Later On

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Archive for the ‘Obama administration’ Category

More on the FBI’s shell game

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Glenn Greenwald reports in The Intercept:

The FBI and major media outlets yesterday trumpeted the agency’s latest counter-terrorism triumph: the arrest of three Brooklyn men, ages 19 to 30, on charges of conspiring to travel to Syria to fight for ISIS (photo of joint FBI/NYPD press conference, above). As my colleague Murtaza Hussain ably documents, “it appears that none of the three men was in any condition to travel or support the Islamic State, without help from the FBI informant.” One of the frightening terrorist villains told the FBI informant that, beyond having no money, he had encountered a significant problem in following through on the FBI’s plot: his mom had taken away his passport. Noting the bizarre and unhinged ranting of one of the suspects, Hussain noted on Twitter that this case “sounds like another victory for the FBI over the mentally ill.”

In this regard, this latest arrest appears to be quite similar to the overwhelming majority of terrorism arrests the FBI has proudly touted over the last decade. As my colleague Andrew Fishman and I wrote last month – after the FBI manipulated a 20-year-old loner who lived with his parents into allegedly agreeing to join an FBI-created plot to attack the Capitol – these cases follow a very clear pattern:

The known facts from this latest case seem to fit well within a now-familiar FBI pattern whereby the agency does not disrupt planned domestic terror attacks but rather creates them, then publicly praises itself for stopping its own plots.

First, they target a Muslim: not due to any evidence of intent or capability to engage in terrorism, but rather for the “radical” political views he expresses. In most cases, the Muslim targeted by the FBI is a very young (late teens, early 20s), adrift, unemployed loner who has shown no signs of mastering basic life functions, let alone carrying out a serious terror attack, and has no known involvement with actual terrorist groups.

They then find another Muslim who is highly motivated to help disrupt a “terror plot”: either because they’re being paid substantial sums of money by the FBI or because (as appears to be the case here) they are charged with some unrelated crime and are desperate to please the FBI in exchange for leniency (or both). The FBI then gives the informant a detailed attack plan, and sometimes even the money and other instruments to carry it out, and the informant then shares all of that with the target. Typically, the informant also induces, lures, cajoles, and persuades the target to agree to carry out the FBI-designed plot. In some instances where the target refuses to go along, they have their informant offer huge cash inducements to the impoverished target.

Once they finally get the target to agree, the FBI swoops in at the last minute, arrests the target, issues a press release praising themselves for disrupting a dangerous attack (which it conceived of, funded, and recruited the operatives for), and the DOJ and federal judges send their target to prison for years or even decades (where they are kept in special GITMO-like units). Subservient U.S. courts uphold the charges by applying such a broad and permissive interpretation of “entrapment” that it could almost never be successfully invoked. . .

Continue reading. There’s lots more. For example, later in the article:

. . . We’re constantly bombarded with dire warnings about the grave threat of home-grown terrorists, “lone wolf” extremists, and ISIS. So intensified are these official warnings that The New York Times earlier this month cited anonymous U.S. intelligence officials to warn of the growing ISIS threat and announce “the prospect of a new global war on terror.”

But how serious of a threat can all of this be, at least domestically, if the FBI continually has to resort to manufacturing its own plots by trolling the internet in search of young drifters and/or the mentally ill whom they target, recruit and then manipulate into joining? Does that not, by itself, demonstrate how over-hyped and insubstantial this “threat” actually is? Shouldn’t there be actual plots, ones that are created and fueled without the help of the FBI, that the agency should devote its massive resources to stopping?

This FBI tactic would be akin to having the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) constantly warn of the severe threat posed by drug addiction while it simultaneously uses pushers on its payroll to deliberately get people hooked on drugs so that they can arrest the addicts they’ve created and thus justify their own warnings and budgets (and that kind of threat-creation, just by the way, is not all that far off from what the other federal law enforcement agencies, like the FBI, are actually doing). As we noted the last time we wrote about this, the Justice Department is aggressively pressuring U.S. allies to employ these same entrapment tactics in order to create their own terrorists, who can then be paraded around as proof of the grave threat. . .

Written by LeisureGuy

26 February 2015 at 5:13 pm

Net neutrality and more

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Kevin Drum has a good post on the benefits of the FCC decision beyond net neutrality:

The FCC voted today in favor of strong net neutrality rules, but this is something that’s been expected for weeks—and something I’ve written about before at length. So instead of commenting on that yet again, I want to highlight something else that might be nearly as important: . . .

Continue reading.

UPDATE: Net neutrality succeeded (for now) through an effective guerrilla activism campaign.

Thanks to GOP commissioners, we won’t see the full net neutrality rules today, by Sam Gustin, in Motherboard

Why everyone was wrong about Net Neutrality, by Tim Wu, in the New Yorker.


Written by LeisureGuy

26 February 2015 at 4:52 pm

JPMorgan, Still On 2-Year Probation, Under Scrutiny in Gold Fixing Probe

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Interesting article by Pam Martens and Russ Martens in Wall Street on Parade. Read the whole article, but one key point:

Cartel activity in every facet of U.S. and London financial markets now seems to be the norm with regulators typically five to ten years too late in sniffing out the illegal conduct.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 February 2015 at 1:14 pm

Gemalto refuses to recognize the problem

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Gemalto is blowing smoke as hard as it can, and in so doing reveals a disturbing level of ignorance about cybersecurity. Jeremy Scahill reports at The Intercept:

Gemalto, the French-Dutch digital security giant, confirmed that it believes American and British spies were behind a “particularly sophisticated intrusion” of its internal computer networks, as reported by The Interceptlast week.

This morning, the company tried to downplay the significance of NSA and GCHQ efforts against its mobile phone encryption keys — and, in the process, made erroneous statements about cellphone technology and sweeping claims about its own security that experts describe as highly questionable.

Gemalto, which is the largest manufacturer of SIM cards in the world, launched an internal investigation after The Intercept six days ago revealed that the NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ hacked the company and cyberstalked its employees. In the secret documents, provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the intelligence agencies described a successful effort to obtain secret encryption keys used to protect hundreds of millions of mobile devices across the globe.

The company was eager to address the claims that its systems and encryption keys had been massively compromised. At one point in stock trading after publication of the report, Gemalto suffered a half billion dollar hit to its market capitalization. The stock only partially recovered in the following days.

After the brief investigation, Gemalto now says that the NSA and GCHQ operations in 2010-2011 would not allow the intelligence agencies to spy on 3G and 4G networks, and that theft would have been rare after 2010, when it deployed a “secure transfer system.” The company also said the spy agency hacks only affected “the outer parts of our networks – our office networks — which are in contact with the outside world.”

Security experts and cryptography specialists immediately challenged Gemalto’s claim to have done a “thorough” investigation into the state-sponsored attack in just six days, saying the company was greatly underestimating the abilities of the NSA and GCHQ to penetrate its systems without leaving detectable traces.

“Gemalto learned about this five-year old hack by GCHQ when the The Intercept called them up for a comment last week. That doesn’t sound like they’re on top of things, and it certainly suggests they don’t have the in-house capability to detect and thwart sophisticated state-sponsored attacks,” says Christopher Soghoian, the chief technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union. He adds that Gemalto remains “a high-profile target for intelligence agencies.”

Matthew Green, a cryptography specialist at the Johns Hopkins Information Security Institute, said, “This is an investigation that seems mainly designed to produce positive statements. It is not an investigation at all.”

In its statement, Gemalto asserted: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 February 2015 at 12:19 pm

Break up the telecoms, ensure net neutrality

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Big telecom companies are not investing in improved infrastructure and fight fiercely any efforts to force them to improve services. Perhaps breaking them up (as AT&T was broken up) might offer more competition (most markets are in effect local monopolies, with only one telecom active).

In the meantime, telecoms will fight. Jason Koebler reports for Motherboard:

Think this whole net neutrality thing is almost over? It’s not. The president of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association said Tuesday that the industry is prepared and ready to sue the hell out of the Federal Communications Commissionin a process that could last up to five more years.

Public sentiment, federal and local governments, and small internet service providers have already begun responding to market forces pushing them to provide faster, indiscriminate service. But the giant telecoms, unsurprisingly, are vowing to litigate the FCC’s new rules, which will take a very long time.

“There’ll likely be an appeal, and litigation with FCC appeals is a pretty long, drawn-out process,” Michael Powell, head of the NCTA, told CNBC. “I would predict it’s at least two and up to five years before the rules are fully and finally settled.”

The NCTA represents Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, Time Warner, and other major telecom companies. Powell pointed out that we have been talking about net neutrality for quite some time now—it hasn’t just been the last year or so since Verizon won a landmark court case that put the FCC’s existing rules against “fast lanes” and other paid prioritization for certain types of traffic at risk. Before that, there was another debate.

“The current set of net neutrality rules is from 2010. It’s 2015, and we still don’t have a new set, and this debate has gone on for a decade,” he said. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 February 2015 at 4:20 pm

Quotations from the Reddit AMA with Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras

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Here’s the full “Ask Me Anything,” and Venture Beat offers some notable quotations from the session:

Nearly two years after orchestrating the biggest leak in U.S. history, mass surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden sat down with journalists Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald for a Reddit AMA (ask me anything).

We’ve collected some of the more interesting questions and answers below.

TheJackal8: Mr. Snowden, if you had a chance to do things over again, would you do anything differently? If so, what?

Snowden: I would have come forward sooner. I talked to Daniel Ellsberg about this at length, who has explained why more eloquently than I can.

Had I come forward a little sooner, these programs would have been a little less entrenched, and those abusing them would have felt a little less familiar with and accustomed to the exercise of those powers. This is something we see in almost every sector of government, not just in the national security space, but it’s very important:

Once you grant the government some new power or authority, it becomes exponentially more difficult to roll it back. Regardless of how little value a program or power has been shown to have (such as the Section 215 dragnet interception of call records in the United States, which the government’s own investigation found never stopped a single imminent terrorist attack despite a decade of operation), once it’s a sunk cost, once dollars and reputations have been invested in it, it’s hard to peel that back.

Don’t let it happen in your country.

LegalNerd1940: What validation do we have that Putin is being honest about NOT spying in Russia?

Snowden: To tag on to the Putin question: There’s not, and that’s part of the problem worldwide. We can’t just reform the laws in one country, wipe our hands, and call it a day. We have to ensure that our rights aren’t just being protected by letters on a sheet of paper somewhere, or those protections will evaporate the minute our communications get routed across a border. The only way to ensure the human rights of citizens around the world are being respected in the digital realm is to enforce them through systems and standards rather than policies and procedures.

masondog13: What’s the best way to make NSA spying an issue in the 2016 Presidential Election?

Snowden: This is a good question, and there are some good traditional answers here. Organizing is important. Activism is important.

At the same time, we should remember that governments don’t often reform themselves. One of the arguments in a book I read recently (Bruce Schneier, “Data and Goliath”) is that perfect enforcement of the law sounds like a good thing, but that may not always be the case. The end of crime sounds pretty compelling, right, so how can that be?

Well, when we look back on history, the progress of Western civilization and human rights is actually founded on the violation of law. America was of course born out of a violent revolution that was an outrageous treason against the crown and established order of the day. History shows that the righting of historical wrongs is often born from acts of unrepentant criminality. Slavery. The protection of persecuted Jews.

But even on less extremist topics, we can find similar examples. How about the prohibition of alcohol? Gay marriage? Marijuana?

Where would we be today if the government, enjoying powers of perfect surveillance and enforcement, had — entirely within the law — rounded up, imprisoned, and shamed all of these lawbreakers? … [Read more]

Greenwald: The key tactic DC uses to make uncomfortable issues disappear is bipartisan consensus. When the leadership of both parties join together — as they so often do, despite the myths to the contrary — those issues disappear from mainstream public debate.

The most interesting political fact about the NSA controversy, to me, was how the divisions didn’t break down at all on partisan lines. Huge amount of the support for our reporting came from the left, but a huge amount came from the right. When the first bill to ban the NSA domestic metadata program was introduced, it was tellingly sponsored by one of the most conservative Tea Party members (Justin Amash) and one of the most liberal (John Conyers).

The problem is that the leadership of both parties, as usual, are in full agreement: they love NSA mass surveillance. So that has blocked it from receiving more debate. That NSA program was ultimately saved by the unholy trinity of Obama, Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner, who worked together to defeat the Amash/Conyers bill … [Read more]

LegalNerd1940: What was the most alarming revelation(s) you discovered throughout this process, and is there more to come? . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 February 2015 at 8:57 am

The NSA’s position is incoherent, but it’s clear they want ultimate power

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Andrea Peterson reports on remarks from Admiral Mike Rogers, head of the NSA, who doesn’t want to be bother with technicalities, he just wants to be able to read all communications in the world: everything open to the NSA, because …  you can imagine.

In an unusual public exchange, the director of the National Security Agency and a senior Yahoo executive clashed over cyber-spying Monday, illustrating the growing chasm between Washington and Silicon Valley over whether intelligence officials should have broad access to the products being developed by the nation’s top technology firms.

For a normally staid Washington cyber-security summit, the tense back-and-forth had the packed audience of executives, senior policy makers, bureaucrats and journalists buzzing.

Speaking at the signature event of the conference, NSA Director Adm. Mike Rogers called for a “legal framework” that would enable law enforcement and anti-terrorism officials to tap into encrypted data flowing between ordinary consumers — echoing a stance laid out by other administration officials, including FBI Director James Comey and Attorney General Eric J. Holder. But technology executives as well as many cybersecurity experts argue there is no way to build in such “backdoors” without fundamentally undermining the security that protects online communications around the world. In response to recent revelations about government snooping, firms such as Apple and Google have designed their latest mobile software to make it impossible for the companies to turn over data from smartphones and tablet computers to police — even when authorities have a search warrant.

Roger’s remarks were later challenged by Alex Stamos, Yahoo’s chief information security officer, during a question-and-answer session.

“So it sounds like you agree with Director Comey that we should be building defects into the encryption in our products so that the US government can decrypt…” Stamos began. (These remarks were verified by a transcript provided by the Web site Just Security.)

“That would be your characterization,” Rogers said, interrupting him.

“No, I think… all of the best public cryptographers in the world would agree that you can’t really build backdoors in crypto,” Stamos replied. “That it’s like drilling a hole in the windshield.”

“I’ve got a lot of world-class cryptographers at the National Security Agency,” Rogers said.

“I’ve talked to some of those folks and some of them agree too, but…” Stamos said.

“Oh, we agree that we don’t accept each others’ premise,” Rogers replied, interrupting again, as laughter erupted across the audience.

A little bit later in the exchange, Stamos tried to bring up a different point.

“If we’re going to build defects/backdoors or golden master keys for the U.S. government, do you believe we should do so — we have about 1.3 billion users around the world — should we do for the Chinese government, the Russian government, the Saudi Arabian government, the Israeli government, the French government?” Stamos asked.

“So, I’m not gonna… I mean, the way you framed the question isn’t designed to elicit a response,” Rogers replied.

“Well, do you believe we should build backdoors for other countries?” Stamos asked again.

“My position is — hey look, I think that we’re lying that this isn’t technically feasible. Now, it needs to be done within a framework. I’m the first to acknowledge that. You don’t want the FBI and you don’t want the NSA unilaterally deciding, so, what are we going to access and what are we not going to access? That shouldn’t be for us. I just believe that this is achievable. We’ll have to work our way through it. And I’m the first to acknowledge there are international implications. I think we can work our way through this,” Rogers answered.

“So you do believe then, that we should build those for other countries if they pass laws?” Stamos asked a third time.

“I think we can work our way through this,” Rogers replied.

“I’m sure the Chinese and Russians are going to have the same opinion,” Stamos said.

“I said I think we can work through this,” Rogers said. . .

Continue reading.

I do not believe that Rogers is an idiot, though he comes across that way. He simply wants what he wants and waves aside any question or issues that stand in the way, neither answering nor considering him. In his position, that’s very dangerous.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 February 2015 at 6:23 pm


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