Boing Boing 

NSA dumps incriminating documents on Christmas Eve


At 1:30pm on Christmas Eve, the NSA dumped a huge cache of documents on its website in response to a long-fought ACLU Freedom of Information Act request, including documents that reveal criminal wrongdoing.

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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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Feds given deadline to subpoena NYT reporter over CIA leak

Reporter James Risen of the New York Times and author of the book, "State of War" speaks during a taping of "Meet the Press" at NBC studios January 8, 2006 in Washington, DC.  Image: NBC


Reporter James Risen of the New York Times and author of the book, "State of War" speaks during a taping of "Meet the Press" at NBC studios January 8, 2006 in Washington, DC. Image: NBC

Now is not exactly the best time for Obama's Justice Department to be subpoenaing one of the nation's best journalists for reporting on a spectacularly botched CIA operation, but that's the decision Attorney General Eric Holder faces this week.

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Corporate sovereignty: already costing the EU billions


"Corporate sovereignty" -- in which foreign companies get to sue the government to penalize it for passing environmental and labor laws that undercut profits -- is the one of the most controversial elements of the TAFTA/TTIP trade agreement the EU is negotiating with the US.

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FBI seizes LA school district's Ipad purchasing docs


It's not clear what they're investigating, but the DoJ subpoenaed everything related to the $70M program to give Ipads to all 650K kids in the district.

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Sweden awards Snowden the "Right Livelihood" award


The parliament gave him several standing ovations as he accepted by video-link from Moscow.

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Cheap dates: the pitiful sums that Big Cable used to buy off the politicians who oversee it


Even when you factor in dark money, Super PACs and the rest of it, politicians are willing to sell out the nervous system of the 21st century to the worst companies in America for less than $100K.

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DOJ helps local cops get around state limits on civil forfeiture


Many states have passed laws limiting how much of your stuff the police can steal when they accuse you of a crime, but the Department of Justice has the solution for local cops: they will "adopt" a local seizure, making it federal and exempting it from state-level corruption controls.

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WATCH It's Our Future: why the TPP should matter to you

Meghan from Openmedia.ca sez, "The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a massive international trade agreement that includes 12 countries and covers almost 40% of global GDP. It's big. If you live in the U.S, Canada, Australia, Chile, or New Zealand -- it affects you. But it also affects you if you don't live in one of the 12 countries negotiating the TPP - especially on the issue of Digital Rights."

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FBI secretly seeking legal power to hack any computer, anywhere


The Bureau is seeking a rule-change from the Administrative Office of the US Courts that would give it the power to distribute malware, hack, and trick any computer, anywhere in the world, in the course of investigations; it's the biggest expansion of FBI spying power in its history and they're hoping to grab it without an act of Congress or any public scrutiny or debate.

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Petition to Indian gov't for open publication of standards


Rogue archivist Carl Malamud sez, "Namaste! Public.Resource.Org respectfully submitted a Petition to the Honorable Ministry of the Government India charged with oversight over the Bureau of Indian Standards. In addition to hardcopy, we have placed the petition on our site and on the Internet Archive."

The purpose of the petition is to ask that all Indian Standards, government documents of great import and value, be freely made available so that the youth may be educated, the professions may be practiced, and the public safety protected. This is in reference to the almost 19,000 Indian Standards that Public Resource has posted on our site.

We are very pleased that the petition includes signed affidavits from many prominent figures, including Sushant Sinha (who developed as a gift to his country the beautiful Indian Kanoon legal search service), Swaraj Paul Barooah (who is an eminent legal expert and runs the Spicy IP blog). They are joined by eminent engineers, as well as Sri Sam Pitroda (former India Chief Technology Officer and Cabinet Minister) and Dr. Vinton G. Cerf (an Internet engineer).

Code Swaraj! We are hopeful the Hon'ble Ministry will consider our points.

Petition to the Honorable Ministry

(Thanks, Carl)

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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Librarians on the vanguard of the anti-surveillance movement

The American Library Association's code of ethics demands that library professionals "protect each library user's right to privacy and confidentiality" and they've been taking that duty seriously since the first days of the Patriot Act.

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NSA agents may have infiltrated the global communications industry


Leaked Snowden documents published by Laura Poitras and Peter Maass in The Intercept describe the NSA's SENTRY EAGLE program describe six programs aimed at weakening the capacity of people all over the world to communicate in private.

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Twitter sues U.S. Justice Department for right to reveal government surveillance requests

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In a blog post titled “Taking the fight for #transparency to court,” Twitter today announced it is suing the Department of Justice for the right to report “the actual scope of surveillance of Twitter users by the U.S. government.”

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Hong Kong Transparency Database: tracking HK gov't requests to ISPs

The data were extracted from the excellent Hong Kong Transparency Report as well as transparency reports from various online service providers' global transparency reports from 2010 onward-- its shows a steep increase in surveillance requests, and hints that the HK government's stats omit a large slice of its activities.

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Feds wanted to fine Yahoo $250K/day for fighting PRISM


We've known since the start that Yahoo fought the NSA's Prism surveillance program tooth-and-nail; but as unsealed court docs show, the Feds made the process into a harrowing ordeal, and sweet-talked gullible judges into dropping the hammer on Y.

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More than 99% of FCC commenters support Net Neutrality

Nicko from the Sunlight Foundation writes, "The Sunlight Foundation recently analyzed the more than 800,000 comments to the Federal Communications Commission about its net neutrality proposal; here are some of the key findings: We estimate that less than 1 percent of comments were clearly opposed to net neutrality."

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As Office of US Courts withdraws records for five top benches, can we make them open?


Rogue archivist Carl Malamud writes, "The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has announced that they are removing the archives for 5 important courts from their infamous PACER system. PACER is the ten-cent-per-page access to U.S. District and Appeals courts dockets and opinions."

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City of London Police reject FOIA request for their dealings with copyright lobbyists

They say they have so much correspondence with the industry, and are apparently so incompetent at searching their own records, that they can't fulfil the request without being unduly burdened, and thus they are not required to comply with the Freedom of Information request.

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#Ferguson cops claim they have no records of arrests of journalists


See Runa Sanvik's feature on this
Phil writes, "Runa Sandvik of Freedom of the Press Foundation is systematically documenting the arrests of journalists in Ferguson, Missouri made during protests of the August 9 officer-committed shooting death of Michael Brown."

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Leaked manual shows how US agencies put millions on "suspected terrorist" list


The 166 page "March 2013 Watchlisting Guidance" was jointly authored by 19 agencies, and has been released in full on The Intercept.

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Twitterbot catches Russian State Media anonymously editing MH17 Wikipedia entry

A bot that monitors Wikipedia for edits from Russian government IPs recorded a change to the MH17 entry, assigning blame to "Ukrainian soldiers" (a previous edit had blamed it on "terrorists of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic with Buk system missiles, which the terrorists received from the Russian Federation").

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UK government "dries out" its "water damaged" CIA torture files


The Foreign Office said it couldn't provide its files on secret CIA rendition of terrorism suspects for torture, because those files (and only those files) were "water-damaged."

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Twitterbots that tweet anonymous Wikipedia edits from Parliament, Congress

The @parliamentedits account tweets anonymous edits to Wikipedia made from the UK parliament's IP block, and thanks to an open codebase, it's being adapted to watch other legislatures, including the US Congress.

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Anonymous edits to Norwegian Wikipedia from Norwegian government IPs


Here's Jari Bakken's collection of edits made to Norwegian Wikipedia from the IP range assigned to the Norwegian parliament and government offices.

Imagine how great it would be if all these Norwegian bureaucrats, wonks, officials and others declared their interest and made their efforts public, working with Norwegian wikipedians to improve the quality of the encyclopedia in the open.

Anonymous Wikipedia edits from the Norwegian parliament and government offices [Jari Bakken] (via Hacker News)

SWAT teams claim to be private mercenaries, immune to open records laws


The ACLU reports [PDF] that when it made Freedom of Information requests for Massachusetts SWAT team records, the SWATs claimed that because they were organized as "law enforcement councils" (jointly owned by many police departments, with additional federal funding) that they were not government agencies at all, but rather private corporations, and not subject to open records laws.

SWATs are the white-hot center of the increasingly brutal and militarized response of US police forces, which have outfitted themselves with ex-Afghanistan/Iraq military materiel and have deployed it in an escalating violent series of attacks, largely as part of the war on drugs. As Radley Balko writes in the Washington Post, the SWATs' claim to be private companies doesn't pass the giggle test: they are funded by the government, pay government employees, and do the government's business.

The argument boils down to this: we are not the police, we are private mercenaries armed with automatic weapons and military-grade vehicles and equipment, and when we attack and kill in the streets of American cities, we do so as private soldiers who happen to be funded by the police departments' budgets.

The ACLU is suing the North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council to challenge this ruse, but even if they win, this should be setting off alarm bells for anyone who believes in good government and responsible policing. The cornerstone of democratic legitimacy is a duty to the public, with all the transparency and respect that implies. When police forces up and down the state structure themselves to create and exploit a loophole that lets them obscure the details of their most violent, most spectacular screw-ups -- which generally result in gruesome injuries and deaths to innocent members of the public -- there is no way they can claim to be acting in the public interest.

The fact that the city governments that oversee these departments and the federal agencies that fund the LECs have been complicit in this suggests that this isn't a matter of police overreach, but rather is a policy that goes literally all the way to the top of the policing regulatory structure in America.

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Lurking inside Obama's secret drone law: another secret drone law


Remember the secret memo explaining the legal justification for assassinating Americans with drones that the ACLU forced the Obama administration to release? Turns out that that memo relies on another secret memo that the Obama administration is also relying on. Obama is a no-fooling Constitutional scholar; you'd think that he'd be wise to the idea that secret law is not law at all.

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How accounting forced transparency on the aristocracy and changed the world


In the 16th century, celebrated Dutch painters did a brisk trade in heroic portraits of accountants and their ledgers. That's because accounting transformed the lowlands, literally bringing accountability to the aristocracy by forcing them to keep track of, and report on, their wealth. As Jacob Soll (author of The Reckoning: Financial Accountability and the Rise and Fall of Nations) writes in the Boston Globe, from the 14th century invention of double-entry bookkeeping until the 19th century -- when accounting became a separate profession instead of something that every educated person was expected to practice -- accountancy upended the social order, elevating financial transparency to a primary virtue.

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Greenhouse: browser plugin that automatically annotates politicians' names with their funders

Greenhouse is a browser plugin created by Nicholas Rubin, a 16-year-old programmer. It seeks out the names of elected US officials on any web-page you load in your browser and adds a pop-up link to their names listing the major donors to their campaigns. It uses 2012 election-cycle data drawn from Opensecrets's repository.

I've long suggested something like this as a way of improving political coverage. Indeed, you could imagine it going both ways -- any time the name of a company or individual who had made some big campaign contributions shows up in a webpage, you get a list of their political beneficiaries. Ideally, this would be an open framework to which data from any political race could be added.

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