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NSA Primary Sources: a catalog of leaked NSA files


The Electronic Frontier Foundation has rounded up an interactive, filterable chart of leaked NSA docs, putting all the material leaked through many media sources and over several months into one place. As EFF's staff explain:

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Data visualization shows US isolation in pushing for brutal Trans-Pacific Partnership


Gabriel Michael, a PhD candidate at George Washington University, subjected the IP Chapter of the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership, leaked by Wikileaks last week to statistical analysis. The leaked draft has extensive footnotes indicating each country's negotiating positions. By analyzing the frequency with which the US appears as the sole objector to other nations' positions, and when the US is the sole proponent of clauses to which other nations object, Michael was able to show that TPP really is an American-run show pushing an American agenda, not a multilateral trade deal being negotiated to everyone's mutual benefit. Though Canada is also one of the main belligerents, with even more unilateral positions than the USA.

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NSA FOIA requests up 988%

No surprise that the NSA is facing its largest-ever increase in Freedom of Information Act requests: up 988 percent. Don't worry, though: the agency has a strategy for coping with the floodtide of queries about warrantless spying: it just denies all of them. Cory 3

City of Chicago and public-spirited hackers unveil the Chicago City Code


Rogue archivist Carl Malamud writes, "Something pretty rare happened last week. City officials of Chicago got together with hackers from around the country to unveil a vastly better new online version of the Chicago City Code. Public.Resource.Org worked with the City to make bulk data available, the folks at the OpenGov Foundation turned that into the popular States Decoded format that folks are using in DC, Virginia, San Francisco, and other locations around the country. The code, the data, and the formats are all open source and we were there to celebrate the unveiling and encourage volunteers in Chicago to take it even further."

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UK Tories send "WebCameron" YouTube channel down the memory hole, too

Yesterday, we learned that the UK Conservative party had purged its website of 10 years' archives of David Cameron speeches and set a robots.txt file in place that triggered purges on Google and Archive.org's caches. Today, the Guardian reports that the party has removed the videos from the "WebCameron" YouTube channel, that were originally billed as "behind-the-scenes" access to Cameron, and marketed as part of his campaign for political transparency. The party has declined to comment on the deletions.

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TPP's worst evil: making all future copyright reform impossible

In an excellent editorial, Michael Masnick explains what's so nefarious about the Trans-Pacific Partnership -- the secretive trade treaty whose IP chapter leaked yesterday. As Masnick explains, the worst aspect of this treaty is that it locks in all of our present, overreaching copyright rules, effectively making it impossible for Congress and the Copyright Office to continue their present work on modernizing copyright for the digital age, and ensuring that they can never do so in future:

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Punk Freedom of Information Access ninja learns how to beat FBI obfuscation, so they shut him out


Mike sez, "In Mother Jones, Will Potter profiles Ryan Shapiro, a punk rocker-turned-PhD student who wanted to study how the FBI monitors animal-rights activists. Through trial and error, and a lot of digging, he devised a perfectly legal, highly effective strategy to unearth sensitive documents from the bureau's 'byzantine' filing system.

In short, he got too smart for the feds, so they've cut him off. Now Shapiro has sued the FBI to release some 350,000 documents he's requested under FOIA. If the court buys the FBI's argument here, open-government groups say it could make it harder for scholars and journalists to keep tabs on federal agencies. Potter explains:"

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Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's less-censored police file: criminality, abuse, and intoxication


Photo: Reuters

Toronto police have released a "less censored" version of their report on Mayor Rob "Laughable Bumblefuck" Ford, and Toronto Star reporter (@jpags) has been tweeting the highlights of the (unproven) police allegations as she goes. I've embedded some of the most significant ones below. A lot of material deals with the mayor's public intoxication and his appearances at work-related events (and at City Hall) where he was too intoxicated to function. On one occasion, he is accused of bringing two prostitutes to city hall. He is said to have been high on oxycontin on another occasion.

Another major theme is the mayor's abuse of his employees: getting them to buy booze for him, driving them at high speeds while intoxicated (one staffer saw him drink an entire pint of vodka before getting behind the wheel), verbally abusing them, getting them to run personal errands for him, calling them in tears, drunk and distraught. He made one staffer write a letter of support for bagman Andrew Lisi, charged with uttering death threats, which the mayor submitted.

Then there's the shadowy, underworldy-type things. His bagman, Sandro Lisi (charged with uttering death threats, selling drugs, and extortion) is said to have offered drugs to unknown persons for the return of the mayor's stolen phone. And when the mayor allegedly snorted cocaine with an unknown woman at the Biermarkt restaurant, a staffer demanded that the waitress give her name and told her "Don't tell anyone about what you saw here tonight."

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Wikileaks publishes the "Internet Chapter" of the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement (SOPA's back)

Wikileaks has published the Internet Chapter of the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership, a global trade-deal negotiated between corporate leaders and government reps without any democratic oversight (the US Trade Rep wouldn't share TPP drafts with Congress, and now it is headed for fast-tracking into law). TorrentFreak has parsed out the text, and compares it to SOPA, the brutal US copyright law that collapsed in the face of massive public protest. The treaty is reportedly at a "negotiated stalemate" thanks to the US Trade Rep, who has refused to bend on treaty provisions that other nations objected to.

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Irish Freedom of Information amendment will send FOI fees to infinity

Update: Irish TD Stephen Donnelly namechecked this post in the Irish Parliament. Go, Stephen!

Ireland leads the EU in Freedom of Information fees, and they're the only EU nation that charges anything for an introductory query. Now they're raising those fees, potentially to infinity, through a law that charges you €15 per "unit" of government work necessary to answer your query. "Unit" isn't defined (government agencies get to make it up as they go along) and you have no way of predicting in advance how many units of work will go into your query.

This is actually a worsening of the already terrible FOI bill, which allowed Irish bureaucrats to determine reasonableness of queries based on how hard they'd be to answer if concerned records kept on paper -- even if those records were, actually, in a database that could be queried with a few keypresses.

Irish politicians have taken extraordinary measures to protect the state from the people finding out what it's up to. This is alarming on its face, and would be bad news even if Ireland was a paragon of good governance, and not a nation in economic meltdown that is subjecting its people to brutal austerity after being one of the centres of a corrupt investment bubble.

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Muzzling Canadian scientists: Comparing US and Canadian routine scientific secrecy


Canada's Conservative government has become notorious for muzzling government scientists, requiring them to speak through political minders (often callow twentysomethings with no science background who received government jobs in exchange for their work on election campaigns). Government scientists are not allowed to speak to the press alone no matter how trivial the subject, and the default position when reporters seek interviews is to turn them down. (Much of Canada's state-funded science pertains to the climate and the environment; Canada's Tories were elected with strong backing from the dirty tar sands and other polluting industries)

A group of University of British Columbia students decided to measure just how extraordinarily secretive science has become in Stephen Harper's Canada. Dave Ng writes:

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Business-logic of cooperating with the NSA has changed

In an Atlantic editorial, Bruce Schneier discusses the post-Snowden business-climate. The NSA relied on Internet giants to do surveillance for them (surveillance being a major part of the Big Data business model), and pre-Snowden, there was no real downside to cooperating with illegal NSA spying requests -- in some cases, spooks would shower your company with money if it went along with the gag. Post-Snowden, all surveillance cooperation should be presumed to be destined to be made public, and that's changed the corporate calculus.

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NYT endorses brutal, secret, Internet-destroying corporatist TPP trade-deal; write to your lawmaker to fight it

The New York Times has endorsed the Trans-Pacific Partnership; a trade deal negotiated in utmost secrecy, without public participation, whose text is still not public. From leaks, we know that TPP wasn't just anti-democratic in its process -- it also contains numerous anti-democratic provisions that allow private offshore companies to overturn domestic law, especially laws that allow for free speech and privacy online. TPP is slated for fast-tracking through Congress, minimizing any scrutiny of a deal negotiated behind closed doors before it is turned into law. From what we've seen of TPP, it recapitulates all the worst elements of ACTA and then some. The Electronic Frontier Foundation needs you to write to your lawmaker demanding full and public debate on TPP.

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Apple hides a Patriot-Act-busting "warrant canary" in its transparency report


"A green budgie sitting on a human finger." Thomas Skjaeveland/Shutterstock.

The Patriot Act provides for secret warrants to spy on ISPs' customers. These "Section 215" warrants come with gag orders that mean that the company can't disclose their existence. This lack of transparency is ripe for abuse and is bad for ISPs' business. Apple is fighting back with a "warrant canary": they've published a transparency report (PDF) that states "Apple has never received an order under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. We would expect to challenge an order if served on us." If they are served with a 215 order in future, their next transparency report will drop this language, omitting any mention of 215, and keen-eyed watchers will know that they've been subjected to a secret order. I proposed a more ambitious version of this in September, though I was hardly the first person to suggest it. Good for Apple for using it.

ANSI starts to publish standards that have been made into law, in insanely crappy form

Rogue archivist Carl Malamud has been fighting to publish the building and safety codes that have been incorporated into the law, but which you have to pay to see. He's published thousands and thousands of pages' worth of safety codes, and is being sued by some of the standards bodies. Now, he writes: "An announcement from Joe Bhatia, the leader of the American National Standards Institute, says 'A standard that has been incorporated by reference does have the force of law, and it should be available.'"

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