by NSA operatives, to stay in the vehicle and to make no phone calls. Hackman goes into the shop to buy some food, and Smith immediately gets out of the vehicle and makes a phone call, laying out for their pursuers exactly where they are and what they plan.

And that’s but one example. I suppose in a thriller it’s helpful to have a protagonist who’s stupid and impulsive so that he can get into bad situations to increase the suspense, but it doesn’t take long before you start to think that this is a good person to stay far away from.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 January 2015 at 8:51 pm

Posted in Movies & TV, NSA

Retro gadgets

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Some cool-looking stuff.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 January 2015 at 4:03 pm

Extremely good observations on the changes in civil asset forfeiture practices

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Radley Balko has an excellent analysis in the Washington Post. Read it all. From a news interview with Sheriff Dunning, who was beside himself at the revenue he would lose:

“It is much more difficult to seize money and property under Nebraska law, which requires law enforcement to have proof beyond a reasonable doubt of a crime compared with only a preponderance of evidence under federal law, Dunning said.”

Balko notes:

As I noted on Friday, equitable sharing is basically a way for the Justice Department and local police agencies to thwart the will of legislatures such as Nebraska’s, which have passed what I’d argue are sensible restrictions on the practice of forfeiture. Dunning is essentially angry that he’ll now be required to follow the laws of his state. That seems like an odd position for a sheriff to take.


Written by LeisureGuy

19 January 2015 at 1:18 pm

We must Support Palestinians’ Decision to Join the Int’l Criminal Court

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By Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch, published in the LA Times:

The Israel exception to Western governments’ human rights principles has been starkly on display in the reaction to the Palestinian Authority’s decision to join the International Criminal Court. In Washington, Ottawa, Paris and London, as well as Tel Aviv, the response has ranged from discouraging to condemnatory. The Palestinian move has been seen as “counterproductive,” “deeply troubl[ing],” “a concerning and dangerous development” that could make a “return to negotiations impossible.” Before accepting these howls of protest, we should ask why, exactly, the Palestinian move is supposed to be bad.

Given the outcry, one would think this move targets only Israel, but the ICC doesn’t work that way. Rather, the court will be empowered to prosecute war crimes committed in or from Palestinian territory — that is, crimes committed by Israelis or Palestinians. The court’s prosecutor is not dependent on formal complaints by ICC members but can now initiate cases on her own.

Many of the Western objections are based on the argument that having the Palestinians in the ICC will somehow undermine Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations — moribund as they have been. The U.S. State Department opined that it would “damage the atmosphere” for peace.

But the broad parameters for peace have been known for years. What has been lacking is the trust between the two sides to make the painful decisions necessary for a peace accord. Nothing undermines that trust more than impunity for the war crimes that Human Rights Watch has found continue to characterize the conflict, whether settlement expansion, Hamas rocket strikes or Israel’s lax attitude toward civilian casualties in Gaza. By helping to deter these crimes, the ICC could discourage these major impediments to peace.

Moreover, the Palestinians’ willingness to embrace the ICC should be applauded for what it says about their tactics. Hamas is rightfully condemned for its rocket attacks on Israeli population centers. Yet Hamas signed off on joining the ICC, even though its leaders could now face prosecution. Indeed, because these war crimes are factually and legally among the easiest to prove, they may stand the greatest chance of ICC prosecution.

The ICC is no guarantee that such attacks will cease, but it provides a disincentive, as well as an avenue of redress for victims. Why is it bad for the Palestinians to pursue such legal avenues rather than more rocket attacks?

But isn’t the ICC another U.N. institution that will focus excessively on Israel? No. Unlike political bodies composed of governments, such as the U.N. General Assembly or Human Rights Council, the court’s investigations and prosecutions are led by an independent, professional prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda of Gambia. She has earned a reputation as a sober, dispassionate, no-nonsense lawyer with no evidence of anti-Israel animus. In decisions she has made about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, she declined a Palestinian request to assume jurisdiction made before statehood was recognized and, in a case brought by another government, decided against opening an formal investigation because the alleged crime in question was not serious enough.

Given Palestinian vulnerability to prosecution, the West’s reaction suggests an interest not in seeing impartial justice done but in keeping Israelis out of the dock in The Hague. Yet the ICC is a court of last resort. It is empowered to act only when national authorities have not. So the easiest way for any government to avoid ICC prosecution of its citizens is to conscientiously and credibly investigate and prosecute alleged war crimes by its forces.

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 January 2015 at 12:32 pm

Prison Dispatches From The War On Terror: Ex-Cia Officer John Kiriakou Speaks

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Andrew Jones writes at The Intercept:

John Kiriakou is the only CIA employee to go to prison in connection with the agency’s torture program. Not because he tortured anyone, but because he revealed information on torture to a reporter.

Kiriakou is the Central Intelligence Agency officer who told ABC News in 2007 that the CIA waterboarded suspected al-Qaeda prisoners after the September 11 attacks, namely Abu Zubaydah, thought to be a key al Qaeda official. Although he felt at the time that waterboarding probably saved lives, Kiriakou nevertheless came to view the practice as torture and later claimed he unwittingly understated how many times Zubaydah was subjected to waterboarding.

In January 2012, Kiriakou was charged by the Justice Department for allegedly and repeatedly disclosing classified information to journalists. The Justice Department accused Kiriakou of disclosing the identity of a CIA officer involved in Zubaydah’s capture to a freelance reporter. The reporter did not publicly reveal the official’s name, but his name did appear on a website in October 2012. Kiriakou also allegedly provided New York Timesreporter Scott Shane information on CIA employee Deuce Martinez, who was involved in Zubaydah’s capture and interrogation.

After agreeing to a plea deal in October 2012, Kiriakou was sentenced in January 2013 to 30 months in prison. That sentence made him the second CIA employee ever to be locked up under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, which bars the release of the name of a covert agent; the first was Sharon Scranage, who in 1985 pled guilty to disclosing the identities of intelligence agents in Ghana after giving classified information to a Ghanaian, reportedly her lover.

Kiriakou is not without support from former colleagues. His friend and former boss, Bruce Riedel, sent a letter to President Obama, signed by other CIA officers, urging him to commute Kiriakou’s prison sentence. That did not happen.

A father of five children, Kiriakou says the CIA asked his wife to resign from her job at the agency immediately following his arrest, and he is in major debt from his legal fees.

Kiriakou is is scheduled for early transfer out of federal prison in Loretto, Pennsylvania on February 3. In a wide-ranging phone interview with The Intercept, Kiriakou, 50, shared his thoughts on the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA interrogation techniques, on his incarceration, and on his future after prison.

You don’t have access to the internet in prison, so have you been able to see just one page of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report?

Well, my cousin ended up printing the entire thing and sent it to me. Yeah, he sent it to me in five different envelopes.

So was there anything in the report that surprised you? Did you feel even more despair at being the only CIA officer jailed since the program came into existence? 

One thing that I think most everybody has missed is, we knew about the waterboarding, we knew about the cold cells, we knew about the loud music and the sleep deprivation. We knew about all the things that have been ‘approved’ by the Justice Department. But what we didn’t know was what individual CIA officers were doing on their own without any authorization. And I would like to know why those officers aren’t being prosecuted when clearly they’ve committed crimes and those crimes were well documented by both the CIA and the Senate Committee of Intelligence.

One thing that certainly was an eye opener, even to close observers of this program, was the brutal treatment of these prisoners. The tragic death of Gul Rahman, an Afghan, comes to mind. . .

Continue reading.

The US way: praise and protect those who torture, but punish severely those who reveal US war crimes. This is exactly like a totalitarian regime.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 January 2015 at 11:48 am

Catch-up on shaving posts

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Saturday’s shave, which I forgot to post:

SOTD 17 Jan 2015

I’m finding myself growing gradually more forgetful—and noting also an increase in number of typos, wrong or missing words, etc.: the costs of aging. So on Saturday I failed to post the shave, which I was particularly wanting to post to highlight the British Gillette Aristocrat #12, a rhodium-plated TTO open-comb that is a very elegant razor.

First was the lather. Catie’s Bubbles is a very good shaving soap, and the tubs are substantial: half a pound. I got an immediate good lather with the grey badger brush—and I’m liking those brushes more now that I think of the knot as being like the Simpson Chubby 1 or Duke 3. I still prefer a longer loft, but I can use these quite happily, an effective little nub of a brush.

The Aristocrat did a good job but nothing special, so I think it’s (alas) time to replace its Astra Keramik Platinum blade. I prefer an amazing shave to an okay shave. Still, result was quite smooth, and I do like the Bulgarian Rose aftershave from Saint Charles Shave.

Today’s shave:

SOTD 19 Jan 2015

Now today was an amazing shave, just as I like. 🙂

Another fine lather from my silvertip. This is the absinthe-scented version of Mickey Lee shaving soap—terrific lather, faint fragrance.

I wanted to try the iKon Shavecraft #102 slant using the handle from the iKon OSS razor. It worked beautifully. I think I might even prefer the OSS handle to the Bulldog handle. Blade was a relatively new Personna Lab Blue, and I was easily BBS after three passes.

A good splash of Pinaud’s Lilac Vegetal, whose initial fragrance is sort of off-putting, but then the dry-down is not unpleasant. But fragrances are the essence of YMMV.

Tomorrow’s shave—if I remember to blog it—will feature the Standard head on a UFO handle, another test: what the Standard is like with a hefty handle.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 January 2015 at 11:41 am

Posted in Shaving

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