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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.

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Ugandan president on the science of why gay sex must be criminalized: 'you can get worms'


Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is trying to please a conservative local faction opposed to homosexuality, but risks alienating Western aid donors. Photo: Reuters, February 22, 2014.

"The mouth is made for eating and kissing, and gay oral sex will give you worms."

President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda today gave a detailed explanation of why he believed homosexuals should be jailed for life.

"These mercenary homosexual prostitutes have to be punished," he said. "Just like those who are recruiting them."

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Yanukovych hunted

Ukraine's new government has issued an arrest warrant for Viktor Yanukovych, the ousted president who fled Kiev after recent unrest. Reportedly holed up in the pro-Russian Crimea, he's being charged with the deaths of dozens of protestors. Rob 6

Venezuela: 15 Years of Solitude

“The democratic Venezuela that so often received exiles from neighboring countries and gave asylum to political refugees fleeing military governments is once again alone.” Maruja Tarre, a Venezuelan journalist, reflects on the violent situation in her home country. Previously: “Snowden and Venezuela: My bizarre experience in the surveillance state,” an essay on Boing Boing by her daughter Isabel Lara, about the experience of being spied upon in Venezuela.

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Venezuela: 'After being promised paradise we are living in a nightmare.'

A first-person account of the current chaos in Venezuela from Guido Núñez-Mujica, a Boing Boing reader and biotech entrepreneur who calls the South American country his homeland.

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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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EU elections: ask candidates to sign digital rights pledge

Kirsten From Edri writes, "European Digital Rights (EDRi) has launched WePromise.EU to put digital civil rights on the agenda of the European election. The platform is based on a two-sided promise: On the one hand, parliamentary candidates will be able to endorse a ten point 'Charter of Digital Rights' that supports an open digital environment. On the other, citizens across Europe can in turn sign the petition and promise to vote for candidates that have endorsed the Charter."

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GOP set up phishing sites to trick Democrats into donating to the NRCC


At least 16 fraudulent sites attributed to the National Republican Congressional Committee have been discovered. These sites, whose domains are the names of Democratic candidates, use large type and photos that make them appear to be fundraisers for those candidates, though the small-print text makes it clear that these are actually sites set up opposing their apparent candidates. The NRCC claims these are all fair game and blame Democrats for not registered their candidates' names as for campaign sites. But when there's a site at AnnKirkpatrick.com, with the words ANN KIRKPATRICK FOR CONGRESS and a DONATE button beneath it, and when that DONATE button sends money to Ann Kirkpatrick's GOP rival, the intent to deceive is pretty clear.

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Guilty plea in Fox News leak case shows why Espionage Act prosecutions are unfair to reporters' sources


Stephen Jin-Woo Kim. Image: Stephen Kim Legal Defense Trust.

Former State Department official Stephen Kim announced today he will plead guilty to leaking classified information to Fox News journalist James Rosen and will serve 13 months in jail.

The case sparked controversy last year when it was revealed the Justice Department named Rosen a “co-conspirator” in court documents for essentially doing his job as a journalist. But a largely ignored ruling in Kim’s case may have far broader impact on how sources interact with journalists in the future.

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Toronto Mayor Rob Ford declares "Bob Marley Day"

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford declared yesterday to be "Bob Marley Day." It's hard to read the tea-leaves on this one: is it a wink-wink reach-out to the stoner vote from a mayor who admitted to smoking crack and who has been accused by his staff in sworn affidavits of both smoking weed at work and offering weed as a ransom in exchange for the return of his lost mobile phone? Is it a charm offensive aimed at Toronto's large Jamaican/West Indian population, many of whom were offended by the mayor's drunken impression of an angry, ranting patois-speaker? Is it a totally non-ironic celebration of a great musician and great political thinker (albeit one whose politics ran totally contrary to the mayor's own)?

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Australian government to dump 3,000,000 cubic meters of dredged sea-bottom on the Great Barrier Reef


In December, the Australian government approved a plan by India's Adani Group to expand a coal port, and now the government's given the go-ahead to dump the 3,000,000 cubic meters of muck that will be dredged for the project onto the struggling Great Barrier Reef. The GBR, which is a World Heritage Site, is already officially classed in "poor" health, and the ocean floor around it will now be smothered with vast amounts of waste, destroying fragile habitats and crippling a key player in the world's ocean ecology. The Australian government says that the reef will not suffer as a result, but independent scientists who investigated the question firmly disagree.

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Marx's prescient predictions for the 21st century


In Rolling Stone, Sean McElwee enumerates five of Marx's predictions for late-stage capitalism that have largely come true in the 21st century, from globalization to the boom in luxury goods (what Marx called "imaginary appetites"):

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UK Parliament considers allowing secret courts to issue orders to seize reporters' notebooks

The Deregulation Bill is coming before the UK House of Commons on Monday, and among its many "red-tape-cutting" provisions is one that would allow the courts to grant the police secret hearings in which they could secure orders to seize reporters' notebooks, hard-drives and other confidential material. No one representing the reporters would be allowed to see the evidence in these "closed material procedures."

How the hell did this happen? Sadly, it was absolutely predictable.

When Parliament passed a law permitting secret trials where people who were adverse to the government in court proceedings would not be allowed to see the government's evidence, nor have their lawyers review it, those of us who sounded the alarm were accused of hysterics. The Libdem leadership whipped their MPs on the issue, ordering them to vote for it. Many of us in the Libdem party left over the issue, and the party grandees patronised us on the way out, saying that we didn't understand that the Libdems had put in place "crucial changes," and that somehow, there were changes that could paper over the naked fact of a law permitting secret trials in Britain.

The Libdems' cowardice over secret trials removed any claim they had to being "the party of liberty." Anyone in the party leadership today who expresses surprise at the expansion of the doctrine of secret courts is either an idiot or a bad liar. When future journalists who report on government wrongdoing have their notebooks seized based on secret evidence, the trigger will be pulled by the government of the day -- but the gun was loaded by the Libdems in 2013.

The other parties were crucial to the creation of secret courts, but neither Labour nor the Tories have ever claimed to be "the party of liberty." No one mistook Labour -- creators of RIPA and architects of the world's most advanced surveillance state -- for a party that believed in freedom. Indeed, the Libdems' victories in the last national elections are in large part thanks to widespread disgust with Labour's authoritarianism. And as for Tories, everyone knew that the Nasty Party would happily gut civil liberties faster than you could say "G4S."

The Libdems promised to be a party that would, at last, stand up for freedom. Instead, they sold out out, and we're going to be paying the price for many years to come. There is a world of difference between objecting to the creation of secret courts and the expansion of secret courts. Now that secret courts are a fact of life in the UK, their expansion will always be on the horizon. As soon as "the party of liberty" endorsed the idea that justice could be served when the government could keep secrets from the people who were seeking redress of its wrongs, they set the stage for a mushrooming, toxic doctrine of state secrecy that overrules foundational democratic principles that have been in place since the overthrow of the Star Chamber in 1641.

It is an everlasting shame to the party, and makes me embarrassed to have endorsed them and raised funds for them. Better that they never won a single seat than to have brought us to this pass in British politics in the name of "liberty."

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Canadian Wifi spying: Harper's secretary spins, lies, and slanders in Parliament

Following on this week's Snowden leak detailing how Canadian spy agency CSEC illegally intercepted free airport Wifi and used it to track Canadians as they moved around the country, Paul Calandra, parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, stood up in Parliament and issued a non-denial saying that the CBC had it all wrong, but not saying in what way.

The most shameful part of this was when Calandra used ad hominem to distract his audience from his government's criminal acts, slandering journalist Glenn Greenwald by calling him a "porn-spy," incorrectly stating that Greenwald had sold the leaked documents to the CBC, and then making a big deal out of the fact that Greenwald's bank account is in Brazil. The last part would be a bit mysterious, except for the fact that Greenwald lives in Brazil.

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Kansas cable lobbyist writes bill outlawing Google Fiber and municipal broadband, gets it introduced in Kansas legislature

When Kansas lawmakers introduced a bill outlawing municipal broadband network, there was no sponsor's name on it: rumor has it that's because it was written by a lobbyist called John Federico, who is president of Kansas Cable Telecommunications Association. The bill masquerades as a pro-competition measure (pro-competition initiatives from the cable industry! Pull the other one), but it effective prohibits measures like the wildly successful Google Fiber project in Kansas City. Given that the big carriers and cable companies have shown no interest in providing fiber or even reasonably priced, reasonably provisioned broadband in most markets, this means that most people in Kansas can kiss any hope of a read broadband life goodbye.

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