Submit a link Features Reviews Podcasts Video Forums More ▾

Harry Reid on the Koch Brothers' agenda

Senate majority leader Harry Reid gave a hell of a speech in Congress about the agenda of the billionaire Koch brothers, carbon barons who are the prime beneficiaries of Citizens United, the Supreme Court case that ruled that corporate persons had the free speech right to engage in unlimited campaign finance spending.

The Facts About The Koch Brothers (via Hacker News)

US Embassy and Godaddy conspire to censor dissenting Mexican political site


Godaddy has censored a prominent Mexican political site that was critical of the government and a proposed law to suppress public protests. Godaddy says that it suspended 1dmx.org after a request from a "Special Agent Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Embassy, Mexico City." A lawyer for the site believes that the someone in the Mexican government asked the US embassy to arrange for the censorship, and is suing the Mexican government to discover the identity of the official who made the request.

Leaving aside the Mexican government corruption implied by this action, Americans should be outraged about the participation of the US Embassy in the suppression of political dissent. And, as always, Godaddy customers should be on notice that Godaddy is pretty much the worst domain registrar/hosting company in the world, with a long history of meekly knuckling under to absurd, legally dubious censorship claims from random law-enforcement and government agencies, and never, ever going to bat for its customers (I prefer Hover, one of Godaddy's major competitors).

Read the rest

CIA spied on Senate committee writing damning torture report and Obama knew about it

The CIA's Inspector General has asked the Justice Department to consider criminally charging CIA agents who spied on a senate committee that was engaged in writing a report that was highly critical of the CIA's use of torture. Senator Mark Udall, who sits on a CIA oversight committee and whose staff was spied on by the CIA alleges that the CIA surveilled overseeing senators and their staff with Obama's knowledge and consent.

In a recent hearing, Senator Ron Wyden asked the CIA director repeatedly whether the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, America's major anti-hacking statute, applied to the CIA, and whether the CIA spied domestically. CIA director John Brennan replied "yes" and "no," respectively. If Udall's allegations are correct, this means that Brennan lied to Congress (in the second instance) and committed a felony (in the first instance).

The report that caused some CIA agents to spy on their bosses was about how the CIA was wasting time, getting nowhere and doing something illegal and cruel when it kidnapped terror suspects and tortured the shit out of them.

Read the rest

Obama whirls the copyright lobbyist/government official revolving door

The Obama administration has a new negotiator in its effort to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a secretly negotiated treaty that includes broad powers to censor and surveil the Internet: Robert Holleyman, one of the chief SOPA lobbyists. Holleyman just retired from serving as head of the Business Software Alliance. His successor is Victoria Espinel, who just quit the Obama administration, where she served as "IP Czar." Obama promised to shut down the revolving door between lobbyists and government, but it's spinning quicker than ever. Cory 54

Barrett Brown legal motion: linking is protected by the First Amendment

Kevin writes, "A motion just filed by the defense in Barrett Brown's case makes the argument that merely linking to information which is already publicly available should be protected by the First Amendment. The government has charged Brown with multiple counts of fraud and identity theft for copy and pasting a link from one chat-room to another. The URL pointed to data that was obtained during the late-2011 hack of Stratfor and the unextracted file happened to contain some credit card numbers."

Read the rest

David Cameron's porn-filter advisor arrested for possession of images of sexual abuse of children


Patrick Rock, a Thatcherite who served as special advisor to UK Prime Minister David Cameron and played an influential role in the Prime Minister's national Internet censorship plan, has been arrested for possession of images depicting the sexual abuse of children. The National Crime Agency is conducting forensic analysis of the computer networks at the Prime Minister's office/residence, Number 10 Downing Street.

Read the rest

Full NHS hospital records uploaded to Google servers, "infinitely worse" story to come

PA Consulting, a management consulting firm, obtained the entire English and Welsh hospital episode statistics database and uploaded it to Google's Bigquery service. The stats filled 27 DVDs and took "a couple of weeks" to transfer to Google's service, which is hosted in non-EU data centres. This is spectacularly illegal. The NHS dataset includes each patient's NHS number, post code, address, date of birth and gender, as well as all their inpatient, outpatient and emergency hospital records. Google's Bigquery service allows for full data-set sharing with one click.

The news of the breach comes after the collapse of a scheme under which the NHS would sell patient records to pharma companies, insurers and others (there was no easy way to opt out of the scheme, until members of the public created the independent Fax Your GP service).

According to researcher and epidemiologist Ben Goldacre, this story is just the beginning: there's an "infinitely worse" story that is coming shortly.

Read the rest

US Trade Rep can't figure out if Trans-Pacific Partnership will protect the environment


The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a secretly negotiated trade agreement let by the USA. Though the text is secret, enough drafts have leaked to make it clear that one of its goals is to ensure that foreign corporations can sue governments over laws that impact their profits, especially when it comes to the environment.

The US Trade Representative and the Obama administration have asked Congress to "fast track" the treaty, passing it without any debate or revisions. Naturally, Congress wants to know what the treaty is likely to say before they agree to this.

So in a hearing on Jan 28, Rep Mark Pocan (D-WI) asked Michael Froman -- the US Trade Rep running the TPP show -- about the environmental standards in TPP. Froman listed four areas in TPP that were "absolutely non-negotiable from a US standpoint," including "tough new environmental standards."

When the meeting ended, Pocan asked "So does that mean that if we give you fast track, you won't send us a deal that doesn't have that stuff in it?' At which point, we learned that the US Trade Rep uses a highly specialized meaning for the phrase "absolutely non-negotiable," meaning "totally up for grabs," because he immediately said, "I didn't say that."

Read the rest

Report from Trustycon: like RSA, but without the corruption


Seth Rosenblatt reports from Trustycon, the conference formed as a protest against, and alternative to the RSA security conference. RSA's event is the flagship event in the security industry, but the news that RSA had accepted $10M from the NSA to sabotage its own products so that spies could break into the systems of RSA customers led high profile speakers like Mikko Hypponen to cancel their appearances at the event.

Trustycon sold out, raised $20,000 for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and, most importantly, got key members of the security industry to come to grips with the question of improving network security in an age when spy agencies are spending hundreds of millions of dollars every year to undermine it.

Read the rest

King no longer claims to own "candy," still claims it owns "saga"

King Games, makers of Candy Crush, have backed down from their insane campaign to trademark the use of "Candy" in connection with games, a gambit that brought them ridicule and opprobrium (for example, a game jam where all the games made use of "candy"), not least because the company bullied competitors who had created candy-themed games years before Candy Crush came to market. However, the company still asserts a trademark over the use of the word "saga" in connection with games, and is trying to shut down The Banner Saga. Cory 21

GCHQ spied on millions of Yahoo video chats, harvested sexual images of chatters, compared itself to "Tom Cruise in Minority Report"



A stunning new Snowden leak reveals that the UK spy agency GCHQ harvested images and text from millions of Yahoo video chats, including chats in which one or both of the participants was British or American. Between 3 and 11 percent of the chats they intercepted were sexual in nature, and revealing images of thousands of people were captured and displayed to spies. The programme, called OPTIC NERVE, focused on people whose usernames were similar to those of suspects, and ran from at least 2008 until at least 2010. The leak reveals that GCHQ intended to expand the programme to Xbox 360 Kinect cameras and "fairly normal webcam traffic." The programme was part of a facial recognition research effort that GCHQ compared to "Tom Cruise in Minority Report." While the documents do not detail efforts as widescale as those against Yahoo users, one presentation discusses with interest the potential and capabilities of the Xbox 360's Kinect camera, saying it generated "fairly normal webcam traffic" and was being evaluated as part of a wider program. Beyond webcams and consoles, GCHQ and the NSA looked at building more detailed and accurate facial recognition tools, such as iris recognition cameras – "think Tom Cruise in Minority Report", one presentation noted.

Read the rest

America's copyright threat letters turn one year old, but no one will say how they're doing

The Copyright Alert System -- a "voluntary" system of disconnection threats sent to alleged file-sharers, created by entertainment companies and the large US ISPs -- has just celebrated its first birthday, having spent $2 million in order to send out 625,000 threats to people it believed to be infringers. How's that working out for them?

No one knows. The Center for Copyright Information -- which made a lot of noise about its war on piracy when it was ramping up -- has been totally silent for the past twelve months, not issuing a single press release (nor have its participating entities said anything about it in that time).

I guess there are two possibilities: one is that this was an amazing success, but they're too modest to boast.

The other one is that, like every other variant on this, as practiced in New Zealand, the UK, and France, it is an expensive boondoggle that wasted millions, alienated hundreds of thousands, and did nothing to break the copyright logjam that has been sowing chaos on the Internet since the 1990s.

This program was the brainchild of US copyright czar Victoria Espinel and the entertainment bigs, and was a predictable disaster from the outset. No doubt there will be some grossly flawed study in the near future to demonstrate that they've finally managed to invent perpetual motion square the circle make Pi equal 3.1 threaten Internet users into doing their bidding.

Read the rest

GCHQ's dirty-tricking psyops groups: infiltrating, disrupting and discrediting political and protest groups


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.

Read the rest

Surveillance baron busted by FBI for election-finance fraud


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.

Read the rest

Whistleblower: NSA secretly continues Merkel surveillance by bugging other German officials


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:

Read the rest