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NSA's talking points for friends and family -- rebutted


Firedoglake obtained a copy of a two-page memo [PDF] of talking points for family and friends that the NSA sent to employees on November 22, so that spooks could rebut skeptical relatives around the Thanksgiving table. It's full of misleading statistics and outright falsehoods. Thankfully, Firedoglake's Kevin Gosztola took the time to comprehensively rebut every point in the document, with extensive links to primary sources, Congressional testimony, and other significant facts.

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How the TPP will gut environmental protection


I've posted a bunch about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a shadowy, secretive trade deal that will have a disastrous effect on the Internet, privacy and free speech, thanks to the brutal copyright provisions the US Trade Rep has crammed into it. But that's not the whole story.

Michael sez, "You might be interested to know the TPP looks terrible for environmental protection too, due to a proposed mechanism called 'investor-state arbitration'. Basically this'd allow investors to sue countries for passing legislation detrimental to the financial interests of those investors. Yep, think environmental protections, workers' rights laws and any other kind of public protection that might reduce a profit margin.

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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 engaged in illegal mass-spying on Norway's phone system


Norway is the latest US ally to erupt in outrage at the news that the NSA was intercepting millions of its phone calls in total disregard for Norwegian law. A new Snowden leak shows that between Dec 8, 2012 and Jan 8, 2013, the NSA logged 33,186,042 Norwegian phone calls, intercepting an enormous amount of sensitive data about Norwegians' private lives. Last June, the former Norwegian prime minister was assured by senior US officials that no such interception had taken place. In addition to being a NATO member, Norway is a close surveillance partner with the US, part of the "nine eyes" surveillance partnership.

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Rich America versus Poor America: stats about the wealth gap

Occupy's "99%" and "1%" slogans made America's widening wealth gap into part of the common discourse. But (as this video demonstrated) it's still hard to wrap your head around how widespread poverty is in America, and how much richer America's rich have become. This listicle, 21 Hard To Believe Facts About 'Wealthy America' And 'Poor America' delivering a series of ringing slaps to make the reality sink in:

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Google security engineer on NSA: "Fuck these guys"


In a heartfelt and personal blog-post, Google security engineer Brandon Downey discusses his feelings on the discovery that the NSA had tapped Google's private fiber links. In three words: "Fuck these guys." But you should read the rest, too.

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Portraits of Walmart's parking-lot nomads


Nolan Conway's photos of Walmart nomads document the lives of people who use Walmart's overnight-parking-friendly lots as places to camp on their way from A to B, or for the long haul. The communities that form there run the gamut from happy-go-lucky retirees to the slightly desperate and more than slightly desperate, and the portraits give a sense of camaraderie and community.

Meet the American Nomads of Walmart’s Plentiful Parking Lots [Jakob Schiller/Wired]

Snowden invited to testify in Germany (with safe passage) over NSA spying


Hans-Christian Ströebele, a German Green party leader, has invited NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden to a a German government hearing on American surveillance of Germans. The idea has a lot of political juice in Germany, it seems, thanks to the news that the NSA had spied on Chancellor Angela Merkel's cellphone. Interestingly, the German rules on witnesses at these hearings have the state ensuring the witness's safe passage, which may get Snowden safely out of Russia (where he's been granted a year-long visa) and into a country from which he could apply for asylum. Snowden sent a letter to Chancellor Merkel in which he offered to cooperate in an inquiry on US spying in Germany and expresses his desire to travel to Germany to do so.

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Spanish PM summons US ambassador to explain NSA mass-surveillance of Spaniards

The US ambassador to Spain has been summoned by Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy to explain a Snowden leak that shows the NSA is engaged in bulk surveillance of ordinary Spaniards, intercepting some 3.5M calls/day.

If any country were found to be doing this to the USA, it seems likely that elements of the US government would consider it to be a hostile act by a foreign power.

As some have pointed out, the capability for this kind of surveillance will grow steadily cheaper, so you can expect countries like Spain to be in a position to engage in the same conduct with respect to the US in short order -- and now that the US is going around the world, insisting that it is legitimate and even necessary to spy like this, why should they show any restraint?

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Spooks throw Obama under the bus: He knew about Merkel spying since 2010

An anonymous "US intelligence source" told a German newspaper that Obama had been briefed on the fact that the NSA had tapped German chancellor Angela Merkel's phone in 2010, and that he'd personally let it go. Expect a lot more of this, as spooks who are sick of being kicked around for conducting the spying that high-ranking administration officials had been delighted to green-light start to whisper the names of their collaborators in government.

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NSA spied on 35 world leaders


A leaked 2006 memo from the NSA to staffers in the White House, State and the Pentagon asked them to search their rolodexes for the personal numbers of world leaders so the Agency could spy on them. At least 35 world leaders were subsequently wiretapped by the NSA.

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NSA: National Insecurity

Tom sez, "This clip takes aim at the NSA and their spying, snooping ways - it's made by somegreybloke, and features Jeremiah McDonald (who clocked up 11 million views on YouTube with conversation with my six year old self) & Max Koch, another US based comedian, cartoon maker and funnyman."

This is pretty good, but moves into "inspired" territory around 2:01.

NSA: National Insecurity / somegreybloke | MASHED (Thanks, Tom!)

How NSA-proof is your VPN?

In an excellent Torrentfreak feature, representatives from several prominent privacy-oriented VPN provider explain whether, and to what extent, their services are safe from NSA spying. They cover the state of crypto, the structure of their companies, and the jurisdictional and legal questions they've resolved since the news broke that Lavabit shut down because it was ordered to redesign its service to make snooping possible.

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TSA admits "terrorists in America are not plotting against aviation"

An accidentally published, unredacted document from a lawsuit against the TSA reveals that the Taking Shoes Away people believe that "terrorist threat groups present in the Homeland are not known to be actively plotting against civil aviation targets or airports." That is to say, there is no identifiable risk to America's skies -- and all of business with shoes and pornoscanners and horrible, abusive incidents involving toddlers, people with mental disabilities, cancer survivors, rape survivors, and the whole business of treating travellers like presumptive terrorists is all to prevent a problem that, to all intents and purposes, doesn't exist.

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Keith Alexander affirms his intention to collect all Americans' data

At yesterday's Senate Intelligence Committee hearings, NSA boss Keith Alexander and top spy James Clapper evaded, blocked, and dodged questions from elected reps, making a mockery of the idea that there's any adult supervision of America's spooks. A telling moment came when Mark Udall asked if they ended to collect the records of all Americans, and Alexander said, "I believe it is in the nation's best interest to put all the phone records into a lockbox – yes."

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