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Forum Post: Life in the Electronic Concentration Camp: The Many Ways That You're Being Tracked and Controlled

Posted 11 months ago on Jan. 10, 2014, 3:04 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
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Life in the Electronic Concentration Camp: The Many Ways That You're Being Tracked and Controlled

Friday, 10 January 2014 11:14 By John W Whitehead, The Rutherford Institute | News Analysis

http://truth-out.org/news/item/21144-life-in-the-electronic-concentration-camp-the-many-ways-that-youre-being-tracked-catalogued-and-controlled

“[A security camera] doesn’t respond to complaint, threats, or insults. Instead, it just watches you in a forbidding manner. Today, the surveillance state is so deeply enmeshed in our data devices that we don’t even scream back because technology companies have convinced us that we need to be connected to them to be happy.”—Pratap Chatterjee, journalist

What is most striking about the American police state is not the mega-corporations running amok in the halls of Congress, the militarized police crashing through doors and shooting unarmed citizens, or the invasive surveillance regime which has come to dominate every aspect of our lives. No, what has been most disconcerting about the emergence of the American police state is the extent to which the citizenry appears content to passively wait for someone else to solve our nation’s many problems. Unless Americans are prepared to engage in militant nonviolent resistance in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi, true reform, if any, will be a long time coming.

Yet as I detail in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, if we don’t act soon, all that is in need of fixing will soon be unfixable, especially as it relates to the police state that becomes more entrenched with each passing day. By “police state,” I am referring to more than a society overrun by the long arm of the police. I am referring to a society in which all aspects of a person’s life are policed by government agents, one in which all citizens are suspects, their activities monitored and regulated, their movements tracked, their communications spied upon, and their lives, liberties and pursuit of happiness dependent on the government’s say-so.

That said, how can anyone be expected to “fix” what is broken unless they first understand the lengths to which the government with its arsenal of technology is going in order to accustom the American people to life in a police state and why being spied on by government agents, both state and federal, as well as their partners in the corporate world, is a problem, even if you’ve done nothing wrong.

Indeed, as the trend towards overcriminalization makes clear, it won’t be long before the average law-abiding American is breaking laws she didn’t even know existed during the course of a routine day. The point, of course, is that while you may be oblivious to your so-called law-breaking—whether it was collecting rainwater to water your lawn, lighting a cigarette in the privacy of your home, or gathering with friends in your backyard for a Sunday evening Bible study—the government will know each and every transgression and use them against you.

As noted by the Brookings Institution, “For the first time ever, it will become technologically and financially feasible for authoritarian governments to record nearly everything that is said or done within their borders — every phone conversation, electronic message, social media interaction, the movements of nearly every person and vehicle, and video from every street corner.”

As the following will show, the electronic concentration camp, as I have dubbed the surveillance state, is perhaps the most insidious of the police state’s many tentacles, impacting almost every aspect of our lives and making it that much easier for the government to encroach on our most vital freedoms, ranging from free speech, assembly and the press to due process, privacy, and property, by eavesdropping on our communications, tracking our movements and spying on our activities.

Tracking you based on your consumer activities: Fusion centers, federal-state law enforcement partnerships which attempt to aggregate a variety of data on so-called “suspicious persons,” have actually collected reports on people buying pallets of bottled water, photographing government buildings, and applying for a pilot’s license as “suspicious activity.” Retailers are getting in on the surveillance game as well. Large corporations such as Target have been tracking and assessing the behavior of their customers, particularly their purchasing patterns, for years. In 2015, mega-food corporations will be rolling out high-tech shelving outfitted with cameras in order to track the shopping behavior of customers, as well as information like the age and sex of shoppers.

Tracking you based on your public activities: Sensing a booming industry, private corporations are jumping on the surveillance state bandwagon, negotiating lucrative contracts with police agencies throughout the country in order to create a web of surveillance that encompasses all major urban centers. Companies such as NICE and Bright Planet are selling equipment and services to police departments with the promise of monitoring large groups of people seamlessly, as in the case of protests and rallies. They are also engaging in extensive online surveillance, looking for any hints of “large public events, social unrest, gang communications, and criminally predicated individuals.” Defense contractors are attempting to take a bite out of this lucrative market as well. Raytheon has recently developed a software package known as Riot, which promises to predict the future behavior of an individual based upon his social media posts.

Tracking you based on your phone activities: The CIA has been paying AT&T over $10 million per year in order to gain access to data on Americans’ phone calls abroad. This is in addition to telecommunications employees being embedded in government facilities to assist with quick analysis of call records and respond to government requests for customer location data. They receive hundreds of thousands of such requests per year.

Tracking you based on your computer activities: Federal agents now employ a number of hacking methods in order to gain access to your computer activities and “see” whatever you’re seeing on your monitor. Malicious hacking software can be installed via a number of inconspicuous methods, including USB, or via an email attachment or software update. It can then be used to search through files stored on a hard drive, log keystrokes, or take real time screenshots of whatever a person is looking at on their computer, whether personal files, web pages, or email messages. It can also be used to remotely activate cameras and microphones, offering another means of glimpsing into the personal business of a target.

Tracking you based on your behavior: Thanks to a torrent of federal grants, police departments across the country are able to fund outrageous new surveillance systems that turn the most basic human behaviors into suspicious situations to be studied and analyzed. Police in California, Massachusetts, and New York have all received federal funds to create systems like that operated by the New York Police Department, which “links 3,000 surveillance cameras with license plate readers, radiation sensors, criminal databases and terror suspect lists.” Police all across the country are also now engaging in big data mining operations, often with the help of private companies, in order to develop city-wide nets of surveillance. For example, police in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, now work with IBM in order to “integrate new data and analytics tools into everyday crime fighting.”

Tracking you based on your face: Facial recognition software promises to create a society in which every individual who steps out into public is tracked and recorded as they go about their daily business. The goal is for government agents to be able to scan a crowd of people and instantaneously identify all of the individuals present. Facial recognition programs are being rolled out in states all across the country (only twelve states do not use facial recognition software). For example, in Ohio, 30,000 police officers and court employees are able to access the driver’s license images of people in the state, without any form of oversight to track their views or why they’re accessing them. The FBI is developing a $1 billion program, Next Generation Identification, which involves creating a massive database of mugshots for police all across the country.

Tracking you based on your car: License plate readers, which can identify the owner of any car that comes within its sights, are growing in popularity among police agencies. Affixed to overpasses or cop cars, these devices give police a clear idea of where your car was at a specific date and time, whether the doctor’s office, the bar, the mosque, or at a political rally. State police in Virginia used license plate readers to record every single vehicle that arrived to President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009 from Virginia. They also recorded the license plates of attendees at rallies prior to the election, including for then-candidate Obama and Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. This data collection came at the request of the U.S. Secret Service. Incredibly, Virginia police stored data on some 8 million license plates, some for up to three years.

Tracking you based on your social media activities: The obsession with social media as a form of surveillance will have some frightening consequences in coming years. As Helen A.S. Popkin, writing for NBC News, has astutely observed, “We may very well face a future where algorithms bust people en masse for referencing illegal ‘Game of Thrones’ downloads, or run sweeps for insurance companies seeking non-smokers confessing to lapsing back into the habit. Instead of that one guy getting busted for a lame joke misinterpreted as a real threat, the new software has the potential to roll, Terminator-style, targeting every social media user with a shameful confession or questionable sense of humor.”

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[-] 6 points by LeoYo (5909) 11 months ago

Tracking you based on your metadata: Metadata is an incredibly invasive set of data to have on a person. Indeed, with access to one’s metadata, one can “identify people’s friends and associates, detect where they were at a certain time, acquire clues to religious or political affiliations, and pick up sensitive information like regular calls to a psychiatrist’s office, late-night messages to an extramarital partner or exchanges with a fellow plotter.” The National Security Agency (NSA) has been particularly interested in metadata, compiling information on Americans’ social connections “that can identify their associates, their locations at certain times, their traveling companions and other personal information.” Mainway, the main NSA tool used to connect the dots on American social connections, collected 700 million phone records per day in 2011. That number increased by 1.1 billion in August 2011. The NSA is now working on creating “a metadata repository capable of taking in 20 billion ‘record events’ daily and making them available to N.S.A. analysts within 60 minutes.”

Tracking you from the skies: Nothing, and I mean nothing, will escape government eyes, especially when drones take to the skies in 2015. These gadgets, ranging from the colossal to the miniature, will have the capability of seeing through the walls of your home and tracking your every movement.

To put it bluntly, we are living in an electronic concentration camp. Through a series of imperceptible steps, we have willingly allowed ourselves to become enmeshed in a system that knows the most intimate details of our lives, analyzes them, and treats us accordingly. Whether via fear of terrorism, narcissistic pleasure, or lazy materialism, we have slowly handed over our information to all sorts of entities, corporate and governmental, public and private, who are now using that information to cow and control us for their profit. As George Orwell warned, “You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.”

Thus, we have arrived in Orwell’s world. The question now is: will we take a stand and fight to remain free or will we go gently into the concentration camp?

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

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[-] 2 points by grapes (3552) 11 months ago

Good for you. We need to forgive him. In 1948, George Orwell did not imagine what technologies would have achieved in our time - darkness is no longer a barrier against visual scrutiny. Saddam Hussein lost his poker game with us (twice and got hanged by his own people eventually) because he had underestimated the technological superiority of the U.S. In Desert Storm, the U.S. forces knew where they were in nearly featureless desert and could see well in the darkness of night. His armored columns were incinerated on the "Highway of Death" even though they were considered a formidable force. Contrast the amounts of time Iraq's armed forces fought the U.S. and earlier against Iran.

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[-] 1 points by grapes (3552) 11 months ago

There are many different types of "seeing-in-the-dark" technologies available to choose from. The most important criteria are probably the wavelength and the ambient conditions. Those understanding waves and signal processing can help. With multiple sensor types being used, escaping from detection and location becomes nearly impossible. Most people are therefore very "bright" targets. I changed from passive sonar to active sonar because I have already lost stealth so I am acting more like an attack submarine.

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[-] 1 points by grapes (3552) 11 months ago

Proportionality. Acquisition of targets is different from an actual state of war. Mutual Assured Destruction held the uneasy peace for many decades. Attack submarines trailed the Boomers and pinged them with active sonars. No torpedoes need to be fired from the attack submarines to change the course of the Boomers. Remember Shalom, Islam, or Peace, in any language, buddy?

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[-] 2 points by grapes (3552) 11 months ago

I probably make no sense to many more people than just you. That is the context-dependent nature of communication, I guess. I am biting no one's ankle (not yours, not his, not hers, not theirs) and I intend to remain that way observing the rule of proportionality. Being pals takes two or more so I let it be.

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[-] 1 points by grapes (3552) 11 months ago

I suppose that you may have mistaken Boomers to mean baby boomers. In the parlance of Global Implosion/Explosion (Thermonuclear) War, Boomers mean nuclear-missiles-carrying submarines which can have more destructive power to kill or maim more people than the Mongols had ever commanded. Pinging refers to the usage of active sonars to tell the potential enemy submarines that they are being detected and located. It is not a state of war. It was engaged in incessantly during the Cold War by various countries, most prominently the U.S. and the former Soviet Union.

If you take a detailed look at my pinged targets, you will discover who they are. It can be disconcerting to unintended targets of allies but attack submarines are by their missions noisier.

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[-] 1 points by grapes (3552) 11 months ago

No submarine is "thermo.nuclear powered." I wish that we could have sent such type of submarine to Fukushima to supply electrical power to prevent the meltdowns and explosions to avoid all of the lingering problems there.

Take a look at George Washington Bridgegate - is Chris Christie involved or not?. That was an intended target of pinging.

I carry no Trident nuclear missiles because "attack submarines" need to move fast sacrificing stealth if need be. There are a number of "enforcers" in our "battlegroup." Yes, God willing, with the help of Enlightenment, the jailers of the concentration camp can be effective "enforcers," too.

Another weakness of the "Boomers" is that they can be cornered and self-destruct if they try to hide too hard or surface and be exposed.

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[-] 1 points by grapes (3552) 11 months ago

Coming up for air is nearly unnecessary for nuclear-powered submarines. Seawater contains more oxygen than air as long as electricity is available. I remain content to stay behind the curtains of the Wizard of Oz as it is the highest aspiration of the submariners to be like old time children (children should be seen and not heard).

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[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 11 months ago

The NSA's Preference for Metadata

Monday, 13 January 2014 13:12 By Kirk Wiebe, Consortium News | News Analysis

http://truth-out.org/news/item/21202-nsas-preference-for-metadata

Senior national security officials, from President Barack Obama on down, have made light of the National Security Agency’s intrusive monitoring of the public by saying “only” metadata about communications, not the content of those communications, are collected. One might ask, then, why is it that intelligence and law enforcement officials much prefer this metadata approach?

For one, analysts can determine a great deal about a person – any person – by following the electronic crumbs that people inevitably leave behind in the course of their daily routines. And this data-byte-crunching analysis is much less time-consuming than monitoring each phone call or reading each e-mail.

So, the distinction between listening in on conversations and “just” collecting phone numbers called and the duration of the conversations is a red herring. The truth is that persistent, bulk collection of metadata in support of analysis is – not can be – more revealing over time than content, the latter prohibited from collection unless probable cause criteria have been met in the eyes of a court.

Metadata collection can answer all but one of the five “W’s” of journalism: the Who, What, Where and When. Given time, it can even respond to “Why” someone interfaces with digital information systems the way they do. It can do this because it is possible to discern patterns of behavior in metadata.

A very simple example: You go to work via a toll road, taking essentially the same route five days a week, for about 48 weeks a year. A license plate scanner produces information about where your car was when it was scanned – and at what time. Your passive transponder (e.g., E-Z Pass) records your entrance onto the toll road at which ramp, and when you were there. The same transponder reports when and where you got off the toll road.

You stopped to get gas. Your credit card records where you were and when you bought the gas. You arrive at work and turn on your computer. Your Internet service provider (ISP) records when an IP address was given to your computer and what time it was provided. The IP address is associated with a server at a location with a specific address and is associated with your name.

So it is possible to know when you arrived at work. Or perhaps you called your wife to tell her you arrived safely. Your phone has locational information and the time of the call is recorded. Of course, the phone is associated with your account/name.

Similarly, any deviation from these patterns – for whatever reason – would also be apparent. A consistent deviation might reveal a significant change in your personal life (e. g. job trouble, health problems, marital difficulties).

While this ability to construct a mosaic of your life may not be understood by those inclined to believe what they hear on the evening “news” – that the metadata is no real threat to your privacy – this reality is eminently understandable to those familiar with the technological power of the various NSA programs. MIT graduate students, for example, have produced a video, based largely on personal experience as well as research, that makes it very clear.

A caveat here: I have not seen everything that has been released by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden so far, but I have seen most. Even taken together, these documents listing the names of the programs – like PRISM, XKEYSCORE and UPSTREAM – and the various diagrams depicting data flows on charts would not tell much to someone unfamiliar with the technological capabilities of these programs.

What is discernible is that NSA is interested in metadata and content from the Internet, a fact that is hardly classified. NSA is also interested in phone calls. That too is not classified, nor is it new. People have known for a long time that NSA’s mission is to produce foreign intelligence from communications.

Former NSA Director Michael Hayden long ago made it clear that – given the rapid changes in networked communications and associated technologies – NSA needed to master the “net.” There was no mistaking the intent. He even said he consulted with large Internet companies and their experts in Silicon Valley.

Bottom Line: Only people who work with these programs – the contractors who support information technology, the IT developers and the NSA analysts – understand what these programs are, what they do and how they do it, in other words, the extraordinary power that they possess.

A Highly Damaging Leak?

As for the “damage” from unauthorized disclosures of these programs over the past half-year largely from documents leaked by Snowden, defenders of NSA bulk collection are hewing to NSA’s talking points (recently acquired via a Freedom of Information request). Here are three of the 13 points listed:

“-DISCLOSURES HAVE DONE IRREVERSIBLE AND SIGNIFICANT DAMAGE TO SECURITY.

“-EVERY TIME THERE ARE DISCLOSURES, IT MAKES OUR JOB HARDER.

“-OUR ADVERSARIES ARE PAYING ATTENTION AND WE ALREADY SEE SIGNS THEY ARE MAKING ADJUSTMENTS.” [From NSA’s “MEDIA LEAKS ONE CARD”]

But these “talking points” obscure the real questions posed by the bulk collection of metadata on virtually all human beings who communicate through electronic means, from telephone to e-mail: What is the real threat posed to personal privacy by the persistent, bulk collection of metadata of innocent people? And what is the real damage from disclosure of this reality?

As for legality, do not be fooled by allusions to the infamous Smith v. Maryland (1979) court decision – which says Americans surrender their expectation of privacy over call data held by phone companies –upon which the Government rests its case for claiming its NSA metadata collection is legal.

That case had absolutely nothing to do with the persistent, bulk collection of metadata. The citation amounts to a stall tactic, with the Government knowing it takes just about forever for the federal court system to adjudicate the legality of such a claim – while the collection will continue.

Also, be skeptical about the Government’s claims about massive (but indeterminate) damage to national security. According to the rules for classifying material, it must have the potential to cause EXCEPTIONALLY GRAVE DAMAGE to the national security of the United States (TOP SECRET), SERIOUS DAMAGE to the national security (SECRET), or to cause DAMAGE to the national security (CONFIDENTIAL stuff), if divulged to the public at large.

It would be difficult for anyone in a court of law to make the case that public disclosure of NSA’s intrusive collection has done any of those things. Despite the NSA’s “talking points,” no clear-cut evidence has been presented supporting the claims of “IRREVERSIBLE AND SIGNIFICANT DAMAGE.”

But here is a real leak that caused “exceptionally grave damage” to the national security: On the night of 9/11, Sen. Orin Hatch, R-Utah, told The Associated Press, “They have an intercept of some information that includes people associated with [Osama] bin Laden who acknowledged a couple of targets were hit.”

Hatch made similar comments to ABC News and said the information had come from officials at the CIA and FBI. We never heard bin Laden or any of his close associates on a satellite phone again. THAT was a true compromise of security. But nothing happened to Sen. Hatch.

Has Snowden caused great embarrassment, especially about monitoring the communications of various high-level persons in foreign countries, such as Germany and Brazil? Yes, but do any of those countries pose a security threat to the United States? None of which I am aware.

And, contrary to the alarmist claims of the NSA “talking points,” the damage to intelligence sources and methods aimed at legitimate foreign targets is, so far, minimal. Part of the reason is because, quite simply, there are no current options to avoid either phones or the Internet or travel, all of which are heavily monitored. Alternatives aimed at evading monitoring are fragile, costly, inconvenient, and usually ineffective.

Another irony about all the teeth-gnashing over Snowden’s revelations is this: As noted elsewhere, the U.S. government is sure to improve – not degrade – its intelligence gathering/analysis if it abandons the kind of mass metadata collection and storage that serves mainly to drown analysts in data.

The current system has been shown to be ineffective in identifying terrorists, raising the question: How does one damage something that is already “ineffective”?

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by grapes (3552) 11 months ago

Even George Orwell's exemption "except in darkness, every movement scrutinized" shall not stand as demonstrated by the "dark-light" depiction of the younger alleged Boston Marathon Bomber's (Dzhokhar Tsarnaev) hiding in a covered boat. "Out of Darkness, Light!" will acquire a whole NEW meaning befitting our time.

A new frontier was opened up and those who are not aware or prepared shall suffer the consequences. It will not be the Gestapo or Stasi but your "Friendly Self-Appointed Guardian." The band "The Police" had a song about this obsessive passion for you all. Do you feel secured and loved?

[-] 2 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 11 months ago

I heard that rhythm the other day on another song

[-] 2 points by grapes (3552) 11 months ago

Old classic songs can acquire new lyrics and be reborn in the same way X-ray vision fantasy acquired new technologies and be born as the pornography-capable body scanners at the airports.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 11 months ago

Washington State Bill Proposes Criminalizing Help to NSA, Turning Off Resources to Yakima Facility

Thursday, 16 January 2014 13:17 By Michael Boldin, Truthout | Report

http://truth-out.org/news/item/21253-washington-state-bill-proposes-criminalizing-help-to-nsa-turning-off-resources-to-yakima-facility

The campaign to turn off power to the NSA has gotten a big boost. Washington has become the first state with a physical NSA location to consider a Fourth Amendment protection act designed to make life extremely difficult for the massive spy agency.

The state-level campaign to turn off power to the NSA got a big boost January 15, 2014, as Washington became the first state with a physical NSA location to consider a Fourth Amendment protection act designed to make life extremely difficult for the massive spy agency.

Bills introduced in California, Oklahoma, Indiana, Missouri and Kansas seek to prevent the NSA from expanding further or sharing data and metadata in non-terror investigations. But Washington's House Bill 2272 (HB2272) takes things a step farther because the state is home to the secretive "Yakima listening post" documented by famous NSA researcher James Bamford in his 1982 book, The Puzzle Palace.

HB2272 was introduced by a bipartisan team of legislators, Rep. David Taylor, a Republican from Moxee, and Rep. Luis Moscoso, a former three-term secretary of the state Democratic Party from Mountlake Terrace.

If passed, the bill would make it the policy of the state "to refuse material support, participation, or assistance to any federal agency which claims the power, or with any federal law, rule, regulation, or order which purports to authorize, the collection of electronic data or metadata of any person pursuant to any action not based on a warrant."

Taylor, whose district houses the Yakima post, said he "cannot sit idly by while a secretive facility in his backyard violates the rights of people everywhere."

"We're running the bill to provide protection against the ever-increasing surveillance into the daily lives of our citizens," Taylor said. "Our founding fathers established a series of checks and balances in the Constitution. Given the federal government's utter failure to address the people's concerns, it's up to the states to stand for our citizens' constitutional rights."

Practically speaking, the bill prohibits state and local agencies from providing any material support to the NSA within their jurisdiction. This includes barring government-owned utilities from providing water and electricity. It makes information gathered without a warrant by the NSA and shared with law enforcement inadmissible in state court. It blocks public universities from serving as NSA research facilities or recruiting grounds. And it bans corporations who continue to do business with the NSA from holding any contracts with the state.

According to documents made public by the US military, as of 2008, a company called PacifiCorp is the primary supplier of electric power and Cascade Natural Gas Corporation supplies natural gas to YTC. The Kittitas Public Utility District, a function of the state, provides electric power for the MPRC and the Doris site, but no documentation has yet proven that it also provides electricity used directly by the NSA facility. And while YTC does provide a bulk of its own water, documents also show that some of it gets there by first passing through upstream dams owned and operated by the state.

The Army report states, "YTC lies within three WAUs whose boundaries coincide with WRIAs, as defined by the State of Washington natural resource agencies."

WAU's are the state's Water Administration Units. WRIAs are state Water Resource Inventory Areas.

A Washington company has a strong link to the NSA. Cray Inc. builds supercomputers for the agency. Calls to the company for comment were not returned.

Taylor said he understands the need for "national security" but insists we can't trample over the Constitution in the process.

"Simply claiming 'national security' does not negate an individual's constitutional rights. We have a legal system which provides law enforcement agencies the means to conduct legal, constitutional surveillance. We're simply asking the government to follow the supreme law of the land," he said.

Three public universities in Washington are among 166 schools nationwide partnering with the NSA. Taylor's bill would address these schools' status as NSA "Centers of Academic Excellence" and would bar any new partnerships with other state colleges or universities.

OffNow national campaign leader Shane Trejo said that while people tend to focus on the banning of resources to NSA facilities, the bill's prohibition against using data gathered without a warrant in state court probably would have the most immediate impact. In fact, lawmakers in Kansas and Missouri are considering bills simply addressing this kind of data sharing.

"Last fall, Reuters reported that NSA is sharing information gathered without a warrant with local law enforcement. The documents said that most cases where this is happening are not terror-related. By banning this practice, the bill would lessen the practical effect of all that data collecting that NSA is doing."

Trejo said he expects at least three more states to introduce the act within the next few weeks.

"This idea is catching on. And if people in Washington make phone calls to committee members, the bill has a good chance of passing. That will just encourage even more states to do the same," Trejo said. "In the end, our goal is to put a stop to these NSA spying programs, whether the Congress wants us to or not."

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 11 months ago

Fighting Back Against the NSA's Dragnet Web: Can Activists Turn the Tide in a Draconian Digital Era?

Thursday, 16 January 2014 12:59 By Candice Bernd, Truthout | Report

http://truth-out.org/news/item/21262-fighting-back-against-the-nsas-dragnet-web-can-internet-activists-turn-the-tide-in-a-draconian-digital-era

A coalition of privacy and digital-rights organizations is planning a mass online protest against NSA surveillance February 11. But as the DC Circuit Court of Appeals strikes down net-neutrality provisions, the protest follows a critical moment for internet freedom.

As President Obama is set to issue new guidelines Friday for his plans to rein in some of the National Security Agency's (NSA) vast dragnet surveillance programs revealed by former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden, a broad coalition of privacy and digital rights organizations is gearing up for a mass online action planned this Febrary 11 to protest ubiquitous electronic surveillance by several governments.

The planned action is reminiscent of the successful internet blackout, which protested the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) bills in 2012, which would have given law enforcement the authority to block web pages containing copyright infringement violations.

The "Day We Fight Back" was announced on the anniversary of digital rights activist Aaron Swartz's suicide and is dedicated to his legacy. Swartz was a young software engineer and prominent political activist who took his life in 2013 after he was charged with allegedly illegally downloading academic journal articles. The charges carried a 35-year jail sentence and up to $1 million of fines.

Like the SOPA/PIPA protest in 2012, February's mass online action will pressure US lawmakers to act against government surveillance electronic communications. Since the action was announced, more than 2,000 websites have signed on to take part in the protest, including major internet hubs such as Reddit, Wikipedia and Mozilla.

According to The New York Times, President Obama will eschew a majority of recommendations from his advisers on reforming the NSA's surveillance programs and will ask Congress to step in to decide some of the most challenging issues and concerns.

He is, according to those who have been briefed, planning to increase restrictions on access to telephone metadata, implement safeguards for non-citizens and propose the creation of a privacy advocate on the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court. But he is not planning to recommend taking the bulk data out of government hands, nor require court permission for government access to business records.

According to the article, the president is expected to announce he will cut back on the number of people whose telephone data can be searched by the NSA, reducing the number of people associated with a suspect who are to be surveilled from three to two. He also plans to reduce the number of years the data collected can be stored.

"His own review group has made some pretty far-reaching recommendations, and I would have thought that at a minimum he would have taken those recommendations seriously. And based on this Times story today, it doesn't look like he is," says Faiza Patel, who co-directs the liberty and national security program at the Brennan Center for Justice. "It's all very well to say, 'Yes, I welcome a debate.' But, in fact, the president put in place all of these executive review mechanisms. … It sounds like what he's going to do is punch most of this to Congress, and that just kind of seems unfortunate to me. ... I think he should exhibit a little bit of leadership on this."

While Patel described Obama's apparent willingness to impose limits on the number of people whose data can be scrutinized as a step forward for civil liberties, she said the apparent move still doesn't go far enough because the initial determination about who can be surveilled is not made by a court, but rather by the NSA.

But as the Obama administration appears to be preparing to try to appease civil liberties and privacy advocates with his widely anticipated speech Friday, the announcement of a major day of action in protest of dragnet surveillance could not come at a more critical time for the future of internet freedom and digital rights in the 21st century.

The Death of Net Neutrality May Aid Internet Surveillance

The DC Circuit Court of Appeals dealt a huge blow to net-neutrality proponents Tuesday, striking down the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) 2010 Open Internet order, which regulated how broadband service providers can provide access to the internet, preventing them from blocking or discriminating against various forms of internet data transmitted across their networks.

The court ruled, in a case brought against the FCC by Verizon, that the internet is not classified as a utility under federal law and, therefore, broadband providers are not subject to the FCC's regulations banning financial arrangements with services like Amazon or Netflix to allow them to pay to stream their content on faster broadband "express lanes" on the web.

When the FCC deregulated broadband services under the Bush administration, the commission undermined its own ability to pass net-neutrality rules. To impose those rules in 2010, the FCC, under Chairman Julius Genachowski, reclassified broadband services as "information services" rather than telecommunications services, but the federal appeals court ruled the FCC did not have the proper authority under that classification to pass those rules.

"[Genachowski] was just unable to stand up to the industry pressure that he was getting, and so he chose to take this way out by passing rules without reclassifying. And the minute he did ... we knew that these rules weren't going to hold up in court, because they were passed in the wrong way," said Josh Levy, who is the internet campaign director at Free Press. Free Press is among the organizations endorsing and organizing February 11 mass online action against the NSA.

"[Broadband service providers] want to be in control of so much more, so that they can slice-and-dice it in a number of ways, offer us packages, and nickel-and-dime us so that they can make as much as they can," Levy told Truthout.

But more than corporations being able to pay for privileged access on faster internet lanes, the move could potentially censor sites of dissent on the open web if the broadband service providers so choose.

"We might not even know what we're not seeing, or we might realize that there's a website that we've come to depend on, say an independent news service, that isn't operational anymore. In a nightmare scenario, which is totally possible because these rules were struck down, if we are using applications or technologies that these companies don't like to connect to the internet, they can just block them from connecting to their networks," Levy says.

And the types of technologies and applications Levy is talking about include encryption technologies that help protect dissident voices avoid surveillance from government agencies as well as corporations.

Major technologies companies have adopted various encryption standards in the aftermath of the Snowden leaks, and the use of such services are on the rise from the general public.

But now the same telecommunications giants that have worked hand-in-glove with the NSA by handing over massive, invasive, domestic call records since shortly after September 11, 2001, will be free to make financial arrangements that will privilege other corporations that may be using their own spy networks against innocent Americans.

Will February 11 Echo the Success of the SOPA/PIPA Blackout?

The Day We Fight Back is not just fighting invasive dragnet surveillance programs, but it also hopes to fight for something - namely the USA Freedom Act.

The USA Freedom Act, authored by Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, would take action to restrict the NSA and other governmental surveillance programs and give companies a voice in what types of surveillance their products can be used for. If passed, the bill would halt the mass collection of metadata under section 215 of the Patriot Act and allow companies to report the number of FISA letters they receive that request access to their business records, how many of those letters they grant and the number of users who are affected.

"It's a bill that isn't going to fix everything that's wrong with NSA surveillance. Rather it's going to do some extremely common-sense fixes that are modern in nature and should be the first step in what is hopefully a much larger effort to reform NSA surveillance abuses," says Rainey Reitman, activism director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, another group behind the February 11 action. "I think of it as a floor, not a ceiling."

Reitman says many of the people who are working on the effort are the same individuals and groups who worked on the SOPA/PIPA blackout in 2012. But because next month's protest is not taking aim at a specific censorship bill, most companies are not going to be blacking out their web sites, Reitman told Truthout. Instead, websites big and small are going to raise awareness about NSA dragnet surveillance programs by highlighting those issues with a banner or embeddable widget somewhere prominent on their front page.

The tactics and ways in which individuals and internet advocacy organizations will participate are numerous, from appeals to call Congressional representatives on the issue to physical street protests. "It's not just one organization telling you how you should be fighting against the NSA surveillance. Rather it's thousands of people coming up with their own creative ideas, and that’s kind of the beauty of decentralized internet culture."

Sign this petition to the FCC, Congress and the White House now: Keep the Internet open. Keep net neutrality. Don't allow censorship and discrimination when it comes to Internet access.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 11 months ago

NSA Metadata Collection: Fourth Amendment Violation

Thursday, 16 January 2014 13:59 By Marjorie Cohn, Jurist | News Analysis

http://truth-out.org/news/item/21276-nsa-metadata-collection-fourth-amendment-violation

Edward Snowden, who worked for the National Security Agency (NSA), revealed a secret order of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), that requires Verizon to produce on an "ongoing daily basis ... all call detail records or 'telephony metadata' created by Verizon for communications (i) between the United States and abroad; or (ii) wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls."

The government has admitted it collects metadata for all of our telephone communications, but says the data collected does not include the content of the calls.

In response to lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the program, two federal judges issued dueling opinions about whether it violates the Fourth Amendment's prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures.

Judge Richard J. Leon, of the US District Court for the District of Columbia, held that the metadata program probably constitutes an unconstitutional search and seizure. Judge William H. Pauley III, of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, determined that it does not violate the Fourth Amendment.

Leon's Opinion

Leon wrote, "Because the Government can use daily metadata collection to engage in 'repetitive surreptitious surveillance of a citizen's private goings on,' the 'program implicates the Fourth Amendment each time a government official monitors it.'" The issue is "whether plaintiffs have a reasonable expectation of privacy that is violated when the Government indiscriminately collects their telephony metadata along with the metadata of hundreds of millions of other citizens without any particularized suspicion of wrongdoing, retains all of that metadata for five years, and then queries, analyzes, and investigates that data without prior judicial approval of the investigative targets. If they do—and a Fourth Amendment search has thus occurred—then the next step of the analysis will be to determine whether such a search is 'reasonable.'" The first determination is whether a Fourth Amendment "search" has occurred. If so, the second question is whether that search was "reasonable."

The judicial analyses of both Leon and Pauley turn on their differing interpretations of the 1979 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Smith v. Maryland. In Smith, a robbery victim reported she had received threatening and obscene phone calls from someone who claimed to be the robber. Without obtaining a warrant, the police installed a pen register, which revealed a telephone in the defendant's home had been used to call the victim. The Supreme Court held that a person has no reasonable expectation of privacy in the numbers dialed from his telephone because he voluntarily transmits them to his phone company.

Leon distinguished Smith from the NSA program, saying that whether a pen register constitutes a "search" is "a far cry from the issue in [the NSA] case." Leon wrote, "When do present-day circumstances—the evolution of the Government's surveillance capabilities, citizens' phone habits, and the relationship between the NSA and telecom companies—become so thoroughly unlike those considered by the Supreme Court thirty-four years ago that a precedent like Smith simply does not apply? The answer, unfortunately for the Government, is now."

Then Leon cited the 2012 Supreme Court case of United States v. Jones, in which five justices found that law enforcement's use of a GPS device to track the movements of a vehicle for nearly a month violated a reasonable expectation of privacy. "Significantly," Leon wrote, "the justices did so without questioning the validity of the Court's 1983 decision in United States v. Knotts, that the use of a tracking beeper does not constitute a search because '[a] person travelling in an automobile on public thoroughfares has no reasonable expectation of privacy in his movements from one place to another.'" Leon contrasted the short-range, short-term tracking device used in Knotts with the constant month-long surveillance achieved with the GPS device attached to Jones's car.

Unlike the "highly-limited data collection" in Smith, Leon noted, "[t]he NSA telephony metadata program, on the other hand, involves the creation and maintenance of a historical database containing five years' worth of data. And I might add, there is the very real prospect that the program will go on for as long as America is combating terrorism, which realistically could be forever!" He called the NSA program "effectively a joint intelligence-gathering operation [between telecom companies and] the Government."

"[T]he almost-Orwellian technology that enables the Government to store and analyze the phone metadata of every telephone user in the United States is unlike anything that could have been conceived in 1979," Leon exclaimed, calling it "the stuff of science fiction." He cited Justice Scalia's opinion in Kyllo v. United States, which held the use of a thermal imaging device, that measures heat waste emanating from a house, constitutes a "search." Justice Scalia was concerned about increasing invasions of privacy occasioned by developing technology.

Leon wrote, "I cannot imagine a more 'indiscriminate' and 'arbitrary invasion' than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval."

Quoting Justice Sotomayor's concurrence in Jones, Leon noted the breadth of information our cell phone records reveal, including "familial, political, professional, religious, and sexual associations."

Having determined that people have a subjective expectation of privacy in their historical record of telephony metadata, Leon turned to whether that subjective expectation is one that society considers "reasonable." A "search" must ordinarily be based on individualized suspicion of wrongdoing in order to be "reasonable." One exception is when there are "special needs," beyond the need for ordinary law enforcement (such as the need to protect children from drugs).

"To my knowledge, however, no court has ever recognized a special need sufficient to justify continuous, daily searches of virtually every American citizen without any particularized suspicion," Leon wrote. "In effect," he continued, "the Government urges me to be the first non-FISC judge to sanction such a dragnet."

Leon stated that fifteen different FISC judges have issued 35 orders authorizing the metadata collection program. But, Leon wrote, FISC Judge Reggie Walton determined the NSA has engaged in "systematic noncompliance" and repeatedly made misrepresentations and inaccurate statements about the program to the FISC judges. And Presiding FISC Judge John Bates noted "a substantial misrepresentation [by the government] regarding the scope of a major collection program."

Significantly, Leon noted that "the Government does not cite a single instance in which analysis of the NSA's bulk metadata collection actually stopped an imminent attack, or otherwise aided the Government in achieving any objective that was time-sensitive in nature."

Pauley's Opinion

Pauley's analysis of the Fourth Amendment issue was brief. He explained that prior to the September 11th terrorist attacks, the NSA intercepted seven calls made by hijacker Khalid al-Mihdhar to an al-Qaeda safe house in Yemen. But the overseas signal intelligence capabilities the NSA used could not capture al-Mihdhar's telephone number identifier; thus, the NSA mistakenly concluded that al-Mihdhar was not in the United States. Pauley wrote: "Telephony metadata would have furnished the missing information and might have permitted the NSA to notify the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the fact that al-Mihdhar was calling the Yemeni safe house from inside the United States."

"If plumbed," Pauley noted, the telephony metadata program "can reveal a rich profile of every individual as well as a comprehensive record of people's association with one another." He noted, "the Government acknowledged that since May 2006, it has collected [telephony metadata] for substantially every telephone call in the United States, including calls between the United States and a foreign country and calls entirely within the United States."

But, unlike Leon, Pauley found Smith v. Maryland controls the NSA case. He quoted Smith: "Telephone users ... typically know that they must convey numerical information to the telephone company; that the telephone company has facilities for recording this information; and that the telephone company does in fact record this information for a variety of legitimate business purposes." Thus, Pauley wrote, when a person voluntarily gives information to a third party, "he forfeits his right to privacy in the information."

While Leon's distinction between Smith and the NSA program turned on the breadth of information collected by the NSA, Pauley opined, "The collection of breathtaking amounts of information unprotected by the Fourth Amendment does not transform that sweep into a Fourth Amendment search." And whereas Leon's detailed analysis demonstrated how Jones leads to the result that the NSA program probably violates the Fourth Amendment, Pauley failed to meaningfully distinguish Jones from the NSA case, merely noting that the Jones court did not overrule Smith.

Leon's decision is the better-reasoned opinion.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 11 months ago

Looking Ahead

This issue is headed to the Court of Appeals. From there, it will likely go the Supreme Court. The high court checked and balanced President George W. Bush when he overstepped his legal authority by establishing military commissions that violated due process, and attempted to deny constitutional habeas corpus to Guantanamo detainees. It remains to be seen whether the court will likewise refuse to cower before President Barack Obama's claim of unfettered executive authority to conduct dragnet surveillance. If the court allows the NSA to continue its metadata collection, we will reside in what can only be characterized as a police state.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by Nevada1 (4851) 11 months ago

Preemptive arrest, it is coming.

[-] 2 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 11 months ago

the crime will be publicized

[-] 1 points by Builder (4202) 11 months ago

Yes, people's arrest of Congress.

All of them.

[-] 1 points by beautifulworld (22155) 11 months ago

"A Government of Wolves" Good book title.

Tracking you based on your: consumer activities, public activities, phone activities, behavior, face, car, and social media activities.

This is how they spend our money. What a joke.