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Luminous Animal

Luminous Animal's Journal
Luminous Animal's Journal
August 24, 2013

"Why wasn’t I consulted is the fundamental question of the web,”

“It is the rule from which other rules are derived. Humans have a fundamental need to be consulted, engaged, to exercise their knowledge (and thus power), and no other medium that came before has been able to tap into that as effectively.”

This need, Ford went on to explain, was “…the thing people talk about when they talk about nicer-sounding things like ‘the wisdom of crowds’ or ‘cognitive surplus.’”

Ford, in his funny and slightly cynical way, was identifying a quality so profound to the Internet its people usually didn’t even realize it was new. This idea that participation was more important than qualification, that what made your opinion important was that you had an opinion. This was a new thing in the world, with its own magic. The Why-Wasn’t-I-Consulted faction showed up as open source and free software. It was there when bloggers took on the hoary greats of the news business. It powered Wikipedia, which shocked the world by doing better than anything the old world of accredited expertise could do. The un-consulted could not only appear as a creative force; they could appear as critique, suddenly coalescing into an Anonymous DDOS, or a street protest. They began to make their demands known, from Spain to Cairo to New York, talking across borders and ideological divides, creating distributed media, and above all, having opinions on things.

In January of 2011, Tunisians were exercising their need to be consulted with a word: “Dégage!” Meaning, roughly, “Get out!”, directed at Ben Ali from Facebook profiles and Twitter accounts and most importantly, hundreds of thousands of human voices on the street.

If this is democracy, it is a democracy the world has never known. A kind of kudzu of democracy, small, tenacious, and demanding its way into every crack of the edifices of the old world.

“Why wasn’t I consulted?” is the fundamental question of post-network democracy, and the fundamental question of the Internet, to which the state mechanisms have so far replied: “Who the hell do you think you are?”

August 23, 2013

I wonder who the NY Times mule was?

The Times’s involvement in the story also brings into sharp relief a second question: Whether carrying classified documents across national borders can be an act of journalism. CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin recently compared David Miranda, Greenwald’s partner, to a “drug mule” for having sought to bring a thumb drive with classified documents from Brazil into the United Kingdom; British officials detained Miranda and confiscated data he was carrying.

Now the Times or an agent for the paper, too, appears to have carried digital files from the United Kingdom across international lines into the United States. Discussions of how to partner on the documents were carried out in person between top Guardian editors and Times executive editor Jill Abramson, all of whom declined to comment on the movement of documents. But it appears likely that someone at one of the two papers physically carried a drive with Snowden’s GCHQ leaks from London to New York or Washington


August 22, 2013

GLAAD's transgender media guide

I pulled some of the information but all of it is worthwhile to read:


Problematic: "transgenders," "a transgender"
Preferred: "transgender people," "a transgender person"
Transgender should be used as an adjective, not as a noun. Do not say, "Tony is a transgender," or "The parade included many transgenders." Instead say, "Tony is a transgender man," or "The parade included many transgender people."

Problematic: "transgendered"
Preferred: "transgender"
The adjective transgender should never have an extraneous "-ed" tacked onto the end. An "-ed" suffix adds unnecessary length to the word and can cause tense confusion and grammatical errors. For example, it is grammatically incorrect to turn transgender into a participle, as it is an adjective, not a verb, and only verbs can be used as participles by adding an "-ed" suffix.

Problematic: "sex change," "pre-operative," "post-operative"
Preferred: "transition"
Referring to a sex change operation, or using terms such as pre- or post-operative, inaccurately suggests that one must have surgery in order to transition. Avoid overemphasizing surgery when discussing transgender people or the process of transition.


Defamatory: "deceptive," "fooling," "pretending," "posing" or "masquerading"
Gender identity is an integral part of a person's identity. Do not characterize transgender people as "deceptive," as "fooling" other people, or as "pretending" to be, "posing" or "masquerading" as a man or a woman. Such descriptions are defamatory and insulting.

Defamatory: "she-male," "he-she," "it," "trannie," "tranny," "shim," "gender-bender"
These words only serve to dehumanize transgender people and should not be used.

Defamatory: "bathroom bill"
A new term created and used by far-right extremists to oppose non-discrimination laws that protect transgender people. The term is geared to incite fear and panic at the thought of encoun­tering transgender people in public restrooms. Use non-discrimination law/ordinance instead.


Always use a transgender person's chosen name. Often transgender people cannot afford a legal name change or are not yet old enough to change their name legally. They should be afforded the same respect for their chosen name as anyone else who lives by a name other than their birth name (e.g., celebrities).

Whenever possible, ask transgender people which pronoun they would like you to use. A person who identifies as a certain gender, whether or not that person has taken hormones or had some form of surgery, should be referred to using the pronouns appropriate for that gender.

If it is not possible to ask a transgender person which pronoun he or she prefers, use the pronoun that is consistent with the person's appearance and gender expression. For example, if a person wears a dress and uses the name Susan, feminine pronouns are appropriate.

It is never appropriate to put quotation marks around either a transgender person's chosen name or the pronoun that reflects that person's gender identity.

August 17, 2013

How to trap a whistleblower

Tell them that going through "proper channels" will provide meaningful redress to their concerns, not injure them
Last week, President Obama misled the public when he told a comedian Jay Leno that protected legal channels exist that Edward Snowden could have used to challenge government misconduct:

I can tell you that there are ways, if you think that the government is abusing a program, of coming forward. In fact, I, through Executive Order, signed whistleblower protection for intelligence officers or people who are involved in the intelligence industry.

This message is false. And the President repeated it at his press conference a few days later. Obama is referring to Presidential Policy Directive #19. If the President had bothered to read his own Executive Order, he would have known that it was not implemented at all when Snowden blew the whistle on the National Security Agency. Further, it fails to provide protected legal channels to contractor positions such as Snowden’s.

Thomas Drake, a former senior executive at the NSA, is living proof of how insidious the “channels” argument is. Shortly after 9/11, he complained about NSA programs that were embryonic versions of what Snowden is now revealing. He complained that NSA foreign collection programs were being turned inward on Americans. One of those programs, Stellar Wind, stripped off data anonymization features, auditing trails, and other privacy protections that were available in a cheaper, effective, and non-intrusive program called ThinThread.

Drake complained to his boss, to the NSA Inspector General, and—with three other retired NSA colleagues and a former House intelligence staffer–to the Department of Defense Inspector General. The Inspector General substantiated their claims, but immediately classified its report to keep it out of public view. (Most portions are now unclassified and never had to be.)

Drake then served as a material witness in two key 9/11 investigations. He told Congress about multiple secret domestic surveillance programs, including Stellar Wind, and critical indications and warning intelligence about al Qaeda and associated movements pre- and post-9/11, which NSA did not share.


August 10, 2013

A Guide to What We Now Know About the NSA's Dragnet Searches of Your Communications


It's lengthy but worth it. These are the last four paragraphs:

According to the slides released by The Guardian and Greenwald's reporting, XKeyScore allows analysts to search the metadata and content residing on any XKeyScore server by different selectors — name, email address, telephone number, IP address, keywords, and even language or type of Internet browser — "without prior authorization." Searches might either turn up content — which analysts can then view or listen to — or help an analyst identify an anonymous user who is, for example, searching for "suspicious stuff" or speaking a language "out of place" for a given region. Some slides also suggest that the XKeyScore searches can also query data stored in other NSA databases. And Ambinder insinuates that anything targeted through XKeyScore can be directed into one of the government's more permanent metadata and content databases, some of which the Post's Barton Gellman described in June.

In an online video shortly after the revelations began, Snowden claimed that "sitting at [his] desk," he could "wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if [he] had a personal email." The government's reaction was both harsh and emphatic. Gen. Alexander went so far as to testify to the Senate Appropriations Committee not only that Snowden's claim was "false," but that "I know of no way to do that."

The Guardian slides give us good reason to believe that Snowden was telling the truth, and that Alexander was being coy. Greenwald reports that Snowden has stated that supervisors often find ways to circumvent the very targeting procedures that are meant to confine the NSA's searches: "It's very rare to be questioned on our searches," he said, "and even when we are, it's usually along the lines of: ‘let's bulk up the justification.'" As far back as 2009, members of Congress were raising alarms about the NSA's collection under the FAA, including Rep. Rush Holt's ominous warning that "[s]ome actions are so flagrant that they can't be accidental."

* * *

We'll have to wait for additional revelations — or, preferably, official disclosures by the government — to fully understand how XKeyScore, and the government's other FAA surveillance capabilities, actually work, and how much power NSA analysts have to circumvent the agency's own procedures. But what we already do know gives us plenty of important reasons to reject it as a model for surveillance that is compatible with the Constitution.
July 31, 2013

Manning sentencing trial: No Afghan national killed as a result of leaks

Brig. Gen. Robert Carr confirms on stand that

Via @kgosztola https://twitter.com/kgosztola
"Afghan national killed was not in war logs, Carr testified. So no person whose name was in war logs was ever killed as result "

"Brig. Gen. Carr testified Afghan war logs had 900-plus Afghan names (but no one was killed as result of disclosure)"

Via @nathanLfuller https://twitter.com/nathanLfuller

"Judge Lind affirmed that she would disregard testimony about the person the Taliban killed, as he was not connected to the releases "

July 15, 2013

WAPO: For NSA chief, terrorist threat drives passion to ‘collect it all,’ observers say


In his eight years at the helm of the country’s electronic surveillance agency, Alexander, 61, has quietly presided over a revolution in the government’s ability to scoop up information in the name of national security. And, as he did in Iraq, Alexander has pushed hard for everything he can get: tools, resources and the legal authority to collect and store vast quantities of raw information on American and foreign communications.

His successes have won accolades from political leaders of both parties as well as from counterterrorism and intelligence professionals who say the NSA chief’s efforts have helped foil dozens of terrorist attacks. His approach also has drawn attack from civil rights groups and a bipartisan group of lawmakers. One Democrat who confronted Alexander at a congressional hearing last month accused the NSA of crossing a line by collecting the cellphone records of millions of Americans.

“What authorization gave you the grounds for acquiring my cellphone data?” demanded Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), waving his mobile phone at the four-star general.


He is absolutely obsessed and completely driven to take it all, whenever possible,” said Thomas Drake, a former NSA official and whistleblower. The continuation of Alexander’s policies, Drake said, would result in the “complete evisceration of our civil liberties.”

Alexander frequently points out that collection programs are subject to oversight by Congress as well as the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, although the proceedings of both bodies are shrouded in secrecy. But even his defenders say Alexander’s aggressiveness has sometimes taken him to the outer edge of his legal authority.

Glenn Greenwald comments:

"The outer edge of his legal authority": that's official-Washington-speak for "breaking the law", at least when it comes to talking about powerful DC officials (in Washington, only the powerless are said to have broken the law, which is why so many media figures so freely call Edward Snowden a criminal for having told his fellow citizens about all this, but would never dare use the same language for James Clapper for having lied to Congress about all of this, which is a felony). That the NSA's "collect it all" approach to surveillance has no legal authority is clear:

"One Democrat who confronted Alexander at a congressional hearing last month accused the NSA of crossing a line by collecting the cellphone records of millions of Americans.

'What authorization gave you the grounds for acquiring my cellphone data?' demanded Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), waving his mobile phone at the four-star general."

I know this is not as exciting to some media figures as Snowden's asylum drama or his speculated personality traits. But that the NSA is collecting all forms of electronic communications between Americans as well as people around the world - and, as I've said many times, thereby attempting by definition to destroy any remnants of privacy both in the US and globally - is as serious of a story as it gets, particularly given that it's all being done in secret.
July 13, 2013

What Greenwald said vs Reuters summary of what he said:

Reuters (which cherry picked two sentences from two paragraphs thus removing the context for those two sentences) :

"Snowden has enough information to cause harm to the U.S. government in a single minute than any other person has ever had," Greenwald said in an interview with the Argentinean paper La Nacion. "The U.S. government should be on its knees every day begging that nothing happen to Snowden, because if something does happen to him, all the information will be revealed and it could be its worst nightmare."

Greenwald's interview (I bolded the parts of Greenwald's replies that Reuters cut out)
(via Google translate)

- Beyond the revelations about the spying system performance in general, what extra information has Snowden?

-Snowden has enough information to cause more damage to the U.S. government in a minute alone than anyone else has ever had in the history of the United States. But that's not his goal. Its objective is to expose software that people around the world use without knowing what they are exposing themselves without consciously agreeing to surrender their rights to privacy. It has a huge number of documents that would be very harmful to the U.S. government if they were made public.

- Are you afraid that someone will try to kill him?

It's a possibility, although I do not bring many benefits to anyone at this point. Already distributed thousands of documents and made sure that several people around the world have their entire file. If something were to happen, those documents would be made public. This is your insurance policy.
The U.S. government should be on your knees every day praying that nothing happens to Snowden, because if something happens, all information will be revealed and that would be their worst nightmare.


June 27, 2013

Latest Glenn Greenwald Scoop Vindicates NSA Whistleblowers


NSA Leak Vindicates AT&T Whistleblower
Today’s revelations that the National Security Agency collected bulk data on the email traffic of millions of Americans provides startling evidence for the first time to support a whistleblower’s longstanding claims that AT&T was forwarding global internet traffic to the government from secret rooms inside its offices.

The collection program, which lasted from 2001 to 2011, involved email metadata — the “enveloped” information for email that reveals the sender’s address and recipient, as well as IP addresses and websites visited, the Guardian newspaper reported today.

Mark Klein, a retired AT&T communications technician, revealed in 2006 that his job duties included connecting internet circuits to a splitting cabinet that led to a secret room in AT&T’s San Francisco office. During the course of that work, he learned from a co-worker that similar cabins were being installed in other cities, including Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego, he said.

The split circuits included traffic from peering links connecting to other internet backbone providers, meaning that AT&T was also diverting traffic routed from its network to or from other domestic and international providers, Klein said.

Latest Glenn Greenwald Scoop Vindicates One Of The Original NSA Whistleblowers

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/nsa-whistleblower-william-binney-was-right-2013-6#ixzz2XSbM53pC

William Binney — one of the best mathematicians and code breakers in National Security Agency (NSA) history — worked for America's premier covert intelligence gathering organization for 32 years before resigning in late 2001 because he "could not stay after the NSA began purposefully violating the Constitution."

Binney claims that the NSA took one of the programs he built, known as ThinThread, and started using the program and members of his team to spy on virtually every U.S. citizen under the code-name Stellar Wind.

Thanks to NSA whistleblower/leaker Edward Snowden, documents detailing the top-secret surveillance program have now been published for the first time.

And they corroborate what Binney has said for years.

June 26, 2013

Schahill on Rand Paul

Scahill: Rand Paul is a Libertarian. I think it’s really unfortunate that the one senator that started to raise legitimate questions not just about the drone program but the targeting of U.S. citizens and what’s the standard, how does an American get on the kill list, how do they get off the kill list, how do you surrender to a drone.

I would say that about a third of Rand Paul’s filibuster was sane and some of the best information that’s been put on the public record, and then the other two-thirds was this kind of bizarre Tea Party carnival where it was almost like a burlesque show or something.

They roll onto the floor of the Senate and it was like a hodgepodge of every crazy conspiracy theory that they have about President Obama – how he wants to come after the Tea Party zine editor in a café in Montana, and they’re going to drone-bomb this person from the Tea Party.

I think it was a sort of two-edged sword. On the one hand I’m glad that Rand Paul did that, and he tried to hold up the nomination of Brennan on these very serious issues. On the other hand, I think it diminished the seriousness of the issue, because quite frankly, I think Rand Paul has utterly reprehensible views on so many things.

We could spend hours talking about some of the despicable positions of Rand Paul and other people within the Tea Party. On this issue, I do think that he was being sincere in wanting to raise issues about it, but then he flips his position on it a couple weeks later and talks about drone-bombing someone who robbed a liquor store.

So that’s unfortunate. If someone like – if we had a credible Democratic senator, someone like Dick Durbin out of Illinois, who said, “You know what? I’m a major supporter of this president, but this has gone too far and I want to hold serious hearings of this to see is our national security being degraded by our pursuit of a small group of terrorists and our killing of a larger group of civilians? What are the actual national security implications of that?”


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