US gov may block Chinese nationals from Defcon hacker event

A map of China is seen through a magnifying glass on a computer screen showing binary digits in Singapore in this January 2, 2014 photo illustration. Picture taken January 2, 2014. REUTERS/Edgar Su

The US government may use visa restrictions to ban hackers from China from participating in the 2014 Defcon hacker conference in Las Vegas. The move is part of a larger effort by the US to combat Chinese internet espionage.

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True cost of war visible in our overwhelmed Veterans' Administration

Army Staff Sgt. Sam Shockley, who was injured in Afghanistan when he stepped on a buried bomb, prepares to work on his balance and on walking with prosthetic legs at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda. Matt McClain/The Washington Post


Army Staff Sgt. Sam Shockley, who was injured in Afghanistan when he stepped on a buried bomb, prepares to work on his balance and on walking with prosthetic legs at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda. Matt McClain/The Washington Post

From the sixth in a 6-part Washington Post series on war and disability: "The longest stretch of fighting in American history is producing disability claims at rates that surpass those of any of the country’s previous wars. Nearly half of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are filing for these benefits when they leave the military — a flood of claims that has overwhelmed the VA and generated a backlog of 300,000 cases stuck in processing for more than 125 days. Some have languished for more than a year." The flood of claims peaked last year at 611,000.

US indictment of Chinese hackers is kinda awkward

A map of China is seen through a magnifying glass on a computer screen showing binary digits in Singapore in this January 2, 2014 photo illustration. Picture taken January 2, 2014. REUTERS/Edgar Su.


A map of China is seen through a magnifying glass on a computer screen showing binary digits in Singapore in this January 2, 2014 photo illustration. Picture taken January 2, 2014. REUTERS/Edgar Su.

The Justice Department this week indicted five hackers linked to China’s People’s Liberation Army. The hackers are accused of stealing data from six US companies, and represent a "cyberwar" escalation with China: what was a diplomatic discomfort is now a criminal matter. "But cybersecurity policy-watchers say that the arrival of the indictments in the wake of Snowden’s serial revelations could both lessen the charges’ impact and leave American officials open to parallel criminal allegations from Chinese authorities," writes Wired's Andy Greenberg.

China trains monkey soldiers

140508024945 china pla monkeys horizontal gallery

China's air force has trained macaques to fight off birds nesting at an air base. The risk is that birds could interfere with the planes' engines. According to a CNN translation of a post on the People's Liberation Army Air Force site, "The monkeys are loyal bodyguards who defend the safety of our comrades."

Obama administration proves why we need someone to leak CIA Torture Report

image: Reuters


image: Reuters

It’s now been over a month since the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to force the Obama administration to declassify parts of the Committee’s landmark report on CIA torture, and the public still has not seen a word of the 6,000 page investigation.

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For transgender US military personnel, the rule is still 'don't tell.'

From a Washington Post profile of trans servicemen and women:
More than two years after the repeal of the law that barred gay men and lesbians from serving in the military openly, transgender service members can still be dismissed from the force without question, the result of a decades-old policy that dates back to an era when gender nonconformity was widely seen as a mental illness.... Transgender service members are increasingly undergoing procedures to align their bodies more closely with the genders with which they identify. Medical experts, meanwhile, are urging the Defense Department to rescind a policy they view as discriminatory and outdated, noting that some of America’s closest allies, including Canada, Britain and Australia, have done so seamlessly.

Sonar tools head out in missing jet hunt


US NAVY

Debris sightings have drawn attention to a particular region, but choppy seas and rough waters deny a conclusive discovery. The TPL-25 is a military underwater microphone that could improve our chances of finding the flight data recorder, the "black box" that holds Flight 370's secrets. [Wired]

Fedbizopps: the US government's searchable database of defense-contractor opportunities


Dave from the Electronic Frontier Foundation sez, "The government often makes itself more accessible to businesses than the general public. For Sunshine Week, we compiled this guide to using FedBizOpps to keep an eye on surveillance technology contracts."

Fedbizopps is a weird, revealing window into the world of creepy surveillance, arms, and technology contractors who build and maintain the most oppressive and unethical parts of the apparatus of the US government. Everything from drone-testing of biological and chemical weapons to license plate cameras to weaponized bugs and other malware are there. The EFF post also has links to data-mining tools that help estimate just how much money the private arms dealers extract from the tax-coffers.

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Will US condemn UK for using terrorism laws to suppress journalism?


Journalist Glenn Greenwald after being reunited with his partner, David Miranda, in Rio de Janeiro's International Airport after British authorities used anti-terrorism powers to detain Miranda. RICARDO MORAES/REUTERS

In a disturbing ruling for democracy, a lower court in United Kingdom announced today that the detainment of journalist Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda was lawful under the Terrorism Act, despite the fact that the UK government knew Miranda never was a terrorist. This disgraceful opinion equates acts of journalism with terrorism and puts the UK on par with some of the world’s most repressive regimes. Miranda has vowed to appeal the ruling.

Glenn Greenwald has much more on what this means for press freedom, but I’d like to expand on one particular point:

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London Heathrow customs agent interrogates Edward Snowden's attorney Jesselyn Radack

Jesselyn Radack, an attorney who represents NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, was detained and interrogated while transiting customs at Heathrow airport in London. Kevin Gosztola reports:

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US drones could be killing the wrong people because of metadata errors

The Intercept, the "fearless, adversarial journalism" venture launched by Pierre Omidyar's First Look Media, launched with a big boom today.

Lead story on the site right now, which is https by default (and straining under launch day load at the moment) explores "The NSA’s Secret Role in the U.S. Assassination Program."

The Intercept will initially focus on NSA stories based on documents provided by Edward Snowden, and this is one such story.

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Army won't answer Freedom of Information Request on its SGT STAR AI chatbot

Dave from the Electronic Frontier Foundation writes, "Seven years ago, the U.S. Army launched the SGT STAR program, which uses a virtual recruiter (an AI chatbot) to talk to potential soldiers. We put in a FOIA request for a bunch of documents related to the program, including current and historical input/output scripts. So far, the Army Research and Marketing Group--which is supposed to help with transparency--hasn't responded."

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Nun faces 30 years in prison for exposing security lapses in nuclear weapons program


Mike from Mother Jones sez, "Josh Harkinson writes about the upcoming sentencing of Megan Rice, an elderly nun and Plowshares activist who broke into the Y-12 enriched uranium facility with two fellow aging activists. The incident, which exposed glaring security flaws and was deeply embarrassing to the feds, could get the trio a maximum 30 years in federal prison. Harkinson writes:"

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UK Ministry of Defense can arrest you without warrant for taking pictures, grazing animals near NSA and drone outposts

The UK Ministry of Defense has introduced by-laws in the vicinity of bases in the UK, making it a detainable offense to take pictures or make any image of any person or thing; to graze livestock; or to fail to clean up your dog's turds. The rules also allow the MoD to put you in jail "without warrant" for setting up protest camps on MoD property.

These rules come into effect just as a recent Snowden leak revealed that one of the bases in the UK was used by the NSA and GCHQ to spy on Oxfam, Medecins Sans Frontiers, as well as Angela Merkel. Another one of the affected bases is reportedly used to pilot drones deployed in Yemen.

All in all, the rules effect 150 bases around the UK. The MoD the second-largest landowner in the UK.

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Spooks and American Exceptionalism

Ex-CIA agent Philip Giraldi takes a stab at explaining how his fellow retired spooks -- Democrat and Republican -- can be so comfortable with a president who has given himself the power to order assassinations and a regime where the constitution has been effectively suspended. It's all down to American Exceptionalism: "It's OK when we do it, because we're the good guys." Cory 34