Earlier this week, Firedoglake reported on an internal NSA document circulated on November 22 that provides talking points for employees to defend the NSA to their friends and family. The two-page document includes five main points and a bulleted list of evidence to support each point.
Posts Tagged ‘surveillance’
On Wednesday, November 20, the Town Meeting of Brookline, Massachusetts debated an issue at the nexus of national security and local politics: the use of surveillance cameras provided to police by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Since 2009, Brookline police have been operating eleven such cameras. They were provided by a DHS grant through its Urban Areas Security Initiative (UAIS) and are part of an overall network of cameras including Boston and eight surrounding municipalities labeled the Critical Infrastructure Management System (CIMS). Their stated purpose is to provide support for evacuation and other security needs in the event of a terrorist attack or other emergency. The DHS website describes CIMS as a system that has “nine, independent and interoperable nodes tied together through a central hub.”
While Congress mulls over dozens of competing proposals to reign in the NSA’s domestic dragnet spying activities, the agency continues to run circles around Congress and the courts, while continuing to co-opt the Obama White House.
At a time like this, it may help to rememeber some of the pithy reflections on NSA spying that comedians have shared, like:
- “Germany is mad at the United States for the NSA eavesdropping. This, ladies and gentlemen, from the country that gave us the Gestapo.” –David Letterman
- “Due to the government spy scandal, sales of the classic George Orwell book ’1984′ have skyrocketed. So the fallout is worse than we thought. It’s making Americans read.” –Conan O’Brien
- “President Obama said he welcomes a national debate over our surveillance policies. He said that’s a debate we wouldn’t have had five years ago. Five years ago? It’s a debate we wouldn’t have had two weeks ago if they all hadn’t gotten caught.” –Jay Leno
- “Mr. President, no one is saying you broke any laws. We’re just saying it’s a little bit weird you didn’t have to.” –The Daily Show’s John Oliver
If these jokes don’t prompt a laugh at your next cocktail party, consider focusing your friends on the laughable job that Congress has done in overseeing domestic spying over the past decade. Unfortunately, there seem to be no shortage of clowns involved in this ongoing sordid enterprise.
Earlier this week, the New York Times reported on yet another aspect of the NSA domestic dragnet: the government’s covert hacking of data center transmission lines. The story quoted former BORDC Board President Chip Pitts, who served as Chief Legal Officer at Nokia in the 1990s and is now a lecturer at Stanford Law School.
The story explained that:
“People knowledgeable about Google and Yahoo’s infrastructure say they believe that government spies bypassed the big Internet companies and hit them at a weak spot — the fiber-optic cables that connect data centers around the world….
“From Echelon to Total Information Awareness to Prism, all these programs have gone under different names, but in essence do the same thing,” said Chip Pitts, a law lecturer at Stanford University School of Law….
Mr. Pitts said that while working as the chief legal officer at Nokia in the 1990s, he successfully fended off an effort by intelligence agencies to get backdoor access into Nokia’s computer networking equipment….
Commentary by Cindy Cohn and Trevor Timm and published on Deeplinks Blog on November 26, 2013.
We’ve heard from lots of folks who are passionately concerned about the NSA’s mass spying, but are struggling to get their friends and family to understand the problem and join the over a half-million people who have demanded change through stopwatching.us and elsewhere.
Of course, you can show them the Stop Watching Us video and this great segment from Stephen Colbert. And if you’d like a detailed refresher on all the ways NSA is conducing mass surveillance, ProPublica has a handy explainer here.
Commentary by Trevor Timm of Electronic Frontier Foundation published on November 25, 2013.
Privacy may not be the only casualty of the National Security Agency’s massive surveillance program. Major sectors of the US economy are reporting financial damage as the recent revelations shake consumer confidence and US trade partners distance themselves from companies that may have been compromised by the NSA or, worse, are secretly collaborating with the spy agency. Member of Congress, especially those who champion America’s competitiveness in the global marketplace, should take note and rein in the NSA now if they want to stem the damage.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that AT&T’s desired acquisition of the European company Vodafone is in danger due to the company’s well-documented involvement in the NSA’s data-collection programs. European officials said the telecommunications giant would face “intense scrutiny” in its bid to purchase a major cell phone carrier. The Journal went on to say:
“Resistance to such a deal, voiced by officials in interviews across Europe, suggests the impact of the NSA affair could extend beyond the diplomatic sphere and damage US economic interests in key markets.”
In September, analysts at Cisco Systems reported that the fallout “reached another level,” when the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) told companies not to use cryptographic standards that may have been undermined by the NSA’s BULLRUN program. The Cisco analysts said that if cryptography was compromised “it would be a critical blow to trust required across the Internet and the security community.”
The Seattle Police Department have shut down a controversial mesh network surveillance system after public outrage about the potential privacy threats the system represented. The shutdown comes after SPD repeatedly refused to answer questions regarding the privacy safeguards put in place to keep the system from tracking resident’s whereabouts by following data from any electronic device on their person, including a cellphone.
Commentary was written by Mortiz Laurer and originally published by Foreign Policy In Focus on November 18, 2013.
Polls show that a majority of Americans rhetorically oppose the extensive domestic surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA). But the outrage is far less than one might expect, considering the agency’s profound intrusion into people’s private spheres.
One explanation for this might be that, in the age of Facebook and Google, people are simply used to the massive sharing of information as a condition for using social media services. The currency is information, not money—a price many citizens seem to be very willing to pay.
From 2008 to 2010, Boston and eight surrounding cities and towns installed surveillance cameras provided by a grant through the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Urban Areas Security Initiative. DHS’ website describes the cameras as part of a system that has “nine, independent and interoperable nodes tied together through a central hub and is made up of over 100 cameras.” The cameras were justified for the protection of “critical infrastructure” from terrorist attack, but their use has faced scrutiny from citizens concerned about threats to civil liberties. In Brookline and Cambridge, two municipalities covered by the grant, residents are using local governments to attempt to ban surveillance cameras.
It’s no secret that teens are avid internet users, a fact that exposes them to both opportunities and risks. The risks range from online predators to predatory marketing, oversharing to government surveillance, which could collect a lifetime of private information if it continues on its current path. This is cause for concern for all Americans, but especially for young people developing their judgment and understanding of long-term consequences.
California, among other states, has begun to address the risks of youthful oversharing: the state recently passed a “minor-eraser” law, which grants youth under age 18 the right to have the social media content they post removed by website or mobile app operators. Content need not be deleted entirely, so long as it is invisible to others. In addition, websites targeting minors are prohibited from advertising 19 enumerated products, including certain weapons and drugs.