In a piece on the new Omidyar-funded news-site "The Intercept," Glenn Greenwald pulls together the recent Snowden leaks about the NSA's psyops programs, through which they sought to attack, undermine, and dirty-trick participants in Anonymous and Occupy. The new leaks describe
the NSA' GCHQs use of "false flag" operations (undertaking malicious actions and making it look like the work of a group they wish to discredit), the application of "social science" to disrupting and steering online activist discussions, luring targets into compromising sexual situations, deploying malicious software, and posting lies about targets in order to discredit them.
As Greenwald points out, the unit that conducted these actions, "Jtrig" (Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group), does not limit itself to attacking terrorists -- it explicitly targets protest groups, and political groups that have no connection with national security, including garden-variety criminals who are properly the purview of law enforcement agencies, not intelligence agencies.
The UK spy agency GCHQ operates a programme, called the "Human Science Operations Cell," whose remit is "strategic influence and disruption."
Some of the slides suggest pretty dubious "social science" (see below) -- they read like a mix between NLP hucksters and desperate Pick Up Artist losers.
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Last week, the FBI arrested Jose Susumo Azano Matsura at his home in Coronado, CA. Azano was a rich, successful surveillance technology vendor who came to prominence by touting ubiquitous, intense surveillance as an answer to social problems and got rich through a no-bid contract to supply surveillance tools to the Mexican military, and expanded to supply Internet surveillance tools through his company Security Tracking Devices, with offices in Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates.
Azano's company supplied bulk-surveillance tools for spying on entire populations, as well as targeted malware intended for secret implantation on victims' laptops and phones to turn them into spy tools. They also sold access to a database, maintained by IBM, of 1.3 million names of people whom governments should be spying on.
Azano was arrested for corruption -- illegal election financing in San Diego. His scandal is just the latest in a string involving con artists, crooks and grafters who go into the spying business. For example, the founder of one major censorware company, doing business with numerous American school districts (as well as autocratic Middle Eastern leaders) was placed on the California sex-offender registry for "sexually interfering with a 14 year old girl."
One of the arguments for surveillance is that only the good guys will be able to peer into the data gathered by the bugs. But the evidence is that the kind of person who decides to get rich by spying on other people is generally not a very good guy, and these people are the people who ultimately have control over the tools that spy on kids, on citizens, on visitors, on Internet users and on members of our governments.
Designing a surveillance regime whose first line of defense is "Come on, we're all good people, what could go wrong?" is either naive or cynical on its face. But to continue to do so when we know that so many surveillance barons are monumentally unfit to serve as honorable guardians of our privacy is just plain evil.
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An anonymous NSA leaker revealed to the German magazine Bild am Sonntag that the agency has been spying on senior German government figures. The move is apparently a response to Obama prohibiting the agency from spying on Chancellor Angela Merkel (or other world leaders) without his authorization -- by spying on the people with whom Merkel communicates, the agency is still able to intercept a large fraction of her most sensitive communications without presidential authorization.
Two amazing facts about this story:
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Nerdcore rapper Dan Bull earns a good living from his Youtube videos, but he is constantly being dragged away from the studio to fight fraudulent copyright claims from major labels, who are able to censor his work with impunity. The video for his 2010 song I'm Not Pissed has been removed ten times by automated, fraudulent claims from the likes of BMG Rights Management and PRS, who face no consequences for lying about their involvement with his work.
In a new song called Fuck Content ID, Bull slams Google's automated Content ID takedown system, documenting his woes at the hands of Big Content, and with Google, who collaborate in a system of copyfraud that neither one seems to care about.
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One day after a video of Pussy Riot being horsewhipped by cossacks in Sochi went viral, the band had released a new music video in which the footage is heavily featured, amid anti-Putin rhetoric.
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Members of Pussy Riot, including the recently freed women Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, were brutally whipped, sprayed and beaten by cossacks representing Russian authorities at the Sochi Olympic Games. The women call the Olympics a political event, and report that they have been harrassed and detained continuously since arriving in Sochi to protest them.
Some other members of Pussy Riot have repudiated Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina and do not consider them to be representatives of Pussy Riot any longer.
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Jonl sez, "Streets near the University of Texas at Austin today are safer, thanks to quick and effective action by the local police, who caught and arrested a jogger, observed wearing a pony tail, black shorts, and a headset in the area. She was apparently menacing traffic by crossing the street in a manner construed as 'jaywalking,' however her apparent arrest was due to her failure to provide identification: i.e., she was guilty not just of jaywalking, but of anonymous jaywalking."
Woman arrested on 24th street after crossing intersection
With all the discussion of whether the #Euromaidan protesters are acting on their own behalf or because they've been put up to it by foreign agents, it's worth revisiting an important story from last July. Buzzfeed reported on how the current ruling Ukrainian political party used fronts to pay bribes to American conservative bloggers who posted talking points about its campaign in a hotly contested election
An anonymous whistleblower has revealed that he was paid $500 to post favorable material about the Party of Regions -- the dictatorial Ukrainian ruling party -- during the last election. The payment was allegedly provided by "libertarian media strategist" George Scoville, through a laundering process that allowed the whisteblower and others to conduct their work without registering as foreign agents in DC.
Talking points -- some repeated verbatim -- from the Scoville memos appeared on RedState, Breitbart, and Pajamas Media. Scoville and the writers involved would not confirm or deny that money was changed hands for posts intended to influence the Ukrainian elections.
The writers involved characterize Scoville's memos to them as merely informational, part of the usual mix of material they receive from many sources. I receive a lot of this material, and post some of it -- for example, I have a post scheduled today from the ACLU -- but I always disclose the source of this material, always identify quotes when I use them and do not pass them off as my own words, and I never, ever, ever accept payment for editorial suggestions.
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The Catholic Archdiocese of Newark is shutting down its schools due to lack of funding, but it still has a fortune it can use to build a small palace
for its archbishop John J Myers, who is soon to retire after a career whose highlights include dismissing victims of sexual abuse and shielding abusing priests. Also, he insists on being addressed as "Your Grace." He's a made-in-America version of Germany's disgraced "Luxury Bishop
A group of steampunk cosplayers arranged to meet up at Westfield Plaza Camino Real near San Diego to ride the mall's Victorian carousel. But Westfield's mall cops were terrified of the cosplayers and evicted them all, escorting them to the door, calling the cops, and making them wait until the police arrived (the police basically shrugged and said, "Look, it's stupid, but it's their mall").
The mall cops -- and their corporate overlords -- cited a variety of dumb policies in support of the action, including a ban on wearing costumes that obscured the wearer's face (which didn't describe the cosplayers' outfits), a ban on gathering in groups larger than three (ORLY), a ban on photography without the subjects' permission (the steampunks, having gathered to have their photos taken, can be presumed to have consented to the pictures). Basically, it's a case of mall cop authoritarianism followed by the usual bland corporate doubling-down.
Of course, kids -- especially kids who happen to be brown -- already know that malls are capricious and fraught replacements for the public square. Mall cops basically hate anything that doesn't accord with their view of what a shopper should be and relentlessly discriminate against anyone they don't like. Back when I was in high school, more than half of my school had been banned from College Park, the mall in Toronto that was across the street from the school, by sneering jerks from Intercon security, who had the full backing of their management and the mall management.
The irony of ejecting people for wearing steampunk clothes in rich: malls are full of steampunk-inflected clothing, as the commodification mills of the fashion industry relentlessly mine subculture for new looks to put under glass. And here, too, is another parallel to the much more widespread discrimination against brown kids, who are often ejected on the pretense of wearing "gang" clothes -- clothes whose styles have been snaffled up, denatured, and repackaged for sale in the stores whose rent keeps the mall in business.
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The top Obama administration officials working on the Trans-Pacific Partnership came to government from investment banks who will benefit immensely from its provisions, which severely curtail countries' ability to pass laws regulating banks and other corporations. These top advisors, who came from Bank of America and Citigroup, were given multimillion-dollar exit bonuses when they left their employers for government. For example, the US Trade Representative, Michael Froman, was handed $4M from Citigroup as a goodbye gift on his way into his new job.
This is standard operating procedure for America's financial industry, where the largest players all have contracts guaranteeing millions to employees who leave the firm for government jobs.
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In the process of writing his just-released book Young Money, an investigative look at the bankers who've joined Wall Street since the crash of 2008, author Kevin Roose snuck into a meeting of the secretive Kappa Beta Phi club -- an organization of hyper-rich Wall Street bankers.
Roose recorded the captains of of industry, whose shady dealing had crashed the world economy and plunged millions into untold misery, cavorting on stage, making jokes about poor people and Hillary Clinton, dressing up in drag, and singing an anthem about how much bailout money they'd suckered out of the feds, to the tune of Dixie: "In Wall Street land we’ll take our stand, said Morgan and Goldman. But first we better get some loans, so quick, get to the Fed, man."
New York Magazine has a membership roll of the Kappa Beta Phis, which is a who's who of the richest, most powerful men on Wall Street.
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Hugh sez, "What's wrong with Oakland's proposed Domain Awareness Center? This new comic by Susie Cagle lays out the issues."
The Testing Ground for the New Surveillance
Protesters in Kiev's #Euromaidan camp report that yesterday's horrific violence -- which saw at least 25 protesters killed by police -- has continued to escalate. The #IT_Namet tent -- a fixture in Euromaidan, offering nonviolent IT support to protesters and journalists -- was targeted by government security forces who burned it to the ground, beating Alexei Lymarenko, one of the tent's volunteers to a state of near death. A journalist, Veremei Vyacheslav, was killed by police.
Here is a statement released by IT_Namet, asking the international technology community to support their efforts:
“From the very beginning #IT_Namet was built with the aim of a peaceful protest. Members of the IT-community never had weapons, except for tablets and smartphones connected to the Internet. So, the real purpose of security forces actions was not anti-terrorism, as it was claimed, but the destruction of unarmed people. We regret that tonight IT professional Lymarenko Alexei suffered. He was together with Ukrainian journalist Vyacheslav Veremei. Vyacheslav was killed, and Alex, who was beaten nearly to death, has serious traumas of his face. Although # IT_Namet was destroyed tonight, our beliefs and our support for peaceful protest remained unchanged. The “IT spіlnota” (IT community), which united people representing the IT industry, is expanding its activity beyond # IT_Namet. “IT spіlnota” will set out to spot the violence of authorities, to save people’s lives. Now every member of the IT-community can itself make his/her choice on the tools to protect their rights and the rights of people who yesterday were violated by their summary execution. We highly appreciate any actual support of IT-community abroad.”
Tech Protester in Kiev Badly Beaten, Journalist Killed, As ‘IT Tent’ Is Burned By Police [Mike Butcher/Tech Crunch]
EuroMaidan: a Facebook revolution in the streets of Kiev
A letter from the Department of Justice to the Missoula County Attorney's Office in Montana concludes that the state's police and prosecutors ignore and downplay rape complaints, intimidate and blame rape victims, and, most damning, that prosecutors decline to bring cases against accused rapists even when there is an abundance of evidence against them -- including confessions.
Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg says they're lying. The DoJ says that Van Valkenburg's stalled and ignored their investigation, and failed to reply to more than half a dozen requests for meetings and details. The DoJ reports says that one of the rape victims they investigated was only five years old, and the adolescent boy who assaulted her was sentenced to two years of community service; the prosecutor allegedly told the victim that "boys will be boys."
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