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Member since: Fri Sep 28, 2007, 04:39 PM
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MoJo: There is No Such Thing As NSA-Proof Email - Just ask ultra-secure email providers.

There is No Such Thing As NSA-Proof Email - Just ask ultra-secure email providers.
August 17, 2013 * Mother Jones via Alternet * By Mariah Blake, Gavin Aronsen, Dana Liebelson

Since last June, when Edward Snowden tore the veil off the National Security Agency's vast data dragnet, Americans have been flocking to ultrasecure email services in the hopes of keeping the government out of their private business. Use of the most popular email encryption software, PGP, tripled between June and July, while revenue for the data-encryption company Silent Circle has shot up 400 percent.

But even these services may not be able to protect your email from government prying. That fact came into stark relief last Thursday, when Lavabit, the secure email service used by Snowden, abruptly shut down. Lavabit's 32-year-old founder, Ladar Levison, issued a statement saying he pulled the plug because he didn't want to be "complicit in crimes against the American people." He has since given up using email entirely, and he urges others to consider doing the same. "I would strongly recommend against entrusting your privacy to a company with physical ties to the United States," he told Mother Jones. "I honestly don't think it's possible to provide a secure service in this country."

Levison, who is reportedly under federal gag order, declined to elaborate (though he opined, based on his experience, that we're a "whisper's breath away" from becoming a society where all electronic communications are recorded and scrutinized by the government). But according to other industry insiders and cybersecurity experts, there's good reason to be wary of transmitting sensitive information via email—even if your provider claims to have iron-clad safeguards.

Tech giants, such as the Microsoft subsidiary Hotmail, regularly hand over data to the government. In fact, in the last eight months of 2012 (the most recent period for which data is available), Hotmail, Google, Facebook, and Twitter provided law enforcement authorities with information on more than 64,000 users. And that doesn't include responses to secret national security letters ordered by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court, or FISA.


Transparency? The word games behind the defense of NSA surveillance

Here's a handy guide to understanding the dodgy language used by NSA apologists.

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Transparency? The word games behind the defense of NSA surveillance
byJoan McCarterFollow * Daily Kos * August 15, 2013

Trevor Timm at the indispensable Electronic Frontier Foundation has your guide to understanding when the government is lying to you about NSA surveillance. Which is pretty much most of the time. Some of his examples:

What does "bulk collection" mean? An intelligence official says it's "when we collect and retain for some period of time that lets us do retrospective analysis." We've seen this in action before, when Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was trying to twist his way out of admitting that he lied to Congress. The actual act of hoovering up of millions of communications from Americans, without a warrant, isn't "collecting," according to the administration.

Then there's the word "target." When government officials can’t directly answer a question with a secret definition, officials will often answer a different question than they were asked. For example, if asked, “can you read Americans’ email without a warrant,” officials will answer: “we cannot target Americans’ email without a warrant.” As we explained last week, the NSA’s warped definition of word “target” is full of so many holes that it allows the NSA to reach into untold number of Americans’ emails, some which can be purely domestic.

Here's another favorite: the "not under this program" dodge. Another tried and true technique in the NSA obfuscation playbook is to deny it does one invasive thing or another “under this program.” When it’s later revealed the NSA actually doesdo the spying it said it didn’t, officials can claim it was just part of another program not referred to in the initial answer. Now we’re likely seeing it as part of the telephone records collection debate when administration officials repeat over and over that they aren’t collecting location data “under this program.” Sen. Ron Wyden has strongly suggested this might not be the whole story.


The Atlantic: "Lawbreaking at the NSA: Bring On a New Church Committee"

Lawbreaking at the NSA: Bring On a New Church Committee
The Washington Post has revealed an audit documenting thousands of abuses per year. An exhaustive investigation is long overdue -- and Ron Wyden should lead it.
CONOR FRIEDERSDORF * The Atlantic * AUG 16 2013, 6:34 AM ET

The time is ripe for a new Church Committee, the surveillance oversight effort named for Senator Frank Church, who oversaw a mid-1970s investigation into decades of jaw-dropping abuses by U.S. intelligence agencies. If recent stories about the NSA don't alarm you, odds are that you've never read the Church Committee findings, which ought to be part of the standard high-school curriculum. Their lesson is clear: Under cover of secrecy, government agents will commit abuses with impunity for years on end, and only intrusive Congressional snooping can stop them.

Why is another Church Committee needed now? For more than a decade, the NSA has repeatedly engaged in activity that violated the law and the Constitutional rights of many thousands or perhaps millions of Americans.

Let's review the NSA's recent history of serial illegality. President George W. Bush presided over the first wave. After the September 11 terrorist attacks, he signed a secret order that triggered a massive program of warrantless wiretapping. NSA analysts believed they possessed the authority to spy on the phone calls and emails of American citizens without a judge's permission. Circa October 2001, 90 NSA employees knew about the illegal program, but the public didn't. Later that month, four members of Congress, including Nancy Pelosi, were told of its existence, and subsequently discredited White House lawyer John Yoo wrote the first analysis of its legality. By 2002, 500 people knew about it, at which point telecom providers were participating.

The public didn't find out about warrantless wiretapping until December 2005, more than four years after it started, when the New York Times published a story that they'd long been holding.

How effective was the illegal spying?


America’s Descent Into Madness

America’s Descent Into Madness
It is crucial that all Americans push back against the coercive forces shaping U.S. culture, before it's too late.
August 12, 2013 * CounterPunch via Alternet * By Henry A. Giroux

America has entered one of its periods of historical madness, but this is the worst I can remember: worse than McCarthyism, worse than the Bay of Pigs and in the long term potentially more disastrous than the Vietnam War. ~ John le Carré

America is descending into madness.

The stories it now tells are filled with cruelty, deceit, lies, and legitimate all manner of corruption and mayhem. The mainstream media spins stories that are largely racist, violent, and irresponsible — stories that celebrate power and demonize victims, all the while camouflaging its pedagogical influence under the cheap veneer of entertainment.

Unethical grammars of violence now offer the only currency with any enduring value for mediating relationships, addressing problems, and offering instant pleasure. A predatory culture celebrates a narcissistic hyper-individualism that radiates a near sociopathic lack of interest in or compassion and responsibility for others. Anti-public intellectuals dominate the screen and aural cultures urging us to shop more, indulge more, and make a virtue out of the pursuit of personal gain, all the while promoting a depoliticizing culture of consumerism.

Undermining life-affirming social solidarities and any viable notion of the public good, right-wing politicians trade in forms of idiocy and superstition that mesmerize the illiterate and render the thoughtful cynical and disengaged. Military forces armed with the latest weapons from Afghanistan play out their hyper-militarized fantasies on the home front by forming robo SWAT teams who willfully beat youthful protesters and raid neighborhood poker games. Congressional lobbyists for the big corporations and defense contractors create conditions in which war zones abroad can be recreated at home in order to provide endless consumer products, such as high tech weapons and surveillance tools for gated communities and for prisons alike.

The issue of who gets to define the future, own the nation’s wealth, shape the reach of state resources, control of the global flows of goods and humans, and invest in institutions that educate an engaged and socially responsible citizens has become largely invisible. And yet these are precisely these issues that offer up new categories for defining how matters of representations, education, economic justice, and politics are to be defined and fought over. The stories told by corporate liars and crooks do serious harm to the body politic, and the damage they cause together with the idiocy they reinforce are becoming more apparent as America descends into authoritarianism, accompanied by the pervasive fear and paranoia that sustains it.


Who knew that Oregon hosts a Romanian Princess who loves to watch cocks fight?

Romanian princess alleged to be part of illegal US cockfighting ring
Irina Walker and her husband arrested with four others over claims they hosted illegal gambling at their Oregon ranch
Associated Press (Grants Pass, Oregon) * The Guardian * Friday 16 August 2013

A Romanian princess and her husband, a former sheriff's deputy, are believed to be among several people who have been arrested in Oregon in connection with an alleged cockfighting ring.

Irina Walker, 60, and her husband, John Wesley Walker, 67, are accused of hosting cockfighting derbies and illegal gambling at their ranch outside Irrigon, Morrow County.

Federal prosecutors are seeking to seize the ranch, which is listed in state records as Stokes Landing Sport Horses. There was no answer to phone calls to the Walker home or the business on Friday.

The Oregonian newspaper identified Irina Walker, also known as Irina Kreuger, as a daughter of the last king of Romania. Records show John Wesley Walker was a sheriff's deputy from 1998 to 2003.

The Walkers and four other people from Irrigon and Hermiston were charged with operating an illegal gambling business. No lawyer for the Walkers or the other defendants have yet been listed in the Portland federal court records.


NSA Spying: The Three Pillars of Government Trust Have Fallen

NSA Spying: The Three Pillars of Government Trust Have Fallen
by Cindy Cohn and Mark M. Jaycox * Friday, August 16, 2013 * Common Dreams

With each recent revelation about the NSA's spying programs government officials have tried to reassure the American people that all three branches of government—the Executive branch, the Judiciary branch, and the Congress—knowingly approved these programs and exercised rigorous oversight over them. President Obama recited this talking point just last week, saying: "as President, I've taken steps to make sure they have strong oversight by all three branches of government and clear safeguards to prevent abuse and protect the rights of the American people." With these three pillars of oversight in place, the argument goes, how could the activities possibly be illegal or invasive of our privacy?

Today, the Washington Post confirmed that two of those oversight pillars—the Executive branch and the court overseeing the spying, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA court)—don't really exist. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/nsa-broke-privacy-rules-thousands-of-times-per-year-audit-finds/2013/08/15/3310e554-05ca-11e3-a07f-49ddc7417125_print.html The third pillar came down slowly over the last few weeks, with Congressional revelations about the limitations on its oversight, including what Representative Sensennbrenner called "rope a dope" classified briefings. With this, the house of government trust has fallen, and it's time to act. Join the over 500,000 people demanding an end to the unconstitutional NSA spying.

First, the Executive. After a review of internal NSA audits of the spying programs provided by Edward Snowden, the Post lays out—in stark detail—that the claims of oversight inside the Executive Branch are empty. The article reveals that an internal NSA audit not shown to Congress, the President, or the FISA Court detailed thousands of violations where the NSA collected, stored, and accessed American's communications content and other information. In one story, NSA analysts searched for all communications containing the Swedish manufacturer Ericsson and “radio” or “radar.” What's worse: the thousands of violations only include the NSA's main office in Maryland—not the other—potentially hundreds—of other NSA offices across the country. And even more importantly, the documents published by the Post reveal violations increasing every year. The news reports and documents are in direct contrast to the repeated assertions by President Obama (video), General James Clapper (video), and General Keith Alexander (video) that the US government does not listen to or look at Americans' phone calls or emails. So much for official pronouncements that oversight by the Executive was "extensive" and "robust."

Second, the FISA Court. The Post presents a second article in which the Chief Judge of the FISA Court admits that the court is unable to act as a watchdog or stop the NSA's abuses: “The FISC is forced to rely upon the accuracy of the information that is provided to the Court,” its chief, US District Judge Reggie B. Walton, said in a written statement. “The FISC does not have the capacity to investigate issues of noncompliance." Civil liberties and privacy advocates have long said that the FISA Court is a rubber stamp when it comes to the spying, but this is worse—this is the Court admitting that it cannot conduct the oversight the President and others have claimed it is doing. So much for claims by officials from the White House (video), NSA, DOJ, and Intelligence Committee members of Congress that the FISA Court is another strong pillar of oversight.

MORE: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/08/16-2

Former Drug Cop: "I cried for a year once I found out what I'd been involved in"

A former Texas narcotics officer recently sat down with HuffPost Live to explain why he turned against the drug war.


“A couple of times I raided a home and there were two kids in the home, scared, we terrorized the family, and it’s for a bag of pot,” Barry Cooper said Tuesday. “Searching the house, I noticed the kids had straight ‘A’ report cards, the parent’s checkbook was balanced, and I realized that something was amiss, something was really bad.”

“I put it together years later, after I started smoking pot,” he confessed. “You know, a lot of people report that the use of that medication helps a person self-reflect. And, wow, the veil came off and then I started doing the real research for myself instead of believing the propaganda. And I cried for a year after I found out the truth and what I had been involved in.”

After abandoning his law enforcement career, Cooper produced the documentary Never Get Busted, which explained how to hide marijuana from police. The release of the film led to a highly accusatory Fox News interview, which has since been prominently featured on Never Get Busted‘s website.

Oregon's Governor signs bill to legalize & regulate marijuana dispensaries

Oregon's Governor Kitzhaber is a smart, relatively progressive Democrat, who was an emergency
room physician prior to getting into politics. Good on him for signing this.

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Kitzhaber signs medical marijuana dispensaries bill
By Jonathan J. Cooper * Associated Press * Aug 14, 2013 at 3:30 PM PDT

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber on Wednesday signed a bill legalizing medical marijuana dispensaries, setting the stage for the state to regulate and inspect businesses that have operated for years in a legal gray area.

Oregon was one of the first states to allow the legal use of marijuana with a doctor's recommendation, and the state has issued marijuana cards to 56,000 people. The law requires patients to grow the drug themselves or designate someone to grow it for them. Dozens of dispensaries have popped up around the state, but they're not explicitly authorized. In some areas, authorities have moved to shut them down. Elsewhere, police have left them alone.

The bill gives the Oregon Health Authority new power to run background checks, conduct on-site safety inspections and perform financial audits. The agency will begin drafting regulations for approval early next year.

"It's vital now that the people who are involved in the medical marijuana program implement this bill very responsibly to ensure that patients have safe access and that they are good neighbors in their communities," said Geoff Sugerman, a lobbyist who helped write the bill.


Civil Disobedience as Law Enforcement: Holding Gov't Accountable re: Its Own Claims to Legitimacy

Civil Disobedience as Law Enforcement
by Jeremy Brecher * Wednesday, August 14, 2013 * Waging Nonviolence/Common Dreams

Two years ago I was among more than a thousand people who committed civil disobedience at the White House to oppose the building of the Keystone XL pipeline. Since then many more have been arrested around the country, often blocking the actual pathway along which the Keystone XL is being constructed. Nearly 70,000 people have vowed to risk arrest if the State Department recommends that the president approve the pipeline.

All along I believed that these actions were justified, even though they meant breaking the law. After all, leading NASA climate change specialist Jim Hansen says that the Alberta tar sands, which the pipeline will carry, “must be left in the ground” because “if the tar sands are thrown into the mix it is essentially game over” for a viable planet.

"Those who perpetrate climate change, and those who allow them to do so, should not be able to claim that the law is on their side."

Since being arrested at the White House, my perspective on the nature of such actions has changed. After learning about a fundamental principle of American law known as the public trust doctrine, I have come to believe that the U.S. government and other governments around the world are violating their own most fundamental responsibilities to their own people when they allow fossil fuel producers and users to devastate the earth’s atmosphere with greenhouse gases.

Governments will no doubt continue to treat protesters who block pipelines, coal mines and power plants as criminals. But such governments come into court with dirty hands, stained by their dereliction of the duty to protect the common inheritance of their own people.

MORE: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/08/14-6

Yemenis Call US Drone Strikes an "Overreaction" to Al Qaida Threat

Playing Whack-A-Mole droning suspected "terrorists" isn't so much fun, if you are
the "suspect" or if you happen to live next door to one.

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Yemenis Call US Drone Strikes an Overreaction to Al Qaida Threat
10 August 2013 07:05 * By Adam Baron * McClatchy Newspapers | Report

SANAA, Yemen — The United States’ launching of eight drone strikes in Yemen in the span of 13 days has ignited widespread outrage in the country. The anger over the strikes, which came as an al Qaida-related threat shuttered U.S. embassies and consulates in Yemen and 15 other countries, has overwhelmed attention to the threat itself, which many here view skeptically anyway.

“In the end, I think the American reaction has been far more than has been reasonable,” said Abdulghani al Iryani, a Sanaa-based political analyst. “It comes off almost as a show of strength. But, ultimately, it may end up backfiring, as al Qaida is getting more attention now than they would have even if they carried out an attack.


The surge of strikes, the most concentrated series of drone hits since 2002, has come in four provinces, Abyan in the south, Shabwa and Hadramawt in Yemen’s southeast and Mareb in the country’s center. That alone underscores the difficulty of combating al Qaida’s Yemen affiliate, al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

Earlier this year, the central government was able to push one of al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula’s main affiliates, Ansar al Shariah, from strongholds it had seized during the push by dissidents to topple the government of then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh. But the bulk of the fighters were able to escape to other parts of the country, including areas with comparatively little history of an al Qaida presence, such as Hadramawt, which has emerged as a focus of recent U.S. strikes. A number of the strikes appear to have been aimed at senior al Qaida figures in this country, but it isn’t clear how many of the targets have been killed.

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