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News :: Human Rights
Glenn Greenwald at Harvard Squ. Bookstore with Chomsky - Youtube Video
29 May 2014
Published on May 19, 2014

Harvard Book Store welcomed political commentators Glenn Greenwald and Noam Chomsky for a discussion of Greenwald's latest book, 'No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State.'
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Re: Glenn Greenwald at Harvard Squ. Bookstore with Chomsky - Youtube Video
29 May 2014
Inside the Mind of Edward Snowden -
In a wide-ranging and revealing interview, Brian Williams talks with former NSA contractor Edward Snowden about the global impact and debate sparked by his revelations.

Edward Snowden, who became the most wanted fugitive in the world after he leaked government secrets and fled the country, tells “Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams: “If I could go anywhere in the world, that place would be home.”

In the interview, Snowden said amnesty or clemency would be for the public and the government to decide. He said that he sees himself as a patriot, while also revealing that he plans to ask Russia to extend his asylum.

“I’ve from Day One said that I’m doing this to serve my country,” Snowden said in excerpts broadcast Wednesday on “Nightly News.” The extended, wide-ranging interview with Williams airs Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.

Snowden said his desire to return to his homeland is foremost in his mind. “I don’t think there’s ever been any question that I’d like to go home,” he said.

But asked whether he would make a deal to return, Snowden said: “My priority is not about myself. It’s about making sure that these programs are reformed — and that the family that I left behind, the country that I left behind — can be helped by my actions.”

The United States charged Snowden with theft and two counts of espionage after he revealed the breadth of National Security Agency surveillance programs, including the bulk collection of telephone and Internet data from Americans.

The interview with Williams was conducted in Moscow last week after months of preparation and is Snowden’s first with a U.S. television network. Snowden maintained that the surveillance programs violated the Constitution on an enormous scale, and he said that he acted to serve his country.

“Had that not happened, had the government not gone too far and overreached, we wouldn’t be in a situation where whistleblowers were necessary,” he said.

Speaking of his own decision to leak the information and flee the country, he said, ““I think it’s important to remember that people don’t set their lives on fire, they don’t say goodbye to their families — actually pack up without saying goodbye to their families — they don’t walk away from their extraordinary — extraordinarily comfortable lives — I mean, I made a lot of money for a guy with no high school diploma — and, and, and burn down everything they love for no reason.”

Regarding Russia’s grant of temporary asylum, which he said expires Aug. 1. Snowden told Williams, “If the asylum looks like it’s going to run out, then of course I would apply for an extension.”

In interview excerpts released earlier, Snowden blamed the State Department for stranding him in Russia. He said that he had a flight booked to Cuba and on to Latin America, but “the United States government decided to revoke my passport.”

He was stuck in the transit zone of the Moscow airport for weeks before the Russian government granted asylum.
“So when people ask, ‘Why are you in Russia?’ I say, ‘Please ask the State Department,’” Snowden said.

Secretary of State John Kerry, in a live interview on TODAY, said that the government would be “delighted” for Snowden to return to the United States and face the justice system. Kerry said that a true patriot would “stand up in the United States and make his case to the American people.” He also called Snowden’s claims “pretty dumb.” In a later interview on MSNBC, Kerry described Snowden as a coward and traitor.
“What he’s done is expose for terrorists a lot of mechanisms which now affect operational security of those terrorists and make it harder for the United States to break up plots, harder to protect our nation,” he said.

In an earlier excerpt from the NBC News interview broadcast Tuesday, Snowden fought back against critics who dismissed him as a low-level hacker — saying he was “trained as a spy” and offered technical expertise to high levels of government.
Re: Glenn Greenwald at Harvard Squ. Bookstore with Chomsky - Youtube Video
29 May 2014
Click on image for a larger version

Germany says 'nein' to NSA hacking prosecution
Says it lacks evidence to pursue case against Merkel hackers
By Shaun Nichols, 28 May 2014

Officials in Germany are not planning to pursue charges over evidence that the US spy agency NSA was spying on German citizens and government officials.
According to a German media report, officials claim they do not have enough evidence to press charges, even though German Chancellor Angela Merkel was one of the targets of the surveillance

The report suggests that German authorities have not been able to convince the media outlets that broke the story, including Der Spiegel, to name their sources or provide the documents behind their reports. As a result, prosecutors are said to lack the evidence needed to move forward with a case.
Last year, reports surfaced that the Chancellor's BlackBerry handset was being tapped by the NSA and her calls may had been passing through US surveillance for years via a listening station at the US Embassy in Berlin. Fallout from the report drew sharp condemnation from government officials in both countries and both called for the resignation of prominent officials.
When Der Spiegel first gave word of the surveillance, the paper cited amongst its sources information leaked by former US contractor and self-described government spy Edward Snowden. Subsequent reports claimed that the US went so far as to tap into Germany's satellite communications systems.
While actual legal charges may not be on the horizon, fallout from the incident is still being felt and will likely continue to have an impact on relations between Germany in the US in the coming years.
Since the reports surfaced, other countries have gone on to lob similar accusations at US foreign intelligence agencies, while Merkel has advocated for the establishment of secured domestic communications networks in the EU that would be safe from the prying eyes of American spies

Generalbundesanwalt will nicht in NSA-Affäre ermitteln -
29 May 2014
"No Place To Hide" a review

With heart-pounding suspense, John le Carre-like intrigue and Jeffersonian fidelity to the principles of human freedom, Glenn Greenwald has just published No Place to Hide. The book, which reads like a thriller, is Greenwald’s story of his nonstop two weeks of work in May and June of 2013 in Hong Kong with former CIA agent and NSA contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden. Greenwald was the point person who coordinated the public release of the 1.7 million pages of NSA documents that Snowden took with him in order to prove definitively that the federal government is spying on all of us all the time.

The revelations constituted for Greenwald the scoop of the century; for Snowden, the exposure of massive government violations of basic constitutional principles by his former bosses; for the NSA and the Bush and Obama administrations, the revelation of criminal wrongdoing orchestrated by two presidents themselves; and for the American public, a painful realization that the Constitution is only as valuable a restraint on the government as is the fidelity to uphold it of those in whose hands we have reposed it for safekeeping. As Greenwald makes clear, it is not in good hands.
No Place to Hide not only tells of Snowden’s initially frustrating and anonymous efforts to reach out to Greenwald and the others; it not only carefully explains the insatiable appetite of the NSA to learn everything about everyone (“Collect it all” was a continuously posted NSA motto); it is also a morality tale about the personal courage required of Snowden and Greenwald and his colleagues to expose government wrongdoing and the risk to their lives, liberties and properties in doing so.

In the midst of one of their endless Hong Kong hotel meetings, Snowden told the journalists that the local CIA station employed agents trained to kill; and it was just a few blocks away. Then The Guardian’s lawyers informed Greenwald that the Bush and Obama administrations had not hesitated to use the Espionage Act of 1917 – a World War I-era relic, still on the books, employed to chill, stifle, suppress and ultimately punish free speech – to attempt to lock up journalists even when they revealed the truth. At this point in my reading the book on Memorial Day, I noticed that my pulse was racing, even though I obviously knew the outcome.

The road to the outcome began about a year ago when Greenwald received email messages from an anonymous yet persistent and intellectually intriguing source. The source demonstrated such a superb command of the Internet, such a patient understanding of Greenwald’s need for a basic education in the craft of digital spying, such a Jeffersonian understanding of the constitutional role of government in our lives, and so enticed Greenwald and his editors at The Guardian that, sight unseen, they traveled to Hong Kong to see whether the source possessed the documentary evidence he claimed to have of the most massive and sophisticated American government spying upon innocents in our history. He did.

Greenwald skillfully uses NSA documents to demonstrate that the highest government officials to discuss this spying in public – President Bush, President Obama, Bush Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former NSA boss Gen. Keith Alexander – all lied to the American public, (in the case of Clapper and Alexander, they probably did so criminally, as they were testifying to Congress), and they engaged in a conspiracy to violate the constitutionally protected rights to privacy of every American. After initially denying all this, then disparaging Snowden, then questioning his loyalty, then questioning his sanity, the government reluctantly admitted to all that Snowden revealed. How could it not? Snowden’s revelations consist entirely of the NSA’s own documents, many of which are reproduced in Greenwald’s book.

The government has argued that when it engages in all this spying, it is looking for a needle in a haystack. It claims it can only keep us safe if it knows all and sees all. Yet, such an argument cannot be made with intellectual honesty by anyone who has sworn to uphold the Constitution.

The Constitution was written to keep the government off of the people’s backs. The Constitution protects the right to be left alone and the right to be different. The Constitution presupposes the existence of natural rights and areas of human endeavor that are insulated from government knowledge and immune to government regulation, except in the most carefully prescribed circumstances. Those circumstances require that probable cause of crime be possessed by the government about identifiable persons and demonstrated to a neutral judge before the government may engage in any surveillance of that person – and all those NSA conspirators and all their judicial facilitators know this.

And what has Congress done in response to all this indiscriminate spying – spying that we now know is done upon members of Congress themselves? The Senate has done nothing, yet. The House passed legislation last week called the USA Freedom Act. This deceptively entitled nonsense so muddies the legal waters with ambiguous language that if enacted into law, the bill actually would strengthen the ability of the NSA to spy on all of us all the time. Is it any surprise that Obama and the NSA leadership support these so-called reforms?

The duty of government is to keep us free and to keep our freedoms safe. If it fails to protect freedom, it should be replaced. If it continues to spy on all of us all the time, then Greenwald’s title – taken from a warning issued by the late Sen. Frank Church in the pre-Internet era – will have come to pass. We will have no place to hide and no freedoms left to exercise without the government’s approval.
Re: Glenn Greenwald at Harvard Squ. Bookstore with Chomsky - Youtube Video
29 May 2014
Modified: 12:52:08 PM
USA Freedom Act has Nothing to Do With Freedom by ALFREDO LOPEZ

It just wasn’t a very good week for phones or for freedom.

Last week’s obscene joke of a bill coughed up by a Congress [1] wheezing with immobilizing congestion morphed an already compromised law about data collection into a green light to spy on everyone.

The bill passed the House last Thursday and is now heading to the Senate where the chances of getting a better bill are pretty slim. The President has endorsed this House bill; after all, it endorses his policies.

Sponsored by Wisconsin Republican Jim Sensenbrenner (the author of the Patriot Act), the ironically named USA Freedom Act’s most salient feature is that, contrary to the bluffery about how it’s going to rein in the government on phone surveillance, it has now made massive phone data capture legal and public. The NSA and related agencies under this supposed “reform” bill would gain full authority to collect all information from phone companies and, what’s more, the bill mandates that the companies hold on to that information (apparently permanently).

The House obviously caved. Not that the first edition of this bill was very good to start with. The government obviously is not going to limit its own power. But the bill as passed by the House is much weaker and, in a “blink if you don’t believe it” moment, many Democratic Congressional leaders are actually congratulating themselves. Even John Conyers (D-Mich.), Detroit’s traditionally progressive Democrat, supported this bill: “We stand poised to end domestic bulk collection across the board,” he said not making clear where he was standing or when domestic bulk collection was going to end. It certainly didn’t end with this bill.

On the other hand, a few Congresspeople did express concern, including Sensenbrenner himself, who called the new law “an abuse” of the Patriot Act. One is left wondering what the Wisconsin lawmaker expected from the draconian nightmare he authored.

While that little humorless comedy was playing out, we got another glimpse of how phone surveillance is being used. Wikileaks revealed that the NSA has been collecting phone data on virtually all phones in Afghanistan. This comes on the heels of revelations a few days earlier about such mass phone call collection in the Bahamas, Mexico, Kenya and the Philippines. The punch-line to this gross violation of people’s rights is that the bill passed last week doesn’t even mention international phone call capture — that’s still left completely unregulated.

There’s a lot wrong with the bill passed through the House [2] and that’s obvious from the scenario of “permitted activity” that the bill is based on. Essentially, phone companies have to hold records for an unspecified period of time. The government can’t collect them indiscriminately as it had previously done. But that “reform” is meaningless because government agencies can acquire data from any phone company by using either a specific court order through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court (the NSA’s rubber stamp in robes) based on “selectors,” or on the basis of an emergency situation defined according to NSA criteria.

The problem lies in the definition of “selectors” — the filters used to determine whether or not specific information is captured or requested. Previously, the NSA would capture the phone data and then run it through its “selectors” to determine what gets pulled or retained. Now, they can either ask the telephone company to run the selectors or go in and run it themselves. Before doing that, the spy agency must present the selection set to the FISA court. Since the court is going to approve anything NSA requests (it has rejected less than one percent of all requests up to now), the definition of the selectors is important because they are the only element of restraint in the entire collection process.

The bill requires that a selector be “a discrete term, such as a term specifically identifying a person, entity, account, address, or device”. How much is included under that umbrella? It’s probably better to ask what isn’t included. With that list, under this law, the NSA is allowed to access the records of almost all Americans.
But we still won’t know how many records have been accessed because this version strikes provisions in the original draft that would have forced phone companies to tell us how many records they’ve had to release to the NSA. Under the just-passed version of the bill, if the company wants to tell us, it can’t until six months after it has received a request. If it’s a start-up, it can’t do a report for two years.

In short, the law puts an automatic gag order on phone companies in this country.
In the guise of protecting our privacy or limiting surveillance power, the bill also continues to allow “about searches” in which an international conversation is scanned for names of people who then become targets of investigation. That particularly nasty practice makes any provisions protecting Americans useless. If a person in another country mentions your name, you are a legitimate target. In the original bill, any “reverse targeting” of this type was outlawed, but that protective provision has been eliminated from the version the House just passed.

This type of “foreign connection” is looming more important with recent revelations about international phone capture. This week, several publications released the information [3] about the complete capture of phone data in several countries but refused to name one of them (for national security reasons). Wikileaks, in response to that weak-kneed journalism, then named it: Afghanistan. (Even Glenn Greenwald, who broke the international capture story based upon some of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s documents, honored a government request not to name Afghanistan.)

While fans of spy-craft will defend this practice of massive spying on international phones, under the curious but oft-repeated theory that our rights only pertain to people in this country, this sweeping capture program goes way beyond any traditional spying. In fact, phone data capture bears no resemblance to espionage or traditional spying (which is selective in its targeting) and is much closer to the activities of a police state. When done to another country, it’s a lot like trying to police the other country: a virtual act of virtual war.

It’s grotesque to consider that, after over 12 years of war waged on Afghanistan, our government is now waging a war of information capture against its people. But that revelation is proof of what many have been saying about this country’s intentions in that beleaguered and battered nation: we have absolutely no intention of pulling out of Afghanistan, no matter what President Obama says.

In fact, the phone data captured targets not only Afghans but phone calls from U.S. diplomatic and military personnel. In short, the NSA is spying on the military and the diplomatic core, including even the CIA. This is truly the stuff of a police state.

The entire phone capture controversy underscores another important political fact: the cell phone is now the most popular access to the Internet among people in developing countries and among young people and people of color in this country. These are also the people who are going to provide the sharpest and most aggressive challenges to the world’s governments in the coming years of deepening crisis. If our government wants to control anybody, it’s these people. The USA Freedom Act demonstrates one way they are planning to do that.
Re: Glenn Greenwald at Harvard Squ. Bookstore with Chomsky - Youtube Video
29 May 2014
(Reuters) - Former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden told a U.S. television interviewer on Wednesday he was not under the control of Russia's government and had given Moscow no intelligence documents after nearly a year of asylum there.

"I have no relationship with the Russian government at all," Snowden said in an interview with NBC News, his first with a U.S. television network. "I'm not supported by the Russian government. I'm not taking money from the Russian government. I'm not a spy."

The remarks by Snowden, whose leaks about highly classified U.S. surveillance programs shook the NSA and prompted limited reforms by President Barack Obama, were his most extensive to date on his relations with his host government.

Current and former U.S. intelligence officials have said it is unlikely Russian security services have not squeezed Snowden for secrets.

"I think he is now being manipulated by Russian intelligence," former NSA director Keith Alexander said last month.

But Snowden - who said he wants to return to the United States - said he destroyed classified materials before transiting to a Moscow airport, where he was prevented from onward travel.

"I took nothing to Russia, so I could give them nothing," he told NBC's Brian Williams in the hour-long interview.

Later in the interview, Snowden briefly criticized the crackdown on freedom of expression under Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Casting himself as a defender of privacy and civil liberties, he deemed it "frustrating" to "end up stuck in a place where those rights are being challenged in ways that I would consider deeply unfair."

Snowden, who fled to Hong Kong and then Moscow last year, is believed to have accessed about 1.5 million secret documents, U.S. officials have said, although how many he actually took is unclear. The leaked documents revealed massive programs run by the NSA that gathered information on emails, phone calls and Internet use including, in many cases, by Americans.

He was charged last year in the United States with theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information and willful communication of classified intelligence to an unauthorized person.

"If I could go anywhere in the world, that place would be home," Snowden said.

U.S. officials said he was welcome to return to the United States if he wanted to face justice for leaking details of massive U.S. intelligence-gathering programs.

Secretary of State John Kerry invited Snowden to "man up and come back to the United States." "The bottom line is this is a man who has betrayed his country, who is sitting in Russia, an authoritarian country where he has taken refuge," Kerry told the CBS "This Morning" program on Wednesday.

Snowden made clear he would not return to the United States and hope for the best. He said he would not simply "walk into a jail cell," and that if his one-year asylum in Russia, which expires on Aug. 1, "looks like it’s going to run out, then of course I would apply for an extension."

The Guardian newspaper quoted Ben Wizner, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union and legal adviser to Snowden, responding to Kerry's comments. Wizner said it would be impossible for Snowden to argue that his disclosures had served the common good if he returned home to face the current Espionage Act charges.

He also said Snowden would run the risk of facing numerous additional charges for each document that has been published.

"The exposure that he faces is virtually unlimited under this," Wizner said.

In one odd moment in the NBC interview, Snowden expressed sympathy for working-level NSA employees who have been castigated as a result of his leaks.

"People have demonized the NSA to a point that's too extreme," he said, adding that the problem is with senior-level officials who expand their surveillance powers without public debate.
29 May 2014
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‘Insult to our intelligence’: Feeble excuses for not inviting Snowden, Assange to surveillance conference

"Snowden, Assange and the team at Wikileaks has done a huge service to humanity, so any excuses for not inviting them seem lame," Jane Duncan from Rhodes University of South Africa told RT. (Russian Television)

A massive internet forum on issues of privacy and surveillance took place in Stockholm on May 26. However, all the leading whistleblowers, including Edward Snowden and Glen Greenwald were blacklisted from taking part, and even Wikileaks representatives were banned. The move has caused a storm on Twitter, which has been rife with sarcasm and anger towards the conference organizers.

RT: The organizers gave some answers as to why these people were not invited. Do you think gender balance is a reasonable excuse?

Jane Duncan: They did not only use the excuse of gender balance but also the need for geographic representation as well. Personally I find these excuses to be extremely weak. In fact, I would say that they were an insult to our intelligence. There were over 450 participants from around the world and I do not think that the addition of 2-3 more white males would have made any difference whatsoever.

RT: What is the actual reason behind the ban, do you think?

JD: It troubled all of us in the conference. In fact, a lot of us coming from the global South were concerned that we were actually being used in order to legitimize what is a completely unacceptable decision. I suspect that the reason why this decision was taken was because the Swedish government did not want to embarrass the US government in this particular conference, and as we know there has been information that has come out of Snowden’s revelations which has linked GCHQ, the NSA and Swedish intelligence in collaborations. I suspect that it may have been an attempt to try and prevent a full airing of those particular issues. Obviously Edward Snowden and Greenwald, the people who were instrumental in exposing these particular collaborations, would have been best placed to speak about these issues.

RT: What was the point of the conference and did it achieve anything?

JD: I have to say that I was really proud of many of the people who were especially civil society representatives. There was a very hot session towards the end where the Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt participated, and there was a US government representative as well. I must say that both of them were given hell, they were not let off the hook and I think that especially US civil society really took the US government representative to task. So I think to that extent, it has been communicated to both Swedish and US governments that the decision that was taken not to invite the key protagonists in what is really the biggest story around communications surveillance in the past year was not acceptable. I think that message has been communicated loud and clear. And to that extent it was a very useful conference.

RT: Are we seeing a new wave of pressure on whistleblowers across the world?

JD: Yes, most certainly. I think whistleblowers around the world are under attack. I must also say that Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and the team at Wikileaks have done a huge service to humanity. Even my own country, South Africa, has felt the ripples of the information that has come out of the particular leaks, because Wikileaks released information that was showing that South Africa was manufacturing mass surveillance technology that has since been found in the listening rooms of Libya and Egypt. And this is the legacy that I think these extremely courageous whistleblowers have left behind. It must have been tremendously difficult for them to make the decisions that they did, to put themselves on the line in the way that they did. At least they still have their lives in spite of the fact that to an extent their lives have been ruined by these particular decisions.

In a country like South Africa for instance, whistleblowers have been assassinated for speaking out about issues of corruption and government mismanagement. All of this goes to show that we have a crisis around the protection of whistleblowers around the world, and particularly those whistleblowers who are located deep in the belly of the beast of the emerging surveillance state, and its these people who need the greatest protection at a time when the protection is clearly so incredibly weak.

Let’s hope that other whistleblowers will not be discouraged by what has happened to Snowden and Assange and others, and will step forward and will expose government excesses in other intelligence agencies around the world because we will certainly need that.
Re:NSA releases Snowden email after denying its existence
29 May 2014
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Former United States government contractor Edward Snowden did raise questions with the National Security Agency’s Office of General Counsel, the NSA said Thursday, but fell short of speaking up about alleged wrongdoing or abuse.

The Office of the Director of the National Intelligence announced through its website on Thursday this week that it has located a lone email inquiry sent by Mr. Snowden in April 2013 to the Office of General Counsel, confirming in part allegations the former contractor made during an interview with NBC’s Brian Williams that aired Wednesday evening.

“I actually did go through channels, and that is documented,” Snowden told Williams when the two sat down in Moscow for an interview recently. “The NSA has records, they have copies of emails right now to their Office of General Counsel, to their oversight and compliance folks, from me raising concerns about the NSA’s interpretations of its legal authorities.”

“I would say one of my final official acts in government was continuing one of these communications with a legal office. And in fact, I’m so sure that these communications exist that I’ve called on Congress to write a letter to the NSA to verify that they do,” Snowden said.

Yet the NSA has, until now, denied the existence of any such correspondence. In fact, previously the agency said any such emails simply couldn’t be found.

“After extensive investigation, including interviews with his former NSA supervisors and co-workers, we have not found any evidence to support Mr. Snowden's contention that he brought these matters to anyone's attention," the NSA said last year.

This past March, Snowden testified before the European Parliament that he had reported “clearly problematic programs to more than ten distinct officials, none of whom took any action to address them,” before he took a trove of classified NSA documents and supplied them to national security journalists.

Thursday’s blog post from the ODNI falls short of confirming that he reached out to ten individuals, but it does for once discredit the NSA’s earlier statement concerning Mr. Snowden’s supposed failure to speak out about his issues through the appropriate channels.

In the April 5 email, the ODNI wrote, Snowden “did not raise allegations or concerns about wrongdoing or abuse, but posed a legal question that the Office of General Counsel addressed.”

Indeed, the email published on the ODNI’s blog shows that one month to the day before the first news articles based off of his leaks was published, Snowden pushed the Office of the General Counsel for answers about the hierarchy of governing authorities and documents. According to a screenshot posted by the ODNI, Snowden asked for clarification with regards to what authority, if any, presidential executive orders have over federal law, as well as who has precedence in matters between the ODNI and the Pentagon at large.

On June 5, The Guardian first began reporting on documents pertaining to the NSA’s vast but highly secretive surveillance apparatus. He currently resides in the vicinity of Moscow after the US Department of State revoked his passport while en route to Latin America after his identity was disclosed last year.

“There are numerous avenues that Mr. Snowden could have used to raise other concerns or whistleblower allegations,” the ODNI wrote with Thursday’s post. “We have searched for additional indications of outreach from him in those areas and to date have not discovered any engagements related to his claims.”

Speaking before the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe last month, Snowden said there is an “unprecedented form of political interference that I don’t believe can be seen elsewhere in western governments,” and that “no legal means currently exist to challenge such activities or to see penalties for such abuses.”
Re: Thank, don't criticize, the man who exposed NSA spying.
30 May 2014
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Since breaking the National Security Agency spying story for The (London) Guardianlast year, Glenn Greenwald has been the target of attacks from fellow journalists who seem to labor under the delusion that it's their job to protect the government.

Soon after he reported revelations of government malfeasance provided by whistle-blower Edward Snowden, NBC's David Gregory asked Greenwald, "To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden ... why shouldn't you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?"

This accusation, dressed up as a question, was nonsensical. That it came from a fellow journalist was bizarre. How could reporting news be "aiding and abetting"? What crime could Greenwald possibly have committed? Most important, which government minion tricked the host of Meet the Press into thinking that reporters can't — and don't — publish government secrets?

Now we have Michael Kinsley doubling down on the chilling notion that certain types of investigative journalism should be criminalized. In his New York Times review of Greenwald's new book, No Place to Hide, Kinsley argues, "There shouldn't be a special class of people called 'journalists' with privileges like publishing secret government documents."

Actually, there should be, and there is. Without that protection, The Times could not have published the Pentagon Papers. Take that protection away, and we have zero oversight of the government from outside forces.

Kinsley writes that the decision of which official secrets can be made public "must ultimately be made by the government." If a reporter violates this norm, there should be "legal consequences."

Kinsley is too smart to believe this. Perhaps he can't see past his contempt for Greenwald, who he complains is "unpleasant" and a "self-righteous sourpuss."

Last year, The Times media writer David Carr drilled down on the strange fury Greenwald inspires in other journalists. Carr discovered that there was a general "distaste" of Greenwald and his ilk because, said one journo, "they are ... not like us."

That Greenwald is not a member of the Washington insider club seems to be the real problem here. Instead, he views himself as an outsider and adversary of the powerful, traits once commonplace among journalists.

Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg noted that the friendly fire against Greenwald is unusual. Ellsberg told an interviewer last year that though he himself was an enemy of the government for leaking secrets during the Vietnam War, "journalists were not turning on journalists."

Political philosopher Hannah Arendt once noted, "To think critically is to always be hostile." This should be the mantra of all journalists. As for Greenwald's critics, perhaps they could turn their hostile gaze from him to a more worthwhile target: the government they've been charged with holding accountable.
Re: Glenn Greenwald at Harvard Squ. Bookstore with Chomsky - Youtube Video
30 May 2014
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Numerous documents focusing on partnerships and surveillance tactics between America’s National Security Agency and regional security apparatus’ in the Middle East, especially the Gulf region, will be released soon, according to the journalist leading the reporting on the explosive NSA leaks.

In his first exclusive interview with Arab media, Glenn Greenwald, the American journalist who first broke the NSA story in 2013 and has since won a Pulitzer prize for his fearless and consistent reporting on the revelations, told Al-Akhbar there are many more documents to come out from the region.

Greenwald is one of a select few in possession of all the documents and, while working closely with whistleblower Edward Snowden, continues to play a pivotal role in exposing the intrusive level of surveillance by the NSA and its partners across the globe.

The latest damning NSA revelations appear in his new book, “No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the US Surveillance State,” where Greenwald released new documents highlighting the scope of surveillance conducted by the NSA on foes and allies alike, including evidence of what the NSA designated as ‘approved SIGNIT partners’ such as Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.

Now taking the time to speak from his home in Brazil, Greenwald gives his take on the agency’s role, the effect the leaks have had on changing attitudes and relations with the US, and what more can be expected from the documents in the future.

Al-Akhbar – Tells us about the NSA documents on the Middle East…

Glenn Greenwald – We did a pretty big story that unsurprisingly didn’t get as much attention as it deserved in the American media back in September [2013] in the Guardian on how the NSA turns over massive amounts of communications to the Israelis without bothering to minimize it, and there was a Memorandum of Understanding between the Israeli surveillance agency and the NSA that we published, detailing how close the relationship was, and also part of that story there were also documents saying that although the US gives huge amounts of aid to the Israelis the Israelis are actually one of the most aggressive eavesdroppers on the US government and America generally, and that they try to make the relationship completely one-sided on behalf of Israel, so there is that that we published.

AA – Why wasn’t it made a big deal in the US?

GG – Because anything that reflects poorly on Israel is systematically ignored by most of America’s media….It got some attention, it just didn’t get nearly the amount of attention it deserved – I think the NYT public editor, if I’m not mistaken, even criticized the NYT for not reporting and following up on it.

AA – Why haven’t you released more documents on the Middle East?

GG – It’s just time-constraints. For example, we’ve done a lot of reporting on Brazil, but we haven’t done a lot of reporting on Latin America. We’ve done a lot of reporting on Germany and France, but we haven’t done a lot of reporting on eastern Europe. The documents are so vast, and involve so many different topics that there is only so much we can report on. It takes time – you have to vet them, you have to understand them, so the one thing we’re doing is we’re now we’re expanding the partnerships that we have and creating a system that lets media organisations around the world actually work with the documents directly, and search for them, and report on them, so we’re definitely working on ways to get the documents reported on more quickly, more aggressively.

AA – Have you noticed from the documents the types of partnerships between the NSA and regional security agencies (in the Middle East)?

GG – The one thing I try not to do is talk in interviews or elsewhere about reporting we haven’t done yet, because it has to go through the reporting process for me to responsibly describe the documents, but yes, one of the things we want to work on are documents that detail NSA cooperation with some of the worst tyrants in the Gulf region, both to augment their own domestic surveillance capabilities and also for the NSA to share with those regimes information they get about those countries. This is definitely a big story that remains to be told that we want to work on now…. All I can say is there is a lot more reporting to do on that region of the world.

AA – From what you’ve disclosed already on NSA surveillance on places like Yemen, have you found the NSA has an effective impact on US action in those areas?

GG – One of the first stories that Jeremy Scahill and I reported for the Intercept was the NSA’s role in targeting people with lethal drone attacks through the use of sim cards and the like, and the ways in which that’s so unreliable, and virtually guarantees the death of civilians or kills they are not even certain who they are killing. Look, sometimes the NSA intercepts communication between people who, regardless of the ambiguity of the word ‘terrorism’, would be regarded as legitimate targets of the NSA, but the problem is the vast majority of what they do isn’t about that.

AA – What is it about?

GG – It’s about putting entire populations under surveillance, targeting people and companies for economic interests, just generally wanting to use surveillance as a means to exert hegemony and domination over the world. The more you know what people in the world are saying and doing, the more power you have over them.

AA – Have you seen evidence of this?

GG – There is already some reporting we’ve done about that – there’s reporting we’ve done where the NSA has targeted what they call ‘radicalizers’ – people who establish radical views, but who are not, says the document, actual terrorists or even associated with terrorist organisations, and some of the documents we’ve uncovered talk about monitoring their online activities to see if there are any sex-chats or visiting pornographic sites and using that as a means to destroy their reputation and discredit them. So that’s targeting people who the government believes have radical ideas and using the surveillance as a means to ruin their lives, which is what the surveillance scandals of the 1960s and 70s were about. There are other documents we’ve reported on where they collect the data on people who visit the Wikileaks website, or ways in which they try and harm the reputations of activists on behalf of Anonymous, but one of the big stories that’s left to be told, which is the one we’re working on most now, is reporting on who it is specifically that the NSA has targeted with the most evasive type of surveillance on US soil, and who these people are, and what are the reasons for it, and that is the story of targeting of dissidents, and activists, and advocates as retaliation for their political views.

AA – Is there actual movement on the ground now as a result of the publication of these documents, or is it just lip-service?

GG – There is a lot of movement, just in terms of public attitude. I think the most significant polling data I’ve seen is that every year since 9/11, Pew has asked Americans ‘do you find more threatening: the idea of foreign terrorism, or the government’s threats to your civil liberties?’, and every single year since 9/11 an overwhelming number of Americans have said ‘I fear terrorism more than I do the threat of the government infringing on my rights’, until 2013 when that completely reversed, obviously due to the Snowden disclosures. And you see politicians running in the Senate from both parties against the NSA, you see efforts to introduce bills to limit the NSA’s spying abilities, but the reality is that most of the changes are not going to come from the US government itself.

There will be symbolic gestures designed to pretend they’re doing it, but I think the limitations on the US ability to spy is going to come from a combination of other countries around the world standing together to introduce international regimes or build an infrastructure so the US doesn’t control the physical regime of the internet. Also, American tech companies who are really afraid of the perception of American communications are unsafe will cause them to lose huge numbers of future users, but mostly it will come from individuals around the world who will realize that their privacy is being compromised systematically and will start using basic encryption tools that really do keep the NSA out of their computers, and out of their internet usage, and out of their emails, and that will make it much much harder for the NSA to do what they want to do.

AA – You’ve spent a lot of time criticizing the weak oversight mechanisms in the US, so do you think any new legislation or attempts to introduce mechanisms for stronger oversight and transparency is merely a delaying tactic? (As seen this in the 60s – so what’s to say we’re not just going to end up back at this point of mass surveillance and lack of adequate oversight after five years?)

GG – Totally. I agree with the part of your question where you suggest that whatever legislative reforms that come from the American Congress and the US government will likely be more superficial and symbolic, than genuine and meaningful, and you’re right, even the reforms that came out of the huge scandals of the 1960s and 70s ended up being nothing more than just fig-leaves, saying there were reforms when there really weren’t. That’s why I don’t think meaningful change is going to come from the US government, it’s going to come from those outside pressure points that I identified.

AA – How much are these NSA revelations affecting relations between the US and their foreign allies?

GG – Countries like Germany and the US are huge countries – they have hundreds of millions of people, they have huge amounts of overlapping economic and military and trade interests, so the US and Germany are not going to become enemies and go to war over surveillance. But at the same time, the anger is very real in the higher folds of the German government, and I think the relationship has been damaged, not destroyed, but damaged. But what I think is that, of course, the Germans and the US are going to cooperate as allies when they see it in their joint interest to do so, but the Germans are off with the French and the Brazilians, and certain Asian countries, trying to figure out ways to build kind of a new internet that will not have to transit the United States, or to introduce legislation at the United Nations that will create a new international regime that will oversee the internet to prevent US hegemony. It’s also really important to think about attitudes of the population in a democracy – these things don’t change quickly, but I think the way people look at the US and a whole bunch of countries around the world that used to see it very positively, including the one I live in [Brazil], and Germany but others, will end up mattering with politicians they elect and policies that become acceptable and a general attitudinal shift that isn’t going to be completely visible over 10 months but will be apparent over time.

AA – Unlike a mass-dump a la Wikileaks, Snowden wanted the journalists and editors themselves to decide what should be published based on what is in the public’s interest. Are you comfortable putting that trust in other media organisations?

GG – We openly make the final choice – in the agreements I’ve had with other media organisations I reserve the right to approve the story, or veto it basically. But I haven’t done that much, because my view is that when it comes to figuring out what is in the public interest, in Norway for example, or Holland, or India, that journalists in those countries are going to have a much better sense than I am of what should be disclosed, and I benefit greatly from their insights, and that’s why we partner up with organisations in the regions we are reporting on because they know those regions better than we do.

AA – First Look Media and The Intercept – how effective has your campaign been?

GG – We’re not done yet, there is a lot of stuff still to do, so it’s hard to assess the impact and the outcome until it’s really over. I think right now we’re still in the middle of it. But when I was in Hong Kong meeting Snowden almost a year ago, Laura Poitras filmed a lot of what it was that we were talking about and what we were doing, and I had the opportunity to watch some of that footage when I was in Berlin a few weeks ago, and one of the things that was really most striking to me was that we had kind of expectations of what we hoped to achieve, even in our best case scenario, and the idea that 10 months later, this would still be a huge story that was generating interest all over the world, and reform efforts, and legislative movements, and just debate of all kind, was beyond even our wildest hopes, so yes, I absolutely think that the way we’ve done the story has been effective - it doesn’t mean it’s been perfect, and it doesn’t mean that we couldn’t have done more, but I definitely think that we’ve certainly achieved our goal.

- I definitely think public reaction is an important part of journalism, but at the same time you’re a journalist, not an entertainer so you have to consider other things as well, such as what kind of information needs to be out there to make the story complete, whether people are interested in it or not, and how to create the most accurate and complete picture of what it is you’re describing.
Re: Glenn Greenwald at Harvard Squ. Bookstore with Chomsky - Youtube Video
31 May 2014
The New York Times and freedom of the press

31 May 2014

An extraordinary commentary published in the New York Times Book Review—posted online May 22, scheduled for print publication June 8—asserts that the US government must be the final decision-maker on whether leaked information about government wrongdoing should be published by the press.

This antidemocratic screed, worthy of any police state, is written by Michael Kinsley, a longtime fixture of the punditry establishment and the former co-host of CNN’s “Crossfire” program. His commentary takes the form of a review of Glenn Greenwald’s new book No Place to Hide on the Edward Snowden revelations about illegal mass surveillance by the National Security Agency.

Kinsley ridicules Greenwald’s claim that blanket NSA surveillance of electronic communications is a threat to the democratic rights of the American people, and that Snowden was justified in exposing government criminality by leaking documents to Greenwald and other journalists for eventual publication in the Guardian (US) and the Washington Post.

He sums up as follows: “The question is who decides. It seems clear, at least to me, that the private companies that own newspapers, and their employees, should not have the final say over the release of government secrets, and a free pass to make them public with no legal consequences. In a democracy (which, pace Greenwald, we still are), that decision must ultimately be made by the government … Someone gets to decide, and that someone cannot be Glenn Greenwald” (emphasis added).

Kinsley directly repudiates the idea that the media should function independently of the state. The concept that a fundamental role of journalists is to expose official secrets and lies is totally alien to him. His is a deeply authoritarian conception.

It is the state that should decide what the people know and what they don’t know. It is the state that should determine what is in their best interests. The logical and inexorable logic of this position is to arrogate to the state unlimited powers over the populace.

If the Kinsley rule had been effect at the time Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers, the Times and the Washington Post would have been barred from publishing their accounts of the long preparations for war in Vietnam and the lies told by the government to conceal them. Countless crimes against democratic rights and international law would have been covered up on the basis that the “decision must ultimately be made by the government.”

While this statement appears in a book review, it is not merely the opinion of the individual reviewer, but carries the political imprimatur of the Times, the so-called “newspaper of record,” which sets the agenda for the television networks and the bulk of the US media.

The appearance of the review is evidently the product of a high-level editorial decision. Only ten days before Kinsley’s commentary appeared online, the Times published a review of No Place to Hide by one of its regular book reviewers, Michio Kakutani. She expressed considerable sympathy for Greenwald’s critique of the surveillance state, noting that over the past 40 years “the NSA’s ability to spy on our daily lives has grown exponentially to Orwellian proportions.” At the same time, she flatly rejected Greenwald’s criticisms of the corporate-controlled media, describing his exposures of the media’s subservience to the military and intelligence agencies as “gross generalizations” that “do a terrible disservice.”

Someone, evidently with considerable influence at the Times, wanted a stronger and more direct assault on Greenwald and Snowden, and commissioned Kinsley to write a second, completely gratuitous, review, knowing what his “take” on the book would be. As a former editor for 20 years of the New Republic, the voice of the right wing of the Democratic Party, his pro-government views are no secret.

More fundamentally, the views expressed by Kinsley dovetail completely with those advanced by the editors of the Times over the course of the past decade, as the newspaper has integrated itself ever more deeply into the military-intelligence apparatus.

The Times has not played a neutral role in the events described in Greenwald’s book. When one of the NSA domestic spying programs was first uncovered by reporters at the Times in 2004, the editors blocked publication of the story. This was shortly before the 2004 presidential election, when news that the Bush administration was illegally spying on the American people might have affected the outcome. Executive Editor Bill Keller, after meetings with Bush and NSA officials, killed the story.

The newspaper finally published the story late in 2005, but only after the writer, James Risen, threatened to take his material to a book publisher instead.

Keller subsequently defended his decision to prevent the public from learning about the illegal NSA spying with the following memorable words: “We agree wholeheartedly that transparency is not an absolute good. Freedom of the press includes freedom not to publish, and that is a freedom we exercise with some regularity.”

In other words, “freedom of the press” means the freedom of the corporate-owned media to participate as a partner with the government in the buildup of police state repression against working people and the preparations for imperialist war all over the world.

The Times has repeatedly demonstrated a visceral hatred for those who expose the crimes of US imperialism, vilifying WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, dismissing the significance of the documents leaked by Chelsea (Bradley) Manning on US atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now attacking both Snowden and Greenwald.

Kinsley’s views on press freedom are an expression of the decay of what was once referred to as the “Fourth Estate” in America. He speaks for an entire social layer of well-heeled pundits who have been integrated into the financial aristocracy. (Kinsley himself is married to Patti Stonesifer, longtime Microsoft executive and founding CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.)

The degeneration of the media is an expression of the collapse of bourgeois democracy as a whole. The authoritarian conceptions of Kinsley and the Times in relation to the role of the media are entirely in line with the authoritarian substance of the secret programs that they, along with the Obama administration and the government as a whole, have sought to conceal from the American people. A government that asserts the right to assassinate citizens without due process and to spy on the population without any legal constraint also assumes for itself the right to decide what the population can and should know.

Bourgeois democracy in America cannot survive the colossal growth of social inequality that permeates all aspects of life in the United States.

The defense of the fundamental constitutional rights that were pioneered by the American Revolution—freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly—falls now to the working class. Only the building of a powerful independent political movement of working people, based on a socialist program, can provide a way forward in the defense of democratic rights.
Re: Glenn Greenwald at Harvard Squ. Bookstore with Chomsky - Youtube Video
02 Jun 2014
Kerry on the Run

Kerry Tells Snowden to ‘Man Up’ and Face Trial by DAVE LINDORFF

Our prissy Secretary of State John Kerry, hair carefully coiffed for his interview, told NBC’s Brian Williams last week that fugitive National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden should “man up” and return to the US to “stand in our system of justice and make his case.”

The supposedly “manly” Kerry (whose claim to “courage” is having employed the high-calibre machine gun mounted on his Mekong River gunboat to blow away unarmed fishermen and lightly armed Viet Cong freedom fighters, or having called in air strikes on them) has been hiding his later youthful history of standing up against the Vietnam War, and of condemning American war crimes there. He surely knows from his carefully buried past as a critic of the Vietnam War plenty of fellow American veterans, as well as Vietnam-era deserters and also draft resisters, who did just that — they “made their case” in “our system of justice.” And Kerry also surely knows what happened to them: most ended up getting shuffled off to jail by an American “justice” system that, particularly when it comes to national security and opposition to the state, operates on the Lewis Carroll principle of “verdict first, trial afterwards.”

Yet Kerry, in that same NBC interview with Williams, forged right on and, as the fourth man in line under the US Constitution to assume the Presidency if something were to happen to the president, vice president and speaker of the House, declared that Snowden is guilty as charged, saying, “This is a man who has betrayed his country.”

Um…What trial decided that, Mr. Secretary? The one you want him to come submit to?

And Kerry is not alone in convicting Snowden in absentia and without a trial. He is only echoing the sentiments of his boss, President Barack Obama, who has already made it clear that he thinks Snowden is guilty under the Espionage Act — that hoary World War I-era law that his administration has revivified from a legal crypt to prosecute whistleblowers and under which Snowden has been indicted by the US Justice Department. As Obama put it at a White House press conference, “The way in which these disclosures happened has been damaging to the United States and damaging to our intelligence capabilities…I think that there was a way for us to have this conversation without that damage. As important and as necessary as this debate has been, it’s important to keep in mind this has done unnecessary damage.”

The nation’s top prosecutor, Attorney General Eric Holder, has also said he thinks Snowden belongs in the slammer (though he promised Russia that Snowden, if handed over to the US for arrest, would not be tortured, and that if convicted, would not be executed). As Holder put it, in a question-and-answer session worthy of Lewis Carroll held at the University of Virginia Law School, his office would be “willing to discuss” a deal with Snowden, but only if Snowden first pleaded guilty! As he said in a statement released by the Justice Department, “If he is prepared to plead guilty (to federal charges related to leaking an enormous amount of NSA documents), the Justice Department is prepared to discuss with his lawyers how he could return to this country.”

And that is the legal/prosecutorial machine which Secretary of State Kerry is referring to when he suggests Snowden should come home and agree to “face the music” in “our system of justice.”

Let’s be clear here. As Kerry surely knows, Snowden, under the Espionage Act, would not even be allowed to present — even at the sentencing phase of any trial — an argument justifying his decision to copy the NSA data, and to provide it to journalists. Nor, under the Espionage Act, would he be permitted to argue that the data had been unconstitutionally obtained by the NSA, or that it was improperly classified as secret. None of that would be permitted. All he would have a right to do would be to attempt the impossible and try to prove that he did not steal the data.

That is not a genuine trial. That is a witch-hunt. It is a star-chamber trial, like those routinely orchestrated in Hitler’s Germany or Stalin’s Russia.

Snowden doesn’t need to prove his machismo. He has displayed more guts in singlehandedly exposing the staggering crimes of the NSA and the Obama administration against the American people, and the people of the world, than John Kerry has shown in his entire sorry life. In fact, if Kerry had any real courage, he would admit to the American people that he nearly managed to drag this country into a tragic war in Syria (on the side of Al Qaeda!), with the lies he spouted about a purported slam-dunk case of poison gas use by Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad last year. He would admit that his own State Department was behind the bloody coup that toppled the elected government of Ukraine. And he would admit that the fliers circulated in pro-Russian regions of eastern Ukraine purporting to require Ukranian Jews to register with the local rebel government were frauds and a false-flag action designed to discredit the rebels.

Kerry knows what courage is mainly because he is so clearly lacking in it. That was made abundantly evident during his sorry campaign for president back in 2004, when he ran as fast as he could from his brief history as a critic of American imperial war-making back in 1971, presenting himself instead as a bronze star-honored killer.

But his real gutlessness lies in his failure to denounce the Obama Administration’s new $65-million, 13-year campaign called the Vietnam War Commemoration Project, which aims to revise history and portray the Vietnam War as a noble and heroic American effort to spread freedom and democracy. Kerry knows full well, having participated in that decade-long genocidal atrocity, and having once passionately spoken out against it, that this huge taxpayer-funded propaganda campaign to erase all memory of America’s crimes in Indochina is propaganda worthy of Goebbels. That he hasn’t quit his Secretary of State post in disgust to protest this sick project and offered his support instead to an effort by some Vietnam Vets to challenge that lie called the Vietnam War Commemoration CORRECTION Project, tells us all we need to know.

Kerry has no right to question anyone’s “manhood.”

Having John Kerry tell someone like Snowden to “man up” is the moral equivalent of Richard Nixon telling someone to follow his conscience or Bernie Madoff telling a homeless beggar to get an honest job.

Snowden would have to be crazy or a masochist to come back to the US and submit his fate to the “American justice system” touted by Secretary Kerry.
Re: Glenn Greenwald at Harvard Squ. Bookstore with Chomsky - Youtube Video
03 Jun 2014
Reddit, Imgur and Boing Boing launch anti-NSA-surveillance campaign

The Reset the Net campaign aims to encourage direct action, urging visitors to install privacy and encryption tools

Some of the world's largest websites are planning a coordinated day of action on Thursday to oppose mass surveillance online.

The sites, which include Reddit, Imgur and BoingBoing, will be taking part in the campaign, called "Reset the Net", in a number of ways.

Some will showing a splash screen to all users, reminiscent of the one used in the successful protests against SOPA, the US copyright bill which many feared would damage the backbone of the internet. But rather than telling users to write to their electoral representatives, this protest will push more direct action, encouraging visitors to install privacy and encryption tools.

Other sites have committed to improving their own privacy as part of the campaign, by enabling standards such as HTTPS, which prevents attackers from eavesdropping on visitors. Such security standards are common in the world of ecommerce, but rarer for sites which don't think of themselves as holding sensitive information.

"We can take back control of our personal and private data one website, one device, one internet user at a time," said Reddit's General Manager Erik Martin. "We’re proud to stand up for our users’ rights and help Reset the Net."

The campaign is being co-ordinated by Fight for the Future, whose co-founder Tiffiniy Cheng said "Now that we know how mass surveillance works, we know how to stop it. That’s why people all over the world are going to work together to use encryption everywhere and make it too hard for any government to conduct mass surveillance.

"There are moments in history where people and organisations must choose whether to stand on the side of freedom or tyranny. On June 5th, the internet will show which side it’s on.”
Re: Glenn Greenwald at Harvard Squ. Bookstore with Chomsky - Youtube Video
03 Jun 2014
Noam Chomsky | Edward Snowden, the World's "Most Wanted Criminal"
Monday, 02 June 2014 09:46
By Noam Chomsky, Truthout | Op-Ed

In the past several months, we have been provided with instructive lessons on the nature of state power and the forces that drive state policy. And on a closely related matter: the subtle, differentiated concept of transparency.

The source of the instruction, of course, is the trove of documents about the National Security Agency surveillance system released by the courageous fighter for freedom Edward J. Snowden, expertly summarized and analyzed by his collaborator Glenn Greenwald in his new book, "No Place to Hide."

The documents unveil a remarkable project to expose to state scrutiny vital information about every person who falls within the grasp of the colossus - in principle, every person linked to the modern electronic society.

Nothing so ambitious was imagined by the dystopian prophets of grim totalitarian worlds ahead.

It is of no slight import that the project is being executed in one of the freest countries in the world, and in radical violation of the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights, which protects citizens from "unreasonable searches and seizures," and guarantees the privacy of their "persons, houses, papers and effects."

Much as government lawyers may try, there is no way to reconcile these principles with the assault on the population revealed in the Snowden documents.

It is also well to remember that defense of the fundamental right to privacy helped to spark the American Revolution. In the 18th century, the tyrant was the British government, which claimed the right to intrude freely into the homes and personal lives of American colonists. Today it is American citizens' own government that arrogates to itself this authority.

Britain retains the stance that drove the colonists to rebellion, though on a more restricted scale, as power has shifted in world affairs. The British government has called on the NSA "to analyse and retain any British citizens' mobile phone and fax numbers, emails and IP addresses, swept up by its dragnet," The Guardian reports, working from documents provided by Snowden.

British citizens (like other international customers) will also doubtless be pleased to learn that the NSA routinely receives or intercepts routers, servers and other computer network devices exported from the United States so that it can implant surveillance tools, as Greenwald reports in his book.

As the colossus fulfills its visions, in principle every keystroke might be sent to President Obama's huge and expanding databases in Utah.

In other ways too, the constitutional lawyer in the White House seems determined to demolish the foundations of our civil liberties. The principle of the presumption of innocence, which dates back to Magna Carta 800 years ago, has long been dismissed to oblivion.

Recently The New York Times reported the "anguish" of a federal judge who had to decide whether to allow the force-feeding of a Syrian prisoner who is on a hunger strike to protest his imprisonment.

No "anguish" was expressed over the fact that he has been held without trial for 12 years in Guantanamo, one of many victims of the leader of the Free World, who claims the right to hold prisoners without charges and to subject them to torture.

These exposures lead us to inquire into state policy more generally and the factors that drive it. The received standard version is that the primary goal of policy is security and defense against enemies.

The doctrine at once suggests a few questions: security for whom, and defense against which enemies? The answers are highlighted dramatically by the Snowden revelations.

Policy must assure the security of state authority and concentrations of domestic power, defending them from a frightening enemy: the domestic population, which can become a great danger if not controlled.

It has long been understood that information about the enemy makes a critical contribution to controlling it. In that regard, Obama has a series of distinguished predecessors, though his contributions have reached unprecedented levels, as we have learned from the work of Snowden, Greenwald and a few others.

To defend state power and private economic power from the domestic enemy, those two entities must be concealed - while in sharp contrast, the enemy must be fully exposed to state authority.

The principle was lucidly explained by the policy intellectual Samuel P. Huntington, who instructed us that "Power remains strong when it remains in the dark; exposed to the sunlight it begins to evaporate."

Huntington added a crucial illustration. In his words, "you may have to sell [intervention or other military action] in such a way as to create the misimpression that it is the Soviet Union that you are fighting. That is what the United States has been doing ever since the Truman Doctrine" at the outset of the Cold War.

Huntington's insight into state power and policy was both accurate and prescient. As he wrote these words in 1981, the Reagan administration was launching its war on terror - which quickly became a murderous and brutal terrorist war, primarily in Central America, but extending well beyond to southern Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

From that day forward, in order to carry out violence and subversion abroad, or repression and violation of fundamental rights at home, state power has regularly sought to create the misimpression that it is terrorists that we are fighting, though there are other options: drug lords, mad mullahs seeking nuclear weapons, and other ogres said to be seeking to attack and destroy us.

Throughout, the basic principle remains: Power must not be exposed to the sunlight. Edward Snowden has become the most wanted criminal in the world for failing to comprehend this essential maxim.

In brief, there must be complete transparency for the population, but none for the powers that must defend themselves from this fearsome internal enemy.
03 Jun 2014
NSA Wants a Good Look at Your Photos (Aren't You Flattered?)

Have you been wondering if maybe the National Security Agency is just a huge version of AdultFriendFinder cobbled together by people who know how to work the federal budgetary process? It just could be. The latest evidence comes in the form of revelations that the spook agency is gathering huge numbers of images from around the world for use in its facial recognition program.

According to James Risen and Laura Poitras at The New York Times:

The National Security Agency is harvesting huge numbers of images of people from communications that it intercepts through its global surveillance operations for use in sophisticated facial recognition programs, according to top-secret documents.

The spy agency’s reliance on facial recognition technology has grown significantly over the last four years as the agency has turned to new software to exploit the flood of images included in emails, text messages, social media, videoconferences and other communications, the N.S.A. documents reveal. Agency officials believe that technological advances could revolutionize the way that the N.S.A. finds intelligence targets around the world, the documents show. The agency’s ambitions for this highly sensitive ability and the scale of its effort have not previously been disclosed.

Facial recognition technology has become something of a law enforcement must-have in recent years. Cops in the San Diego area wander around taking snapshots of passersby with their smartphones to match to the federally subsidized Tactical Identification System. One officer told reporters he uses his "spidy senses" as a judge of when to try to make a match.

Separately, the FBI plans to have 52 million of our mugs in its own Next Generation Identification database by the end of 2015. (You're surprised that the feds have competing and duplicative facial recognition programs?)

The specifications for that FBI system allowed that it "shall return an incorrect candidate a maximum of 20% of the time." Which makes you wonder just how accurate the NSA system is in correctly matching suspected international do-ers of bad deeds. If a state or federal database wrongly tags a suspect, your door may end up off its hinges during a wrong-house raid. Drones, by contrast, don't even have the good manners to stand on the back of your neck while they figure out where to pass the blame.

State and local agencies raid drivers license databases and social media for their images, while the feds have access to that plus huge databases of passport photos, visa applicants, and the like. The NSA apparently pulls in images from private communications, including video, too. Yes, those videos, through the Optic Nerve program.

A federally funded AdultFriendFinder, after all.
Re: Glenn Greenwald at Harvard Squ. Bookstore with Chomsky - Youtube Video
05 Jun 2014
Click on image for a larger version

A routine request in Florida for public records regarding the use of a surveillance tool known as stingray took an extraordinary turn recently when federal authorities seized the documents before police could release them.

The surprise move by the U.S. Marshals Service stunned the American Civil Liberties Union, which earlier this year filed the public records request with the Sarasota, Florida, police department for information detailing its use of the controversial surveillance tool.

The ACLU had an appointment last Tuesday to review documents pertaining to a case investigated by a Sarasota police detective. But marshals swooped in at the last minute to grab the records, claiming they belong to the U.S. Marshals Service and barring the police from releasing them.

ACLU staff attorney Nathan Freed Wessler called the move “truly extraordinary and beyond the worst transparency violations” the group has seen regarding documents detailing police use of the technology.

“This is consistent with what we’ve seen around the country with federal agencies trying to meddle with public requests for stingray information,” Wessler said, noting that federal authorities have in other cases invoked the Homeland Security Act to prevent the release of such records. “The feds are working very hard to block any release of this information to the public.”

Stingrays, also known as IMSI catchers, simulate a cellphone tower and trick nearby mobile devices into connecting with them, thereby revealing their location. A stingray can see and record a device’s unique ID number and traffic data, as well as information that points to its location. By moving a stingray around, authorities can triangulate a device’s location with greater precision than is possible using data obtained from a carrier’s fixed tower location.

The records sought by the ACLU are important because the organization has learned that a Florida police detective obtained permission to use a stingray simply by filing an application with the court under Florida’s “trap and trace” statute instead of obtaining a probable-cause warrant. Trap and trace orders generally are used to collect information from phone companies about telephone numbers received and called by a specific account. A stingray, however, can track the location of cell phones, including inside private spaces.

The government has long asserted it doesn’t need a probable-cause warrant to use stingrays because the device doesn’t collect the content of phone calls and text messages, but instead operates like pen-registers and trap-and-traces, collecting the equivalent of header information. The ACLU and others argue that the devices are more invasive than a trap-and-trace.

Recently, the Tallahassee police department revealed it had used stingrays at least 200 times since 2010 without telling any judge because the device’s manufacturer made the police department sign a non-disclosure agreement that police claim prevented them from disclosing use of the device to the courts.

The ACLU has filed numerous records requests with police departments around the country in an effort to uncover how often the devices are used and how often courts are told about them.

In the Sarasota case, the U.S. Marshals Service claimed it owned the records Sarasota police offered to the ACLU because it had deputized the detective in the case, making all documentation in the case federal property. Before the ACLU could view the documents Sarasota had put aside for them, the agency dispatched a marshal from its office in Tampa to seize the records and move them to an undisclosed location.

The U.S. Marshals Service declined to comment, saying it “does not discuss pending litigation.”

Florida public records law requires that even if a dispute over records occurs, the Sarasota Police Department was legally obligated to hold onto the records for at least 30 days once it had received the ACLU’s request. That period would have given the ACLU a chance to argue its case in court to obtain the records.

“We’ve seen our fair share of federal government attempts to keep records about stingrays secret, but we’ve never seen an actual physical raid on state records in order to conceal them from public view,” the ACLU wrote in a blog post today.

The ACLU filed an emergency motion seeking a temporary injunction preventing the police department from releasing additional files to the marshals. The motion also asks the court to find the department in violation of state law for allowing the U.S. Marshals Service to seize the documents. The ACLU wants the court to order the police department to retrieve the documents. Because the issue is a state matter and the ACLU filed the motion in a state court, the judge cannot directly order the U.S. Marshal Service, a federal agency, to return the documents.
07 Jun 2014
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NPR’s David Folkenflik has a revealing new look at what I have long believed is one of the most important journalistic stories of the last decade: The New York Times‘ 2004 decision, at the behest of George W. Bush himself, to suppress for 15 months (through Bush’s re-election) its reporters’ discovery that the NSA was illegally eavesdropping on Americans without warrants. Folkenflik’s NPR story confirms what has long been clear: The only reason the Times eventually published that article was because one of its reporters, James Risen, had become so frustrated that he wrote a book that was about to break the story, leaving the paper with no choice (Risen’s co-reporter, Eric Lichtblau, is quoted this way: “‘He had a gun to their head,’ Lichtblau told Frontline. ‘They are really being forced to reconsider: The paper is going to look pretty bad’ if Risen’s book disclosed the wiretapping program before the Times“).

As Folkenflik notes, this episode was one significant reason Edward Snowden purposely excluded the Times from his massive trove of documents. In an interview with Folkenflik, the paper’s new executive editor, Dean Baquet, describes the paper’s exclusion from the Snowden story as “really painful.” But, as I documented in my book and in recent interviews, Baquet has his own checkered history in suppressing plainly newsworthy stories at the government’s request, including a particularly inexcusable 2007 decision, when he was the managing editor of The Los Angeles Times, to kill a story based on AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein’s revelations that the NSA had built secret rooms at AT&T to siphon massive amounts of domestic telephone traffic.

In his NPR interview, Baquet insists that he has had a serious change of heart on such questions as a result of the last year of NSA revelations:

[Baquet] says the experience has proved that news executives are often unduly deferential to seemingly authoritative warnings unaccompanied by hard evidence.

“I am much, much, much more skeptical of the government’s entreaties not to publish today than I was ever before,” Baquet said in a wide-ranging interview. . . .

Last week, Baquet told me the Snowden revelations yielded two key insights for American journalists. “First off,” Baquet said, “the public wants this information. Secondly, it does not destroy everything if the information comes out” . . . .

Baquet did say there were a few instances while he was managing editor in which he regretted holding back details from the public due to ominous warnings from intelligence officials over potential consequences. “The government makes it sound like something really large, and in retrospect, it wasn’t quite as large,” he said.

The Snowden revelations published in The Guardian and The Washington Post, he said, only underscored his conviction.

“I would love to be able to tell you it wasn’t good,” Baquet said. “But it was great. It was important, groundbreaking work. I wish we had it.”

Only time will tell whether Baquet’s proclamations on this issue result in any actual change for the paper, but it does shed light on an important question I heard many times over the last month as we approached the one-year anniversary of the first NSA story: what has changed as a result of the last year of disclosures?

One should not expect any change to come from the U.S. government itself (which includes Congress), whose strategy in such cases is to enact the pretext of “reform” so as to placate public anger, protect the system from any serious weakening, and allow President Obama to go before the country and the world and give a pretty speech about how the U.S. heard their anger and re-calibrated the balance between privacy and security. Any new law that comes from the radically corrupted political class in DC will either be largely empty, or worse. The purpose will be to shield the NSA from real reform.

There are, though, numerous other avenues with the real potential to engender serious limits on the NSA’s surveillance powers, including the self-interested though genuine panic of the U.S. tech industry over how surveillance will impede their future business prospects, the efforts of other countries to undermine U.S. hegemony over the internet, the newfound emphasis on privacy protections from internet companies worldwide, and, most of all, the increasing use of encryption technology by users around the world that poses genuine obstacles to state surveillance. Those are all far, far more promising avenues than any bill Barack Obama, Dianne Feinstein and Saxby Chambliss will let Congress cough up.

But beyond surveillance and privacy, one of the goals of this NSA reporting (at least from my perspective) was to trigger a desperately needed debate about journalism itself, and the proper relationship of journalists to those who wield political and economic power. The question of why The New York Times was excluded from this story led to a serious public examination for the first time of its decision to suppress that NSA story, which in turn led to public recriminations over the generally excessive deference U.S. media outlets have shown the U.S. government.

Obviously, that debate is far from resolved; witness the endless parade of American journalists who, without any apparent embarrassment, cheered Michael Kinsley’s decree that for publication questions, “that decision must ultimately be made by the government.” But Baquet’s very public expression of regret over past suppression decisions, and his observation that “news executives are often unduly deferential to seemingly authoritative warnings unaccompanied by hard evidence” is evidence of the fruits of that debate.

That national security state officials routinely mislead and deceive the public should never have even been in serious doubt in the first place – certainly not for journalists, and especially now after the experience of the Iraq War. That fact — that official pronouncements merit great skepticism rather than reverence — should be (but plainly is not) fundamental to how journalists view the world.

More evidence for that is provided by a Washington Post column today by one of the national security state’s favorite outlets, David Ignatius. Ignatius interviewed the chronic deceiver, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who now “says it appears the impact [of Snowden's leaking] may be less than once feared because ‘it doesn’t look like he [Snowden] took as much’ as first thought.” Clapper specifically casts serious doubt on the U.S. government’s prior claim that Snowden ”had compromised the communications networks that make up the military’s command and control system”; instead, “officials now think that dire forecast may have been too extreme.” Ignatius — citing an anonymous “senior intelligence official” (who may or may not be Clapper) — also announces that the government has yet again revised its rank speculation about how many documents Snowden took: “This batch of probably downloaded material is about 1.5 million documents, the senior official said. That’s below an earlier estimate of 1.77 million documents.”

Most notable is Ignatius’ summary of the government’s attempt to claim Snowden seriously compromised the security of the U.S.:

Pressed to explain what damage Snowden’s revelations had done, the official was guarded, saying that there was “damage in foreign relations” and that the leaks had “poisoned [NSA’s] relations with commercial providers.” He also said that terrorist groups had carefully studied the disclosures, turning more to anonymizers, encryption and use of couriers to shield communications.

The senior official wouldn’t respond to repeated questions about whether the intelligence community has noted any changes in behavior by either the Russian or Chinese governments, in possible response to information they may have gleaned from Snowden’s revelations.

In other words, the only specific damage they can point to is from the anger that other people around the world have about what the U.S. government has done and the fact that people will not want to buy U.S. tech products if they fear (for good reason) that those companies collaborate with the NSA. But, as usual, there is zero evidence provided (as opposed to bald, self-serving assertions) of any harm to genuine national security concerns (i.e., the ability to monitor anyone planning actual violent attacks).

As is always the case, the stream of fear-mongering and alarmist warnings issued by the government to demonize a whistleblower proves to be false and without any basis, and the same is true for accusations made about the revelations themselves (“In January, [Mike] Rogers said that the report concluded that most of the documents Snowden had access to concerned ‘vital operations of the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force’” – AP: Lawmakers: Snowden’s Leaks May Endanger US Troops“). But none of that has stopped countless U.S. journalists from mindlessly citing each one of the latest evidence-free official claims as sacred fact.

Dean Baquet’s epiphany about the U.S. government and the American media — “news executives are often unduly deferential to seemingly authoritative warnings unaccompanied by hard evidence” — is long overdue, but better late than never. Let us hope that it signals an actual change in behavior.
Re: Glenn Greenwald at Harvard Squ. Bookstore with Chomsky - Youtube Video
13 Jun 2014
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US indicts ‘Guccifer’ hacker after release of private Bush family photos

A grand federal jury in Virginia has indicted in absentia the Romanian hacker nicknamed ‘Guccifer’ for hacking into Facebook and email accounts of top US government officials, a relative of two ex-presidents and celebrities.

Marcel Lehel Lazar, 42, faces the charges that include wire fraud, unauthorized computer access, cyber stalking and aggravated identity theft, the US Department of Justice said on Thursday.

From late 2012 till January 2014, the former taxi driver hacked into the accounts of a former US cabinet member, an ex-member of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, a former presidential adviser and a person related to two ex-presidents, it is stated in the indictment. However, the individuals are not identified.

Court data did not list a lawyer for Lazar.

Peter Carr, US Department of Justice spokesman, declined to comment when asked whether Washington would seek to extradite Lazar to the US.

READ: Full release of Hillary Clinton's 'hacked' Benghazi emails:

On February 7, 2013, a few media outlets published some of the content from the ex-presidents’ relative’s email account. The Smoking Gun portal reported on the same day that the content’s source is a hacking.

One of the photos showed George H.W. Bush during a hospital stay. Two other images were paintings that appeared to be self-portraits done by George W. Bush – in one, the president seems to be shaving in the shower, another shows feet soaking in a bath. There is no nudity in the pictures.

The word ‘Guccifer’ was on one photo in neon blue print – the indictment indicates that the hacker "marked some of the content with his alias."

Also according to the indictment, in March 2013, Lazar hacked the Facebook page of the former cabinet member, identified in media reports from the time as Colin Powell, and posted on it.

Lazar has reportedly already been jailed in Romania for seven years after being sentenced there last week for hacking crimes against Romanian citizens. His alleged attacks on Americans were not mentioned in the Romanian court. ( Rt --- )

On the back of widespread public interest RT has decided to publish in their entirety a series of memos which were allegedly sent from a one-time White House aide to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The emails, which were allegedly sent by former political adviser Sidney Blumenthal to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, were forwarded to RT by a hacker using the alias “Guccifer.”

Guccifer was credited with hacking the AOL email account of Blumenthal last week, though the authenticity of the emails has not been verified.

The purported memos appear to contain sensitive information regarding the September 11, 2012 attacks on the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, as well the January 2013 hostage crisis in In Amenas, Algeria.

Blumenthal has been refraining from comments so far. RT reached Blumenthal's son Max, who confirmed that his father will not be making any remarks about the leak.

In the leaked emails distributed to the media, Guccifer copied and pasted the correspondences into new files using bold Comic Sans text layered over a pink background, possibly as a security precaution. The letter 'G' on the memos appears to be the hacker's watermark.