Category Archives: Surveillance

CISPA: Your Privacy At Severe Risk Of Government‑Corporate Surveillance

Following up on the earlier CISPA post, Anjali Dalal of AlterNet has a concentrated summary of CISPA and all the last-minute amendments applied last Thursday evening before the bill was passed unexpectedly by the House. Many of the amendments appear to have been inserted (and others deleted) in defiance of reservations expressed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Democracy and Technology, all of whom were at least in theory invited to “participate” in amending the bill. Here’s Dalal:

Learning their lesson from SOPA, the House decided to invite civil liberties constituencies to the table so as to avoid having to witness another implosion of a major legislative goal. As a result, a number of amendments were introduced that began to address some of the most egregious parts of the bill, and, in response, some members of the civil liberties community decided to withhold further, vocal opposition. Then, on Thursday evening, it all fell apart. As Josh Smith at the National Journal described, the CISPA that was passed by the House on Thursday didn’t reflect this negotiation: …

Ah, the grand Republican tradition, let everyone have their say and then pass whatever they damned well please. “We listened to you!” they will doubtless protest. Yes, fuck them dead, they did. An overwhelming number of the amendments ultimately incorporated were Republican, while most Democratic amendments were omitted by the Republican-dominated House Rules Committee.

The linked AlterNet article discusses quite a few amendments. All I can say on a quick reading is that the words “warrantless” and “immunity” appear often, allowing warrantless searches by corporations (!) to be reported to government agencies with immunity for the corporations involved. These GOP guys ‘n’ gals really, really don’t like the “no search without a warrant” principle, and they really, really do like subcontracting legitimately government-only activities to private corporations.

Do you get the feeling that that pompous, ritualistic reading of the Constitution at the opening of the last House session was totally lost on the members of one party, and maybe some of the other party’s members as well?

Does anybody know the status of Obama’s original threat to veto this bill if it crosses his desk? Has he caved yet?

CISPA Passes House On Hurried-Up Vote After Surprise Changes Effectively Eviscerating Fourth Amendment Online

Remember Dan Quayle? Remember how we laughed at him? In our brave new world under our new overlords (whom I, for one, do NOT welcome), Quayle has had the last laugh. Here is Leigh Beaden of TechDirt on the sudden passage of CISPA, and the same author on the Quayle amendment to CISPA.

If this bill becomes law (for what it’s worth, Obama has issued a veto threat), companies that partner with DoD and NSA agencies can gather information on American citizens online without a warrant and with no application of the Fourth Amendment, just by listing certain keywords in their justification for the acquisition. It’s easier for me simply to hand you off to the ACLU for their initial impressions of the bill as passed in the House yesterday:

The House of Representatives just passed the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), a dangerously overbroad bill that would allow companies to share our private and sensitive information with the government without a warrant and without proper oversight. CISPA gives companies the authority to share that information with the National Security Agency or other elements of the Department of Defense, who could keep it forever. The Obama administration issued a veto threat on CISPA earlier this week.

In a statement that we issued just after the House vote, ACLU legislative counsel Michelle Richardson stated, “CISPA goes too far for little reason. Cybersecurity does not have to mean abdication of Americans’ online privacy. As we’ve seen repeatedly, once the government gets expansive national security authorities, there’s no going back. We encourage the Senate to let this horrible bill fade into obscurity.”

Obscurity indeed… either that’s where the bill will go, or where your privacy will go; we can’t have both.

It seems to me that we must have had “Americans” in our midst for several decades just waiting for an opportunity to repudiate the Bill of Rights and turn our form of government into something most of us would regard as totalitarian. The “global war on terror” seems to have provided that opportunity, and these un‑Americans have whipped out their swords and begun whacking away at the freedoms listed in our fundamental document. Personally, I expect the worst. If you feel otherwise, please let me know. If you “welcome our new overlords,” please fuck yourself with a corkscrew.

(H/T Avedon.)

AFTERTHOUGHT: the wiki is also worth reading, especially the quotes from the bill’s opponents outside of Congress.

One Nation, Under Surveillance – Part (Oh, Whatever…)

Kevin Gosztola of FDL’s The Dissenter reviews the latest illegal unconstitutional un-American warrantless federal government surveillance efforts directed at quite literally all American citizens. Are you an American? Do you live here? Do you live somewhere else? Do you ever converse with another American, by phone or by email? Then you are, with certainty, spied upon by your government. And while it was plenty bad during GeeDubya Bush’s presidency, it has gotten even worse during Mr. Obama’s presidency.

Please read the article. It is clear that neither Congress nor the president has even the least bit of a problem with NSA surveillance of American citizens. When a former NSA agent, William Binney, turned whistleblower on the agency’s alleged illegal surveillance activities against American citizens, he found the FBI literally at his door:

And then, on July 26, 2007, about twelve FBI agents raided his home with their guns drawn. Binney was in the shower. His son answered the door. They pushed past him and, when they found him in the bathroom, pointed a gun at his head to make sure he was “duly intimidated.” Diane Roark, Kirk Wiebe and Ed Loomis were also raided that same day too. This was intimidation and retribution for filing a Defense Department Inspector General complaint against the NSA.

Any questions? Please note that this was during the Bush 43 administration. But Gosztola has more recent examples as well: American journalists harassed at US border crossings, others who had contact with Julian Assange assaulted (what else can you call it) by ICE agents, etc., ad nauseam. This is not reactive protection against terrorism; it is proactive intimidation of US citizens who… well, their primary offense is that they say or do things our government doesn’t like. That’s apparently a crime these days.

For the record of the genuine bastard SOBs out there reading this: yes, I am a “carrrrd-carrying member”GHWB of the ACLU. No, damn you to hell, you may not see the card. I want to see my lawyer immediately. I have nothing to say to you. Here’s a pen I often carry, like the one you’ve seen journalists hold… but I’ll give it to you to keep; you may take it and stick it…

ASIDE: I learned something from this article: one of the journalists mentioned carrying a laptop with no hard drive. Too cool! Keep your data in several places in the cloud, and the relevant links and passwords in your head… let the motherfuckers search all they want. Of course, we’re not far from the point at which government agents will feel free to torture travelers… maybe you should have a small hard drive with a few dozen of your favorite recipes on it, and an email from your mother…

CISPA And Your Privacy – Here We Go Again

CISPA is the Cybersecurity Intelligence Sharing Protection Act. Kevin Gosztola of FDL’s The Dissenter interviews Trevor Timm, representative of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and the basics are visible in the first exchange:

KEVIN GOSZTOLA, The Dissenter: Let’s start broadly first. I’d like to have you address why the Electronic Frontier Foundation and why you think privacy is so important.

TREVOR TIMM, EFF Activist: Privacy is especially important on the Internet cause of all the Internet we end up sending and receiving from each other and also to different companies and perhaps the government. A lot of the information that we have in our email boxes or our Facebook accounts aren’t necessarily protected by the same constitutional protections that protect letters and phone calls. This is because the Electronic Communications Privacy Act was written twenty-five years before email even existed and that’s what still governs what the government can and can’t take from companies and us about our information. And, the worst part about this bill CISPA – which stands for the Cyber Intelligence Sharing Protection Act – is that it essentially carves out a giant cybersecurity loophole into already watered-down protections for our communications. And what we’re really worried about is that companies will end up handing over large swaths of our emails, private messages on Facebook or Twitter, to the government with no judicial oversight.

And there you have it. Your [inserted: international] phone calls are already wiretapped without a warrant; now they want to do the same with your emails, your tweets, your online purchases, etc. The current wording is so vague and broad that literally anything someone in government or even a corporation chooses could be labeled “cyber threat intelligence” and subject to warrantless interception. Believe me, Rep. Mike Rogers (R) and his approximately 100 House cosponsors intend you no good with this bill. The House vote is scheduled for Apr. 23… a week from today as I write this on Monday. The above-linked piece by Gosztola and Timm has links to an EFF FAQ about CISPA and an action center to oppose the bill. (One clever bit is a hashtag, #CongressTMI, i.e., Too Much Information, to which you can tweet literally your every activity for a day, to show the consequences burdensome to real security of intercepting literally everything.)

SOPA/PIPA may be dead, but the battle for fundamental online privacy protection… the degree of privacy protection we all enjoy legally and constitutionally in postal mail and (theoretically) phone calls… is nowhere nearly won. Here’s Trevor Timm of EFF again:

… Basic privacy practices like using an anonymization service like Tor to hide your location or identity or even encrypting your emails could be considered a threat under the Senate bills. …

Here we go again…

The State Of The Nation

Please read William Rivers Pitt’s piece, Let the Million Flowers Bloom. Allow yourself a short span to fathom the list of activities Pitt compiles, things being done by government entities at literally all levels. Then read it again.

It doesn’t take a conspiracy-oriented mind to believe that we in America are headed straight to Hell, based on a simple list of well-established facts. While I believe there are some conspiracies, I am very disinclined to believe they are typically perpetrated by our governments; I find it more than distasteful to imagine that municipalities are organizing against our well-being. But facts are facts, and Pitt has spent years establishing a reputation for getting his facts right. His facts on NYC’s treatment of the Occupy movement are almost certainly right. Who would you rather believe? Michael Bloomberg? And how far behind can the rest of us be, if they’re collecting retinal scans of peaceful protesters?

Pitt says that GeeDubya Bush is finally getting his wish expressed in his attempt at a “Total Information Awareness” program. The technology to do such a thing has been available for a decade at least, and if it is now a mission of the No Such Agency to establish such a database, it will almost certainly happen. As a first step in preparing ourselves, we might want to contemplate how we will live in an era in which individual privacy is effectively nonexistent.

After you’ve figured that out for yourself, maybe we’ll be lucky enough to have some time to contemplate what comes next. Or maybe not. If I were in my 20s or 30s, I might seriously consider emigrating. And if that’s not an option for you…

Welcome to America! Enjoy your stay!

What A Shock [/snark]: NYPD Spied On Liberal Groups

Sometimes there is nothing new under the Sun, and when it comes to NYPD, you’d be hard pressed to find anything bad they haven’t done to someone at some time. Victoria Bekiempis of Village Voice blog Runnin’ Scared tells us about the latest iteration of NYPD’s interminable surveillance of people they don’t like who, damn them, are just not doing anything illegal enough to bust them:

The NYPD didn’t just spy on entire Muslim communities — a new report by The Associated Press reveals that cops also surveilled liberal political groups.

The AP (via CBS) notes that undercover cops went to liberal political groups’ meetings, building intel files on activists and protesters.

The newswire says that interviews and docs collected during the investigation “show how police have used counterterrorism tactics to monitor even lawful activities.”

This follows a course of action much like one they pursued in 2004; please read the article. But apparently this time, the cops couldn’t even get their shit straight in their reports; again, read the article. And again, no surprise there.

Will someone please explain to me how NYC is different from the now defunct East Germany? Or how NYPD’s operations substantively differ from our own FBI COINTELPRO? Sixty years later, the cops are still chasing “subversives”: truly, nothing is new under the Sun!

(H/T Eschaton.)

Employers: ‘Give Us Your Facebook Login Or Lose Your Job’

Literally. Or, to a prospective employee, “GUYFL or you don’t get the job.” Facebook is understandably upset, believes such employers are doing something illegal (not merely something detestable) and is threatening to sue them:

In response to a deluge of news reports that employers, including public sector organizations, are increasingly forcing employees and prospective hires to turn over their Facebook login information (or have people login and allow supervisors to look at profiles), Facebook itself has decided to weigh-in on the matter.

On Friday, Facebook’s recently appointed chief privacy officer, Erin Egan, posted a note on the social network’s privacy page explaining that Facebook will “take action to protect the privacy and security of our users,” including suing employers who violate user privacy.

I have consistently declined to join any social networking site because I have not been reassured that the companies that run them will not misuse the data they collect on individuals. Facebook has arguably been the worst about not protecting privacy.

But for an employer to hold a gun to your head and say “your password or your job” is beyond the pale. I hope the bastards get their asses sued off. (If we lived in a society in which every employee was backed by a good union, this kind of BS wouldn’t happen.)

New Technology Enables Government To Strip Away Civil Liberties More Easily And Effectively

Jeralyn Merritt, whom I really should read more often:

Via Spencer Ackerman at Wired, West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has proudly announced the state’s new snitching App is available on iTunes.

[A] project of the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and the West Virginia Intelligence Fusion Center, the app sends submitted information, including photos and texts, to the Fusion Center where the information can help authorities react to and prevent incidents from occurring.

What’s wrong with this? As Spencer says:

There’s nothing in the app to stop you from snapping a picture of your annoying neighbor and sending it to the attention of federal and state counterterrorism agents in West Virginia, who can keep information on your neighbor’s face, body and perhaps his vehicle for an unspecified period of time.

As Spencer notes, W. Virginia is hardly a hotbed of terrorism. And this isn’t just happening in West Virginia. The Department of Homeland Security has its “If You See Something, Say Something” program. Here is its current list of partners.

One last bit from Jeralyn:

Key questions: How long is information retained? What are the procedures for the review, purge, and destruction of information? How does an individual find out what information has been submitted and collected about him or her? What information can be shared with third parties outside of government?

In the Sixties, there was a quip, “Don’t turn on your neighbor… turn on your neighbor!” These days, the quip still applies… with the meanings of “turn on” switched. O tempora, o mores!

AFTERTHOUGHT: Or perhaps it’s simply “Don’t turn on your neighbor… turn in your neighbor!”

NYPD, With CIA, Engages In Broad-Based Spying On Muslims In New Jersey

Glenn Greenwald examines the implications. Two questions are obvious:

  • Why is any part of our government spying on people of a particular religion without any individualized suspicion of illegal activities?
  • WTF is NYPD doing operating in New Jersey? Matt Apuzzo, one of the AP reporters who broke the story, tweeted, “If NYPD can write docs like this outside its jurisdiction, where cant they go? Post-9/11, is NYPD a nat’l police force?

Now there’s a terrifying (terrorizing?) thought!

Considering the Republican concern [/snark] about government acts that allegedly deprive people of their First Amendment freedom of religion, why aren’t they all over this? Could it be because the targets of the spying are not Christian? IOKIYANC?


There’s A Drone In Your Future

… or maybe your present; it’s hard to tell with today’s lack of regulations on drone use. But with high probability there’s at least a drone in your future:

Washington – A bill passed last week allocating more than $63 billion to the Federal Aviation Administration would increase the existence of drones in civilian airspace across America and is expected to be signed into law by President Barack Obama.

As America’s drone war begins a new surge in Pakistan, the U.S. House and Senate have both approved the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act bill, a bill which would pressure the FAA to weaken rules currently in place on domestic drone authority, and allow American skies to be filled with tens of thousands of drones.

If the new bill becomes law, up to 30,000 drones could by flying in U.S. airspace by decade’s end. The Senate passed the bill by a 75-20 margin. Civil liberties groups have spoken out on the measure, stating the new legislation offers no restrictions on drone surveillance operations by police and federal agencies and could put us on track toward a “surveillance society.”

Well, so much for those backyard sunbathing parties… the rest of the article is as discouraging as the quoted part.

Seriously… I will not take this lying down. I will stand up, extend my old tennis racket as far as my arm can reach, …

H/T Avedon.