The National Security Sublime: On the Aesthetics of Government Secrecy

[Matt Potolsky's new book, The National Security Sublime, is a tour through the look-and-feel of mass surveillance, as practiced by the most unlikely of aesthetes: big data authoritarian snoops and the grifter military contractors who wax fat on them. This is a subject dear to my heart. -Cory]

The US National Security Agency is big, really big. But it’s unlikely that most people outside the government can (or would even try to) quantify its size or powers with any specificity. The agency is just massive, a quality that can produce in those who try to contemplate it the overwhelming sense of awe and wonder called the sublime. Triggered by an encounter with something grand (towering mountain peaks) or verging on the infinite (the number of stars in the universe), it describes a generally pleasurable feeling of cognitive breakdown, the sensation that you just can’t wrap your head around an object or idea so vast and boundless. Read the rest

Ex-NSA whistleblower says she and other US ex-spooks targeted Americans on behalf of UAE

Lori Stroud is an ex-NSA spy who also contracted with the NSA through Booz Allen, who says that after she left the NSA, she was recruited to work on Project Raven, a secret, offensive surveillance and digital attack squad working for the autocratic United Arab Emirates regime alongside other ex-US intelligence operatives, working with the knowledge and approval of the NSA. Read the rest

Phone scammer tried to con William Webster, the only person ever to serve as director of both the CIA and FBI: it did not go well

Keniel A Thomas is part of the wave of violent phone scam gangs that have led to chaos in cities across the island; he made the mistake of trying to con the 90-year-old William Webster out of $50,000 with a hamfisted advance-fee fraud scam, not realizing that Webster is a top US spook, the only person ever to have served as chief of both the CIA and FBI. Read the rest

Undercover who targeted Citizen Lab over Israeli cyber-arms dealer is an ex-Israeli spook linked to black ops firm used by Harvey Weinstein

Last week, Citizen Lab and the AP published a blockbuster story revealing that Citizen Lab had been targeted by undercover operatives who pumped Lab employees for information on the group's work uncovering illegal surveillance operations undertaken by authoritarian governments using tools made by the notorious Israeli cyber-arms dealer NSO Group. Read the rest

Spies tried to infiltrate Citizen Lab and trick them into talking about their research on Israeli spytech company NSO Group

Citizen Lab (previously) is a world-renowned research group that specializes in deep, careful investigations into the nexus of state and private surveillance, outing everything from the Chinese spies who took over computers in Tibetan embassies around the world to the bizarre deployments of state-level cyberweapons against Mexicans who campaigned for limits on sugary sodas. Read the rest

Latvia opens up its KGB files and names 4,000+ "informants," many of whom claim they were framed

When Latvia attained independence in 1991, the retreating KGB left behind two sacks and two briefcases containing indexed records of the secret informants who had been paid to turn in their neighbors for offenses including anti-Kremlin activism and watching pornography. Read the rest

A deep dive into the technical feasibility of Bloomberg's controversial "Chinese backdoored servers" story

Last October, Bloomberg published what seemed to be the tech story of the year: a claim that Supermicro, the leading supplier of servers to clients from the Pentagon and Congress to Amazon, Apple and NASA, had been targeted by Chinese spies who'd inserted devastating, virtually undetectable hardware backdoors into their motherboards by subverting a small subcontractor in China. Read the rest

French spy used darknet to sell access to national mass-surveillance databases

A cop working for the Direction Générale de la Sécurité Intérieure (the French national domestic surveillance agency) used the darknet marketplace Black Hand to sell access to France's prodigious national surveillance apparatus to criminals: give him a phone number and he'd track its location; give him a name and he'd tell you whether that person was under police investigation and disclose the contents of the associated files; he'd also sell you everything you needed to forge papers and other official documents (he took payment in Bitcoin). Read the rest

EU's top court rules against the UK mass surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the UK spy agency GCHQ acted illegally when it engaged in mass-scale domestic surveillance of every Briton's electronic communications, a programme that was revealed by documents supplied to journalists by the whistleblower Edward Snowden. Read the rest

GOP candidate who campaigned with a white supremacist condemned for Bigfoot erotica

Former Air Force spy Denver Riggleman is the GOP Congressional candidate for Virginia's 5th district, and he's caught flack for campaigning with the notorious white supremacist Isaac Smith, co-founder of Unity & Security for America. Read the rest

James Comey: A freak of nature with the power to cloud liberals' minds

The Clickhole is in incredible form with Step Right Up And Feast Your Eyes On The Unfathomable Comey, The Man Who Is Both Good And Bad! The Beautiful Monster Who Makes Resisters’ Minds Spin! Betrayer Of Hillary! Enemy Of Trump! Behold This Freak Of Nature! It's a timely reminder that the FBI is a domestic surveillance agency with a long, dishonorable history of antidemocratic suppression of justice movements, and that nice guys with a commitment to decency and shared prosperity do not get appointed to head such institutions. Read the rest

Watchdog: UK spies engaged in illegal surveillance from 2001-2012

The UK Investigatory Powers Tribunal has ruled that GCHQ (the UK's domestic surveillance apparatus) illegally engaged in mass surveillance for more than a decade (starting after 9/11), during which time the foreign secretaries who were supposed to be overseeing their activities "delegated powers without oversight," allowing the spies to police their own activities. (Images: Defense Images, CC-BY-SA; Cryteria, CC-BY) Read the rest

EFF has released STARTTLS Everywhere: free tools to encrypt email between mail servers

When you send someone else an email, your mail server connects to their mail server to transmit the message, and spy agencies have made a surveillance banquet out of these transactions, harvesting emails by the billions. Read the rest

Which windowless American buildings are secret AT&T/NSA listening posts?

In 2016, Ryan Gallagher and Henrik Moltke published a long, Snowden-derived investigation into AT&T's secret NSA listening station in New York City, and AT&T's extensive complicity in mass, warrantless surveillance on Americans and foreigners. Read the rest

Canadian border guards have secret access to a US "anti-terror" database of 680,000 names

Canadian border guards' terminals give them secret access to Tuscan, a database maintained by US spy agencies of suspected terrorists; the database has some 680,000 names in it and if you match one of those names, Canadian border and immigration officials are empowered to "detain, interrogate, arrest and deny entry" to you. Read the rest

Hi rez images from NASA's 1967/8 Lunar Orbiters were withheld to hide US spying capabilities

In 1967, the Lunar Orbiter missions sent back exciting -- but grainy and low-rez -- photos of the moon's surface. Read the rest

Turning the NSA's vintage internal security posters into t-shirts

Techdirt is in the throes of a two-part revelation: 1. the US government's works are public domain and can be freely commercialized, and; 2. many of the weird things that spy agencies make can be turned into ironic, cool, and sometimes fun and/or beautiful objects of commerce. Read the rest

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