Obama’s Justice Department secretly helped kill FOIA transparency bill

U.S. President Barack Obama looks toward Attorney General Eric Holder. Justice Department investigators have engaged in aggressive tactics against journalists in recent months. [Reuters]


U.S. President Barack Obama looks toward Attorney General Eric Holder. Justice Department investigators have engaged in aggressive tactics against journalists in recent months. [Reuters]

We’ve long known the Justice Department’s stance on transparency has been hypocritical and disingenuous. But they’ve really outdone themselves this time.

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Obama tells the FCC to class the Internet (including mobile!) as a "utility"

It's a surprise move in the net neutrality debate, coming on the heels of a sellout proposal from cable-lobbyist-turned-cable-regulator Chairman Tom Wheeler that would have let the carriers continue to screw Americans out of access to the services they want to use if those services hadn't paid large-enough bribes for "premium carriage."

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Dissecting the arguments of liberal apologists for Obama's surveillance and secret war

Democratic party partisans like Sean Wilentz, George Packer and Michael Kinsley spent the Bush years condemning the tactics they now defend under Obama -- apart from sheer intellectual dishonesty, how can this be explained?

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Obama administration has secured 526 months of jail time for leakers


Up until Obama's "most transparent administration", and throughout the entire history of the USA, national security leakers had received a total of 24 months of jail time. There are many more cases pending.

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Eric Holder: creator of the "Too Big to Jail" bankster


While you contemplate Eric Holder's track record of surveilling, intimidating and indicting journalists, remember that he also invented the Too Big to Jail doctrine, the failed idea that the answer to breathtaking criminal activity by gigantic banks is big fines, not criminal prosecutions.

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Anti-NSA messages projected on US embassy in Berlin

Oliver Bienkowski, a guerrilla "light-graffiti" artist, splashed a projection of a caricature of Barack Obama's face on the side of the US embassy in Berlin, along with the phrase, "NSA IN DA HOUSE."

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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.

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The second-best headline of all time

With "Obama's pot dealer beaten to death for farting in gay lover's face", I think The Daily Mail may reasonably claim to have created the second-best newspaper headline in human history.

Scoring Obama's NSA reforms (spoiler: it's not good)


Earlier this week, EFF published a scorecard for rating Obama's NSA reforms. Now that the reforms have been announced, it's time to measure them up. They don't fare well, I'm afraid. Here's a roundup of commentary from privacy leaders around the world, expressing disappointment (if not surprise) at Obama's half-hearted reining in of the surveillance state.

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Scorecard for Obama's NSA reforms


Tomorrow, Obama will announce his long-awaited reforms to the NSA. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has produced a score-card (with detailed commentary) describing the minimum set of reforms that would be compatible with the rule of law and a free and fair democracy. It makes a handy crib-sheet to use while you're watching the press-conference -- you can print out one for each of your friends and discuss it around the TV during your NSA press-conference party:

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Obama’s secret attempt to ban cellphone unlocking, while claiming to support it

Derek Khanna of Slate reports that the White House is pushing to keep cellphone unlocking illegal, and making the legal act of jailbreaking a crime punishable by imprisonment.

Last week, WikiLeaks made public a portion of a treaty that the White House has been secretly negotiating with other nations and 600 special interest lobbyists. The draft of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Treaty, which is on intellectual property, shows that HealthCare.gov isn’t the only tech topic on which the Obama administration has some serious explaining to do.

The leaked treaty draft shows that while the White House was championing restoring free market principles to phones, the U.S. proposed that the TPP lock in the process that allowed the Librarian of Congress to rule this technology as illegal through international law. This would make many potential reforms impossible. But the TPP draft doesn’t stop there. It would ban numerous other technologies that have beneficial uses. In particular, the legislation would ensure that jailbreaking -- which is installing a different operating system on your phone, tablet, or e-reader—is illegal.

This treaty has long been shrouded in unprecedented secrecy. Congressional staff, press and general public weren’t allowed to read it; in many cases, even members of Congress were kept in the dark. Meanwhile, special interests were given full access. Now we know why: The White House didn’t want the public to know what was being negotiated in their name.

Obama’s Secret Attempt to Ban Cellphone Unlocking, While Claiming to Support It

Robot-voice Obama explains the difference between his administration and Bush's

Here's an Xtranormal Obama explaining the difference between his NSA spying and Bush's NSA spying:

Another important difference between my administration and the Bush administration is that when the Bush administration secretly spied on you, the Bush administration could not point to a single judge willing to say their program was legal. We, on the other hand, can point to such a judge. I'm not going to tell you who this judge is, or why he or she thinks our program is legal. If I did that, it would, obviously be harder for me to convince you that the program is legal. Instead, I'm just going to tell you that we secretly found one judge who was willingly to secretly say that it was legal for us to collect all of your data....

President Obama Address NSA Surveillance Concerns (via Techdirt)

How realistic are the fears of hawkish presidents?

Last night at dinner with a couple of friends who are civil liberties lawyers, I asked why they thought Obama had changed his tune on surveillance; from campaigning for limited, closely overseen, transparent surveillance regimes to establishing a secretive, overarching, totalizing surveillance system that necessitates prosecuting more whistleblowers than all the other presidents in American history, combined.

They suggested that Obama might have taken office and been immediately assailed by surveillance-happy spooks who assured him that the world was full of existential terrors and that if he did anything to get in their way of Total Information Awareness, he would be drummed out of office in ignominy as the president who let America get attacked. Like LBJ, one friend said -- never wanted to ramp up the Vietnam war, but didn't want to turn his administration into the administration that lost a war.

Which got me to thinking: has there ever been a US president who cost his party the next election (or lost office) by being insufficiently hawkish about some war? By having an attack on his watch? GWB would probably have been an embarrassing one-termer but for Osama bin Laden (whom GWB never caught, incidentally, and this never seemed to be taken for weakness in his campaigns and in the campaigns of his would-be successors).

I'm no scholar of US history, but some of you are. Is it realistic to think that a president who isn't a big enough hawk will cost his party the next election, or be remembered in history for leaving America vulnerable to the Kaiser/Osama/the Spanish Armada/General Santa Ana/whatever?

Obama promised to end warrantless wiretaps in 2008

"Under an Obama presidency, Americans will be able to leave behind the era of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and "wiretaps without warrants," he said. (He was referring to the lingering legal fallout over reports that the National Security Agency scooped up Americans' phone and Internet activities without court orders, ostensibly to monitor terrorist plots, in the years after the September 11 attacks.)" — Anne Broache at CNN.

Obama and DARPA want to map the human brain like we've mapped the human genome

Here are a couple different perspectives on the big news out of Washington this afternoon — an ambitious Obama Administration proposal to appropriate $100 million to begin a project to "map the brain". What's that mean? We have a lot of good data on single neurons. We have a lot of good data on what happens in the brain, as a whole, during certain tasks. What we don't really understand is how those individual neurons work together as networks or what activity in the brain really means on the level of causality and processing. That's what this project would be aimed at understanding. At LiveScience, Stephanie Pappas puts the project into scientific (and financial) context. At Nature News, Meredith Wadman writes about why some scientists are wary of this plan.