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Total Surveillance Regime: Big Uncle is Watching You

Mass surveillance is equal to totalitarism. As Joseph Goebbels professed:
"if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear"

The slide above is courtesy of The Guardian

Version 2.0, Oct 17, 2017

News National Security State Recommended Links Edward Snowden as Symbol of resistance to National Security State Privacy is Dead – Get Over It Vault 7 scandal NSA revelations fallout William Binney
NSA Surveillance Industrial Espionage Data Stealing Trojans Flame Duqu Trojan Magic Lantern CIPAV Cyberstalking
Interception of "in-transit" traffic as violation of human rights Search engines privacy Google Toolbar Is Google evil? Keywords in your posts that might trigger surveillance Blocking Facebook Facebook as Giant Database about Users Is national security state in the USA gone rogue ?
Damage to the US tech companies "Everything in the Cloud" Utopia Issues of security and trust in "cloud" env Email security How to analyze your own Web activity Interception of "in-transit" traffic as violation of human rights Steganography Building Snort-based IDS Infrastructure
Neoliberal Brainwashing: Journalism In the Service of the Powerful Few The Guardian Slips Beyond the Reach of Embarrassment Nineteen Eighty-Four   Cyberwarfare Prizm-related humor Etc
 

Introduction

None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.

- Goethe

1984 is supposed to be a warning, not an instruction manual

The troubling aspect about these disclosures is not so much their significance today, but what surveillance on the nation bodes for the future. Given human nature I am not optimistic.

Bill N. Cambridge MA, NYT.

NSA staff and private contractors have unfettered access to this information. I have a hard time believing that not one of them has used that access to information for personal or political gain. This system makes insider trading, industrial espionage, blackmail, and extortion an almost inevitable outcome. -- The Guardian (from comments).

A new round of debates about the dominance of military industrial complex and the level of control it exerts over the US civil society was caused by recent revelations about NSA activities in the USA.

It might well be the Rubicon was crossed around JFK assassination time. On August 17, 1975 Senator Frank Church stated on NBC's Meet the Press without mentioning the name of the NSA (Church Committee - Wikipedia ):

In the need to develop a capacity to know what potential enemies are doing, the United States government has perfected a technological capability that enables us to monitor the messages that go through the air. Now, that is necessary and important to the United States as we look abroad at enemies or potential enemies. We must know, at the same time, that capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left such is the capability to monitor everything—telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide.

If this government ever became a tyrant, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology.

I don't want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.[11]

In other words expansionism  and mission creep are immanent qualities, the second nature of large bureaucracies, and unless there is countervailing force. In the absence of countervailing forces they tend to escape from civil control and form a state within a state. In a way any state with powerful three-letter agencies stand with one leg in a tyranny, even if it calls itself a democracy. And that fact was already known to everybody in 1975 (Church Committee).  Actually just after president Kennedy assassination, which, no matter which version of events you adopt, in all cases indirectly pointed out that three letter agencies jumped out of control of civil government. As one Guardian reader commented "The pernicious thing is that it is in the nature of bureaucracies in general and spy agencies in particular to expand beyond reason unless there is effective oversight."

The nature of bureaucracies in general and spy agencies in particular to expand beyond reason unless there is effective oversight. In the case of intelligence agencies it has proven impossible for civil authorities to control them. Recent stories about CIA spying on the US Senate Intelligence Committee  just prove this. 

In the case of intelligence agencies it has proven impossible to control them.  Recent stories about CIA spying on the US Senate Intelligence Committee (which is tasked with the oversight of the agency) just prove this simple fact (CIA apologizes for spying on Senate committee - CNNPolitics July 31, 2014 ). As NYT reported (Inquiry by C.I.A. Affirms It Spied on Senate Panel,  

A statement issued Thursday morning by a C.I.A. spokesman said that John O. Brennan, the agency’s director, had apologized to Ms. Feinstein and the committee’s ranking Republican, Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, and would set up an internal accountability board to review the issue. The statement said that the board, which will be led by a former Democratic senator, Evan Bayh of Indiana, could recommend “potential disciplinary measures” and “steps to address systemic issues.”

But anger among lawmakers grew throughout the day. Leaving a nearly three-hour briefing about the report in a Senate conference room, members of both parties called for the C.I.A. officers to be held accountable, and some said they had lost confidence in Mr. Brennan’s leadership. “This is a serious situation and there are serious violations,” said Mr. Chambliss, generally a staunch ally of the intelligence community. He called for the C.I.A. employees to be “dealt with very harshly.”

Senator Mark Udall, Democrat of Colorado and another member of the Intelligence Committee, demanded Mr. Brennan’s resignation. “The C.I.A. unconstitutionally spied on Congress by hacking into the Senate Intelligence Committee computers,” he said in a written statement. “This grave misconduct not only is illegal but it violates the U.S. Constitution’s requirement of separation of powers.

You can't get a more solid proof of total surveillance...  Please note that Brennan continued his tenure as the head of CIA; attempts to depose him after the incident by some Senators failed. That suggest who was the winner in this skirmish.

That also means that contrary to common perception intelligence agencies are political players and as such are quite capable to defend their staffing and resource consumption levels, despite inefficient waist of resources as typical for large bureaucracies. In other words they are no longer technocratic, but tend to emerge as political bodies, the core of the "deep state" (see Bureaucracy as a Political Coalition). The story of John Brennan the former head of CIA in Obama administration tell volumes about such tendencies. During and after 2016 Presidential elections he emerged as a powerful political broker, later aligning with Hillary Clinton in efforts to form a political coalition capable of deposing President Trump.

We can admire the immortal foresight and moral courage of Secretary of State Henry Stimson's  who closed the Cipher Bureau in 1929.  But this highly ethical, moral and courageous act deprived the US of the capacity to read foreign diplomatic cables as world-wide threats grew.  So it was quickly reversed.

In a way technology dictates the level of government surveillance in the society and in "Internet society" it looks like this level is permanently set on "high". That does not mean that we can't fight it. Yes, we can and one factor that played into the hands of defenders of personal privacy is the you can't drink from a fire hose: as soon as you connect too much information it devalues itself. Also methods of "injecting" false metadata into your profile are reality available. for example for Internet browsing anybody with programmable keyboard can do that. That means that you the set of sites you visited no longer can be considered authentic in "Post-Snowden" world. That dooms effort to assign you a level of "loyalty" based on your browsing history, which is very temping for three letter agencies to do.  Recent failed attempt to create a site that claffies some sites are "Russian propaganda" sites belong to this category (Washington Post Disgracefully Promotes a McCarthyite Blacklist From a New, Hidden, and Very Shady Group.) But such attempts were just shifted to another domain -- "leak prevention" training:

Part of the “Unauthorized Disclosure” training includes watching a Fox News clip on the crackdown on leaks and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ statement announcing an increase in criminal leak investigations. A student guide from the Insider Threat Awareness training includes the McCarthyesque request that employees report on each other for “general suspicious behaviors,” including “Questionable national loyalty” such as “Displaying questionable loyalty to US government or company” or “Making anti-U.S. comments.” Never mind that the only oath government employees take is to the US Constitution, not to any government official or the US government itself and certainly not to a private company.

This also opens people to browsing blackmail.  In this sense post-snowmen world is inherently more difficult for three-letter agencies to navigate.

Computer technology and digital communication as new frontiers for intelligence  agencies

Technology changes can really change the society. And not always in a beneficial for the society way. There is such thing as "blowback" in technologies. We can view recent NSA activities revealed by Snowden as a classic example of such blowback connected with the spread of Internet and cloud based technologies.  In a way Internet begets surveillance. And you can do nothing about it.  As former Sun CEO Scott McNealy (born November 13, 1954)  said  "You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it." (see also Privacy is Dead – Get Over It).  

I think that the first attempt to create a comprehensive nation-wide intelligence network that monitors sentiments of the citizens and hunt enemies of the state goes as far back as Napoleon and his famous minister of police Joseph Fouché. Or may be it even goes as far back as to Byzantine Empire with its first in history organized network of spies. As for recording of mail envelopes, we can even claim that this function for international mail (in a form of "black chambers") is as old as states are. In the USA it started in full force in August 1919 when J. Edgar Hoover became head of the Bureau of Investigation's new General Intelligence Division—also known as the Radical Division because its explicit goal was to monitor and disrupt the work of domestic radicals.

Recording of all email envelopes started long before email was invented and became established practice since the WWII for all regular mail entering or leaving the country.  It just got a new name now -- collection of metadata and the technology that allow correlation of multiple sets of metadata exposing hidden "networks".  Recording metadata of phone calls and often the calls themselves first started before WWII and technology was first polished on international calls, which for obvious reasons are of great interest to all governments.  As intelligence agencies were one of the first to deploy computers after WWII it would be naive to assume that IBM/360 mainframes were not used to analyze collection of metadata of international calls as early as in 1960th.

Hoover and his chosen assistant, George Ruch monitored a variety of U.S. radicals with the intent to punish, arrest, or deport them. Targets during this period included Marcus Garvey; Rose Pastor Stokes and Cyril Briggs; Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman; and future Supreme Court justice Felix Frankfurter, whom Hoover nicknamed as "the most dangerous man in the United States". So those radicals served a guinea pigs for polishing methods of collection of communications using electronic means of surveillance.

So it would be a mistake to assume that such activities started with 9/11 events and that Bush II was totally responsible for converting the USA into national-security state.  The technology was ready at least 15 years before 9/11 (explosive growth of internet in the USA started in 1996) and new methods of collection of information that are technically available are always adopted and used by clandestine agencies.  They tend to adopt technology as soon as it is available, being, in a pervert way,  classic "early adopters" of any communication or computer technology. And this happens not only in the USA,  although the USA as the  technological leader was probably most profoundly affected.

The creation and use of databases of personal information and the systematic records (archives) of communications of citizens started simultaneously with NSA creation. The first targets were mail and telegraph. Some of this experience came from specialists of Third Reich who were brought to the country after the WWII. At the height of the Cold War in the 1950s, law enforcement and intelligence leaders like J. Edgar Hoover at the FBI. and Allen Dulles at the CIA. aggressively recruited former Nazis of all ranks as secret, anti-Soviet “assets,” declassified records show. They believed the ex-Nazis’ intelligence value against the Russians outweighed what one official called “moral lapses” in their service to the Third Reich. The agency hired one former SS officer as a spy in the 1950s, for instance, even after concluding he was probably guilty of “minor war crimes.” And in 1994, a lawyer with the CIA pressured prosecutors to drop an investigation into an ex-spy outside Boston implicated in the Nazis’ massacre of tens of thousands of Jews in Lithuania, according to a government official (In Cold War, U.S. Spy Agencies Used 1,000 Nazis - NYTimes.com).

We don't know when it was extended on domestic calls, but from purely technical perspective this was a trivial extension of already existing and polished capacity and probably abuse was stated gradually as soon as power of computers allow that. 

But what is true is that after 9/11 and the passage of the USA Patriot Act, the USA government got all the pre-conditions necessary for installing a regime of aggressive total surveillance. Which actually was a hidden intent and 9/11 was just a convenient pretext much like Tonkin incident in Vietnam war. And in this respect Ed Snowden, whatever is his motivation (which might be not as simple as most people assume), did the right thing, when he with the risk to his life informed the US public and the world about those activities. You may approve those revelations, you may disapprove them (and they did damage the USA as a state and devalue many methods which were extremely effective before the revelations), but keeping them secret from the US public is a crime.

NSA technically is a data collection agency. While it has legitimate function to monitor information that is crossing the national border as well as intercept communication of the US adversaries (which is a very flexible category those days ;-), we need to understand that the abuse of this function is inevitable. That actually the nature of the beast -- like any bureaucratic organizations they tend to expand their sphere of activities and escape form control -- and in this sense existence of powerful state intelligence agencies is incompatible with the democracy.  In this sense the appointment of Allan Dulles (who paradoxically was appointed the director under Eisenhower administration in 1952; Eisenhower warnings about the danger of military-industrial complex notwithstanding)  was really unfortunate.

But the capacities to do this type of work had grown dramatically over last four decades. In a way NSA became a victim of growing power of computers as well inherent tendency of bureaucracies, especially government bureaucracies to expand and self-justify their expansion. The classic case was the USSR where KGB was a real "state within the state" and sometimes it was not completely clear whether the Party controls KGB or KGB controls the Party.

But the capacities to do this type of work had grown dramatically over last four decades. In a way NSA became a victim of growing power of computers and as well inherent tendency of bureaucracies, especially government bureaucracies to expand and self-justify their expansion. The classic case was the USSR where KGB was a real "state within the state" and sometimes it was not completely clear whether the Party controls KGB or KGB controls the Party.

The immanent tendency of intelligence agencies to escape civil control
and in turn to establish indirect control of the government

There is deep analogy between financial services and intelligence services. Both try to escape from the control of democratic society. Both try to control the society instead of serve it. As they operate with large and uncontrolled amount of money soon after their creation inevitably the "the tail wagging the dog" (Merriam-Webster):

the tail wagging the dog used to describe a situation in which an important or powerful person, organization, etc., is being controlled by someone or something that is much less important or powerful

At some point the permanent unelected bureaucracy, became the shadow government instead of facilitating the decisions of elected officials. This process proceeds quicker if a sociopath manage to slip to the role of the head of such an organization. That's what the term "deep state" is about. Some authors such as  Douglas Horne view JFK assassination as a political coup d'état launched from the highest levels of US leadership (JFK’s War with the National Security Establishment Why Kennedy Was Assassinated). Here is a quote from the foreword by Jacob G. Hornberger:

By the end of November 1961, profoundly dissatisfied with his own national security advisory apparatus, President Kennedy had firmly pushed back against the national security establishment (in this case the NSC, the State Department, and the CIA) by purging and/or reshuffling many of the civilian hawks in his own administration into other positions, and by placing officials more in line with his own views into key positions. [A change in the top leadership at the Pentagon was to come later, in 1962.] Throughout 1961, the new President had painfully but quickly learned to be quite skeptical of the advice he was receiving, pertaining to matters of war and peace, from his hawkish advisors; and as 1961 progressed, John F. Kennedy repeatedly demonstrated what the hawks in government (the majority) no doubt considered a disturbingly independent (and increasingly all-too-predictable) frame of mind in regard to the national security recommendations he was receiving from the “sacred cows” and “wise men” in Washington, D.C. As I shall demonstrate in these essays, by the end of 1962, the national security establishment in Washington D.C., which had quickly come to know JFK as a skeptic during 1961, had come to view him as a heretic; and by November of 1963, the month he was assassinated, they no doubt considered him an apostate, for he no longer supported most of the so-called “orthodox” views of the Cold War priesthood. Increasingly alone in his foreign policy judgments as 1963 progressed, JFK was nevertheless proceeding boldly to end our “Holy War” against Communism, instead of trying to win it. In retrospect it is clear that the national security establishment wanted to win our own particular “jihad” of the post-WW II era by turning the Cold War against the USSR into a “hot war,” so that we could inflict punishing and fatal blows upon our Communist adversaries (and any other forces we equated with them) on the battlefield. It was this desire for “hot war” by so many within the establishment — their belief that conventional “proxy wars” with the Soviet Bloc were an urgent necessity, and that nuclear war with the USSR was probably inevitable — to which President Kennedy was so adamantly opposed. And it was JFK’s profound determination to avoid nuclear war by miscalculation, and to eschew combat with conventional arms unless it was truly necessary, that separated him from almost everyone else in his administration from 1961 throughout 1963, as events have shown us.

 

Against whom total surveillance is directed

Total surveillance is not so much about terrorism. It's also and mainly about the control of the society by unelected elite. Terrorism is a false pretext -- a smoke screen, if you like. Let's state clearly -- the main goal of total surveillance was the same since it was introduced in Nazi Germany: "Let them be afraid". It's the same as in former German Democratic Republic (with its famous Stasi). In all cases it is to prevent any challenge to the ruling elite or in the terminology of neoliberal "color revolutions" prevent  "regime change", unless it is initiated by more powerful foreign three letter agencies and significantly higher level of financial resources (that's why three letter agencies of newly minted xUSSR state in several cases were unable to prevent color revolutions of their territories).  

In other words surveillance and intelligence agencies are part and parcel of the totalitarian state. And Sheldon Volin actually created a term for such "pseudo-democratic" regime --  inverted totalitarism.  Unlike  classic totalitarism it generally tend to avoid using violence  to crush the dissidents and opposition to the current elite. More "soft" subversive methods are enough. In this sense the  story of crushing "of "Occupy Wall Street" movement is a testament of their efficiency. 

State actors and well funded terrorist organization are a difficult nut to crack.  Any "custom" encrypted communication is far more difficult for intercepting party to decode, then "standard" encryption methods.  Some encryption methods virtually guarantee that it is impossible without stealing the key. Even detecting the fact of communication for such parties nowadays is very difficult as it can be hidden in  some "carrier" transmission (steganography) or split into multiple channels.   Those who have access to technology and to "know how" including the most recent exploits are well armed to resist attempt to intercept their communication. That includes most powerful foreign states. 

That means that NSA has great difficulties intercepting and decoding traffic that is intended to be hidden from state actors.  Modern encryption systems such One-Time-Pad virtually guarantee that you get the "insider information" of the pad used (typically from a mole) they are impenetrable. Even regular encryption methods can be enhanced by additional step of compressing the files transmitted (which by and large eliminates redundancy if done properly and do not leave "tell" sign  of the method encryption used) . Decoding is easier when standard algorithms with possible backdoors are used but  even in this case I have doubts (Triple DEC).  That's why attempts to compensate this deficiency are being developed and one obvious path is intercepting regular citizen communication  of foreign countries which are considered to be unfriendly or adversarial to current the US foreign policy goals (which is the expansion and maintenance of global the Us-led neoliberal empire).

But the situation with  "open" traffic is completely different. Million of people outside the USA use Facebook, Amazon, Gmail and similar platforms. Which makes them a low hanging fruit and here NSA is the king of the hill.  Government officials also sometimes use regular  email and social sites (see Hillary Clinton email scandal). So intelligence agencies were provided with an important opening (and it might well be that the dramatic growth  of Webmail has something to do with their interests)

At the same time the abundance of information, as Biney mentioned, creates another problem --  the problem of "drinking from a fire hose" -- they tend to collect too much information and are swamped with the volume.  Of cause correlation of open traffic of "suspicious persons" can reveal some hidden information, but this is a pretty expensive undertaking, because by definition (unless this is Hillary Clinton ;-) those persons are aware that they are watched, typically are trained to avoid surveillance (including electronic) and behave accordingly.  for example General used an interesting method to communicate with his biographer and mistress (The Washington Post) :

They wrote their "intimate messages" as draft e-mails in a shared Gmail account, according to the AP, allowing them to see one anothers' messages while leaving a much fainter data trail. When messages are sent and received, both accounts record the transmission as well as such metadata as the IP addresses on either end, something the two seemed to be seeking to avoid. 

Petraeus and Broadwell apparently used a trick, known to terrorists and teen-agers alike, to conceal their email traffic, one of the law enforcement officials said.

Rather than transmitting emails to the other's inbox, they composed at least some messages and instead of transmitting them, left them in a draft folder or in an electronic "dropbox," the official said. Then the other person could log onto the same account and read the draft emails there. This avoids creating an email trail that is easier to trace.

With the power of modern computers, decoys and steganography offer almost unlimited possibility to obscure the traffic. 

The real questions about NSA activities


Concern about the NSA assault on our privacy is no paranoid fantasy. In the words of an agency PowerPoint slide released by Snowden, the goal is to "collect it all", "process it all" and "know it all". The massive surveillance program is a clear violation of the Forth amendment prohibiting "unreasonable searches" of "persons, houses, papers, and effects" without "probable cause."

- Gene Epstein. "In defence of Snowden",
review of "No Place to Hide" Barrons, Jan 5, 2015, p 17

According to UN Human Right Council Report (17 April 2013) innovations in technology not only have increased the possibilities for communication and protections of free expression and opinion, enabling anonymity, rapid information-sharing and cross-cultural dialogues. They also simultaneously increased opportunities for State surveillance and interventions into individuals’ private communications facilitating to transformation of the state into National Security State, a form of corporatism characterized by continued and encompassing all forms of electronic communication electronic surveillance of all citizens.

Now every Internet or smartphone users probably understand that since probably 2003 or even earlier that that he/she is watched 24 by 7, or as Soviet dissidents called it "Was placed under the [surveillance] dome". Some question that we need to ask ourselves are:

All-in-all it's a good time to smell the coffee and talk about the rise of a new mutation of totalitarism (or may be even neofascism -- as it is, essentially, the merger of corporate and state interests) in the US after 9/11. That's exactly what this "Internet-inspired" flavor of total surveillance due to modern technical capabilities means. There is also distinct shadow of STASI in all those activities. And some countries got into similar trap before, so nothing is new under the sun. As Reinhold Niebuhr noted:

"Communism is a vivid object lesson in the monstrous consequences of moral complacency about the relation of dubious means to supposedly good ends."

There is actually little difference between total surveillance as practiced by NSA and what was practiced by three letters agencies of Eastern block dictatorships such as STASI and KGB. The key goal in both cases is protection and preservation of power of existing elite against the will of common people. So this is more about oppression of 99.9% from top 0.1% then surveillance per see.

Militarization of cyberspace makes Internet a very dangerous medium

We should view Snowden revelations in a larger context. Much of what he revealed about militarization of cyberspace was already known at the time when Flame and Stuxnet worms were discovered in 2011. He just dot the i's and cross the t's , so speak. As a result of his revelations, as The National Interest noted:

An increasing number of adversaries and even allies are coming to believe that the United States is militarizing cyberspace — and that impression of hubris and irresponsibility is beginning to have a real-world impact.

...The Snowden leaks have brought Stuxnet, the U.S.-Israeli program allegedly used to attack Iranian computer systems, back into public debate — and reminded us that the real damage of the Snowden revelations will be international.

...the perception that the United States has become a danger to the global internet is a cause for concern. In their understandable anger at the considerable damage Snowden has done (in the near term at the very least) to the operations of NSA and their allies, U.S. security officials should not lose sight of this fact.

Snowden’s claims build on the Stuxnet revelations. In doing so, they reinforce an impression of overbearing U.S. cyberpower (military and commercial) being used irresponsibly. That is strikingly at odds with the U.S. self-image as a standard bearer of internet freedom and “borderless” exchange, but it is a view that resonates around the world.

In fact the USA policies are stimulating economic and political rivals around the globe to organize and present unified front against this new and dangerous form of total surveillance. As well as implement similar domestic systems. In other words a new arm race started.

As methods and infrastructure of those activities are now revealed, the genie is out of the bottle and can't be put back -- the US now should expect the same or worse treatment from other nations. Which can be no less inventive, or even more inventive the USA specialists in this area. And in this new arm race economically weaker nations actually has some leverage. Blowback, a CIA term for unintended consequences of foreign, military, or clandestine policies, can be similar to the blowback of politically organizing Islamic radicals to fight Soviets in Afghanistan in the past.

Nemesis, the goddess of retribution and vengeance, the punisher of pride and hubris, probably already waits patiently for her meeting with the NSA brass.

Blowback can irreparably damage the ability of the United States to obtain crucial information in foreign environments that are poorly understood in Washington. The cultural divide that exists when operating away from home means that CIA and NSA frequently work overseas through a network of liaison contacts. This in theory limits their activity, but it broadens their ability to collect information that can only be plausibly obtained by a local organization with local capabilities. Though nearly everyone also operates clandestinely outside the parameters of the established relationships insofar as it is possible or expedient to do so, there is an awareness that being caught can cause grave damage to the liaison relationship. Because being exposed is nearly always very painful, such operations are normally limited to collection of critical information that the liaison partner would be unwilling to reveal.

So while it might be comforting to claim that “everyone does it” at least some of the time, and it may even be true that local spy agencies sometimes collaborated with NSA, the United States has a great deal to lose by spying on its friends. This is particularly true as Washington, uniquely, spies on everyone, all the time, even when there is no good reason for doing so.

NSA Blowback The American Conservative

Centralization of user activities on sites like Facebook, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, LinkedIn, with email account mainly at Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo mail along with many positive aspects has tremendous negative side effects. The most significant is that it created a way too easy opportunity both for those organizations as well as government agencies and large corporations to data mine email and Web communications of millions of Americans critical about government (see Total control: keywords in your posts that might trigger surveillance) and all foreigners who use those services (and that includes a significant part of European population and Russia, who have Gmail, Facebook or Yahoo accounts). The history of "total surveillance" suggests that it tends to be abused. It is also huge, irreparable breach on trust in relation to allies. Closely resembles the situation in family when wife or husband learn that the other hired detective to snoop on you.

The analogy with KGB surveillance of dissidents (the Soviet term for total surveillance was "to be under the 'dome' ") and, especially, Stasi (viewing the film "The Lives of Others" might help to understand the phenomenon of "total surveillance") are way too close. At the same time there is an important difference: while such regime does mean indirect (and pretty effective) intimidation of dissidents, cases of prosecution on the base of the those data are either few or non existent, which is a big difference with KGB or Stasi practice. The latter aggressively pursued those who got in their net trying either to convert them into informers or charge them with the some suitable article of Criminal Code. In some cases that practice lead to suicides. So here we can talk more properly talk about total surveillance an instrument of Inverted Totalitarism, or totalitarism in velvet gloves.

We are talking about "passive total surveillance" and temporary (which might be several years or your lifetime) storage of all intercepted data. But in a way, Senator McCartney was probably right about "Communists sympathizers" and communist infiltration, he just was completely wrong about who they are ;-).

Every Breath You Take

Ich bin ein Berliner
J. F. Kennedy

The famous The Police hit Every Breath You Take should probably be the theme song for the NSA. As Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us in his famous speech:

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

Snowden revelations are not something new. The only real revelation was how much of it was going on domestically and gory details of such activities. Before 9/11 the NSA was basically prohibited from operating domestically. Of course it violates those prohibitions, but there were no systematic internal, all encompassing technical surveillance infrastructure in place. Now it is build and is deployed nation-wide. And that's a big change, big difference. Due to "novel" interpretation of a few provisions in the Patriot Act they created domestic dragnet which encompass most types of Internet communications. In addition to intercepting more then 70% of Internet traffic they also enjoy direct access to major cloud providers.

Total continued surveillance even without taking any action on collected data is totalitarian by its nature as it put severe restrictions of the freedom of expression. And like in the USSR, it does change people behavior on the Web. People start thinking about consequences and this page is one of attempts to collect information that might help you to see "bigger picture".

The key mechanism here, well known to those who used to live in the USSR before its dissolution is that people do react on the fact that everything they email, visit, buy on Amazon, etc is registered in giant database outside of their control. Internet will never be the same for most people after Snowden revelations...

The key mechanism here, well known to those who used to live in the USSR before its dissolution is that people do react on the fact that everything they email, visit, buy on Amazon, etc is registered in giant database outside of their control. Internet will never be the same for most people after Snowden revelations...

For example, no one in sound mind can now trust "cloud services" provided by Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, etc. So attractiveness of Gmail, Hotmail and such are now different, then it was before. And separation of mail accounts between "junk mail" account and important mail account is something to think about. With the latter never in the cloud. In a way excessive using cloud services from a fashionable trend now became kind of indication of a person stupidity.

In a way excessive using of cloud services from a fashionable trend now became an indication of a person stupidity. There is no real justification of providing all your emails and address book to strangers who can abuse this information without your knowledge.

At the same time it is stupid to dramatize the situation. Still, what is really striking is the grotesque disproportionally of all this NSA surveillance "superdome" to the task of keeping the country safe from foreign enemies (NSA statute is about watching foreign communications), begging obvious questions of institutional sanity and competence. They turned all their super powerful collection mechanisms inside the country and now they drink from a firehouse. That means that the results and possibilities of abuse are pretty much predictable. Too many false positives create real danger of not to picking up weak signal. So the other question is "Who the hell made these decisions?" That's a lot of taxpayers money and I am not sure that they are well spend.

As for breach of privacy anyone with connected to Internet PC,  the first thing to understand that if somebody stores data in the cloud they should not expect any privacy, unless they encrypt them. Expecting that your unencrypted data are private is a sign of personal stupidity, no more no less. If somebody, who is keeping his address book in Google assumes that it remains private, that his own illusion. That has nothing to do with the reality.

And it not that only NSA threatens our privacy. After all there are millions of PC users that have computer(s) infected by spyware, which turns them into zombies, externally controlled monitoring devices. And such software BTW can pick up and offload, or encrypt for ransom all your data. I do not see much protest over this situation iether. Microsoft greed and stupidity is one reason for this dismal situation, but essentially any OS is vulnerable if enough money is invested in finding exploits.  And NSA actually created a market for such exploits. Now there are multiple "security firms" that do nothing then find "zero day" exploits and sell them to the highest bidder (which is of course government agencies).  Does not this reminds you 'war on drugs"?

In a way, any networked computer is an unsecure computer and should be treated as such. See Privacy is Dead – Get Over It. The same thing can be mentioned about a cell phone that is outside some metal box. That's two basic "laws of security" in the current environment.

But more important problem here is not snooping per se, but its interaction with self-profiling that you provide via social sites. If you are too enthusiastic about Facebook or Google++ or any similar site and engage regularly and indiscriminately in this "vanity fair" activity that simply means Privacy is Dead – Get Over It. You killed it yourself. The essence of the situation was exposed well in a humorous form in the following Amazon review of Orwell's novel 1984

Bjørn Anders See all my reviews

This is not an instruction manual!, June 14, 2013

This review is from: 1984: 60th-Anniversary Edition (Plume) (Paperback)

Note to US Congress and house of representatives: This is a fictional book, not an instruction manual...

Now we know what would a perfect prototype of Bid Brother ;-). The song (Every Breath You Take ) should probably be the theme song for the NSA. And not only NSA, but its counterparts in other parts of the globe; I think, other things equal, citizens of some other countries would greatly prefer NSA to their domestic counterparts.

Cell phones, laptops, Facebook, Skype, chat-rooms: all allow the NSA and other similar agencies to build a dossier, a detailed profile of a target and anyone associated with him/her. And the number of people caught up in this dragnet can be huge. The NSA say it needs all this data to help prevent another terrorist attack like 9/11. They lie. In order to find the needle in the haystack, they argue, they need access to the whole haystack. But one interesting side effect is that now they are drinking from the fire hose, so to speak.

The power of meta data collection

Another interesting side-effect of the Snowden disclosures that the term ‘metadata’ became a common word in English language. With the growing understanding that metadata includes enough personal information to built a detailed profile of a person without even listening into content of communications. This technology was invented in Iraq war for fighting insurgents (were phone companies were controlled by US) and now is applied at home. In fact, by just using electronic communications, you are sharing a lot more personal information than you think. It's a reflection of a fact that it is very cheap to collect and analyses information about your electronic communications. The digital revolution which led to an explosion in cell phone and internet use, also led to an explosion of snooping after you by the governments.

We need to distinguish "total collection" of data from "total analysis" (or creation of dossiers on everybody as was practiced by STASI and friends). Raw data contain both "signal" and "noise". Analysis or data mining of those raw data is the process of extraction of useful signal from the noise. Of course we should be so naive that to assume that "signal" is related to purely terrorist activities. As recently published documents had shown, the NSA interests are much wider ;-). In bald terms, it sets out its mission:

“Leverage unique key corporate partnerships to gain access to high-capacity international fiber-optic cables, switches and/or routes throughout the world.”

Along with major fiber-optic cables in the US, the NSA has access to data gathered by close intelligence partners such as Britain’s GCHQ.

Sometimes it appear to me that like Uncle Sam got "red disease" and now is trying to imitate "total surveillance" mantra of KGB, STASI and similar agencies on a new technological level. And the key lesson from Soviet experience is fully applicable to the current situation in the USA: when government consider everybody as a potential enemy you better watch your back. And having a cyberstooge following your every step more closely that it was possible for STASI spooks and informers is something you need to react to. Reading your address book, mail, list of books that you bought or borrowed from the library, analyzing your circuit of friends is what STASI was really good at. And it might well be that some unemployed specialists have found a new territory to apply their substantial talents.

The Snowden documents show that the NSA runs these surveillance programs through “partnerships” with major US telecom and internet companies. That means that if you are customer of those major telecom and Internet companies you are like a bug under the microscope.

It is important to understand that metadata of your communications will always be exposed (it other words you are always walking "naked" on the Internet) because those new surveillance capabilities are immanent properties of Internet protocols, as we known it. There is no way to encrypt connection metadata: this is technically impossible unless you owns a vast private VPN network (some large corporations do), but even in this case I have doubts. Even snail-mail metadata are collected (and from 50th to 80th letters were opened and selectively copied by CIA). Diplomatic mail might still be secure, but that's about it.

Technological blowback

Like with any new development there are countervailing trends that after Snowden revelation went in overdrive and can seriously affect NSA capabilities.

One is switching to encrypting communication with most websites such as YouTube. That prevent simple harvesting of video that you watched from HTTP logs (but does not prevent harvesting -- it can be done using other methods)

The second is usage of software like Tor, although I think all connection to Tor sites are closely monitored by NSA.

The third is usage of your own cashing DNS proxy to limit number of DNS requests you make.  

I also think that all those development might give steganography a huge boost.

The other areas of technology that might get huge boost due to Snowden revelations is "Browsing imitating internet robots" technology which permit to drown NSA collection devices in spam -- fake accesses to web sites that is very difficult to distinguish from real browsing, but that make all statistical metrics applied to your Web traffic useless.  For example top visited pages became completely bogus. 

Currently this requires some level of technical sophistication and available mostly to programmers and system administrators interested in "beating NSA back". Programs that have those capabilities are often marketed as proxy logs replayers,  or Apache logs replayers or debugging tools. See for example  Load Testing with JMeter Part 3 - Replaying Apache Logs and Charles Web Debugging Proxy  ( and http - Replaying a Charles proxy session and recording the results - Stack Overflow ). Actually good old Expect can do wonders here if logs are converted into expect scripts. Especially in combination with Javascript (Scalable, Flexible Performance Testing Replaying web server log)

Another danger to society: Lord Acton warning as applied to NSA

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely".

Lord Acton(1834–1902)

As Lord Acton(1834–1902) noted long before NSA started collecting all Internet communications "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely". The history of "total surveillance" suggests that this is unavoidable side effect on the very institution that conducts: such an institution tends to escape the control of civil society and became a shadow power, the element of "deep state". 

The first grave consequence of total surveillance is that it tends to be abused. The history of "total surveillance" suggests that this is unavoidable side effect on the very institution that conducts: such an institution tends to escape the control of civil society and became a shadow power, the element of "deep state".  

And the ability to intercept electronic communications gives those who are in charge of such collection  tremendous political power. Please remember that J. Edgar Hoover was director of FBI very long time partially because he dug a lot of dirt on politicians of his time including both Kennedys. According to President Harry S Truman, Hoover transformed the FBI into his private secret police force. He used the FBI to harass political dissenters and activists, to amass secret files on political leaders, and to collect evidence using illegal methods. Essentially for half of the century he and his organization were out of control "state within the state" and nobody could do anything about it. Only after his death some measures were taken.

It's not that expanding bureaucracy per se is a problem. I doubt that those in the bureaucracy of those agencies do not think about larger consequences for societies of their attempts to expand their sphere of influence. It is much worse: they definitely knew about possible consequences, but go "full forward' anyway preferring job promotions and expansion of their influence. Like bureaucrats often do, they betrayed their nations like nomenklatura betrayed the people of the USSR (with a similar fig leaf of nice slogans about freedom as a smoke screen for pretty nefarious activities).

Elimination of possibility of opposition to the current regime

In case of NSA, this data on you, or particular political or social movement (for example "Occupy Wall Street") can be mined at any time, and what is even worse can be used to destroy any new political movement. And please remember that NSA is a just part of military-industrial complex, an entity that has some interesting political characteristics related to the term "the acquisition of unwarranted influence" . As Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us in his famous farewell speech (which introduced the term "military-industrial complex"):

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

People seldom understand that all three letter agencies are not just part of military industrial complex, but are the key parts. While ability of weapon manufactures to buy or just simply control Congress members matters, three-letter agencies is where "unwarranted influence" fully materialize. By definition they are out of control and as any bureaucracy they want to grow. That was clear to Senator Frank Church who stated on August 17, 1975 NBC's Meet the Press:

In the need to develop a capacity to know what potential enemies are doing, the United States government has perfected a technological capability that enables us to monitor the messages that go through the air. Now, that is necessary and important to the United States as we look abroad at enemies or potential enemies. We must know, at the same time, that capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left such is the capability to monitor everything—telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide.

If this government ever became a tyrant, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology.

I don’t want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.[11]

We can applaud his personal courage, but at this point it does not matter. The horse has left the barn. As sgtdoom commented The Guardian article NSA analysts 'willfully violated' surveillance systems, agency admits (August 24, 2013):

...let us be realistic and not fall for the usual story of this being a discrete event (all the latest surveillance, that is).

This dates back to the founding of the Financial-Intelligence-Complex during and in the aftermath of World War II, by the Wall Streeters for their super-rich bosses, the Rockefellers, Morgans, du Ponts, Mellons, Harrimans (now Mortimers), etc.

The most important factor that needs to be taken into account is the total surveillance make organized opposition to the regime impossible. So welcome to nicer, gentler, but no less totalitarian world of 1984 (aka "Back in USSR"). The key equation is very simple:

total surveillance = total control

That simple fact was well understood by various dictators and totalitarian regimes long ago, but none of them has had even a tiny fraction of technical capabilities NSA has now. I think one of the reason that Occupy movement completely dissipated so fast was that they were like a bug under microscope of the government. And government want them to stop harassing Wall Street sharks for their 2008 crisis misdeeds.

Instilling fear

Another important effect of "total surveillance" is instilling fear in the citizenry; fear that our thoughts, words and relationships are subject of interception and analysis; fear that all the content we access on the internet will be exposed. This fear can cause us to withdraw from public spaces like producing this website, censor our communications, refrain from accessing certain sites, buying certain books, etc.

An important effect of "total surveillance" is instilling fear in the citizenry; fear that our thoughts, words and relationships are subject of interception and analysis; fear that all the content we access on the internet will be exposed. This fear can cause us to withdraw from public spaces like producing this website, censor our communications, refrain from accessing certain sites, buying certain books, etc.

In other words understanding that you are watched on 24 x 7 basis modifies behavior and makes self-censorship your second nature exactly the same way as in any totalitarian state, but without any physical coercion. Here is one telling comment from Secret to Prism program Even bigger data seizure

wtpayne

Indeed: The intentions and motivations of the agencies in question; the degree of oversight and so on; is almost irrelevant. To a certain extent, I am content to believe that the intentions of the perpetrators is good; and that the oversight and abuse prevention systems that they have in place are strong.

However, none of that matters if people self-censor; if people worry, not about what the government of today will find objectionable, but what the government of tomorrow will not like. In effect, we end up censoring ourselves from a hypothetical worst-case future government.

Loss of privacy as a side effect of cloud-based Internet technologies

“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

Maybe Dante had some serious vision.

The Guardian

We will concentrate on technical side of the this operation, trying to understand how much information can be stored about a regular "Joe Doer" based on technical capabilities that are available. Let's assume that we deal with mostly "passive surveillance": collection and storage of vast amount of Internet traffic on special computers using either mirrored ports on the key routers or special access to key providers of cloud services.

We can probably assume that several layers of storage of those data exist:

Technology development creates new types of communications as well as new types of government surveillance mechanisms (you can call them "externalities" of new methods of communication). Those externalities, especially low cost of mass surveillance (Wikipedia), unfortunately, bring us closer to the Electronic police state (Wikipedia) or National Security State whether we want it or not. A crucial element of such a state is that its data gathering, sorting and correlation on individual citizens are continuous, cover a large number of citizens and all foreigners, and those activities are seldom exposed.

Cloud computing as a technology that presuppose storing the data "offsite" have several security problems, and one of them is that it is way too much "surveillance friendly" (Misunderstanding of issues of security and trust). With cloud computing powers that be do not need to do complex job of recreating TCP/IP conversations on router level to capture, say, all the emails. You can access Web-based email mailbox directly with all mails in appropriate mailboxes and spam filtered. This is a huge saving of computational efforts ;-).

It means two things:

It puts you essentially in a situation of a bug under microscope on Big Brother. And please understand that modern storage capabilities are such that it is easy to store several years of at least some of your communications, especially emails.

The same is true about your phone calls metadata, credit card transactions and your activities on major shopping sites such as Amazon, and eBay. But here you can do almost nothing. Still I think our support of "brick" merchants is long overdue. Phones are traditional target of government three letter agencies (WSJ) since the WWII. Smartphones with GPS in addition to land line metadata also provide your current geo location. Some point out that using basic phone slightly preferable to smartphone (both in a sense of absence of geodata and the possibility to install spyware on it -- there is simply no RAM to do anything sophisticated). But I do not think you can do much here

I think our support of "brick" merchants is long overdue. And paying cash in the store in not something that you should try to avoid because credit card returns you 1% of the cost of the purchase. This 1% is actually a privacy tax ;-)

Total continued surveillance even without taking any action on collected data is totalitarian by its nature as it put severe restrictions of the freedom of expression and it changes people behavior on the Web. In this sense, Senator McCartney was probably right about "Communists sympathizers" and "KGB infiltration", he just was completely wrong about who they are ;-).

The centralization of searches on Google (and to a lesser extent on Bing -- the latter is standard with new Windows installation) are also serious threats to your privacy. Here diversification between three or more search engines might help a bit.  But limited your time behind the computer is probably more efficient. Generally here I do not think much can be done. Growth of popularity of Duckduckgo suggests that people are vary of Google monopolizing the search, but it is unclear how big are the advantages. You can also save searches as many searches are recurrent and generally you can benefit from using your personal Web proxy with private cashing DNS server. This way to can "shrink" your radar picture, but that's about it. If you are conserved with you "search" profile, you can replay some searches to distort it. In any case,  search engines are now an integral part of our civilization, whether we want it or not.

Collection of your searches for the last several years can pretty precisely outline sphere of your interests. And again technical constrains on storage of data no longer exists: how we can talk about privacy at the age of 3 TB harddrives for $99. There are approximately 314 million of the US citizens and residents, so storing one gigabyte of information for each citizen requires just 400 petabytes.  Which is clearly within the current capabilities of storage technology. For comparison

Films to Understand the Phenomenon

The analogy with KGB surveillance of dissidents (the term was "to be under the "kolpak" (dome) ") and, especially, Stasi (viewing the film "The Lives of Others" might help to understand the phenomenon of "total surveillance") are way too close. And psychological effects of anticipating that you are under total surveillance are well depicted in the final of the film The Conversation (1974) directed by famous Francis Ford Coppola

At the same time there is an important difference: while both regimes creates implicit intimidation and squash dissent, cases of prosecution on the base of the those data are either few or non existent. Which is a big difference with KGB or Stasi practice, which aggressively pursued those dissidents who got in their net, trying either to convert them into informers, or prosecute them using the existing articles of Criminal Code. In some cases that led to suicides. So here we can talk more about Inverted Totalitarism, a velvet gloves mode of suppressing of dissent.

Your email in toxic cloud

Still it is now dramatically more clear then before that centralization of email accounts and user activities on sites like Facebook, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, LinkedIn, with email accounts mainly at Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo mail is far from being a positive development. Along with many positive aspects has tremendous negative side effects. Essentially it turns users into spies on themselves in a way that would be a dream by Stasi. The most significant is that it created an easy opportunities to data mine email databases both for those organizations as well as various government agencies and, possibly (in a limited way for special payment) by large corporations.

Those tendencies probably should be at least resisted, but we do not have means to reverse them.

Attempts to data mine email and Web communications of millions of Americans critical about government (see Total control: keywords in your posts that might trigger surveillance) and all foreigners who use those services (and that includes a significant part of European population and xUSSR area, who often use Gmail, Facebook or Yahoo accounts) means that the country became a National Security State. With all relevant consequences of such a transformation.

And interest in content of your "cloud based" email is not limited to the government:

A sweeping Wall Street Journal investigation in 2010 found that the biggest U.S. websites have technologies tracking people who visit their pages, sometimes upwards of 100 tools per site. One intrusive string of code even recorded users’ keystrokes and transmitted them to a data-gathering firm for analysis.

“A digital dossier over time is built up about you by that site or third-party service or data brokers,” says Adam Thierer, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center’s Technology Policy Program at George Mason University. “They collect these data profiles and utilize them to sell you or market you better services or goods.”

This is what powers the free Internet we know and love; users pay nothing or next to nothing for services — and give up pieces of personal information for advertisers in exchange. If you search for a Mini Cooper on one website, you’re likely to see ads elsewhere for lightweight, fuel-efficient cars. Companies robotically categorize users with descriptions such as “urban upscale” to “rural NASCAR” to tailor the advertising experience, says Jim Harper of the libertarian Cato Institute. “They’ll use ZIP codes and census data to figure out what their lifestyle profile is.”

Tracking your Web access

Most of the site you visit those days was found via search engine, often Google. But Google is interested in more then search terms you use and sometimes plays with you a nasty trick: "Google may choose to exhibit its search results in the form of a 'URL redirector,'" reads Google's main privacy policy. That means that any time it wishes Google can spy on your Web activity:

"When Google uses a URL redirector, if you click on a URL from a search result, information about the click is sent to Google."

Few people check the URL before clicking on Google search results, so in a way this is perfect spying tool.

But there is another powerful spying tool in Google arsenal -- Google toolbar, and I am not sure that all those trick were not reused in Google browser. Google Toolbar sends all user clicks to Google, if advanced mode is enabled (and many people do enable it because they want to have spelling correction available which, conveniently for Google, belongs to the set of advanced features). This way you voluntarily subscribe to a 24x7 monitoring of your web activity using spyware that is installed on your computer with your consent. For the same reason recent smartphones fashion looks greatly misguided. It is better to use regular phone, then smartphone, and the last thing you probably want on your smartphone is Android OS or iOS, or windows 8 OS. In some deep way unlocked Nokia 1280 looks now much more attractive (and is way cheaper ;-).

Google Toolbar in advanced mode is another common snooping tool about your activities. It send each URL you visit to Google and you can be sure that from Google several three letter agencies get this information as well. After all Google has links to them from the very beginning:

Effects on behavior

As soon as they realize that they are watched, people start thinking about consequences and this article is a pretty telling (albeit slightly paranoid ;-) illustration of the effect. The key mechanism here, well known to those who used to live in the USSR before its dissolution is that people preemptively change their behavior, if they know or suspect that they got "under the dome" of government surveillance, that all their emails are intercepted, all web site visits recorded, anything they buy on Amazon, etc is registered in giant database outside of their control.

The angle under which will we try to cover the story is: the situation is such and such, now what? What are the most appropriate actions and strategy of behavior of people who are concerned about their privacy and no longer trust "cloud services" provided by Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, etc ( and those who trust those providers should probably stop reading at this point). It is impossible to close all those accounts. But some can and should be closed; for example POP3 mail can replace web mail for all "important" mail; this way you avoid "cloud storage" of all your important correspondence. It is impossible not to use search engines, but you can chose which search language to use. It is impractical not to use smartphone and for Android phone you can't avoid registration -- that's the only way to get updates from Google, but you can root the phone, remove some snooping components and use Firefox instead of Chrome. But not it is clear that if mobile web browsing and checking email on your phone is not your thing you are better off with a very simple phone such as Nokia 1280.

The first and the most obvious "change we can believe in" is that we need to change our attitude toward cloud services and especially cloud services from large providers. Now the most reasonable assumption is that most national cloud providers including major retailers are in bed with the government three letter agencies. So you need to be careful what you browse for on Amazon, similarly to what you write from Gmail and Hotmail.

In a way, excessive usage of cloud services from a fashionable trend now became kind of indication of a person stupidity. It is important to understand that for anybody more or less competent with computers (or willing to learn), anything Facebook or Gmail or Hotmail can offer, regular small ISP account with Cpanel can offer with less risk for your privacy for, say, $5 a month or less. And your privacy definitely cost more then $60 a year.

In a way excessive using of cloud services from a fashionable trend now became an indication of a person stupidity. For anybody more or less competent with computers (or willing to learn), anything Facebook or Gmail can offer, regular ISP account with Cpanel can offer too with less risk for your privacy.

At the same time it is also stupid to over-dramatize the situation and isolate yourself by abandoning Internet communications and restricting usage of cell-phone. The reasonable hypothesis is that today’s surveillance is a side effect of new technological developments and it is a new fact of life. It is just a new level of information gathering, which has been going on since the Byzantine Empire. And it is still limited by technological capabilities of sifting through mass of communications. But at the same time, quantity does at one point turns into quality, so the danger is real and as such could providers are suspect by definition. In no way they are new level of technological development. In sense they are one step forward, two sets back.

Also being engages in foreign wars has an interesting side effect that technologies invented come home and used against citizens (naked capitalism). That's actually the origin of indiscriminant collection of metadata used now.

But at the same time we need to understand that there are millions of PC users that have computer(s) infected by spyware, which can make your computer a zombie. And world did not perished due to that.

Still the key lesson is unmistakable: from now on, any networked computer is an unsecure computer that can't be trusted really confidential information, unless it is isolated by firewall and proxy. And if we assume that it is unsecured computer, them it should be treated it as such. The first step is that all confidential data should be deleted and moved to removable storage. In case you need to work with it as much as possible should be done on non-networked computers, limiting the exposure of your data to bare minimum. And the less powerful computer you use for processing you confidential data, the best; the less powerful OS you use, the best (what about using Windows 98 or DOS for those who can still remember it ? ;-). From now on "retro-computing" movement now is inherently linked with the issues of security and privacy and might get a new life.

This retro-computing idea might create a new life for abandoned computers that are in excess in almost every family ;-) See Privacy is Dead – Get Over It. The same thing can be mentioned about a cell phone, which should be as simple as possible. Not all people really benefit from browsing the Web from their smartphones. If you are really paranoid you can think storing you cell phone at home in a metal box ;-).

In other words there are two new "laws of computer security":

But more important problem here is not snooping per se, but voluntarily self-profiling that you provide via social sites. If you are way too enthusiastic about Facebook or Google++ or any similar site and engage regularly and indiscriminately in this "vanity fair" activity you put yourselves voluntarily under surveillance. So not only Privacy is Dead – Get Over It. You killed it yourself. The essence of the situation was exposed well in a humorous form in the following Amazon review of Orwell's novel 1984

Bjørn Anders See all my reviews

This is not an instruction manual!, June 14, 2013

This review is from: 1984: 60th-Anniversary Edition (Plume) (Paperback)

Note to US Congress and house of representatives: This is a fictional book, not an instruction manual...

BTW just after Prism program was revealed in June 2013, Nineteen Eighty-Four became a bestseller on Amazon. As of June 15, 2013 it was #87 in Fiction. If you never have a chance to read it, please do it now. and again, if you think that this revelation of Prism program is a big news, you probably are mistaken. Many people understood that as soon new technical capabilities of surveillance are available they are instantly put to use. As John H. Summers noted in his review (The Deciders - New York Times) of John Mill "Power elite":

...official secrecy steadily expanded its reach.

"For the first time in American history, men in authority are talking about an 'emergency' without a foreseeable end,"

Mills wrote in a sentence that remains as powerful and unsettling as it was 50 years ago.

"Such men as these are crackpot realists: in the name of realism they have constructed a paranoid reality all their own."

Adding insult to injury: Self-profiling

Facebook has nothing without people
silly enough to exchange privacy for photosharing

The key problem with social sites is that many people voluntarily post excessive amount of personal data about themselves, including keeping their photo archives online, etc. So while East Germany analog of the Department of Homeland Security called Ministry for State Security (Stasi) needed to recruit people to spy about you, now you yourself serves as a informer voluntarily providing all the tracking information about your activities ;-).

Scientella, palo alto

...Facebook always had a very low opinion of peoples intelligence - and rightly so!

I can tell you Silicon Valley is scared. Facebook's very existence depends upon trusting young persons, their celebrity wannabee parents and other inconsequential people being prepared to give up their private information to Facebook.

Google, now that SOCIAL IS DEAD, at least has their day job also, of paid referral advertising where someone can without divulging their "social" identity, and not linking their accounts, can look for a product on line and see next to it some useful ads.

But Facebook has nothing without people silly enough to exchange privacy for photosharing.

... ... ...

Steve Fankuchen, Oakland CA

Cook, Brin, Gates, Zuckerberg, et al most certainly have lawyers and public relations hacks that have taught them the role of "plausible deniability."

Just as in the government, eventually some low or mid-level flunkie will likely be hung out to dry, when it becomes evident that the institution knew exactly what was going on and did nothing to oppose it. To believe any of these companies care about their users as anything other than cash cows is to believe in the tooth fairy.

The amount of personal data which users of site like Facebook put voluntarily on the Web is truly astonishing. Now anybody using just Google search can get quit substantial information about anybody who actively using social sites and post messages in discussion he/she particulates under his/her own name instead of a nickname. Just try to see what is available about you and most probably your jaw would drop...

This is probably right time for the users of social sites like Facebook, Google search, and Amazon (that means most of us ;-) to think a little bit more about the risks we are exposing ourselves. We all should became more aware about the risks involved as well as real implications of the catch phase Privacy is Dead – Get Over It.

This is probably right time for the users of social sites like Facebook, Google search, and Amazon (that means most of us ;-) to think a little bit more about the risks we are exposing ourselves.

As Peter Ludlow noted in NYT (The Real War on Reality):

If there is one thing we can take away from the news of recent weeks it is this: the modern American surveillance state is not really the stuff of paranoid fantasies; it has arrived.

Citizens of foreign countries have accounts at Facebook and mail accounts in Gmail, hotmail and Yahoo mail are even in less enviable position then the US citizens. They are legitimate prey. No legal protection for them exists, if they use those services. That means that they voluntarily open all the information they posted about themselves to the US government in addition to their own government. And the net is probably more wide then information leaked by NSA contractor Edward Snowden suggests. For any large company, especially a telecom corporation, operating is the USA it might be dangerous to refuse to cooperate (Qwest case).

Former Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio, convicted of insider trading in April 2007, alleged in appeal documents that the NSA requested that Qwest participate in its wiretapping program more than six months before September 11, 2001. Nacchio recalls the meeting as occurring on February 27, 2001. Nacchio further claims that the NSA cancelled a lucrative contract with Qwest as a result of Qwest's refusal to participate in the wiretapping program.[13] Nacchio surrendered April 14, 2009 to a federal prison camp in Schuylkill, Pennsylvania to begin serving a six-year sentence for the insider trading conviction. The United States Supreme Court denied bail pending appeal the same day.[15]

It is not the case of some special evilness of the US government. It simply is more agile to understand and capitalize on those new technical opportunities. It is also conveniently located at the center of Internet universe with most traffic is flowing via US owned or controlled routers (67% or more). But it goes without saying that several other national governments and a bunch of large corporations also try to mine this new gold throve of private information on citizens. Probably with less sophistication and having less financial resources.

In many cases corporations themselves are interested in partnership with the government. Here is one telling comment:

jrs says on June 8, 2013

Yea in my experience that’s how “public/private partnerships” really work:

  1. Companies DO need protection FROM the government. An ill-conceived piece of legislation can put a perfectly decent out of business. Building ties with the government is protection.
  2. Government represents a huge market and eventually becomes one of the top customers for I think most businesses (of course the very fact that a government agency is a main customer is often kept hush hush even within the company and something you are not supposed to speak of as an employee even though you are aware of it)
  3. Of course not every company proceeds to step 3 -- being basically an arm of the government but ..

That means that not only Chinese citizens already operate on the Internet without any real sense of privacy. Even if you live outside the USA the chances are high that you automatically profiled by the USA instead of or in addition to your own government. Kind of neoliberalism in overdrive mode: looks like we all are already citizens of a global empire (Let's call it " Empire of Peace" ) with the capital in Washington.

It is reasonable to assume that a massive eavesdropping apparatus now tracks at least an "envelope" of every electronic communication you made during your lifetime. No need for somebody reporting about you like in "old" totalitarian state like East Germany with its analog of the Department of Homeland Security called the Ministry for State Security (Stasi). So in this new environment, you are like Russians used to say about dissidents who got under KGB surveillance is always "under the dome". In this sense this is just an old vine in a new bottles. But the global scope and lifetime storage of huge amount of personal information for each and every citizen is something new and was made possible the first time in world history by new technologies.

It goes without saying that records about time, sender and receiver of all your phone calls, emails, Amazon purchases, credit card transactions, and Web activities for the last decade are stored somewhere in a database and not necessary only government computers. And that means that your social circle (the set of people you associate with), books and films that you bought, your favorite websites, etc can be easily deducted from those records.

That brings us to an important question about whether we as consumers should support such ventures as Facebook and Google++ which profile you and after several years have a huge amount of pretty private and pretty damaging information about you, information which can get into wrong hands.

Recent discoveries about Prism program: quantity turned into quality.

The most constructive approach to NSA is to view is a large government bureaucracy that expanded to the extent that quantity turned into quality.

Any large bureaucracy is a political coalition with the primary goal of preserving and enhancing of its own power, no matter what are official declarations. And if breaching your privacy helps they will do it. Which is what Bush government did after 9/11. The question is how much bureaucratic bloat resulting in classic dynamics of organizational self-aggrandizement and expansionism happened in NSA. We don't know how much we got in exchange for undermining internet security and US constitution. But we do know the intelligence establishment happily appropriated billions of dollars, had grown by thousand of employees and got substantial "face lift" and additional power within the executive branch of government. To the extent that something it looks like a shadow government. And now they will fight tooth-and nail to protect the fruits of a decade long bureaucratic expansion. Now it is an Intelligence Church and like any religious organization they do not need fact to support their doctrine and influence.

Typically there is an infighting and many factions within any large hierarchical organization, some with and some without factual awareness of the rest. Basically any hierarchical institution corporate, religious, military will abuse available resources for internal political infighting. And with NSA "big data" push this is either happening or just waiting to happen. This is a danger of any warrantless wiretapping program: it naturally convert itself into a saga of eroding checks and disappearing balance. And this already happened in the past, so in a way it is just act two of the same drama (WhoWhatWhy):

After media revelations of intelligence abuses by the Nixon administration began to mount in the wake of Watergate, NSA became the subject of Congressional ire in the form of the United States Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities—commonly known as the “Church Committee” after its chair, Senator Frank Church (D-ID)—established on January 17, 1975. This ad-hoc investigative body found itself unearthing troves of classified records from the FBI, NSA, CIA and Pentagon that detailed the murky pursuits of each during the first decades of the Cold War. Under the mantle of defeating communism, internal documents confirmed the executive branch’s use of said agencies in some of the most fiendish acts of human imagination (including refined psychological torture techniques), particularly by the Central Intelligence Agency.

The Cold War mindset had incurably infected the nation’s security apparatus, establishing extralegal subversion efforts at home and brutish control abroad. It was revealed that the FBI undertook a war to destroy homegrown movements such as the Black Liberation Movement (including Martin Luther King, Jr.), and that NSA had indiscriminately intercepted the communications of Americans without warrant, even without the President’s knowledge. When confronted with such nefarious enterprises, Congress sought to rein in the excesses of the intelligence community, notably those directed at the American public.

The committee chair, Senator Frank Church, then issued this warning about NSA’s power:

That capability at any time could be turned around on the American people and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything. Telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide. If this government ever became a tyranny, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back, because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology. I don’t want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capability that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.

The reforms that followed, as enshrined in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978, included the establishment of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC): a specially-designated panel of judges who are allowed to review evidence before giving NSA a warrant to spy on Americans (only in the case of overseas communication). Hardly a contentious check or balance, FISC rejected zero warrant requests between its inception in 1979 and 2000, only asking that two warrants be “modified” out of an estimated 13,000.

In spite of FISC’s rubberstamping, following 9/11 the Bush administration began deliberately bypassing the court, because even its minimal evidentiary standard was too high a burden of proof for the blanket surveillance they wanted. So began the dragnet monitoring of the American public by tapping the country’s major electronic communication chokepoints in collusion with the nation’s largest telecommunications companies.

When confronted with the criminal conspiracy undertaken by the Bush administration and telecoms, Congress confirmed why it retains the lowest approval rating of any major American institution by “reforming” the statute to accommodate the massive law breaking. The 2008 FISA Amendments Act [FAA] entrenched the policy of mass eavesdropping and granted the telecoms retroactive immunity for their criminality, withdrawing even the negligible individual protections in effect since 1979. Despite initial opposition, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama voted for the act as one of his last deeds in the Senate. A few brave (and unsuccessful) lawsuits later, this policy remains the status quo.

Similarly we should naturally expect that the notion of "terrorist" is flexible and in certain cases can be equal to "any opponent of regime". While I sympathize NYT readers reaction to this incident (see below), I think it is somewhat naive. They forget that they are living under neoliberal regime which like any rule of top 0.01% is afraid of and does not trust its own citizens. So massive surveillance program is a self-preservation measure which allow to crush or subvert the opposition at early stages. This is the same situation as existed with Soviet nomenklatura, with the only difference that Soviet nomenklatura was more modest pushing the USSR as a beacon of progress and bright hope of all mankind ;-). As Ron Paul noted:

Many of us are not so surprised.

Some of us were arguing back in 2001 with the introduction of the so-called PATRIOT Act that it would pave the way for massive US government surveillance—not targeting terrorists but rather aimed against American citizens. We were told we must accept this temporary measure to provide government the tools to catch those responsible for 9/11. That was nearly twelve years and at least four wars ago.

We should know by now that when it comes to government power-grabs, we never go back to the status quo even when the “crisis” has passed. That part of our freedom and civil liberties once lost is never regained. How many times did the PATRIOT Act need renewed? How many times did FISA authority need expanded? Why did we have to pass a law to grant immunity to companies who hand over our personal information to the government?

And while revealed sources of NSA Prism program include Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo and others major Internet players, that's probably just a tip of the iceberg. Ask yourself a question, why Amazon and VISA and MasterCard are not on the list? According to The Guardian:

The National Security Agency has obtained direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other US internet giants, according to a top secret document obtained by the Guardian.

The NSA access is part of a previously undisclosed program called Prism, which allows officials to collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats, the document says.

... ... ...

Microsoft – which is currently running an advertising campaign with the slogan "Your privacy is our priority" – was the first, with collection beginning in December 2007. It was followed by Yahoo in 2008; Google, Facebook and PalTalk in 2009; YouTube in 2010; Skype and AOL in 2011; and finally Apple, which joined the program in 2012. The program is continuing to expand, with other providers due to come online.

Collectively, the companies cover the vast majority of online email, search, video and communications networks

... ... ...

A chart prepared by the NSA, contained within the top-secret document obtained by the Guardian, underscores the breadth of the data it is able to obtain: email, video and voice chat, videos, photos, voice-over-IP (Skype, for example) chats, file transfers, social networking details, and more.

So while the document does not list Amazon, but I would keep fingers crossed.

Questions that arise

To be aware about a situation you need to be able to formulate and answer key questions about it. The first and the most important question is whether the government is engaged in cyberstalking of law abiding citizens. Unfortunately the answer is definite yes, as oligarchy needs total control of prols. As a result National Security State rise to prominence as a dominant social organization of neoliberal societies, the societies which characterized by very high level of inequality.

But there are some additional, albeit less important questions. The answers to them determine utility or futility of small changes of our own behavior in view of uncovered evidence. Among possible set of such question I would list the following:

There are also some minor questions about efficiency of "total surveillance approach". Among them:

The other part of understand the threat is understanding is what data are collected. The short answer is all your phone records and Internet activity (RT USA):

The National Security Agency is collecting information on the Internet habits of millions of innocent Americans never suspected of criminal involvement, new NSA documents leaked by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden suggest.

Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported Monday that top-secret documents included in the trove of files supplied by the NSA contractor-turned-leaker Edward Snowden reveal that the US intelligence community obtains and keeps information on American citizens accumulated off the Internet without ever issuing a search warrant or opening an investigation into that person.

The information is obtained using a program codenamed Marina, the documents suggest, and is kept by the government for up to a full year without investigators ever having to explain why the subject is being surveilled.

Marina has the ability to look back on the last 365 days' worth of DNI metadata seen by the Sigint collection system, regardless whether or not it was tasked for collection,” the Guardian’s James Ball quotes from the documents.

According to a guide for intelligence analysts supplied by Mr. Snowden, “The Marina metadata application tracks a user's browser experience, gathers contact information/content and develops summaries of target.”

"This tool offers the ability to export the data in a variety of formats, as well as create various charts to assist in pattern-of-life development,” it continues.

Ball writes that the program collects “almost anything” a Web user does online, “from browsing history – such as map searches and websites visited – to account details, email activity, and even some account passwords.”

Only days earlier, separate disclosures attributed to Snowden revealed that the NSA was using a massive collection of metadata to create complex graphs of social connections for foreign intelligence purposes, although that program had pulled in intelligence about Americans as well.

After the New York Times broke news of that program, a NSA spokesperson said that “All data queries must include a foreign intelligence justification, period.” As Snowden documents continue to surface, however, it’s becoming clear that personal information pertaining to millions of US citizens is routinely raked in by the NSA and other agencies as the intelligence community collects as much data as possible.

In June, a top-secret document also attributed to Mr. Snowden revealed that the NSA was collecting the telephony metadata for millions of Americans from their telecom providers. The government has defended this practice by saying that the metadata — rough information that does not include the content of communications — is not protected by the US Constitution’s prohibition against unlawful search and seizure.

Metadata can be very revealing,” George Washington University law professor Orin S. Kerr told the Times this week. “Knowing things like the number someone just dialed or the location of the person’s cellphone is going to allow them to assemble a picture of what someone is up to. It’s the digital equivalent of tailing a suspect.”

According to the Guardian’s Ball, Internet metadata picked up by the NSA is routed to the Marina database, which is kept separate from the servers where telephony metadata is stored.

Only moments after the Guardian wrote of its latest leak on Monday, Jesselyn Radack of the Government Accountability Project read a statement before the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs penned by none other than Snowden himself.

When I began my work, it was with the sole intention of making possible the debate we see occurring here in this body,” Snowden said.

Snowden, who has been granted temporary asylum in Russia after being charged with espionage in the US, said through Raddack that “The cost for one in my position of returning public knowledge to public hands has been persecution and exile.”

Limits to spying via data collected about you

If the NSA's mining of data traffic is so effective, why weren't Tsarnaev's family's overseas calls predictive of a bombing at the Boston Marathon?

-Helen Corey WSJ.com

There are limits of this "powerful analytical software" as it currently used. As we mentioned above, even if NSA algorithms are incredibly clever they can't avoid producing large number of false positives. After two year investigation into the post 9/11 intelligence agencies, the Washington Post came to conclusion that they are collecting more information than anyone can comprehend ("drinking from a firehose" or "drowning is a sea of data"):

Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billions e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications. The NSA sorts a fraction of those into 70 separate databases"

First of all there is a classic problem of "signal vs. noise" (infoglut) in any large scale data collection and presence of noise in the channel makes signal much more difficult to detect.

Analysts who make sense of document and conversations obtained by foreign and domestic spying share their judgment by publishing 50,000 intelligence reports each year -- a volume so large that many are routinely ignored

The enormity of the database exacerbate the problem. That's why NSA is hunting for email on cloud providers, where they are already filtered from spam, and processing required is much less then for emails intercepted from the wire data. Still even with the direct access to user accounts, the volume of data, especially graphic (pictures) and video data, is really huge and that stress the limits of processing capabilities and storage.

Existence of Snowden saga when a single analyst was able to penetrate the system and extract considerable amount information with impunity suggests that the whole Agency is mess, probably like is typical for any large organization with a lot of incompetents or, worse, careerists and psychopaths  at the helm (see Toxic Managers). Which is typical for government agencies and large corporations.

Still the level of logs collection and internal monitoring in NSA proved to be surprisingly weak, as there are indirect signs that the agency does not even know what reports Snowden get into his hands. In any case we, unless this is a very clever inside operation, we need to assume that Edward Snowden stole thousands of documents, abused his sysadmin position in the NSA, and was never caught. Here is one relevant comment from The Guardian

carlitoontour

Oh NSA......that´s fine that you cannot find something......what did you tell us, the World and the US Congress about the "intelligence" of Edward Snowden and the low access he had?

SNOWDEN SUSPECTED OF BYPASSING ELECTRONIC LOGS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. government's efforts to determine which highly classified materials leaker Edward Snowden took from the National Security Agency have been frustrated by Snowden's sophisticated efforts to cover his digital trail by deleting or bypassing electronic logs, government officials told The Associated Press. Such logs would have showed what information Snowden viewed or downloaded.

The government's forensic investigation is wrestling with Snowden's apparent ability to defeat safeguards established to monitor and deter people looking at information without proper permission, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the sensitive developments publicly.

http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_NSA_SURVEILLANCE_SNOWDEN?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2013-08-24-09-41-24

On the other hand government agencies were never good in making huge and complex software projects work. And large software projects are a very difficult undertaking in any case. Even in industry 50% of software projects fail, and anybody who works in the industry knows, that the more complex the project is the higher are chances that it will be mismanaged and its functionality crippled due to architectural defects ("a camel is a horse designed by a committee"). It is given that such project will be over budget. Possibly several times over...

But if money is not a problem such system will eventually be completed ("with enough thrust pigs can fly"). Still there’s no particular reason to think that corruption (major work was probably outsourced) and incompetence (on higher management levels and, especially on architectural level as in "camel is a horse designed by a committee") don't affect the design and functionality of such government projects. Now when this activity come under fire some adjustments might be especially badly thought out and potentially cripple the existing functionality.

As J. Kirk Wiebe, a NSA insider, noted

"The way the government was going about those digital data flows was poor formed, uninformed. There seen to be more of a desire to contract out and capture money flow then there was a [desire} to actually perform the mission".

See the interview of a trio of former National Security Agency whistle-blowers to USA TODAY ( J. Kirk Wiebe remarks starts at 2:06 and the second half of it continues from 6:10):

In military organizations the problem is seldom with the talent (or lack of thereof) of individual contributors. The problem is with the bureaucracy that is very effective in preventing people from exercising their talents at the service of their country. Such system is deformed in such a way that it hamstrings the men who are serving in it. As a results, more often then not the talents are squandered or misused by patching holes created by incompetence of higher-up or or just pushed aside in the interdepartmental warfare.

In a way, incompetence can be defined as the inability to avoid mistakes which, in a "normal" course of project development could and should be avoided. And that's the nature of military bureaucracy with its multiple layer of command and compete lack of accountability on higher levels.

In addition, despite the respectable name of the organization many members of technical staff are amateurs. They never managed to sharpen their technical skills, while at the same time acquiring the skills necessary to survive the bureaucracy. Many do not have basic academic education and are self-taught hackers and/or "grow on the job". Typically people at higher level of hierarchy, are simply not experts in software engineering, but more like typical corporate "PowerPoint" warriors. They can be very shred managers and accomplished political fighters, but that's it.

This is the same situation that exists in security departments of large multinationals, so we can extrapolate from that. The word of Admiral Nelson "If the enemy would know what officer corps will confront them, it will be trembling, like I am". Here is Bill Gross apt recollection of his service as naval officer (The Tipping Point) that illustrate the problems:

A few years ago I wrote about the time that our ship (on my watch) was almost cut in half by an auto-piloted tanker at midnight, but never have I divulged the day that the USS Diachenko came within one degree of heeling over during a typhoon in the South China Sea. “Engage emergency ballast,” the Captain roared at yours truly – the one and only chief engineer. Little did he know that Ensign Gross had slept through his classes at Philadelphia’s damage control school and had no idea what he was talking about. I could hardly find the oil dipstick on my car back in San Diego, let alone conceive of emergency ballast procedures in 50 foot seas. And so…the ship rolled to starboard, the ship rolled to port, the ship heeled at the extreme to 36 degrees (within 1 degree, as I later read in the ship’s manual, of the ultimate tipping point). One hundred sailors at risk, because of one twenty-three-year-old mechanically challenged officer, and a Captain who should have known better than to trust him.

Huge part of this work is outsourced to various contractors and this is where corruption really creeps in. So the system might be not as powerful as many people automatically assume when they hear the abbreviation of NSA. So in a way when news about such system reaches public it might serve not weakening but strengthening of the capabilities of the system. Moreover, nobody would question the ability of such system to store huge amount of raw or semi-processed data including all metadata for your transactions on the Internet.

Also while it is a large agency with a lot of top mathematic talent, NSA is not NASA and motivation of the people (and probably quality of architectural thinking about software projects involved) is different despite much better financing. While they do have high quality people, like most US agencies in general, large bureaucracies usually are unable to utilize their talent. Mediocrities with sharp elbows, political talent, as well as sociopaths typically rule the show.

That means two things:

So even with huge amount of subcontractors that can chase mostly "big fish". Although one open question is why with all those treasure trove of data organized crime is so hard to defeat. Having dataset like this should generally expose all the members of any gang. Or, say, network of blue collar insider traders. So in an indirect way the fact that organized crime not only exists and in some cities even flourish can suggest one of two things:

There is also a question of complexity of analysis:

Possibility of abuses of collected data

Errors in algorithms and bugs in those programs can bite some people in a different way then branding them as "terrorists". Such people have no way of knowing why all of a sudden, for example, they are paying a more for insurance, why their credit score is so low no matter what they do, etc. In no way government in the only one who are using the mass of data collected via Google / Facebook / Yahoo / Microsoft / Verizon / Optonline / AT&T / Comcast, etc. It also can lead to certain subtle types of bias if not error. And there are always problems of intentional misuse of data sets having extremely intimate knowledge about you.

Corporate corruption can lead to those data that are shared with the government can also be shared for money with private actors. Inept use of this unconstitutionally obtained data is a threat to all of us.

Then there can be cases when you can be targeted just because you are critical to the particular area of government policy, for example the US foreign policy. This is "Back in the USSR" situation in full swing, with its prosecution of dissidents. Labeling you as a "disloyal/suspicious element" in one of government "terrorism tracking" databases can have drastic result to your career and you never even realize whats happened. Kind of Internet era McCarthyism .

Obama claims that the government is aware about this danger and tried not to overstep, but he is an interested party in this discussion. In a way government is pushed in this area by the new technologies that open tremendous opportunities for collecting data and making some correlations.

That's why even if you are doing nothing wrong, it is still important to know your enemy, as well as avoid getting into some traps. One typical trap is excessive centralization of your email on social sites, including using a single Webmail provider. It is much safer to have mail delivery to your computer via POP3 and to use Thunderbird or other email client. If your computer is a laptop, you achieve, say, 80% of portability that Web-based email providers like Google Gmail offers. That does not mean that you should close your Gmail or Yahoo account. More important is separating email accounts into "important" and "everything else". "Junk mail" can be stored on Web-based email providers without any problems. Personal emails is completely another matter.

Conclusions

#14 Gus Hunt, the chief technology officer at the CIA: "We fundamentally try to collect everything and hang onto it forever."

New Internet technology developments has huge "Externality":
Profiling is now really easy and almost automatic, especially with your own help

Technology development create new types of communications as well as new types of government surveillance mechanisms (you can call them "externalities" of new methods of communication). Those externalities, especially low cost of mass surveillance (Wikipedia), unfortunately, bring us closer to the Electronic police state (Wikipedia) or National Security State whether we want it or not. A crucial element of such a state is that its data gathering, sorting and correlation are continuous, cover a large number of citizens and all foreigners and those activities are seldom exposed.

Cloud computing as a technology that presuppose storing the data "offsite" on third party servers have several security problems, and one of them is that it is way too much "surveillance friendly" (Misunderstanding of issues of security and trust). With cloud computing powers that be do not need to do complex job of recreating TCP/IP conversations on router level to capture, say, all the emails. You can access Web-based email mailbox directly with all mails in appropriate mailboxes and spam filtered. Your address book is a bonus ;-). This is huge saving of computational efforts.

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[Dec 14, 2017] Tech Giants Trying to Use WTO to Colonize Emerging Economies

Notable quotes:
"... The initiative described in this article reminds me of how the World Bank pushed hard for emerging economies to develop capital markets, for the greater good of America's investment bankers. ..."
"... By Burcu Kilic, an expert on legal, economic and political issues. Originally published at openDemocracy ..."
"... Today, the big tech race is for data extractivism from those yet to be 'connected' in the world – tech companies will use all their power to achieve a global regime in which small nations cannot regulate either data extraction or localisation. ..."
"... One suspects big money will be thrown at this by the leading tech giants. ..."
"... Out of idle curiosity, how could you accurately deduce my country of origin from my name? ..."
Dec 14, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

December 14, 2017 by Yves Smith Yves here. Notice that Costa Rica is served up as an example in this article. Way back in 1997, American Express had designated Costa Rica as one of the countries it identified as sufficiently high income so as to be a target for a local currency card offered via a franchise agreement with a domestic institution (often but not always a bank). 20 years later, the Switzerland of Central America still has limited Internet connectivity, yet is precisely the sort of place that tech titans like Google would like to dominate.

The initiative described in this article reminds me of how the World Bank pushed hard for emerging economies to develop capital markets, for the greater good of America's investment bankers.

By Burcu Kilic, an expert on legal, economic and political issues. Originally published at openDemocracy

Today, the big tech race is for data extractivism from those yet to be 'connected' in the world – tech companies will use all their power to achieve a global regime in which small nations cannot regulate either data extraction or localisation.

n a few weeks' time, trade ministers from 164 countries will gather in Buenos Aires for the 11th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference (MC11). US President Donald Trump in November issued fresh accusations of unfair treatment towards the US by WTO members , making it virtually impossible for trade ministers to leave the table with any agreement in substantial areas.

To avoid a 'failure ministerial," some countries see the solution as pushing governments to open a mandate to start conversations that might lead to a negotiation on binding rules for e-commerce and a declaration of the gathering as the "digital ministerial". Argentina's MC11 chair, Susana Malcorra, is actively pushing for member states to embrace e-commerce at the WTO, claiming that it is necessary to " bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots ".

It is not very clear what kind of gaps Malcorra is trying to bridge. It surely isn't the "connectivity gap" or "digital divide" that is growing between developed and developing countries, seriously impeding digital learning and knowledge in developing countries. In fact, half of humanity is not even connected to the internet, let alone positioned to develop competitive markets or bargain at a multilateral level. Negotiating binding e-commerce rules at the WTO would only widen that gap.

Dangerously, the "South Vision" of digital trade in the global trade arena is being shaped by a recent alliance of governments and well-known tech-sector lobbyists, in a group called 'Friends of E-Commerce for Development' (FED), including Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Uruguay, and, most recently, China. FED claims that e-commerce is a tool to drive growth, narrow the digital divide, and generate digital solutions for developing and least developed countries.

However, none of the countries in the group (apart from China) is leading or even remotely ready to be in a position to negotiate and push for binding rules on digital trade that will be favorable to them, as their economies are still far away from the technology revolution. For instance, it is perplexing that one of the most fervent defenders of FED's position is Costa Rica. The country's economy is based on the export of bananas, coffee, tropical fruits, and low-tech medical instruments, and almost half of its population is offline . Most of the countries in FED are far from being powerful enough to shift negotiations in favor of small players.

U.S.-based tech giants and Chinese Alibaba – so-called GAFA-A – dominate, by far, the future of the digital playing field, including issues such as identification and digital payments, connectivity, and the next generation of logistics solutions. In fact, there is a no-holds-barred ongoing race among these tech giants to consolidate their market share in developing economies, from the race to grow the advertising market to the race to increase online payments.

An e-commerce agenda that claims unprecedented development for the Global South is a Trojan horse move. Beginning negotiations on such topics at this stage – before governments are prepared to understand what is at stake – could lead to devastating results, accelerating liberalization and the consolidation of the power of tech giants to the detriment of local industries, consumers, and citizens. Aware of the increased disparities between North and South, and the data dominance of a tiny group of GAFA-A companies, a group of African nations issued a statement opposing the digital ambitions of the host for MC11. But the political landscape is more complex, with China, the EU, and Russia now supporting the idea of a "digital" mandate .

Repeating the Same Mistakes?

The relationships of most countries with tech companies are as imbalanced as their relationships with Big Pharma, and there are many parallels to note. Not so long ago, the countries of the Global South faced Big Pharma power in pharmaceutical markets in a similar way. Some developing countries had the same enthusiasm when they negotiated intellectual property rules for the protection of innovation and research and development costs. In reality, those countries were nothing more than users and consumers of that innovation, not the owners or creators. The lessons of negotiating trade issues that lie at the core of public interest issues – in that case, access to medicines – were costly. Human lives and fundamental rights of those who use online services should not be forgotten when addressing the increasingly worrying and unequal relationships with tech power.

The threat before our eyes is similarly complex and equally harmful to the way our societies will be shaped in the coming years. In the past, the Big Pharma race was for patent exclusivity, to eliminate local generic production and keep drug prices high. Today, the Big Tech race is for data extractivism from those who have yet to be connected in the world, and tech companies will use all the power they hold to achieve a global regime in which small nations cannot regulate either data extraction or data localization.

Big Tech is one of the most concentrated and resourceful industries of all time. The bargaining power of developing countries is minimal. Developing countries will basically be granting the right to cultivate small parcels of a land controlled by data lords -- under their rules, their mandate, and their will -- with practically no public oversight. The stakes are high. At the core of it is the race to conquer the markets of digital payments and the battle to become the platform where data flows, splitting the territory as old empires did in the past. As the Economist claimed on May 6, 2017: "Conflicts over control of oil have scarred the world for decades. No one yet worries that wars will be fought over data. But the data economy has the same potential for confrontation."

If countries from the Global South want to prepare for data wars, they should start thinking about how to reduce the control of Big Tech over -- how we communicate, shop, and learn the news -- , again, over our societies. The solution lies not in making rules for data liberalization, but in devising ways to use the law to reduce Big Tech's power and protect consumers and citizens. Finding the balance would take some time and we are going to take that time to find the right balance, we are not ready to lock the future yet.

Jef , December 14, 2017 at 11:32 am

I thought thats what the WTO is for?

Thuto , December 14, 2017 at 2:14 pm

One suspects big money will be thrown at this by the leading tech giants. To paraphrase from a comment I made recently regarding a similar topic : "with markets in the developed world pretty much sewn up by the tripartite tech overlords (google, fb and amazon), the next 3 billion users for their products/services are going to come from developing world". With this dynamic in mind, and the "constant growth" mantra humming incessantly in the background, it's easy to see how high stakes a game this is for the tech giants and how no resources will be spared to stymie any efforts at establishing a regulatory oversight framework that will protect the digital rights of citizens in the global south.

Multilateral fora like the WTO are de facto enablers for the marauding frontal attacks of transnational corporations, and it's disheartening to see that some developing nations have already nailed the digital futures of their citizens to the mast of the tech giants by joining this alliance. What's more, this signing away of their liberty will be sold to the citizenry as the best way to usher them into the brightest of all digital futures.

Mark P. , December 14, 2017 at 3:30 pm

One suspects big money will be thrown at this by the leading tech giants.

Vast sums of money are already being thrown at bringing Africa online, for better or worse. Thus, the R&D aimed at providing wireless Internet via giant drones/balloons/satellites by Google, Facebook, etc.

You're African. Possibly South African by your user name, which may explain why you're a little behind the curve, because the action is already happening, but more to the north -- and particularly in East Africa.

The big corporations -- and the tech giants are competing with the banking/credit card giants -- have noted how mobile technology leapt over the dearth of last century's telephony tech, land lines, and in turn enabled the highest adoption rates of cellphone banking in the world. (Particularly in East Africa, as I say.) The payoffs for big corporations are massive -- de facto cashless societies where the corporations control the payment systems –and the politicians are mostly cheap.

In Nigeria, the government has launched a Mastercard-branded national ID card that's also a payment card, in one swoop handing Mastercard more than 170 million potential customers, and their personal and biometric data.

In Kenya, the sums transferred by mobile money operator M-Pesa are more than 25 percent of that country's GDP.

You can see that bringing Africa online is technically a big, decade-long project. But also that the potential payoffs are vast. Though I also suspect China may come out ahead -- they're investing far more in Africa and in some areas their technology -- drones, for instance -- is already superior to what the Europeans and the American companies have.

Thuto , December 14, 2017 at 4:58 pm

Thank you Mark P.

Hoisted from a comment I made here recently: "Here in South Africa and through its Free Basics programme, facebook is jumping into bed with unsuspecting ISPs (I say unsuspecting because fb will soon be muscling in on their territory and becoming an ISP itself by provisioning bandwidth directly from its floating satellites) and circumventing net neutrality "

I'm also keenly aware of the developments in Kenya re: safaricom and Mpesa and how that has led to traditional banking via bank accounts being largely leapfrogged for those moving from being unbanked to active economic citizens requiring money transfer facilities. Given the huge succes of Mpesa, I wouldn't be surprised if a multinational tech behemoth (chinese or american) were to make a play for acquiring safaricom and positioning it as a triple-play ISP, money transfer/banking services and digital content provider (harvesting data about users habits on an unprecedented scale across multiple areas of their lives), first in Kenya then expanded throughout east, central and west africa. I must add that your statement about Nigeria puts Mark Zuckerberg's visit there a few months back into context somewhat, perhaps a reconnaissance mission of sorts.

Out of idle curiosity, how could you accurately deduce my country of origin from my name?

Mark P. , December 14, 2017 at 6:59 pm

Out of idle curiosity, how could you accurately deduce my country of origin from my name?

Though I've lived in California for decades, my mother was South African and I maintain a UK passport, having grown up in London.

Mark P. , December 14, 2017 at 3:34 pm

As you also write: "with markets in the developed world pretty much sewn up by the tripartite tech overlords (google, fb and amazon), the next 3 billion users for their products/services are going to come from developing world."

Absolutely true. This cannot be stressed enough. The tech giants know this and the race is on.

Mattski , December 14, 2017 at 3:41 pm

Been happening with food for 50 years.

[Dec 13, 2017] 'You are being programmed,' former Facebook executive warns by Rozina Sini

Dec 13, 2017 | www.bbc.com

A former Facebook executive has criticised the social network for ripping society apart during a question and answer session.

Chamath Palihapitiya, who worked as Facebook's vice president for user growth, was speaking at an event run by the Stanford Graduate School of Business on 10 November in which he described feeling "tremendous guilt' in helping the company attract two billion users.

His comments echoed remarks by Sean Parker, one of the early pioneers of Facebook, who spoke on 8 November , saying the social network provided "a dopamine hit and a social validation feedback loop, that exploited a vulnerability in human psychology."

However, coverage this week has seen thousands responding to Palihaptiya's words.

"We have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works," he told the audience.

He advised people take a "hard break" from social media, describing its effect as "short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops."

'You are being programmed'

"We curate our lives around this perceived sense of perfection, because we get rewarded in these short term signals: Hearts, likes, thumbs up," Palihaptiya said.

"We conflate that with value and we conflate it with truth, and instead what it really is is fake, brittle popularity that's short term and leaves you even more vacant and empty before you did it.

"You don't realise it but you are being programmed."

Palihapitiya said he could not offer a solution but deals with the problem himself by not using social media anymore, something which he says has caused tension with his family and friends.

[Dec 04, 2017] The neoliberal framework in antitrust is based on pecifically its pegging competition to consumer welfare, defined as short-term price effects and as such s unequipped to capture the architecture of market power in the modern economy

Notable quotes:
"... This Note argues that the current framework in antitrust-specifically its pegging competition to "consumer welfare," defined as short-term price effects-is unequipped to capture the architecture of market power in the modern economy. We cannot cognize the potential harms to competition posed by Amazon's dominance if we measure competition primarily through price and output. ..."
"... This Note maps out facets of Amazon's dominance. Doing so enables us to make sense of its business strategy, illuminates anticompetitive aspects of Amazon's structure and conduct, and underscores deficiencies in current doctrine. The Note closes by considering two potential regimes for addressing Amazon's power: restoring traditional antitrust and competition policy principles or applying common carrier obligations and duties. ..."
Feb 12, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
anne : February 11, 2017 at 11:43 AM , 2017 at 11:43 AM
http://www.yalelawjournal.org/article/amazons-antitrust-paradox

January, 2017

Amazon's Antitrust Paradox
By Lina M. Khan

Abstract

Amazon is the titan of twenty-first century commerce. In addition to being a retailer, it is now a marketing platform, a delivery and logistics network, a payment service, a credit lender, an auction house, a major book publisher, a producer of television and films, a fashion designer, a hardware manufacturer, and a leading host of cloud server space. Although Amazon has clocked staggering growth, it generates meager profits, choosing to price below-cost and expand widely instead. Through this strategy, the company has positioned itself at the center of e-commerce and now serves as essential infrastructure for a host of other businesses that depend upon it. Elements of the firm's structure and conduct pose anticompetitive concerns -- yet it has escaped antitrust scrutiny.

This Note argues that the current framework in antitrust-specifically its pegging competition to "consumer welfare," defined as short-term price effects-is unequipped to capture the architecture of market power in the modern economy. We cannot cognize the potential harms to competition posed by Amazon's dominance if we measure competition primarily through price and output.

Specifically, current doctrine underappreciates the risk of predatory pricing and how integration across distinct business lines may prove anticompetitive. These concerns are heightened in the context of online platforms for two reasons. First, the economics of platform markets create incentives for a company to pursue growth over profits, a strategy that investors have rewarded. Under these conditions, predatory pricing becomes highly rational-even as existing doctrine treats it as irrational and therefore implausible. Second, because online platforms serve as critical intermediaries, integrating across business lines positions these platforms to control the essential infrastructure on which their rivals depend. This dual role also enables a platform to exploit information collected on companies using its services to undermine them as competitors.

This Note maps out facets of Amazon's dominance. Doing so enables us to make sense of its business strategy, illuminates anticompetitive aspects of Amazon's structure and conduct, and underscores deficiencies in current doctrine. The Note closes by considering two potential regimes for addressing Amazon's power: restoring traditional antitrust and competition policy principles or applying common carrier obligations and duties.

[Dec 03, 2017] Google clearly can not be trusted

Notable quotes:
"... Also, don't use Gmail. – Google spies on everything you say. That's not really a secret. They do it to make money selling y our info to advertising. Don't be surprised if after you tell your parents the happy news that they will soon have a grandchild if every Google ad on every webpage you visit wants to sell you baby furniture and baby food and lots of other baby stuff. ..."
unz.com

Anonymous , Disclaimer November 25, 2017 at 7:52 pm GMT

@m___

Boycott Google!!!! They clearly can not be trusted. Do you want to find only the websites that Google wants you to see? Then use a Google Search engine. Don't search on Google.

-- There are other search engines out there. But some of the ones that claim to preserve your privacy from Google's ever present snooping still search on Google. They just hide your IP by searching through another website. But there are other search engines out there that offer unbiased and uncensored searching.

Also, don't use Gmail. – Google spies on everything you say. That's not really a secret. They do it to make money selling y our info to advertising. Don't be surprised if after you tell your parents the happy news that they will soon have a grandchild if every Google ad on every webpage you visit wants to sell you baby furniture and baby food and lots of other baby stuff.

Don't use Google drive or spreadsheets or docs.

-- Again, Google spies on all of this to make money for themselves by selling your secrets.

Find other video venues than YouTube.

-- You are going to have to anyways, now that Google is actively censoring the content. Clearly, if you want to see anything that Google doesn't want you to see, you are going to have to find alternatives to Youtube . and they are there.

[Dec 03, 2017] Google Facebook Are 1984 - Tax Them 'Til They Bleed by Raul Ilargi Meije

I would not put YouTube in the same set of Facebook. This is a different platform. And much more useful. IMHO no respectful person that I know uses Facebook for putting personal information on it. Only teenagers are doing that. And even among them resentment against Facebook is common.
Google with its search engine is a more dangerous beast, but there are alternatives. many people stitched for Google to other search engines. That does not give much privacy protection other then moral satisfaction, but still it is stupid just to use Big Brother search engine voluntarily if you can avoid it.
Notable quotes:
"... For Google and Facebook as the world's new major -only?!- ad agencies: Tax the heebies out of them or forbid them from running any ads at all. Why? Because they extract enormous amounts of productive capital from society. Capital they, as Varoufakis says, do not even themselves create. ..."
"... As Google, Facebook and the CIA are ever more entwined, these companies become so important to what 'the spooks' consider the interests of the nation that they will become mutually protective. And once CIA headquarters in Langley, VA, aka the aptly named "George Bush Center for Intelligence", openly as well as secretly protects you, you're pretty much set for life. A long life. ..."
"... I know, you were thinking it was 'the Russians' with a few as yet unproven bucks in Facebook ads that were threatening US and European democracies. Well, you're really going to have to think again. ..."
Nov 12, 2017 | www.zerohedge.com
Authoredr via The Automatic Earth blog,

An entire library of articles about Big Tech is coming out these days, and I find that much of it is written so well, and the ideas in them so well expressed, that I have little to add. Except, I think I may have the solution to the problems many people see. But I also have a concern that I don't see addressed, and that may well prevent that solution from being adopted. If so, we're very far away from any solution at all. And that's seriously bad news.

Let's start with a general -even 'light'- critique of social media by Claire Wardle and Hossein Derakhshan for the Guardian:

How Did The News Go 'Fake'? When The Media Went Social

Social media force us to live our lives in public , positioned centre-stage in our very own daily performances. Erving Goffman, the American sociologist, articulated the idea of "life as theatre" in his 1956 book The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, and while the book was published more than half a century ago, the concept is even more relevant today. It is increasingly difficult to live a private life, in terms not just of keeping our personal data away from governments or corporations, but also of keeping our movements, interests and, most worryingly, information consumption habits from the wider world.

The social networks are engineered so that we are constantly assessing others – and being assessed ourselves. In fact our "selves" are scattered across different platforms, and our decisions, which are public or semi-public performances, are driven by our desire to make a good impression on our audiences, imagined and actual. We grudgingly accept these public performances when it comes to our travels, shopping, dating, and dining. We know the deal. The online tools that we use are free in return for us giving up our data, and we understand that they need us to publicly share our lifestyle decisions to encourage people in our network to join, connect and purchase.

But, critically, the same forces have impacted the way we consume news and information. Before our media became "social", only our closest family or friends knew what we read or watched, and if we wanted to keep our guilty pleasures secret, we could. Now, for those of us who consume news via the social networks, what we "like" and what we follow is visible to many [..] Consumption of the news has become a performance that can't be solely about seeking information or even entertainment. What we choose to "like" or follow is part of our identity, an indication of our social class and status, and most frequently our political persuasion.

That sets the scene. People sell their lives, their souls, to join a network that then sells these lives -and souls- to the highest bidder, for a profit the people themselves get nothing of. This is not some far-fetched idea. As noted further down, in terms of scale, Facebook is a present day Christianity. And these concerns are not only coming from 'concerned citizens', some of the early participants are speaking out as well. Like Facebook co-founder Sean Parker:

Facebook: God Only Knows What It's Doing To Our Children's Brains

Sean Parker, the founding president of Facebook, gave me a candid insider's look at how social networks purposely hook and potentially hurt our brains. Be smart: Parker's I-was-there account provides priceless perspective in the rising debate about the power and effects of the social networks, which now have scale and reach unknown in human history. [..]

"When Facebook was getting going, I had these people who would come up to me and they would say, 'I'm not on social media.' And I would say, 'OK. You know, you will be.' And then they would say, 'No, no, no. I value my real-life interactions. I value the moment. I value presence. I value intimacy.' And I would say, 'We'll get you eventually.'"

"I don't know if I really understood the consequences of what I was saying, because [of] the unintended consequences of a network when it grows to a billion or 2 billion people and it literally changes your relationship with society, with each other It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it's doing to our children's brains."

"The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them, was all about: 'How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?'" "And that means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever. And that's going to get you to contribute more content, and that's going to get you more likes and comments."

"It's a social-validation feedback loop exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you're exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology." "The inventors, creators -- it's me, it's Mark [Zuckerberg], it's Kevin Systrom on Instagram, it's all of these people -- understood this consciously. And we did it anyway."

Early stage investor in Facebook, Roger McNamee, also has some words to add along the same lines as Parker. They make it sound like they're Frankenstein and Facebook is their monster.

How Facebook and Google Threaten Public Health – and Democracy

The term "addiction" is no exaggeration. The average consumer checks his or her smartphone 150 times a day, making more than 2,000 swipes and touches. The applications they use most frequently are owned by Facebook and Alphabet, and the usage of those products is still increasing. In terms of scale, Facebook and YouTube are similar to Christianity and Islam respectively. More than 2 billion people use Facebook every month, 1.3 billion check in every day. More than 1.5 billion people use YouTube. Other services owned by these companies also have user populations of 1 billion or more.

Facebook and Alphabet are huge because users are willing to trade privacy and openness for "convenient and free." Content creators resisted at first, but user demand forced them to surrender control and profits to Facebook and Alphabet. The sad truth is that Facebook and Alphabet have behaved irresponsibly in the pursuit of massive profits. They have consciously combined persuasive techniques developed by propagandists and the gambling industry with technology in ways that threaten public health and democracy.

The issue, however, is not social networking or search. It is advertising business models. Let me explain. From the earliest days of tabloid newspapers, publishers realized the power of exploiting human emotions. To win a battle for attention, publishers must give users "what they want," content that appeals to emotions, rather than intellect. Substance cannot compete with sensation, which must be amplified constantly, lest consumers get distracted and move on. "If it bleeds, it leads" has guided editorial choices for more than 150 years, but has only become a threat to society in the past decade, since the introduction of smartphones.

Media delivery platforms like newspapers, television, books, and even computers are persuasive, but people only engage with them for a few hours each day and every person receives the same content. Today's battle for attention is not a fair fight. Every competitor exploits the same techniques, but Facebook and Alphabet have prohibitive advantages: personalization and smartphones. Unlike older media, Facebook and Alphabet know essentially everything about their users, tracking them everywhere they go on the web and often beyond.

By making every experience free and easy, Facebook and Alphabet became gatekeepers on the internet, giving them levels of control and profitability previously unknown in media. They exploit data to customize each user's experience and siphon profits from content creators. Thanks to smartphones, the battle for attention now takes place on a single platform that is available every waking moment. Competitors to Facebook and Alphabet do not have a prayer.

Facebook and Alphabet monetize content through advertising that is targeted more precisely than has ever been possible before . The platforms create "filter bubbles" around each user, confirming pre-existing beliefs and often creating the illusion that everyone shares the same views. Platforms do this because it is profitable. The downside of filter bubbles is that beliefs become more rigid and extreme. Users are less open to new ideas and even to facts.

Of the millions of pieces of content that Facebook can show each user at a given time, they choose the handful most likely to maximize profits. If it were not for the advertising business model, Facebook might choose content that informs, inspires, or enriches users. Instead, the user experience on Facebook is dominated by appeals to fear and anger. This would be bad enough, but reality is worse.

And in a Daily Mail article, McNamee's ideas are taken a mile or so further. Goebbels, Bernays, fear, anger, personalization, civility.

Early Facebook Investor Compares The Social Network To Nazi Propaganda

Facebook officials have been compared to the Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels by a former investor. Roger McNamee also likened the company's methods to those of Edward Bernays, the 'father of public' relations who promoted smoking for women. Mr McNamee, who made a fortune backing the social network in its infancy, has spoken out about his concern about the techniques the tech giants use to engage users and advertisers. [..] the former investor said everyone was now 'in one degree or another addicted' to the site while he feared the platform was causing people to swap real relationships for phoney ones.

And he likened the techniques of the company to Mr Bernays and Hitler's public relations minister. 'In order to maintain your attention they have taken all the techniques of Edward Bernays and Joseph Goebbels, and all of the other people from the world of persuasion, and all the big ad agencies, and they've mapped it onto an all day product with highly personalised information in order to addict you,' Mr McNamee told The Telegraph. Mr McNamee said Facebook was creating a culture of 'fear and anger'. 'We have lowered the civil discourse, people have become less civil to each other..'

He said the tech giant had 'weaponised' the First Amendment to 'essentially absolve themselves of responsibility'. He added: 'I say this as somebody who was there at the beginning.' Mr McNamee's comments come as a further blow to Facebook as just last month former employee Justin Rosenstein spoke out about his concerns. Mr Rosenstein, the Facebook engineer who built a prototype of the network's 'like' button, called the creation the 'bright dings of pseudo-pleasure'. He said he was forced to limit his own use of the social network because he was worried about the impact it had on him.

As for the economic, not the societal or personal, effects of social media, Yanis Varoufakis had this to say a few weeks ago:

Capitalism Is Ending Because It Has Made Itself Obsolete – Varoufakis

Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has claimed capitalism is coming to an end because it is making itself obsolete. The former economics professor told an audience at University College London that the rise of giant technology corporations and artificial intelligence will cause the current economic system to undermine itself. Mr Varoufakis said companies such as Google and Facebook, for the first time ever, are having their capital bought and produced by consumers.

"Firstly the technologies were funded by some government grant; secondly every time you search for something on Google, you contribute to Google's capital," he said. "And who gets the returns from capital? Google, not you. "So now there is no doubt capital is being socially produced, and the returns are being privatised . This with artificial intelligence is going to be the end of capitalism."

Ergo, as people sell their lives and their souls to Facebook and Alphabet, they sell their economies along with them.

That's what that means. And you were just checking what your friends were doing. Or, that's what you thought you were doing.

The solution to all these pains is, likely unintentionally, provided by Umair Haque's critique of economics. It's interesting to see how the topics 'blend', 'intertwine'.

How Economics Failed the Economy

When, in the 1930s, the great economist Simon Kuznets created GDP, he deliberately left two industries out of this then novel, revolutionary idea of a national income : finance and advertising. [..] Kuznets logic was simple, and it was not mere opinion, but analytical fact: finance and advertising don't create new value , they only allocate, or distribute existing value in the same way that a loan to buy a television isn't the television, or an ad for healthcare isn't healthcare. They are only means to goods, not goods themselves. Now we come to two tragedies of history.

What happened next is that Congress laughed, as Congresses do, ignored Kuznets, and included advertising and finance anyways for political reasons -after all, bigger, to the politicians mind, has always been better, and therefore, a bigger national income must have been better. Right? Let's think about it. Today, something very curious has taken place.

If we do what Kuznets originally suggested, and subtract finance and advertising from GDP, what does that picture -a picture of the economy as it actually is reveal? Well, since the lion's share of growth, more than 50% every year, comes from finance and advertising -whether via Facebook or Google or Wall St and hedge funds and so on- we would immediately see that the economic growth that the US has chased so desperately, so furiously, never actually existed at all.

Growth itself has only been an illusion, a trick of numbers, generated by including what should have been left out in the first place. If we subtracted allocative industries from GDP, we'd see that economic growth is in fact below population growth, and has been for a very long time now, probably since the 1980s and in that way, the US economy has been stagnant, which is (surprise) what everyday life feels like. Feels like.

Economic indicators do not anymore tell us a realistic, worthwhile, and accurate story about the truth of the economy, and they never did -only, for a while, the trick convinced us that reality wasn't. Today, that trick is over, and economies grow , but people's lives, their well-being, incomes, and wealth, do not, and that, of course, is why extremism is sweeping the globe. Perhaps now you begin to see why the two have grown divorced from one another: economics failed the economy.

Now let us go one step, then two steps, further. Finance and advertising are no longer merely allocative industries today. They are now extractive industries. That is, they internalize value from society, and shift costs onto society, all the while creating no value themselves.

The story is easiest to understand via Facebook's example: it makes its users sadder, lonelier, and unhappier, and also corrodes democracy in spectacular and catastrophic ways. There is not a single upside of any kind that is discernible -and yet, all the above is counted as a benefit, not a cost, in national income, so the economy can thus grow, even while a society of miserable people are being manipulated by foreign actors into destroying their own democracy. Pretty neat, huh?

It was BECAUSE finance and advertising were counted as creative, productive, when they were only allocative, distributive that they soon became extractive. After all, if we had said from the beginning that these industries do not count, perhaps they would not have needed to maximize profits (or for VCs to pour money into them, and so on) endlessly to count more. But we didn't.

And so soon, they had no choice but to become extractive: chasing more and more profits, to juice up the illusion of growth, and soon enough, these industries began to eat the economy whole, because of course, as Kuznets observed, they allocate everything else in the economy, and therefore, they control it.

Thus, the truly creative, productive, life-giving parts of the economy shrank in relative, and even in absolute terms, as they were taken apart, strip-mined, and consumed in order to feed the predatory parts of the economy , which do not expand human potential. The economy did eat itself, just as Marx had supposed – only the reason was not something inherent in it, but a choice, a mistake, a tragedy.

[..] Life is not flourishing, growing, or developing in a single way that I or even you can readily identify or name. And yet, the economy appears to be growing, because purely allocative and distributive enterprises like Uber, Facebook, credit rating agencies, endless nameless hedge funds, shady personal info brokers, and so on, which fail to contribute positively to human life in any discernible way whatsoever, are all counted as beneficial. Do you see the absurdity of it?

[..] It's not a coincidence that the good has failed to grow, nor is it an act of the gods. It was a choice. A simple cause-effect relationship, of a society tricking itself into desperately pretending it was growing, versus truly growing. Remember not subtracting finance and advertising from GDP, to create the illusion of growth? Had America not done that, then perhaps it might have had to work hard to find ways to genuinely, authentically, meaningfully grow, instead of taken the easy way out, only to end up stagnating today, and unable to really even figure out why yet.

Industries that are not productive, but instead only extract money from society, need to be taxed so heavily they have trouble surviving. If that doesn't happen, your economy will never thrive, or even survive. The whole service economy fata morgana must be thrown as far away as we can throw it. Economies must produce real, tangible things, or they die.

For the finance industry this means: tax the sh*t out of any transactions they engage in. Want to make money on complex derivatives? We'll take 75+%. Upfront. And no, you can't take your company overseas. Don't even try.

For Uber and Airbnb it means pay taxes up the wazoo, either as a company or as individual home slash car owners. Uber and Airbnb take huge amounts of money out of local economies, societies, communities, which is nonsense, unnecessary and detrimental. Every city can set up its own local car- or home rental schemes. Their profits should stay within the community, and be invested in it.

For Google and Facebook as the world's new major -only?!- ad agencies: Tax the heebies out of them or forbid them from running any ads at all. Why? Because they extract enormous amounts of productive capital from society. Capital they, as Varoufakis says, do not even themselves create.

YOU are creating the capital, and YOU then must pay for access to the capital created.

Yeah, it feels like you can just hook up and look at what your friends are doing, but the price extracted from you, your friends, and your community is so high you would never volunteer to pay for it if you had any idea.

The one thing that I don't see anyone address, and that might prevent these pretty straightforward "tax-them-til they-bleed!" answers to the threat of New Big Tech, is that Facebook, Alphabet et al have built a very strong relationship with various intelligence communities. And then you have Goebbels and Bernays in the service of the CIA.

As Google, Facebook and the CIA are ever more entwined, these companies become so important to what 'the spooks' consider the interests of the nation that they will become mutually protective. And once CIA headquarters in Langley, VA, aka the aptly named "George Bush Center for Intelligence", openly as well as secretly protects you, you're pretty much set for life. A long life.

Next up: they'll be taking over entire economies, societies. This is happening as we speak . I know, you were thinking it was 'the Russians' with a few as yet unproven bucks in Facebook ads that were threatening US and European democracies. Well, you're really going to have to think again.

The world has never seen such technologies. It has never seen such intensity, depth of, or such dependence on, information. We are simply not prepared for any of this. But we need to learn fast, or become patsies and slaves in a full blown 1984 style piece of absurd theater. Our politicians are AWOL and MIA for all of it, they have no idea what to say or think, they don't understand what Google or bitcoin or Uber really mean.

In the meantime, we know one thing we can do, and we can justify doing it through the concept of non-productive and extractive industries. That is, tax them till they bleed.

That we would hit the finance industry with that as well is a welcome bonus. Long overdue. We need productive economies or we're done. And Facebook and Alphabet -and Goldman Sachs- don't produce d*ck all.

When you think about it, the only growth that's left in the US economy is that of companies spying on American citizens. Well, that and Europeans. China has banned Facebook and Google. Why do you think they have? Because Google and Facebook ARE 1984, that's why. And if there's going to be a Big Brother in the Middle Kingdom, it's not going to be Silicon Valley.

[Dec 01, 2017] NSA hacks system administrators, new leak reveals

Highly recommended!
"I hunt sysadm" policy is the most realosnableif you you want to get into some coporate netwrok. So republication of this three years old post is just a reminder. Any sysadmin that access corporates netwrok not from a dedicated computer using VPN (corporate laptop) is engangering the corporation. As simple as that. The level of non-professionalism demonstrated by Hillary Clinton IT staff suggests that this can be a problem in government too. After all Snowden documents now are studied by all major intelligence agencies of the world.
This also outlines the main danger of "shadow It".
Notable quotes:
"... Journalist Ryan Gallagher reported that Edward Snowden , a former sys admin for NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, provided The Intercept with the internal documents, including one from 2012 that's bluntly titled "I hunt sys admins." ..."
"... "Who better to target than the person that already has the 'keys to the kingdom'?" ..."
"... "They were written by an NSA official involved in the agency's effort to break into foreign network routers, the devices that connect computer networks and transport data across the Internet," ..."
"... "By infiltrating the computers of system administrators who work for foreign phone and Internet companies, the NSA can gain access to the calls and emails that flow over their networks." ..."
"... The latest leak suggests that some NSA analysts took a much different approach when tasked with trying to collect signals intelligence that otherwise might not be easily available. According to the posts, the author advocated for a technique that involves identifying the IP address used by the network's sys admin, then scouring other NSA tools to see what online accounts used those addresses to log-in. Then by using a ..."
"... that tricks targets into installing malware by being misdirected to fake Facebook servers, the intelligence analyst can hope that the sys admin's computer is sufficiently compromised and exploited. ..."
"... Once the NSA has access to the same machine a sys admin does, American spies can mine for a trove of possibly invaluable information, including maps of entire networks, log-in credentials, lists of customers and other details about how systems are wired. In turn, the NSA has found yet another way to, in theory, watch over all traffic on a targeted network. ..."
"... "Up front, sys admins generally are not my end target. My end target is the extremist/terrorist or government official that happens to be using the network some admin takes care of," the NSA employee says in the documents. ..."
"... "A key part of the protections that apply to both US persons and citizens of other countries is the mandate that information be in support of a valid foreign intelligence requirement, and comply with US Attorney General-approved procedures to protect privacy rights." ..."
"... Coincidentally, outgoing-NSA Director Keith Alexander said last year that he was working on drastically cutting the number of sys admins at that agency by upwards of 90 percent - but didn't say it was because they could be exploited by similar tactics waged by adversarial intelligence groups. ..."
Mar 21, 2014 | news.slashdot.org

In its quest to take down suspected terrorists and criminals abroad, the United States National Security Agency has adopted the practice of hacking the system administrators that oversee private computer networks, new documents reveal.

In its quest to take down suspected terrorists and criminals abroad, the United States National Security Agency has adopted the practice of hacking the system administrators that oversee private computer networks, new documents reveal.

The Intercept has published a handful of leaked screenshots taken from an internal NSA message board where one spy agency specialist spoke extensively about compromising not the computers of specific targets, but rather the machines of the system administrators who control entire networks.

Journalist Ryan Gallagher reported that Edward Snowden, a former sys admin for NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, provided The Intercept with the internal documents, including one from 2012 that's bluntly titled "I hunt sys admins."

According to the posts - some labeled "top secret" - NSA staffers should not shy away from hacking sys admins: a successful offensive mission waged against an IT professional with extensive access to a privileged network could provide the NSA with unfettered capabilities, the analyst acknowledged.

"Who better to target than the person that already has the 'keys to the kingdom'?" one of the posts reads.

"They were written by an NSA official involved in the agency's effort to break into foreign network routers, the devices that connect computer networks and transport data across the Internet," Gallagher wrote for the article published late Thursday. "By infiltrating the computers of system administrators who work for foreign phone and Internet companies, the NSA can gain access to the calls and emails that flow over their networks."

Since last June, classified NSA materials taken by Snowden and provided to certain journalists have exposed an increasing number of previously-secret surveillance operations that range from purposely degrading international encryption standards and implanting malware in targeted machines, to tapping into fiber-optic cables that transfer internet traffic and even vacuuming up data as its moved into servers in a decrypted state.

The latest leak suggests that some NSA analysts took a much different approach when tasked with trying to collect signals intelligence that otherwise might not be easily available. According to the posts, the author advocated for a technique that involves identifying the IP address used by the network's sys admin, then scouring other NSA tools to see what online accounts used those addresses to log-in. Then by using a previously-disclosed NSA tool that tricks targets into installing malware by being misdirected to fake Facebook servers, the intelligence analyst can hope that the sys admin's computer is sufficiently compromised and exploited.

Once the NSA has access to the same machine a sys admin does, American spies can mine for a trove of possibly invaluable information, including maps of entire networks, log-in credentials, lists of customers and other details about how systems are wired. In turn, the NSA has found yet another way to, in theory, watch over all traffic on a targeted network.

"Up front, sys admins generally are not my end target. My end target is the extremist/terrorist or government official that happens to be using the network some admin takes care of," the NSA employee says in the documents.

When reached for comment by The Intercept, NSA spokesperson Vanee Vines said that, "A key part of the protections that apply to both US persons and citizens of other countries is the mandate that information be in support of a valid foreign intelligence requirement, and comply with US Attorney General-approved procedures to protect privacy rights."

Coincidentally, outgoing-NSA Director Keith Alexander said last year that he was working on drastically cutting the number of sys admins at that agency by upwards of 90 percent - but didn't say it was because they could be exploited by similar tactics waged by adversarial intelligence groups. Gen. Alexander's decision came just weeks after Snowden - previously one of around 1,000 sys admins working on the NSA's networks, according to Reuters - walked away from his role managing those networks with a trove of classified information.

[Nov 30, 2017] How Facebook and Google threaten public health and democracy by Roger McNamee

Notable quotes:
"... In an interview this week with Axios, Facebook's original president, Sean Parker, admitted that the company intentionally sought to addict users and expressed regret at the damage being inflicted on children. ..."
"... The term "addiction" is no exaggeration. The average consumer checks his or her smartphone 150 times a day, making more than 2,000 swipes and touches. The applications they use most frequently are owned by Facebook and Alphabet, and the usage of those products is still increasing. ..."
"... From the earliest days of tabloid newspapers, publishers realized the power of exploiting human emotions. To win a battle for attention, publishers must give users "what they want," content that appeals to emotions, rather than intellect. Substance cannot compete with sensation, which must be amplified constantly, lest consumers get distracted and move on. ..."
"... Roger McNamee is Managing Director at Elevation Partners and an early stage investor in Google and Facebook. ..."
Nov 30, 2017 | www.theguardian.com

In an interview this week with Axios, Facebook's original president, Sean Parker, admitted that the company intentionally sought to addict users and expressed regret at the damage being inflicted on children.

This admission, by one of the architects of Facebook, comes on the heels of last week's hearings by Congressional committees about Russian interference in the 2016 election, where the general counsels of Facebook, Alphabet (parent of Google and YouTube), and Twitter attempted to deflect responsibility for manipulation of their platforms.

The term "addiction" is no exaggeration. The average consumer checks his or her smartphone 150 times a day, making more than 2,000 swipes and touches. The applications they use most frequently are owned by Facebook and Alphabet, and the usage of those products is still increasing.

In terms of scale, Facebook and YouTube are similar to Christianity and Islam respectively. More than 2 billion people use Facebook every month, 1.3 billion check in every day. More than 1.5 billion people use YouTube. Other services owned by these companies also have user populations of 1 billion or more.

Facebook and Alphabet are huge because users are willing to trade privacy and openness for "convenient and free." Content creators resisted at first, but user demand forced them to surrender control and profits to Facebook and Alphabet.

The sad truth is that Facebook and Alphabet have behaved irresponsibly in the pursuit of massive profits. They have consciously combined persuasive techniques developed by propagandists and the gambling industry with technology in ways that threaten public health and democracy. The issue, however, is not social networking or search. It is advertising business models. Let me explain.

From the earliest days of tabloid newspapers, publishers realized the power of exploiting human emotions. To win a battle for attention, publishers must give users "what they want," content that appeals to emotions, rather than intellect. Substance cannot compete with sensation, which must be amplified constantly, lest consumers get distracted and move on.

"If it bleeds, it leads" has guided editorial choices for more than 150 years, but has only become a threat to society in the past decade, since the introduction of smartphones. Media delivery platforms like newspapers, television, books, and even computers are persuasive, but people only engage with them for a few hours each day and every person receives the same content.

Today's battle for attention is not a fair fight. Every competitor exploits the same techniques, but Facebook and Alphabet have prohibitive advantages: personalization and smartphones. Unlike older media, Facebook and Alphabet know essentially everything about their users, tracking them everywhere they go on the web and often beyond.

By making every experience free and easy, Facebook and Alphabet became gatekeepers on the internet, giving them levels of control and profitability previously unknown in media. They exploit data to customize each user's experience and siphon profits from content creators. Thanks to smartphones, the battle for attention now takes place on a single platform that is available every waking moment. Competitors to Facebook and Alphabet do not have a prayer.

Facebook and Alphabet monetize content through advertising that is targeted more precisely than has ever been possible before. The platforms create "filter bubbles" around each user, confirming pre-existing beliefs and often creating the illusion that everyone shares the same views. Platforms do this because it is profitable. The downside of filter bubbles is that beliefs become more rigid and extreme. Users are less open to new ideas and even to facts.

Of the millions of pieces of content that Facebook can show each user at a given time, they choose the handful most likely to maximize profits. If it were not for the advertising business model, Facebook might choose content that informs, inspires, or enriches users. Instead, the user experience on Facebook is dominated by appeals to fear and anger. This would be bad enough, but reality is worse.

Any advertiser can get access to any Facebook user over unsupervised, automated systems. Five million advertisers do so every month. The Russians took advantage of this first to sow discord among Americans and then to interfere in the 2016 election. Other bad actors exploited Facebook in other areas. One company surveilled protest groups and marketed that data to police departments.

Financial institutions were investigated for using Facebook advertising tools to discriminate on the basis of race. Facebook is not the only problem. Alphabet provides Chromebooks to elementary schools with the objective of capturing the attention, and perhaps even behavioral data, about children. At the same time, Alphabet's YouTube Kids is a site filled with inappropriate content that creates addiction in children far too young to resist.

While optimizing for profit is understandable and generally appropriate, Facebook and Alphabet have caused harm that requires serious discussion and remediation.

Facebook and Alphabet assert they are not media companies and therefore are not responsible for what third parties do on their platforms. While that position might be reasonable from start-ups, it is not appropriate from companies who control seven of the top 10 platforms on the internet and exhibit the behaviors of monopolies.

Society regulates products that create addiction. We have laws to prevent discrimination and election manipulation. None of these regulations and laws has yet been applied to Facebook and Google . The time has come.

Roger McNamee is Managing Director at Elevation Partners and an early stage investor in Google and Facebook.

[Nov 30, 2017] How Facebook and Google threaten public health – and democracy by Roger McNamee

Nov 30, 2017 | www.theguardian.com

In an interview this week with Axios, Facebook's original president, Sean Parker, admitted that the company intentionally sought to addict users and expressed regret at the damage being inflicted on children.

This admission, by one of the architects of Facebook, comes on the heels of last week's hearings by Congressional committees about Russian interference in the 2016 election, where the general counsels of Facebook, Alphabet (parent of Google and YouTube), and Twitter attempted to deflect responsibility for manipulation of their platforms.

The term "addiction" is no exaggeration. The average consumer checks his or her smartphone 150 times a day, making more than 2,000 swipes and touches. The applications they use most frequently are owned by Facebook and Alphabet, and the usage of those products is still increasing.

In terms of scale, Facebook and YouTube are similar to Christianity and Islam respectively. More than 2 billion people use Facebook every month, 1.3 billion check in every day. More than 1.5 billion people use YouTube. Other services owned by these companies also have user populations of 1 billion or more.

Facebook and Alphabet are huge because users are willing to trade privacy and openness for "convenient and free." Content creators resisted at first, but user demand forced them to surrender control and profits to Facebook and Alphabet.

The sad truth is that Facebook and Alphabet have behaved irresponsibly in the pursuit of massive profits. They have consciously combined persuasive techniques developed by propagandists and the gambling industry with technology in ways that threaten public health and democracy. The issue, however, is not social networking or search. It is advertising business models. Let me explain.

From the earliest days of tabloid newspapers, publishers realized the power of exploiting human emotions. To win a battle for attention, publishers must give users "what they want," content that appeals to emotions, rather than intellect. Substance cannot compete with sensation, which must be amplified constantly, lest consumers get distracted and move on.

"If it bleeds, it leads" has guided editorial choices for more than 150 years, but has only become a threat to society in the past decade, since the introduction of smartphones. Media delivery platforms like newspapers, television, books, and even computers are persuasive, but people only engage with them for a few hours each day and every person receives the same content.

Today's battle for attention is not a fair fight. Every competitor exploits the same techniques, but Facebook and Alphabet have prohibitive advantages: personalization and smartphones. Unlike older media, Facebook and Alphabet know essentially everything about their users, tracking them everywhere they go on the web and often beyond.

By making every experience free and easy, Facebook and Alphabet became gatekeepers on the internet, giving them levels of control and profitability previously unknown in media. They exploit data to customize each user's experience and siphon profits from content creators. Thanks to smartphones, the battle for attention now takes place on a single platform that is available every waking moment. Competitors to Facebook and Alphabet do not have a prayer.

Facebook and Alphabet monetize content through advertising that is targeted more precisely than has ever been possible before. The platforms create "filter bubbles" around each user, confirming pre-existing beliefs and often creating the illusion that everyone shares the same views. Platforms do this because it is profitable. The downside of filter bubbles is that beliefs become more rigid and extreme. Users are less open to new ideas and even to facts.

Of the millions of pieces of content that Facebook can show each user at a given time, they choose the handful most likely to maximize profits. If it were not for the advertising business model, Facebook might choose content that informs, inspires, or enriches users. Instead, the user experience on Facebook is dominated by appeals to fear and anger. This would be bad enough, but reality is worse.

Any advertiser can get access to any Facebook user over unsupervised, automated systems. Five million advertisers do so every month. The Russians took advantage of this first to sow discord among Americans and then to interfere in the 2016 election. Other bad actors exploited Facebook in other areas. One company surveilled protest groups and marketed that data to police departments.

Financial institutions were investigated for using Facebook advertising tools to discriminate on the basis of race. Facebook is not the only problem. Alphabet provides Chromebooks to elementary schools with the objective of capturing the attention, and perhaps even behavioral data, about children. At the same time, Alphabet's YouTube Kids is a site filled with inappropriate content that creates addiction in children far too young to resist.

While optimizing for profit is understandable and generally appropriate, Facebook and Alphabet have caused harm that requires serious discussion and remediation.

Facebook and Alphabet assert they are not media companies and therefore are not responsible for what third parties do on their platforms. While that position might be reasonable from start-ups, it is not appropriate from companies who control seven of the top 10 platforms on the internet and exhibit the behaviors of monopolies.

Society regulates products that create addiction. We have laws to prevent discrimination and election manipulation. None of these regulations and laws has yet been applied to Facebook and Google . The time has come.

Roger McNamee is Managing Director at Elevation Partners and an early stage investor in Google and Facebook.

[Nov 29, 2017] Google clearly can not be trusted

Anonymous , Disclaimer November 25, 2017 at 7:52 pm GMT

@m___

Boycott Google!!!! They clearly can not be trusted. Do you want to find only the websites that Google wants you to see? Then use a Google Search engine. Don't search on Google.

-- There are other search engines out there. But some of the ones that claim to preserve your privacy from Google's ever present snooping still search on Google. They just hide your IP by searching through another website. But there are other search engines out there that offer unbiased and uncensored searching.

Also, don't use Gmail. – Google spies on everything you say. That's not really a secret. They do it to make money selling y our info to advertising. Don't be surprised if after you tell your parents the happy news that they will soon have a grandchild if every Google ad on every webpage you visit wants to sell you baby furniture and baby food and lots of other baby stuff.

Don't use Google drive or spreadsheets or docs.

-- Again, Google spies on all of this to make money for themselves by selling your secrets.

Find other video venues than YouTube.

-- You are going to have to anyways, now that Google is actively censoring the content. Clearly, if you want to see anything that Google doesn't want you to see, you are going to have to find alternatives to Youtube . and they are there.

[Nov 22, 2017] MoA - Google Does Evil

Notable quotes:
"... Up to about 2006 or 2007 Google ..."
"... Google's algorithms now amount to censorship. Since August it downgrades websites that offer alternative views to the left of the pack. Searches that earlier led to the World Socialist Web Site or to Media Matters no longer show these sites, or show them way down the result pages. Traffic to these sites collapsed. ..."
"... Google has become a prime cooperator and contractor for U.S. intelligence services. The private data it collects from it users is fed the dark-site's databases. ..."
"... Since its beginning Google had some intimate connections with U.S. intelligence services (Long read: part 1 , part 2 ). The relation is a two way street. Google Earth and its map products were, for example, originally created by U.S. intelligence services . They were given to Google for practically nothing. Google makes profits from advertisements within those products. It is providing special versions back to the intelligence people. One can only speculate how much of its user data comes with those versions. ..."
"... Google, Twitter, Facebook -- these companies may never have been entirely neutral and non-partisan in the past, but we now know that they are most certainly not. They may not be wholly enthusiastic about filtering content, but it is clear they are now under great political pressure to do so. ..."
"... Google is pure propaganda, deepstate tool. ..."
"... Given how the Democratic Party actually blocks change, I consider them to be nothing more than controlled opposition. There is solid bi-partisan ("establishment") agreement on certain issues (not a complete list): ..."
Nov 22, 2017 | www.moonofalabama.org

Up to about 2006 or 2007 Google provided an excellent search engine. It then started to prioritize and present more general results even where one searched for very specific information. It became cumbersome to search for and find details. The situation has since further deteriorated.

The Google News search is now completely useless. It delivers the main stream media trash without showing divergent views or opinions. What is the use of a search result page that links to twenty sites with the same slightly rewritten Associated Press story?

Google's algorithms now amount to censorship. Since August it downgrades websites that offer alternative views to the left of the pack. Searches that earlier led to the World Socialist Web Site or to Media Matters no longer show these sites, or show them way down the result pages. Traffic to these sites collapsed.

This week Google announced that it will censor RT.com , the website of the international Russian TV station: Google will 'de-rank' RT articles to make them harder to find – Eric Schmidt . Schmidt, the CEO of Google and its parent company Alphabet , claims that he is "very strongly not in favor of censorship." That is a laughable. Intentional downgrading a website that has relevant content IS censorship. Down-ranking means that less people will find and come to the site. Its content will have less viewers. It will be censored out of the public perception.

The original Google algorithm used the number of links to one site as a measure for its relevance. It was reasonable. In 2004 Google's founder proclaimed :

"Our search results are the best we know how to produce. They are unbiased and objective, and we do not accept payment for them or for inclusion or more frequent updating We believe it is important for everyone to have access to the best information and research, not only to the information people pay for you to see."

Back then the motto of Google was "Don't be evil". When its new parent company Alphabet was launched that motto was discarded .

Google has become a prime cooperator and contractor for U.S. intelligence services. The private data it collects from it users is fed the dark-site's databases.

But its new evilness is not restricted to data. The company ran a campaign against homeless people near its headquarter in Venice California ( video ). Google conspired with other tech-giants to keep the wages of its engineers down.

Since its beginning Google had some intimate connections with U.S. intelligence services (Long read: part 1 , part 2 ). The relation is a two way street. Google Earth and its map products were, for example, originally created by U.S. intelligence services . They were given to Google for practically nothing. Google makes profits from advertisements within those products. It is providing special versions back to the intelligence people. One can only speculate how much of its user data comes with those versions.

Google 's smartphone operation system Android collects users' locations even when location services are disabled . There is no technical reason to do such. There is no reasonable explanation from Google why it does so.

Google early on sold out to the Democrats. Eric Schmidt is a Clinton/Obama acolyte. During the Obama administration Goggle's staff had at least 427 meetings at the White House . Emails from the letterbox of Clinton advisor Podesta, published by Wikileaks, show how Schmidt offered to promote Clinton even a year before she launched her campaign. Google paid staff helped her to organize.

Maybe Google was just buying goodwill with the White House to protect itself against the various anti-trust lawsuits it is engulfed in. It will do anything to avoid regulation of its monopolistic position and to protect its highly profitable business.

It is now, like other internet companies, under pressure to support the war party in creating a new Cold War with Russia. The "de-ranking" of RT.com show that it is willing to do so. It is degrading the quality of its product in exchange for political good-will from warmongers.

The best and most benign search engine available now is DuckDuckGo . Its quality is as good as Google's once was.

I recommend to use it as the standard and to avoid Google and its products wherever possible.

It is evil.

Posted by b on November 22, 2017 at 01:02 PM | Permalink

Jeff | Nov 22, 2017 1:07:25 PM | 1

I use Quant as search engine, and avoid Google as much as possible.

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Nov 22, 2017 1:36:43 PM | 2

I now use yandex for all things political. Duckduck go is also censored. A subject I was researching in 2013 no longer appears in duckduckgo search results.
Two hours of searching using every search term I could think of produced nothing. On yandex, first search term, first page, third result brought up reference to the Australian court case I was looking for and had previously researched on duckduckgo. On looking into it, I found some changes were made in duckduckgo sometime in 2014.

Colin | Nov 22, 2017 1:55:45 PM | 3

Google, Twitter, Facebook -- these companies may never have been entirely neutral and non-partisan in the past, but we now know that they are most certainly not. They may not be wholly enthusiastic about filtering content, but it is clear they are now under great political pressure to do so.
xor | Nov 22, 2017 2:11:03 PM | 4
I've been using DuckDuckGo for a couple of years now and it's quite good. It's mainly focussed on English sites (my impression at least) but has less robots that track websites so updates are slightly less frequent. I've tried to shun Google products as much as I can which is not easy (even MoA uses Google's recaptcha). These are:
  • Google search engine
  • Google analytics/adsense/jquery-libs-hosted-on-google/double click which are included in ALMOST EVERY web page! Included in government, porn, tax, health, gaming, ... sites that track your behaviour as in how many seconds do you read, how long does it take you to scroll the page, from which page did you come, what's you relegion, your sexual preference, your habits... .
  • GMail LOL, I'm baffled by the stupidity and ignorance of people of giving their mailbox to a marketing company. I also tend to avoid sending mails to GMail accounts.
  • Google Maps (I mainly use www.openstreetmap.org)
  • Android on any device (even Linux' running on top of Andriod are unsafe regardles of what idiots claim). Why carry a tracking device that can even be remotely turned on to record your speech and photgraph (front+back camera) the surroundings?!
  • Although there is Chrome, some whores at Firefox decided it was a good idea to strongly interweave Google in it. Activate Wireshark once and visit any HTTPS website without the slighest link to Google. Still you will see all your visited web sites are being reported to Google. To disable that particular behaviour (there is other also!) you have to DISABLE, not enable, "Block reported web forgeries" and "Block reported attack sites".

The problem is Wikipedia also has been suffering from the same bias and censership illness as Google. Wikipedia for one can not be consulted for something that's remotely related to politics. Whenever you correct an article or add something very touchy even when there is undesputed evidence from let's say Wikileaks, the Wikipedia gate keepers delete it with a comment like "if it's not in a NYT article, Guardian or other MSM you can't add it".

Mina | Nov 22, 2017 2:27:02 PM | 9
What about epic browser?
Anonymous | Nov 22, 2017 2:29:24 PM | 10
Google's Eric Schmidt, arbiter of news, has long history with Obama & Clinton
http://world.news.digitaltippingpoint.com/news/googles-eric-schmidt-arbiter-of-news-has-long-history-with-obama-clinton

Google is pure propaganda, deepstate tool. RT / Sputnik is only the beginning in this attack on freedom of speech.

Jackrabbit | Nov 22, 2017 2:30:54 PM | 11
Other recommendations:

>> Firefox web browser
They just released a new version, "Firefox Quantum", that is about as fast as Chrome.

Also: use Noscript and Privacy Badger addons

>> Keepass to save passwords. Keep the password database on a thumb drive for added safety.

Temporarily Sane | Nov 22, 2017 2:33:45 PM | 12
@1 Jeff

Qwant = Bing (Microsoft)

Duck Duck Go and Startpage (if you want Google results) are the way to go.

Peter AU 1 | Nov 22, 2017 2:36:46 PM | 13
Thought I had corrected typos @2 before posting...

I had been using yandex browser for most things as I find it better to use than firefox, but a couple of months back found I could not post comments to the likes of MoA, so use firefox for the blogs, with duckduckgo to look up non political stuff like gardening, and yandex for most everything else.

Anonymous | Nov 22, 2017 2:48:40 PM | 14
VPN also.

I don't think we are far off where people will get punished by law for their views and/or blogs like these will get shut down.
That there is already illegal spying by western states on people like us is also on going no doubt about it.

Jackrabbit | Nov 22, 2017 2:49:35 PM | 15
b: Google early on sold out to the Democrats.

Given how the Democratic Party actually blocks change, I consider them to be nothing more than controlled opposition. There is solid bi-partisan ("establishment") agreement on certain issues (not a complete list):

>> pervasive surveillance ("If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear") ;

>> propaganda (MSM fake news is OK; what YOU say will get close examination) ;

>> militarism (laud the police/military at every opportunity - these heroes can do no wrong, even when their commanders order them to do so) ;

>> Israel ;

>> corporate welfare and "trickle-down" economics (despite it's having been debunked).

[Nov 11, 2017] Why You Should NEVER Buy an Amazon Echo or Even Get Near One

Nov 11, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

flora , November 10, 2017 at 9:37 am

A lot of people seem to think that because they aren't doing anything wrong now, that today's innocent behavior will still be seen as innocent 10 or 15 years from now.

Just imagine what some future Sen. Joe McCarthy could do with these stored conversations and meta data, say 15 years from now, if the political winds shift again. Imagine some future blowhard, publicity seeking politician whipping up a hysteria for political purposes, destroying careers of people in the process. Imagine "Are you now, or have you every been a member of a club that read and discussed book X ?" for example. Today's perfectly innocent actions being twisted to fit a narrative for political gain years from now. It's not paranoia to consider the possibility.

Keeping Echo and its like out of the house could be considered an insurance practice against future political opportunists, imo.

D , November 10, 2017 at 4:19 pm

I think we should all let it really sink in that people are perfectly happy giving up their privacy. All this talk about people not realizing that they are is naive, they just don't care. much like they just can't bothered to go vote.

You're kidding right? No one I know is, and there've been numerous commenters on this site who've noted they aren't. So all of us are nobodies? You've taken an actual count? You think all of the horrid toys recording children to cloud databases is okay? And what about those millions who have no internet access, you've asked them, or are they not worthy of any consideration?

Lastly, as someone who's never used Amazon, Facebook, or Google services, outside of using Google search in the early 2000's, I'm quite sick of being potentially pulled into someone else's willful giveaway of my private information, conversation, or photograph. I was more than disturbed to find some idiot behind the counter using his Alexa at a store I visited. People have a right to give up their own information, but no right whatsoever to give up someone else's without informed consent.

[Nov 11, 2017] Why You Should NEVER Buy an Amazon Echo or Even Get Near One

Nov 11, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

flora , November 10, 2017 at 9:37 am

A lot of people seem to think that because they aren't doing anything wrong now, that today's innocent behavior will still be seen as innocent 10 or 15 years from now.

Just imagine what some future Sen. Joe McCarthy could do with these stored conversations and meta data, say 15 years from now, if the political winds shift again. Imagine some future blowhard, publicity seeking politician whipping up a hysteria for political purposes, destroying careers of people in the process. Imagine "Are you now, or have you every been a member of a club that read and discussed book X ?" for example. Today's perfectly innocent actions being twisted to fit a narrative for political gain years from now. It's not paranoia to consider the possibility.

Keeping Echo and its like out of the house could be considered an insurance practice against future political opportunists, imo.

D , November 10, 2017 at 4:19 pm

I think we should all let it really sink in that people are perfectly happy giving up their privacy. All this talk about people not realizing that they are is naive, they just don't care. much like they just can't bothered to go vote.

You're kidding right? No one I know is, and there've been numerous commenters on this site who've noted they aren't. So all of us are nobodies? You've taken an actual count? You think all of the horrid toys recording children to cloud databases is okay? And what about those millions who have no internet access, you've asked them, or are they not worthy of any consideration?

Lastly, as someone who's never used Amazon, Facebook, or Google services, outside of using Google search in the early 2000's, I'm quite sick of being potentially pulled into someone else's willful giveaway of my private information, conversation, or photograph. I was more than disturbed to find some idiot behind the counter using his Alexa at a store I visited. People have a right to give up their own information, but no right whatsoever to give up someone else's without informed consent.

[Nov 10, 2017] Why You Should NEVER Buy an Amazon Echo or Even Get Near One

Notable quotes:
"... What bothers me is articles in mainstream media sources that assume that most people own and use these devices. Most people I know (and I'm not an old codger) either can't afford, don't want to waste time or are afraid of this junk. ..."
"... The mainstream media has long been entangled with tech monopolies, providing their every 'innovation' with not just a sheen of legitimacy, but an aura of inevitability. ..."
"... The fact that Twitter has hit something of a wall in terms of active users and that its influence on anything is far from established is never mentioned. And as this site has thoroughly investigated, the same combination of tech-ignorance and PR leg work continues to dominate coverage of Uber. ..."
"... The people I know who use it the most and with the least critical of an eye are those who didn't grow up with it – people in their 30s-40s. ..."
"... The younger ones, for whom smartphones were a fact of life rather than some new thing that appeared in a blaze of publicity, are more literate in both their uses and their more sinister significance. ..."
"... Then there's cost. A true stateful packet inspection firewall with separate DMZ implemented in stand-alone hardware is impractical and expensive for a typical user. ..."
"... The ShieldsUP! site might be of help to some commentators and is easy to use to test your firewall- https://www.grc.com/x/ne.dll?bh0bkyd2 ..."
"... By Any Means Necessary ..."
"... by the late cold war, the US had the ability to transmit fake radio conversations from surveillance aircraft using voices constructed from the content of previous intercepts. ..."
"... A couple of very old data points to flesh this out more. Two decades ago I read that mobs like the US State Department would play classic music at meetings so that the old laser-detecting vibrations-to-record-voices trick would not work but that probably does not work any more. ..."
"... Likewise with 'smart' TVs. Why aren't there closing cases, drapes, and other furniture for the niche consumer who wants them? There is nothing inherently attractive about a blank LCD screen. ..."
"... phone cases with small sliding doors over the rear camera ..."
"... While the article is written with respect to surveillance's impact on the individual it is important to note that the new technology here is the aggregation of surveillance onto crowds. The individual is less important than the group. Manage the group and the individual is easy. ..."
"... We also own and use cell phones and laptops that have the same functions, with no more compunction. I'm sure there are people and settings for which this warning is appropriate, but I'm personally unconcerned. Certainly any technology can be misused, but this one is pretty far down my list of worries. ..."
"... Frankly, whatever expectation of privacy you have in your daily life is unwarranted. The genie is out of the bottle -- and it's sitting in your car, your purse, on the shelf, in your 'smart' TV etc. I believe we have to adapt, each in our own way and in accordance with our degree of paranoia, because none of this is going away. Just because you don't invite Alexa into you home doesn't mean her cousins aren't going to drop by. ..."
"... Frankly, whatever expectation of privacy you have in your daily life is unwarranted. The genie is out of the bottle -- and it's sitting in your car, your purse, on the shelf, in your 'smart' TV etc. ..."
"... The problem is really one of data retention; as usual there is no reason for a voice assistant to run in some megacorp's private cloud. We all have hefty computers at home more than capable of running these things and keeping the whole thing private – the voice data, the request, etc. ..."
"... No relatively advanced nation state with a decent-sized security state apparatus is going to allow a native high tech firm to flourish without a heavily deal of cooperation. ..."
"... Hell, in most cases in the U.S. it is the defensive industry since the end of WW2 that is a key player in terms of early rounds of funding and forming links to corporate research centers & university researchers. ..."
"... As far as I'm concerned, Amazon and Google ARE (at least a part of) the state security apparatus. Links between the NSA and Google have been well-established, and Amazon is a CIA contractor. ..."
"... When he was approached by family for advice on which of these devices to buy, he flat out told them they are all generally equal [for personal use], the question is who do you want to collect your data? ..."
"... Actually, I wonder if it would be useful to buy one under your name, and then play a pre-recorded message next to it over and over again just for the purposes of spoofing or giving bad data to Google/Amazon/NSA/etc. as a counter-survellience measure. This way, if you are an activist or protester, you can give them a steady stream of bad or useless data in whatever file they have collected on you to make your "profile" extremely inaccurate. ..."
"... Two, if you have my skillset and want to know if Echo is transmitting data to Amazon at any given time, do a packet capture on your network and find out. You won't see what's being sent because it's encrypted obviously, but you can see how much data is being sent, which is enough to know if the Echo is sending all the sounds it hears. It is not. ..."
"... Well if you consider that when I launch this page, 25 trackers attempt to launch and follow my browsing then it is not just Amazon who are playing this game ..."
Nov 09, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Enrique Bermudez , , November 9, 2017 at 6:30 am

"Don't buy the stupid Alexa/google assistant/etc" is a take of such obviousness that I wonder why it even needs to be made.

Why anyone would want one of these things if not a brain-dead marketing slave is completely beyond me. What exactly can it do that you can't do more or less just as easily from a smartphone or PC? I hate smartphones but obviously have one because of the potential uses in terms of having internet access in your pocket if away from home, etc etc. Alexa is in your home only. Where you have a PC.

How is Alexa better than just going to one's laptop and entering a search query? Isn't, clearly. Can be much more precise with the computer.

Reminds me of last year's tech crap marketing gimmick – the smart watch. Which, uh, does what your phone (that you need to have to make the smart watch work) does but not as well and on a microscopic screen.

Or crap gimmick prior – Windows 8. Yaaay! No more need for a mouse and keyboard! Can do everything (with far less precision) via a touch-screen! Except a mouse/keyboard setup will always work 100x better.

fajensen , , November 9, 2017 at 6:46 am

It needs to be made because 24/7 surveillance is being integrated into products that one does not specifically buy from Google/Apple/Amazon.

Sonos One, an internet loudspeaker / sound system that one uses with services like Spotify, for example, comes with voice control now ( https://www.hifiklubben.se/streaming/sonos/sonos-one-tradlos-hogtalare )

The "smart" digital plague will spread to the entire product range, one suspect. Can one maybe dodge for another 10 years by buying Now -- perhaps -- OTOH maybe "They" can update the thing remotely and suddenly those CIA ghouls are inside of my bedroom!

The "voice activated" business models needs to go the way of the 3D Television!

Bugs Bunny , , November 9, 2017 at 8:23 am

What bothers me is articles in mainstream media sources that assume that most people own and use these devices. Most people I know (and I'm not an old codger) either can't afford, don't want to waste time or are afraid of this junk.

That said, my bourgeois American friends are all fully equipped with all the latest Apple products even if they don't know what they need them for. Which means that the devices get passed on to their kids and then they spend all their time playing mindless games and watching weird Youtube video on it. The old Macs pile up in a closet and the Apple TV sits disused next to the flat screen.

tempestteacup , , November 9, 2017 at 3:06 pm

The mainstream media has long been entangled with tech monopolies, providing their every 'innovation' with not just a sheen of legitimacy, but an aura of inevitability. Here is the execrable Suzanne Moore in yesterday's Guardian, in an article that was actually about something entirely different (chaos in the Tory Party):

As someone who once got a driving licence when they really shouldn't have, I am looking forward to driverless cars. It's a shame a lot of people will lose their livelihoods, but, hey ho, that's the future. In fact, it feels a lot like the present. We currently have a driverless government. No one is in control – but nor is there a robotic system effective enough to govern us.

Some of it could be explained as common or garden ignorance of what technology does, its possibilities and how it actually operates. Some because columnists love invoking poorly understood subjects that provide a platform for aggrandising visions of the future. But I remember, too, that a few years ago marked a perceptible shift not just to reliance on Twitter utterances for reportage but the characterising of what was said there as a significant source of public opinion. Suddenly, it was all over the place – number of retweets, trending hashtags, sick burns. The fact that Twitter has hit something of a wall in terms of active users and that its influence on anything is far from established is never mentioned. And as this site has thoroughly investigated, the same combination of tech-ignorance and PR leg work continues to dominate coverage of Uber.

I'll leave my tinfoil hat in its bandbox and allow others to infer why exactly this might be so. From personal experience, which includes quite a lot of contact with people in their late teens and early 20s, the ubiquity of these technologies is well overstated. It may even be the case that social media have already peaked in their present form.

The people I know who use it the most and with the least critical of an eye are those who didn't grow up with it – people in their 30s-40s.

The younger ones, for whom smartphones were a fact of life rather than some new thing that appeared in a blaze of publicity, are more literate in both their uses and their more sinister significance.

Wisdom Seeker , , November 9, 2017 at 3:25 pm

re: "articles in mainstream media sources that assume that most people own and use these devices" That's done on purpose, part of the social conditioning done by the media, on behalf of their customers, the advertisers. I'm not an Ayn Rand fan, but this process of media manipulation was described in The Fountainhead (1943).

MarkE , , November 9, 2017 at 10:04 am

Agree. The triviality of the benefits of this new technology is mind-blowing compared with the price in privacy. My rules for living with technology:

– assume that anything you say over the phone or transmit over the internet has been broadcast,

– use all the other privacy measures you can – tape over the camera, disable microphones and Bluetooth, etc

– if it's not worth reading the fine print before you press "accept" it's not worth having – do nothing through the Cloud

– stay at least two generations behind the latest release for anything

– someone else can pay the higher price, work out the bugs and find the privacy landmines

Notorious P.A.T. , , November 9, 2017 at 12:23 pm

a brain-dead marketing slave

Oh, please. Many people just like to have the "latest thing." Many others perceive devices like this as labor-saving machines, whether they really are or not. Don't be so condescending.

Octopii , , November 9, 2017 at 4:14 pm

I used to work in home technology in a very wealthy market, and my clients were eager for voice control. We could wire the house to the teeth, sell all kinds of very nifty touchscreens and ipad apps and remote controls (with racks of electronics at the head end). Shortly after the Echo was released I came upon the lady of one house listening to music from it in the kitchen. What she said is seared into my memory as something so shocking that I had to reevaluate the profession I'd been in for fifteen years. She loved the thing. It was so easy – just say "play ____" and that is it.

Their audio system was a marvel, one of the best sounding houses I've ever done. She didn't care, didn't care to use it. Reduced friction is the most important thing. That is why people buy these devices. They're inexpensive and they're easy.

It's like candy – the sweetness masks the hazard.

jrs , , November 9, 2017 at 4:41 pm

"What exactly can it do that you can't do more or less just as easily from a smartphone or PC?"

yes and the spying can be done by a smartphone too, and a PC (well to a limited degree with the PC I guess, not many PCs with voice recognition as far as I know,)

Ook , , November 9, 2017 at 8:38 pm

Actually, I don't know of many PCs without voice recognition, and this goes back 10 years or so.

jackiebass , , November 9, 2017 at 6:51 am

Devises like an iPad or cell phone that does a voice search can also do this. When you purchase technology you are giving up your privacy. even if you don't you can be tracked by computer controlled cameras with scanners. I believe Britain is ahead of the US in public surveillance. I think they are actually the test ground that will later be implemented in the US. Like in Orwell's 1984 big brother is always watching. I've read this book 3 times and probably will reread it again in the near future.

Yves Smith Post author , , November 9, 2017 at 7:15 am

I don't own any of those either. And with the Echo you are allowing much greater intrusion, since while TPTB can activate your phone/voice activated cell as a listening device, the Echo is on by default all the time.

jrs , , November 9, 2017 at 4:51 pm

Yes, they are universally surveiling your driving as well if they want to, tracking your vehicle multiple times as you cross town. Whether everyone is important enough to get this treatment or only activists depends I guess. And you can't opt out of that just by not buying something. Don't buy a car? Oh maybe, if we assume they aren't watching public transit, which I'm sure they are some.

cnchal , , November 9, 2017 at 6:58 am

Alexa – fuck off. A gibberish generator is called for, to piss into Bezos cloud.

Michael Fiorillo , , November 9, 2017 at 7:35 am

Indeed, everyone's default program should be "Contaminate the data!"

PDB , , November 9, 2017 at 12:35 pm

Either that or tell your Echo about how great Trump is.

QuarterBack , , November 9, 2017 at 7:36 am

As these spy technologies become more and more ubiquitous and capable, I am actually less worried about what various nation states may be using them for than what nefarious man on the street players might be able to accomplish by leveraging bits of this very powerful, expanding, and largely unprotected ecosystem.

For every James Bond or 1984 scenario, there are thousands of potential applications for conmen, stalkers, insider traders, jealous spouses, off-the-reservation Deputy Sheriffs, sociopathic pranksters, and on and on. Like it or not, this genie has left the bottle and is here to stay. As a society, we need to get smart fast about the power and very real threats that this infrastructure makes possible. If we don't start focusing significant attention on how to mitigate these threats, we will experience and very painful period while the inmates run the asylum.

Troutwaxer , , November 9, 2017 at 10:15 pm

"The street finds it's own uses for things." – William Gibson

Wade Riddick , , November 9, 2017 at 7:42 am

Apple was confronted with the same problem in facial recognition for the iPhone X but – like the fingerprints – the facial data is stored on the user's device, processed by local AI (the Bionic CPU) and never sent to Apple – which is marginally better.

You have the same problem with On-Star in your car and the new internet connected TVs. Most computers have mics too.

The more IoT they throw at things, the more points of failure there are from Russian hackers to EMP. There needs to be backup manual on/off and operations designed into everything. I grew up coding and there's no way I let coders steer my car.

I also grew up the son of a prosecutor. No way I tell someone what I had for lunch or where I'm going.

The 'sharing economy' boils down to a loss of property rights. The right of ownership is the right to exclude someone else from using your property and the socialists in corporate America don't want you telling them they can't have access to your stuff.

The real issue here isn't just theft; it's also trespass. What happens when people start planting evidence of contraband on these systems now that we can fake people's voices with all these samples?

How long will it be before we leap from fake news to fake evidence?

"Alexa, how do you weaponize anthrax?"

Left in Wisconsin , , November 9, 2017 at 11:01 am

I think it's a comment about the ability of products you ostensibly own to spy on you and share information with our corporate overlords without your consent. Granted socialism is a term variously defined by different people but I'm not sure this fits the anyone's definition. Unless, like some, one thinks fascists are socialists.

Wisdom Seeker , , November 9, 2017 at 3:35 pm

"socialists in corporate America"

Not the same kind of socialism that most here conceive of. But read that in the mindset of, say, banking policy before/after the Great Recession ("privatize the gains and socialize the losses"), Google ("all of society's data belong to us"), or any of the various cartels ("let's rewrite the tax code again for our benefit at society's expense") and you understand that what he means is that the corporate "socialists" want society/government to give them more more more.

Wade Riddick , , November 9, 2017 at 8:17 pm

Thanks for defending me! You're right. I was pointing out the socialization of risk.

After some reflection, I would also place this issue in the broader context of the wars of enclosure, given the recent anniversary of the Charter of the Forest. We've lost the forest. Now we're literally losing our homes from the inside out, from forged foreclosure docs to eavesdropping from inside the house. (Except the landlord doesn't even need the eaves for eavesdropping anymore.)

As the immortal bards of the internet might phrase it, All your Cheezeburgers is ours.

Trjckster , , November 9, 2017 at 7:48 am

For accuracy I need to clarify this quote from CNET:

Amazon Echo is always listening. From the moment you wake up Echo to the end of your command, your voice is recorded and transcribed.

Echo may always to listening, but that doesn't mean it is always recording and sending audio to Amazon, the key phrase not covered is "the moment you wake up Echo". The "wake word" used to trigger an Echo (or Siri/Cortana/Google) is a critical design limitation that these assistants have to work around, as for responsiveness/accuracy the voice recognition needs to be done on the device itself. This is why the "wake word" is limited to one or a small set of words (Alexa/Echo/Computer), as detecting it is quite difficult to do on simple hardware locally and quickly.

Now, this doesn't rule out the Echo just sending audio all the time, but it would be consume a lot of bandwidth/storage/processing to do so, making it impractical to do so on a large scale and easily noticeable. I could imagine the NSA/CIA having a backdoor to do so (on individual devices) but not doing so all the time.

Yves Smith Post author , , November 9, 2017 at 8:15 am

Please re-read what I wrote.

First, voice does not take much bandwidth. These devices are in homes with friggin' Netflix or Google Prime streaming accounts, and you can still do other stuff like have your kids do their homework on the Internet at the same time. There's no bandwidth constraint here.

Second, my issue isn't Amazon. My issue is what we know from Snowden, that pretty much all Internet-enabled devices with a camera or a mike are able to spy on you. They can be turned on without you knowing it even when they appear to be off. Here you have Echo-Google Home which is on all the time, listening all the time, and Snowden made clear what the NSA wants is total data capture. IMHO is is incredibly naive to think they won't do that.

Odysseus , , November 9, 2017 at 10:46 am

There's no bandwidth constraint here.

Yes, but just because something is possible doesn't mean it's mandatory. Batman was just a movie. The capability to drill down and spot check people of interest is different than the capability to run large scale correlation across geographically large territories, or even target city blocks.

Home networks can be air gapped and firewalled in ways that ensure that you control what gets out. That's harder to do for things like cell phones, which is why Snowden had to take more extreme measures there. Alexa devices don't yet come with an integrated cell phone.

There are some serious privacy implications, but they're a step or two further way from immediate real world implementations.

https://www.wired.com/story/the-first-alexa-phone-gets-amazon-even-closer-to-total-domination/

Clive , , November 9, 2017 at 11:18 am

Firstly, the unshakable faith I see that people have in their tech is startling. Firewalls are most definitely not infallible because testing their implementations and configurations is such a lengthy process which most people have neither the time nor the skill to conduct properly. Most of us just accept the out of the box settings and leave it at that.

Then there's cost. A true stateful packet inspection firewall with separate DMZ implemented in stand-alone hardware is impractical and expensive for a typical user. So while anorak-wearing tech-savvy people might consider it, the vast majority of Echo / Google Home / Siri users definitely would not. I'm a bit of an anorak so could do all the things I've mentioned in terms of having the requisite knowledge, but there are way, way too many taxes on my time already to make me set aside the mental and time requirements this would entail. Not least because you have to keep testing at regular intervals just in case some update or behind-your-back policy changes got done by your ISP or O/S vendor as part of, ironically, security patches. You can't merely set it up and then leave it alone from there on in.

Finally, all firewalls are a compromise between allowing necessary access to the outside world and cutting off things you don't want to get through. There's no getting around this. So there's no magic bullet. What you can do is reduce the attack surfaces. Echo et al are a big screaming "aim here" sign.

The Rev Kev , , November 9, 2017 at 6:15 pm

The ShieldsUP! site might be of help to some commentators and is easy to use to test your firewall- https://www.grc.com/x/ne.dll?bh0bkyd2

Joel , , November 9, 2017 at 2:31 pm

The point isn't that the NSA can or will spy on *everyone* just that can and do spy on *anyone.*

Mike , , November 9, 2017 at 7:53 am

I wonder about the future of this voice technology and responses to it.

1. If someone records enough samples of my voice (like when I answer telemarketing calls), can that person fool the bank software and log in as me?

2. Can there be an app that puts some voice emulator on my device, to then transmit a created voice to Amazon or Google? And could that made-up voice be changed every so often? (I guess I would need to tell Amazon/Google "just got a house sitter, work with that person." )

JeffC , , November 9, 2017 at 9:13 am

On question #1: William Burrows 2001 book By Any Means Necessary on the history of cold war surveillance flights near to and over the USSR mentions that by the late cold war, the US had the ability to transmit fake radio conversations from surveillance aircraft using voices constructed from the content of previous intercepts.

As a signal-processing engineer myself, I don't find the capability at all surprising. From a technical point of view, it's close to obvious. What is perhaps more surprising is this capability being mentioned in an unclassified publication. Apparently the censors thought it obvious as well.

Hunkerin' Down , , November 9, 2017 at 8:05 pm

Call me circumspect, or various other words. I don't answer calls from unknown numbers, and screen the known numbers to let the other person speak first, in part to assess if it is a live person whose voice I recognize. I assume that any caller may record my voice, and that more recording means more opportunity to manipulate digital capture records to deploy in any number of auto-response scenarios to my detriment. That only covers my abode. Then I need to be concerned about being out among 'em. Casual conversations anywhere could lead to unwanted consequences.

Now I need to get to work on that Faraday wardrobe.

David , , November 9, 2017 at 8:09 am

The "spooky technologies" you mention are indeed decades old. Essentially, for example, if you want to have a private meeting in any confined space with a window, you need not only to leave all electronic gadgets outside (that probably includes Apple Watches) but pull the curtains or otherwise find a way of stopping the glass pane from vibrating to the sound of your voice. And never sit with your computer in a position from which the screen is visible, even from a long distance.

As usual, it will be less the technologies themselves than the clever ideas for misusing them that are the problem. And if history is any guide, we have no idea, at the moment, what they will be. But what's already clear is that real-time monitoring of the movements, speech and even emotions of citizens by any reasonably advanced state is not that far away.

The Rev Kev , , November 9, 2017 at 6:35 pm

A couple of very old data points to flesh this out more. Two decades ago I read that mobs like the US State Department would play classic music at meetings so that the old laser-detecting vibrations-to-record-voices trick would not work but that probably does not work any more.

And for never sitting with your computer in a position from which the screen is visible, well, years ago I read that you can have a van parked nearby that would hone in on the radiation that your monitor would give off. Using that info, it would then in real time reconstruct exactly what you are seeing on your own screen.

These days those seem almost quaint now. These days you would probably have someone from a three-letter agency sit in his office and say Siri/Alexa/Echo give us a transcript of everything said in Frank's home and include whatever passwords he says and then sit down and watch a mirror image of Frank's computer monitor on a corner of his own.

A few years ago a journalist reporting on mobs like these watched as the article she was composing was being deleted right in front of her. She wistfully wondered if the person that was deleting her work at least liked what they read first.

rcd , , November 9, 2017 at 8:09 am

About a year ago, my husband and I were working at home and happened to discuss the problems we were having with our washer/dryer. Within 10 minutes, on the home page of a.n. other financial blog, an ad appeared in the r/h margin advertising .washer/dryers.

cocomaan , , November 9, 2017 at 8:12 am

I purposely destroyed the mics on the laptops in my house and have a separate peripheral mic I hook in if I need to talk to someone. Otherwise cell phones are kept in a separate room from my wife and I and tape over all the webcams.

What I really want to do is get a dedicated microwave to put our phones in at night as a faraday cage. Need to find some space to do that.

I know some people that have an Echo in their bedroom. Bizarre. But like self driving cars, all it will take is one incident of creepiness for the market to start to turn the other way. Amazon better behave itself.

Yves Smith Post author , , November 9, 2017 at 8:21 am

Is there an easy way to disable the mics in the laptops? I need to do that.

They sell phone Faraday sleeves on the Internet. You can test if they really work by trying to call your phone. I plan to get one. They have bigger sizes for tablets and laptops, and IIRC even a backpack.

likbez, November 9, 2017 at 11:31 pm

A drop of glue can help and is much simpler ;-). Without air flow sensitivity of the mic drops dramatically. In most cases collection of metadata (your calls, browsing history, email headers, etc) is enough for you already to be like a bug under the microscope.

The recording of conversations, unless you are a high value target, is completely redundant.

cocomaan , , November 9, 2017 at 8:33 am

There are ways to disable onboard mics through your settings. However, given what Snowden is saying about remote access, all the backdoors in major operating systems probably means someone can turn them back on without much effort.

Given how crappy most onboard mics are on laptops and the like, you might as well just shred them anyway. They are usually located next to the webcam inside a tiny hole. I just took an unbent paperclip, shoved it in there, and scratched around. I did this and tested the mic in the settings until it didn't register my voice.

There's probably more graceful ways to do it but that's how I handle things, hah! Next up will be my mini faraday cages, thanks for the recc.

The Rev Kev , , November 9, 2017 at 8:49 am

I don't think that there are any good answers here. Consider, Mark Zuckerberg who can afford to spend billions on his own computer security but still tapes over his laptop's camera and mics as revealed in a candid foto ( https://www.hackread.com/mark-zuckerbergs-laptop-cam-tape/ ) taken last year. The future seemed so simple in Star Trek when you would talk to the computer from any part of the ship – even though it was foreseen that sometimes there might be problems ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVA5HSE6igQ ). It was also clear here that your personal logs were your own and that they could be only accessed for vital reasons.

These smart devices like Alexa and Echo are like those smart TVs that not only have an inbuilt microphone (always on) and an internal camera filming what is in front of the TV but also having face recognition technology built in and all connected to servers. It creeps me out thinking about having one that could not only record your private conversations with your wife but would put them through truth-lie algorithms to tell when you lie. If hacked, it takes blackmail to a whole other level. That anecdote by rcd confirmed my worst suspicions. As far as those devices are concerned, not with this little black duck!

lb , , November 9, 2017 at 10:11 am

Technologies can be surreptitiously remotely enabled/manipulated on any device with some way in (probably via networking, possibly via the same listening system with different cues -- imagine your TV saying a secret code word to Alexa to put it in permanent-recording mode). This sort of use has been OK'd by the courts under warrant, sometimes, in cars via OnStar, et al. Whenever you disable a technology in the software menu of the device, there is the possibility of someone else re-enabling it (or the software ignoring your request) without your consent or awareness.

As a security researcher I've wanted to see a movement for DIY hardware toggles for sensitive components in a device. It should be possible to sever signals to/from any such component, or better, to de-power the component without compromising device integrity/stability. Any camera, microphone or biometric scanner is obviously sensitive. Any component of telephony, from cellular to wi-fi (those things announce your presence to the world as they 'scan', constantly, and can be responsive when the device is off!) to near-field communication is sensitive. You (should) want a physical airplane-mode toggle, not just a software configuration option that you're supposed to trust. This needs to apply to all of the devices in one's life and all of the components. As we enumerate the bits on a phone, the same logic must apply to a car (how many of us know how many microphones are there and where?). And we should expect vendors to make this impossible (out of apathy or out of defense of their own ability to listen). Maybe some vendors could court the security-minded and work to provide physically-auditable toggles but I doubt any market-based solution would solve this problem much.

(Asofyet I haven't seen a lot of movement on the DIY toggle front though maybe I've missed an example. I'm not a good person to start the work as I have a reverse midas touch with hardware hacking).

Knowing the possibility of a device lying to its user as to the disabling of snooping technology (or the possibility that something else was physically installed to spy), Bunnie and Snowden wrote guides for detecting that signaling is in use regardless of software settings, as a manual for journalists and others worried about it. Start here and search for more: https://www.pubpub.org/pub/direct-radio-introspection . I think those guys also talk about mitigation in newer work.

Just my two cents as to where a gap exists. Hopefully I'm not now on a !@#$list of the surveillance state just for thinking this aloud

FluffytheObeseCat , , November 9, 2017 at 1:40 pm

All our electronic appliances are wide open by default, and I don't know why that fact is not addressed in the aftermarket. The total absence of aftermarket hard switches, camera covers, apertures, etc. is freakishly weird. It has been obvious for years that there is a small, but potentially profitable market for such items. It's as if the home 'window treatments' business were suddenly eradicated. As if shades and curtains simply didn't exist.

I do not understand why cell phone cases with small sliding doors over the rear camera aren't part of every major vendors product line up. Yet, there is no 'Speck' or 'Kate Spade' branded phone case on the market that allows the owner to cover even one camera.

Likewise with 'smart' TVs. Why aren't there closing cases, drapes, and other furniture for the niche consumer who wants them? There is nothing inherently attractive about a blank LCD screen. Hiding it behind a mahogany door seems more normal than not (particularly in an era when the wealthy hide their refrigerators and dishwashers behind cabinetry that matches the shelving). I truly remember more closed cases for TVs 20 years ago, when you needed a great cabinet to hold a 20" deep CRT in the living room. Shutters or doors on the central space of the 'entertainment center' armoire were common then.

Grebo , , November 9, 2017 at 7:53 pm

phone cases with small sliding doors over the rear camera

I used to have a Nokia which had a large sliding door over the camera. Opening it would activate the camera without having to fumble with any buttons or slidey icons. The shutter was a tactile button on the side too. Great for capturing fleeting moments as it would be ready to go in half a second. They won't do it now because it would make the phone too fat.

Carolinian , , November 9, 2017 at 8:14 am

One could point out that Snowden also did things like put mobile phones in the microwave (Faraday cage) and advised taking the battery out of cellphones, including the dumb kind, when not in use. And while not many of us have Echo–one hopes–we almost all have computers which are surveillance engines of the finest kind.

To me Echo is just another one of Bezos' dumb ideas to go with drone deliveries and no checkout retail stores. The haystack problem suggests electronic surveillance isn't all it's cracked up to be and these capabilities somehow fail to prevent domestic terrorism, mass shootings and all the other horrors that go on.

ambrit , , November 9, 2017 at 8:24 am

The other social cost of this, mentioned in passing, is the drive of corporations to get rid of even more workers. Out of work phone call centre people need to eat too. Unlike the promises during the original industrial revolutions, there seem not to be compensating forms of employment being promised or created to 'take up the slack' of the displaced workers.
Jackpot City, here we come!

jCandlish , , November 9, 2017 at 8:34 am

While the article is written with respect to surveillance's impact on the individual it is important to note that the new technology here is the aggregation of surveillance onto crowds. The individual is less important than the group. Manage the group and the individual is easy.

QuarterBack , , November 9, 2017 at 9:34 am

This reminds me of a long running (half) joke idea i had for a business plan. The premise is to perform various actions that will attract your street address to direct mail campaigns, then when your (snail mail) mailbox gets bombarded by junk mail, you can just sell the inbound stream to recycling plants. $$$ Whatcha think?

Doctor Duck , , November 9, 2017 at 8:48 am

I don't see a need per se for the Echo Dot we own, but it does provide some utility and (more often) amusement. And I realize that this is a species of "if you have nothing to hide ", but honestly, there's nothing said in its presence that could be remotely considered dangerous, incriminating or embarrassing.

We also own and use cell phones and laptops that have the same functions, with no more compunction. I'm sure there are people and settings for which this warning is appropriate, but I'm personally unconcerned. Certainly any technology can be misused, but this one is pretty far down my list of worries.

Frankly, whatever expectation of privacy you have in your daily life is unwarranted. The genie is out of the bottle -- and it's sitting in your car, your purse, on the shelf, in your 'smart' TV etc. I believe we have to adapt, each in our own way and in accordance with our degree of paranoia, because none of this is going away. Just because you don't invite Alexa into you home doesn't mean her cousins aren't going to drop by.

tegnost , , November 9, 2017 at 10:11 am

" Frankly, whatever expectation of privacy you have in your daily life is unwarranted. The genie is out of the bottle -- and it's sitting in your car, your purse, on the shelf, in your 'smart' TV etc. "

So there's no alternative, then? Of course I have a flip phone, listen to football on the the old combo cassette/radio "boom box", You are describing the state of affairs for my wealthier friends, however, and agree that those of you who feel confident enough in your circumstances to feel there is nothing you do that needs to be hidden, I'd say you and they are cognitively captured by faith in tech, but all that tech money comes from people who don't respect the need for privacy such as yourself. I'd say the genie is in fact out of the bottle and his name is donald trump, if I had a dime for every time I heard a techie or mba say "there's going to be winner's and loser's, with the tacit assumption being there will be a lot more losers than winners, and the tech/mba guys will always be the winners somehow this phrase that was once so popular has disappeared down the memory hole because the tech/mba crowd who are so intent on screwing everyone else because tina actually found themselves to be the losers. Whoocoodanode. Anecdotally and slightly off topic, a friend was attacked yesterday in seattle by one of the ubiquitous homeless people armed with a knife ("huge box cutter, didn't think you could buy one that big") in an upscale neighborhood. Luckily his car door was still open and he was able to get back in and lock the doors while the guy laid waste to his paint job. Picture these homeless people (who it doesn't really need to be pointed out don't have smart tv, iphone 10x, or modern equipment on their 72 pinto or winnebago) start to get together because they truly have nothing else to lose to the bezos of the world and start to attack you in your pseudo safe environment. When there are roving bands of these people you'll wish the donald was your biggest problem. So I've got a right back atcha, whatever expectation of safety and security you have is wildly misguided The genie has a message for you, we live a rapaciously greedy, stratified, and mean spirited country, and you'll get what you deserve, good and hard.
http://i0.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/facebook/000/299/691/1a4.jpg

JDHE , , November 9, 2017 at 10:20 am

Sounds like the "I don't see race" solution to electronic privacy invasion. Equally naive and regressive.

lyman alpha blob , , November 9, 2017 at 1:52 pm

there's nothing said in its presence that could be remotely considered dangerous, incriminating or embarrassing.

So presumably you are able to see into the future to know who will be in charge of deciding what exactly is considered dangerous, incriminating or embarrassing? Quite a gift you have

Scylla , , November 9, 2017 at 9:14 am

Not that anyone here is contemplating murder, but this is relevant to the conversation, I am sure: Amazon gives up Echo data to police in murder investigation

Eclair , , November 9, 2017 at 10:04 am

Not to make light of the intrusion problems posed by owning smart phones, smart TV's and laptops with cameras and microphones (I, too, have been rattled by seeing ads on websites for objects or conditions that I and my spouse had been discussing a day earlier), but I would be more likely to purchase a voice-activated command system that had a male persona; I would love to call out, lazily, "Ralph (or 'Bob' or 'James'), shut the friggin' cupboard doors and chill a glass of Pinot Grigio to exactly 51 degrees."

saurabh , , November 9, 2017 at 10:19 am

The problem is really one of data retention; as usual there is no reason for a voice assistant to run in some megacorp's private cloud. We all have hefty computers at home more than capable of running these things and keeping the whole thing private – the voice data, the request, etc.

It would not be hard to organize a free software project to make an Alexa quality voice assistant that you can run on a private computer; with an internet connection you can even run a client to it from your phone.

This is the only way to freedom from the surveillance system; the alternative is simply refusing the technology. However, so far we have really failed at delivering good free software in these areas (voice commands and also mobile phones in general); we have no one to blame but ourselves for this. Passively hoping the megacorps will behave morally seems to not be working.

Craig H. , , November 9, 2017 at 10:22 am

"This call is being recorded for quality control purposes."

Yesterday my fidelity service rep invited me to have my voice print archived so that they could save me the inconvenience of having to provide those security details like my mom's maiden name and the street I grew up on. Our conversation was less than ten minutes at that point and he had a desktop widget running that told him they had collected sufficient voice data on me to do this.

I opted out.

"for quality control purposes" = "for quality control purposes and whatever the NSA and CIA see fit to do with it"

Dita , , November 9, 2017 at 10:54 am

Disturbing, to say the least, and kind of puts Amazon's commitment to hire military personnel in a[n even more] sinister light. Amazon is closely associating itself with the military because grateful patriotism, even as it takes losses to destroy other businesses. Huh.
http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20171109005408/en/

MG , , November 9, 2017 at 7:09 pm

No relatively advanced nation state with a decent-sized security state apparatus is going to allow a native high tech firm to flourish without a heavily deal of cooperation.

Hell, in most cases in the U.S. it is the defensive industry since the end of WW2 that is a key player in terms of early rounds of funding and forming links to corporate research centers & university researchers.

Just look at the role DARPA has played already in driverless technology. Their fingerprints are all over it and it is easily found in the public domain.

TruNorth , , November 9, 2017 at 10:58 am

I'd like to add this bit of info to this commentary FYI it is a hot subject in my neck of the woods.

http://www.azcentral.com/story/money/business/2014/12/12/state-settles-smart-meter-debate/20343257/

XXYY , , November 9, 2017 at 11:40 am

The good discussion in this article is just one facet of a much larger change to our society. In the old days, the presumption was that everything one did was private unless specific steps were taken to make it public, perhaps holding a press conference, or doing it in the middle of a busy street or a public square.

More recently, this has changed. Now, the presumption must be that everything one does is public, unless specific steps are taken to make it private. (I won't presume to outline the steps one needs to take for privacy, since this changes every day. A general statement would be that much of the privacy invasion is technological, and the older the technology one surrounds oneself with is, the less likely one is to have one's activities publicized.)

It's hard to overstate the impact of this change, and everyone, including individuals all the way up to very large businesses, is obviously still grappling with it. It's hard to say overall whether this change is a good or a bad thing, but there is clearly no rolling back the clock.

foghorn longhorn , , November 9, 2017 at 2:54 pm

Way back in 81, I hired on as a residential telephone tech for GTE. They actually had a document called "The Telephoneman Oath" that all employees were required to read and sign. It specifically said that all conversations you heard while testing lines were private and confidential. Period. If you divulged to anyone any conversation you would be summarily terminated. Period. If you heard a convo about say a plot to kill somebody and you notified your boss or the authorities, terminated. Period. No exceptions. My how times have changed.

Bobby Gladd , , November 9, 2017 at 12:26 pm

See The AI Now 2017 Report. " (pdf)

I've apprised them of this post.

readerOfTeaLeaves , , November 9, 2017 at 12:34 pm

Looks like my minuscule investment in the Fundraiser category of 'More Meetups', along with that mutual investment of so many other NCers, is already beginning to pay out phenomenal dividends. Thanks to all ;-)

annenigma , , November 9, 2017 at 12:42 pm

About 3 years ago when I moved back to my state, I went to a credit union to open a checking account. I favor credit unions over banks, but lately I've noticed some of them are getting a lot more commercialized as they merge and grow.

Anyway, I was told I had to wait to set it up with the branch manager who was at lunch. When she returned and was entering my information on her computer, some red text caught my eye even though the screen was mostly angled away from me so I couldn't actually read it. To me it suggested some kind of alert or cue for something important, who knows. It did serve to alert my own curiosity.

Then in the process of setting up the account, out of the blue the manager asked me about my pets. Since I don't have any, that conversation should have been very brief but somehow she managed to prolong it somehow, maybe asking why not but I forget now. That would be the kind of question that would immediately start people talking, but it came out so awkwardly in the timing that I got the impression it wasn't social as much a business related. At any rate, it did eliciting more conversation from me other than the brief but relevant answers I gave her for my account information.

Before I left, I also noticed a box directly in front of me on her desk. It caught my eye because it was placed near the edge, not set back closer to her but I really didn't give it any more attention other than that. But combined with the pet questioning and red text, I later wondered if my voice had been recorded for some kind of security program.

Naturally they'd only get a voice recording when they could capture someone's natural voice in a relaxed conversation, such as about beloved pets. After all, if you're not aware you're being recorded, you don't get tense vocal cords or try too hard to enunciate. Plus it's only for security reasons, right? So why tell us? The things they do for security has to be secret, otherwise it's not secure!

But my suspicious mind thinks that whenever valuable personal identifiers are collected by any business or government entity for any reason, and certainly when it's incentivized or written into the fine print of Patriot Act type laws, it ends up in Utah repository.

COLLECT IT ALL is not just a conspiracy theory anymore.

Or am I just being paranoid?

geoff , , November 9, 2017 at 12:51 pm

" Apart from the creepy crawley ‎surveillance aspect (and Google/Amazon bother me far more than the state security apparatus " (Clive, from the original article.)

As far as I'm concerned, Amazon and Google ARE (at least a part of) the state security apparatus. Links between the NSA and Google have been well-established, and Amazon is a CIA contractor.

http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/5/6/nsa-chief-google.html
http://www.defenseone.com/technology/2014/07/how-cia-partnered-amazon-and-changed-intelligence/88555/

(Hope that's not too many links!)

Lee , , November 9, 2017 at 12:58 pm

Live interview re this topic and more. Interview will be archived at the site soon. https://ww2.kqed.org/forum/2017/11/08/graphic-novel-explores-the-history-of-drone-warfare/

Also, Krasny interviewed Snowden last night from the Curran theater in SF. I assume this will also become available on their archive. https://sfcurran.com/the-currant/interviews/

Host: Michael Krasny
NOVEMBER 9, 2017
SHARE
Episode airs November 9, 2017 at 9:30 AM
Investigative journalist Pratap Chatterjee and editorial cartoonist Khalil Bendib present a history of drone warfare and mass surveillance in "VERAX," a graphic novel. The first half of the book profiles famous whistleblowers like Julian Assange and Edward Snowden. In the second half, Chatterjee investigates the murky background of drone warfare and its ethical implications. We talk to both authors about their new book and unexpected approach.

Guests:
Khalil Bendib, editorial cartoonist and graphic novelist; co-creator, "VERAX: The True History of Whistleblowers, Drone Warfare and Mass Surveillance"; co-host, "Voices of the Middle East"

Pratap Chatterjee, executive director, CorpWatch; co-author, "VERAX: The True History of Whistleblowers, Drone Warfare, and Mass Surveillance"

eYelladog , , November 9, 2017 at 1:42 pm

I have a friend who works with C-Suite types in tech from major companies (sorry, I won't name names or companies). These people he works with on his account have basically told him that Amazon has hit a homerun with Echo based on its mic and how it can single out a voice in a crowd. Everybody else is playing catch up on Alexa just like they are playing catch up on AWS. This was over a year ago.

When he was approached by family for advice on which of these devices to buy, he flat out told them they are all generally equal [for personal use], the question is who do you want to collect your data?

Hepativore , , November 9, 2017 at 2:53 pm

Actually, I wonder if it would be useful to buy one under your name, and then play a pre-recorded message next to it over and over again just for the purposes of spoofing or giving bad data to Google/Amazon/NSA/etc. as a counter-survellience measure. This way, if you are an activist or protester, you can give them a steady stream of bad or useless data in whatever file they have collected on you to make your "profile" extremely inaccurate.

Bryan , , November 9, 2017 at 3:36 pm

I work in info security. I have an Echo, though admittedly not in my bedroom. I think your threat model is wrong, for a couple of reasons. One, the Echo's ability to distinguish voices isn't what you're portraying. Anyone in the house (or people on TV, in a few infamous cases) can in fact order from Amazon using the account linked to the Echo via smartphone app.

Two, if you have my skillset and want to know if Echo is transmitting data to Amazon at any given time, do a packet capture on your network and find out. You won't see what's being sent because it's encrypted obviously, but you can see how much data is being sent, which is enough to know if the Echo is sending all the sounds it hears. It is not.

Of course that could be a capability that has to be turned on remotely. But because the Echo has to be connected to a wifi network that people like me can sniff, the NSA/FBI/whatever would be taking the chance in doing that that the person under surveillance will immediately know based on the amount of data being sent spiking.

There's no such chance with a cellphone. What's more, my cellphone is not a fat cylinder I leave in my living room all day; it goes with me. What's more than that, to listen in on it the government would have to work with Verizon, a company we know is slavishly supine to their every whim and has been for a couple of generations, and not Amazon, a company where they might bump up against all sorts of inconvenient technolibertarians who'd be outraged at the concept.

Can the NSA listen to me on my Echo should I ever come to their attention? I'd assume yes. Would they ever given all their other options? Can't see why.

likbez , November 10, 2017 at 12:37 am
Thank you for your post !

Excessive paranoia is as counterproductive as excessive negligence as for your Internet and phone communications privacy.

Of course that could be a capability that has to be turned on remotely. But because the Echo has to be connected to a wifi network that people like me can sniff, the NSA/FBI/whatever would be taking the chance in doing that that the person under surveillance will immediately know based on the amount of data being sent spiking.

While the reality can be a little bit more complex (buffering and shadowing can be used to hide traffic) the fact of any "rogue" transmission of large amount of data allow rather simple detection (to say nothing about possibility of setting a "honeypot") actually is a valuable inoculation from excessive "they listen to my mic and watch me on my camera" paranoia.

People whose conversations and electronic communications are really interesting to authorities (like foreign diplomats. mafia bosses, etc ) are by-and-large aware about this is and take various kinds of countermeasures. This defense-offence game is centuries old.

It is important to understand that even without listening to any conversation, your electronic communications footprint produces enough information to make any retired STASI operative blue from envy. Any additional "intrusive" monitoring (for example, recording and transcribing your conversations) has it costs and excessive monitoring is counterproductive as it hide tiny useful signal in the huge amount of "noise". So your conclusion is a valuable one and well worth repeating:

Can the NSA listen to me on my Echo should I ever come to their attention? I'd assume yes. Would they ever given all their other options? Can't see why.

The truth is that for them because of "other options" it does not make much sense to listen to any conversations or watch your surroundings on video to monitor you very closely.

johnnyb , , November 9, 2017 at 4:04 pm

I do not have an echo but I do have the amazon app on my android phone. I am getting paranoid. When my family and I speak of something at the dinner table the next day my Amazon account will suggest related items for purchase. Once or twice, ok, it's random. It is not random after months of me noticing this. I was speaking with a colleague about an amazon business account and I – 30 min later – received an email from Amazon asking if I was interested in an Amazon business account. The app is listening. I'm sure of it.

Propertius , , November 9, 2017 at 5:18 pm

There have been confirmed cases of Alexa responding to strangers' voices: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/tv-news-anchors-report-accidentally-sets-off-viewers-amazons-echo-dots/

This is also true for Siri, with some pretty scary consequences:

https://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2016/09/22/siri-opens-smart-lock-to-let-neighbor-walk-into-a-locked-house/

I would never have one of these bloody things in my house.

Eureka Springs , , November 9, 2017 at 8:01 pm

I'm reminded of discussions here on NC about the energy used per bitcoin and I wonder how much energy used per bitperson snoop might be? I bet it's a shockingly high number. What a waste.

catsick , , November 9, 2017 at 9:16 pm

Well if you consider that when I launch this page, 25 trackers attempt to launch and follow my browsing then it is not just Amazon who are playing this game

[Nov 10, 2017] Yves Smith

Nov 10, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Post author , November 10, 2017 at 1:20 am

I don't buy that. Although my professional life is on the Web via my expressing my views on the site, my personal life isn't anywhere near as readily accessible as for most people. For instance, I do such a huge amount of Web surfing for professional reasons you'd be hard pressed to identify what was personal in that.

likbez , November 10, 2017 at 2:26 pm

Thank you for your comment. It is awaiting moderation. Click here to learn more about our moderation process and comments policies.

"my personal life isn't anywhere near as readily accessible"

Not true. It is readily assessable. For example, looking for medical information (WebMD, etc), drugs, watching movies, sport sites, music sites that you visit, porno sites for males, set of your posts, shopping at Amazon, reviews, if any, etc usually are very informative as for your "personal life".

Social sites on which person posts represent so called "set of active sites set". The mere fact that a person posts on Naked Capitalism on a recurrent basis represents what it is called a "signature" -- which means that some subset of person interests can be extrapolated from the interests of other visitors to the same site. This "preference" can be correlated with your others postings, vocabulary that you use in them, "trigger phases" ( http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/24/homeland-security-manual_n_1299908.html ), their frequency and other similar "markers".

All this helps to create your "Web profile" which includes your education level, set of hobbies, political views, medical problems, personal problems, financial problems, etc. Tell me now that your personal life is not accessible.

Each Web site from the point of view of Web log analysis has a certain "attributes" and the level of "affinity" to similar sites which often link to this site (for example for naked capitalism Alexa lists wolfstreet.com, economicoutlook.net, cepr.net, truthdig.com and mishtalk.com as "similar")

If you visit set of "affiliated sites" that increases probability that you belong to certain social strata, or share certain interests/views.

Look at https://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/nakedcapitalism.com for the set of metrics computed.

All that means that for any person the history of Web activities for a year or more allows to create Web profile (or dossier, if you wish) in which professional interests and personal interests somewhat overlap (especially if you work from home), but some (or even large) part of them still can be distinguished.

You can actually create you own Web profile yourself installing Web proxy and using some scripts like AWstats. That's a very interesting and educational exercise. Of course, if you a programmer you can write your own scripts or enhance existing to get more information. But in any case just looking at your one year Web stats you probably will be surprised how much of your "personal interests" can be deduced from this profile. First of all just the list of sites you visit recurrently creates a certain profile. Also from them you can calculate certain integral metrics, for example something like "index of loyalty/political correctness" (I heard that China is doing or planning to do something along those lines).

Also "professional interests" related Web surfing of not, there are certain "outliers sites" that you visit and certain "trigger sites/pages" which allow to narrow the set of your personal "trait" visible in your Web profile. Which, among other things, can help to identify you on other devices even if you do not login to any sites.

Bulk of surfing can be discarded, but just timestamps give quite a bit information about your personal life, about how you plan you day, etc. If for example a person usually spend 10 hours a day surfing the Web that fact alone is an important part of the Web profile characterizing the person as "Web junky".

Which usually tells a lot about this particular person personal life and even allows to deduce some personal traits.

Outliers, sites not commonly visited by similar surfers, might be even more interesting.

Also interesting is how your Web browsing "footprint" evolves from one month to another.

For example set of sites that there were prominent in the past disappeared from your Web profile might suggest that a certain problem is solved, or put on backburner, etc. And many other things along those lines.

[Nov 10, 2017] What part of your personal life can be deduced from your Web logs

Nov 10, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

likbez , November 9, 2017 at 11:31 pm

A drop of glue can help and is much simpler ;-). Without air flow sensitivity of the mic drops dramatically.

In most cases collection of metadata (your calls, browsing history, email headers, etc) is enough for you already to be like a bug under the microscope.

The recording of conversations, unless you are high value target, is completely redundant.

Yves Smith Post author , November 10, 2017 at 1:20 am

I don't buy that. Although my professional life is on the Web via my expressing my views on the site, my personal life isn't anywhere near as readily accessible as for most people. For instance, I do such a huge amount of Web surfing for professional reasons you'd be hard pressed to identify what was personal in that.

likbez , November 10, 2017 at 2:26 pm

"my personal life isn't anywhere near as readily accessible"

Not true. It is readily assessable. For example, looking for medical information (WebMD, etc), drugs, watching movies, sport sites, music sites that you visit, porno sites for males, set of your posts, shopping at Amazon, reviews, if any, etc usually are very informative as for your "personal life".

Social sites on which person posts represent so called "set of active sites set". The mere fact that a person posts on Naked Capitalism on a recurrent basis represents what it is called a "signature" -- which means that some subset of person interests can be extrapolated from the interests of other visitors to the same site. This "preference" can be correlated with your others postings, vocabulary that you use in them, "trigger phases" ( http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/24/homeland-security-manual_n_1299908.html ), their frequency and other similar "markers".

All this helps to create your "Web profile" which includes your education level, set of hobbies, political views, medical problems, personal problems, financial problems, etc. Tell me now that your personal life is not accessible.

Each Web site from the point of view of Web log analysis has a certain "attributes" and the level of "affinity" to similar sites which often link to this site (for example for naked capitalism Alexa lists wolfstreet.com, economicoutlook.net, cepr.net, truthdig.com and mishtalk.com as "similar")

If you visit set of "affiliated sites" that increases probability that you belong to certain social strata, or share certain interests/views.

Look at https://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/nakedcapitalism.com for the set of metrics computed.

All that means that for any person the history of Web activities for a year or more allows to create Web profile (or dossier, if you wish) in which professional interests and personal interests somewhat overlap (especially if you work from home), but some (or even large) part of them still can be distinguished.

You can actually create you own Web profile yourself installing Web proxy and using some scripts like AWstats. That's a very interesting and educational exercise. Of course, if you a programmer you can write your own scripts or enhance existing to get more information. But in any case just looking at your one year Web stats you probably will be surprised how much of your "personal interests" can be deduced from this profile. First of all just the list of sites you visit recurrently creates a certain profile. Also from them you can calculate certain integral metrics, for example something like "index of loyalty/political correctness" (I heard that China is doing or planning to do something along those lines).

Also "professional interests" related Web surfing of not, there are certain "outliers sites" that you visit and certain "trigger sites/pages" which allow to narrow the set of your personal "trait" visible in your Web profile. Which, among other things, can help to identify you on other devices even if you do not login to any sites.

Bulk of surfing can be discarded, but just timestamps give quite a bit information about your personal life, about how you plan you day, etc. If for example a person usually spend 10 hours a day surfing the Web that fact alone is an important part of the Web profile characterizing the person as "Web junky".

Which usually tells a lot about this particular person personal life and even allows to deduce some personal traits.

Outliers, sites not commonly visited by similar surfers, might be even more interesting.

Also interesting is how your Web browsing "footprint" evolves from one month to another.

For example, if set of sites that there were prominent in the past disappeared from your Web profile, that might suggest that a certain problem is solved, or put on backburner, etc. And many other things along those lines.

fajensen , November 10, 2017 at 2:23 pm

No. There isn't an easy way. If you can find the actual microphone opening you can carefully fill the microphone with a solvent based glue using a syringe and a needle. One does not want to break it, because maybe the OS/drivers checks for the presence of the physical device and then there is an error code logged and one is tagged. Disabling the microphone is not always very practical. On MacBook Pros, at least one mike is under the left loudspeaker grid and one cannot get at it without disassembly.

Then the question is, is this the only one? There could be several, they are so cheap and small. Some might be "secret sauce", perhaps used for making certain vendors video call application superior to the others, and not visible to the OS in the normal way.

The loudspeakers -- are also microphones; if there is something going on where the audio system tracks the voltage applied to the speakers, maybe to shape / improve the sound, perhaps that signal is available to the CPU somehow and can be recovered. There are other embedded devices that can be made to work like microphones. Accelerometers used to protect the hard disk when one drops the laptop and the WiFi signals themselves, which can be used for RADAR-like surveillance and maybe audio extraction too. Currently, this is only for people with nation-state tools and hacking capability.

If the opposition is the common crook looking for insider information or a stalker, then it might be OK with disabling the regular microphone.

Nation States or Rogue Law Enforcement . One can pretty much forget about it! In that situation one should not be near anything electronic at all when discussing serious things, and one should take care to not be visible on cameras. Computers are good a lip-reading too.

There is a book, "Cryptoguide for Journalists", sadly in Danish Only but the authors does link to tools that are English and probably useful, the EFF has something similar in English:

EFF -> https://ssd.eff.org
UK Info (nerdy!) -> https://securityinabox.org/en/
links to tools -> http://www.journalismfund.eu/sites/default/files/Digital%20Security_0.pdf
Book Info -> https://www.cryptoguide.dk/english

lb , November 9, 2017 at 10:11 am

Technologies can be surreptitiously remotely enabled/manipulated on any device with some way in (probably via networking, possibly via the same listening system with different cues -- imagine your TV saying a secret code word to Alexa to put it in permanent-recording mode). This sort of use has been OK'd by the courts under warrant, sometimes, in cars via OnStar, et al. Whenever you disable a technology in the software menu of the device, there is the possibility of someone else re-enabling it (or the software ignoring your request) without your consent or awareness.

As a security researcher I've wanted to see a movement for DIY hardware toggles for sensitive components in a device. It should be possible to sever signals to/from any such component, or better, to de-power the component without compromising device integrity/stability. Any camera, microphone or biometric scanner is obviously sensitive. Any component of telephony, from cellular to wi-fi (those things announce your presence to the world as they 'scan', constantly, and can be responsive when the device is off!) to near-field communication is sensitive. You (should) want a physical airplane-mode toggle, not just a software configuration option that you're supposed to trust. This needs to apply to all of the devices in one's life and all of the components. As we enumerate the bits on a phone, the same logic must apply to a car (how many of us know how many microphones are there and where?). And we should expect vendors to make this impossible (out of apathy or out of defense of their own ability to listen). Maybe some vendors could court the security-minded and work to provide physically-auditable toggles but I doubt any market-based solution would solve this problem much.

(Asofyet I haven't seen a lot of movement on the DIY toggle front though maybe I've missed an example. I'm not a good person to start the work as I have a reverse midas touch with hardware hacking).

Knowing the possibility of a device lying to its user as to the disabling of snooping technology (or the possibility that something else was physically installed to spy), Bunnie and Snowden wrote guides for detecting that signaling is in use regardless of software settings, as a manual for journalists and others worried about it. Start here and search for more: https://www.pubpub.org/pub/direct-radio-introspection . I think those guys also talk about mitigation in newer work.

Just my two cents as to where a gap exists. Hopefully I'm not now on a !@#$list of the surveillance state just for thinking this aloud

[Nov 10, 2017] What part of your personal life can be deduced from your Web logs

Nov 10, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

likbez , November 9, 2017 at 11:31 pm

A drop of glue can help and is much simpler ;-). Without air flow sensitivity of the mic drops dramatically.

In most cases collection of metadata (your calls, browsing history, email headers, etc) is enough for you already to be like a bug under the microscope.

The recording of conversations, unless you are high value target, is completely redundant.

Yves Smith Post author , November 10, 2017 at 1:20 am

I don't buy that. Although my professional life is on the Web via my expressing my views on the site, my personal life isn't anywhere near as readily accessible as for most people. For instance, I do such a huge amount of Web surfing for professional reasons you'd be hard pressed to identify what was personal in that.

likbez , November 10, 2017 at 2:26 pm

"my personal life isn't anywhere near as readily accessible"

Not true. It is readily assessable. For example, looking for medical information (WebMD, etc), drugs, watching movies, sport sites, music sites that you visit, porno sites for males, set of your posts, shopping at Amazon, reviews, if any, etc usually are very informative as for your "personal life".

Social sites on which person posts represent so called "set of active sites set". The mere fact that a person posts on Naked Capitalism on a recurrent basis represents what it is called a "signature" -- which means that some subset of person interests can be extrapolated from the interests of other visitors to the same site. This "preference" can be correlated with your others postings, vocabulary that you use in them, "trigger phases" ( http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/24/homeland-security-manual_n_1299908.html ), their frequency and other similar "markers".

All this helps to create your "Web profile" which includes your education level, set of hobbies, political views, medical problems, personal problems, financial problems, etc. Tell me now that your personal life is not accessible.

Each Web site from the point of view of Web log analysis has a certain "attributes" and the level of "affinity" to similar sites which often link to this site (for example for naked capitalism Alexa lists wolfstreet.com, economicoutlook.net, cepr.net, truthdig.com and mishtalk.com as "similar")

If you visit set of "affiliated sites" that increases probability that you belong to certain social strata, or share certain interests/views.

Look at https://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/nakedcapitalism.com for the set of metrics computed.

All that means that for any person the history of Web activities for a year or more allows to create Web profile (or dossier, if you wish) in which professional interests and personal interests somewhat overlap (especially if you work from home), but some (or even large) part of them still can be distinguished.

You can actually create you own Web profile yourself installing Web proxy and using some scripts like AWstats. That's a very interesting and educational exercise. Of course, if you a programmer you can write your own scripts or enhance existing to get more information. But in any case just looking at your one year Web stats you probably will be surprised how much of your "personal interests" can be deduced from this profile. First of all just the list of sites you visit recurrently creates a certain profile. Also from them you can calculate certain integral metrics, for example something like "index of loyalty/political correctness" (I heard that China is doing or planning to do something along those lines).

Also "professional interests" related Web surfing of not, there are certain "outliers sites" that you visit and certain "trigger sites/pages" which allow to narrow the set of your personal "trait" visible in your Web profile. Which, among other things, can help to identify you on other devices even if you do not login to any sites.

Bulk of surfing can be discarded, but just timestamps give quite a bit information about your personal life, about how you plan you day, etc. If for example a person usually spend 10 hours a day surfing the Web that fact alone is an important part of the Web profile characterizing the person as "Web junky".

Which usually tells a lot about this particular person personal life and even allows to deduce some personal traits.

Outliers, sites not commonly visited by similar surfers, might be even more interesting.

Also interesting is how your Web browsing "footprint" evolves from one month to another.

For example, if set of sites that there were prominent in the past disappeared from your Web profile, that might suggest that a certain problem is solved, or put on backburner, etc. And many other things along those lines.

fajensen , November 10, 2017 at 2:23 pm

No. There isn't an easy way. If you can find the actual microphone opening you can carefully fill the microphone with a solvent based glue using a syringe and a needle. One does not want to break it, because maybe the OS/drivers checks for the presence of the physical device and then there is an error code logged and one is tagged. Disabling the microphone is not always very practical. On MacBook Pros, at least one mike is under the left loudspeaker grid and one cannot get at it without disassembly.

Then the question is, is this the only one? There could be several, they are so cheap and small. Some might be "secret sauce", perhaps used for making certain vendors video call application superior to the others, and not visible to the OS in the normal way.

The loudspeakers -- are also microphones; if there is something going on where the audio system tracks the voltage applied to the speakers, maybe to shape / improve the sound, perhaps that signal is available to the CPU somehow and can be recovered. There are other embedded devices that can be made to work like microphones. Accelerometers used to protect the hard disk when one drops the laptop and the WiFi signals themselves, which can be used for RADAR-like surveillance and maybe audio extraction too. Currently, this is only for people with nation-state tools and hacking capability.

If the opposition is the common crook looking for insider information or a stalker, then it might be OK with disabling the regular microphone.

Nation States or Rogue Law Enforcement . One can pretty much forget about it! In that situation one should not be near anything electronic at all when discussing serious things, and one should take care to not be visible on cameras. Computers are good a lip-reading too.

There is a book, "Cryptoguide for Journalists", sadly in Danish Only but the authors does link to tools that are English and probably useful, the EFF has something similar in English:

EFF -> https://ssd.eff.org
UK Info (nerdy!) -> https://securityinabox.org/en/
links to tools -> http://www.journalismfund.eu/sites/default/files/Digital%20Security_0.pdf
Book Info -> https://www.cryptoguide.dk/english

lb , November 9, 2017 at 10:11 am

Technologies can be surreptitiously remotely enabled/manipulated on any device with some way in (probably via networking, possibly via the same listening system with different cues -- imagine your TV saying a secret code word to Alexa to put it in permanent-recording mode). This sort of use has been OK'd by the courts under warrant, sometimes, in cars via OnStar, et al. Whenever you disable a technology in the software menu of the device, there is the possibility of someone else re-enabling it (or the software ignoring your request) without your consent or awareness.

As a security researcher I've wanted to see a movement for DIY hardware toggles for sensitive components in a device. It should be possible to sever signals to/from any such component, or better, to de-power the component without compromising device integrity/stability. Any camera, microphone or biometric scanner is obviously sensitive. Any component of telephony, from cellular to wi-fi (those things announce your presence to the world as they 'scan', constantly, and can be responsive when the device is off!) to near-field communication is sensitive. You (should) want a physical airplane-mode toggle, not just a software configuration option that you're supposed to trust. This needs to apply to all of the devices in one's life and all of the components. As we enumerate the bits on a phone, the same logic must apply to a car (how many of us know how many microphones are there and where?). And we should expect vendors to make this impossible (out of apathy or out of defense of their own ability to listen). Maybe some vendors could court the security-minded and work to provide physically-auditable toggles but I doubt any market-based solution would solve this problem much.

(Asofyet I haven't seen a lot of movement on the DIY toggle front though maybe I've missed an example. I'm not a good person to start the work as I have a reverse midas touch with hardware hacking).

Knowing the possibility of a device lying to its user as to the disabling of snooping technology (or the possibility that something else was physically installed to spy), Bunnie and Snowden wrote guides for detecting that signaling is in use regardless of software settings, as a manual for journalists and others worried about it. Start here and search for more: https://www.pubpub.org/pub/direct-radio-introspection . I think those guys also talk about mitigation in newer work.

Just my two cents as to where a gap exists. Hopefully I'm not now on a !@#$list of the surveillance state just for thinking this aloud

[Nov 10, 2017] Yves Smith

Nov 10, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Post author , November 10, 2017 at 1:20 am

I don't buy that. Although my professional life is on the Web via my expressing my views on the site, my personal life isn't anywhere near as readily accessible as for most people. For instance, I do such a huge amount of Web surfing for professional reasons you'd be hard pressed to identify what was personal in that.

likbez , November 10, 2017 at 2:26 pm

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"my personal life isn't anywhere near as readily accessible"

Not true. It is readily assessable. For example, looking for medical information (WebMD, etc), drugs, watching movies, sport sites, music sites that you visit, porno sites for males, set of your posts, shopping at Amazon, reviews, if any, etc usually are very informative as for your "personal life".

Social sites on which person posts represent so called "set of active sites set". The mere fact that a person posts on Naked Capitalism on a recurrent basis represents what it is called a "signature" -- which means that some subset of person interests can be extrapolated from the interests of other visitors to the same site. This "preference" can be correlated with your others postings, vocabulary that you use in them, "trigger phases" ( http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/24/homeland-security-manual_n_1299908.html ), their frequency and other similar "markers".

All this helps to create your "Web profile" which includes your education level, set of hobbies, political views, medical problems, personal problems, financial problems, etc. Tell me now that your personal life is not accessible.

Each Web site from the point of view of Web log analysis has a certain "attributes" and the level of "affinity" to similar sites which often link to this site (for example for naked capitalism Alexa lists wolfstreet.com, economicoutlook.net, cepr.net, truthdig.com and mishtalk.com as "similar")

If you visit set of "affiliated sites" that increases probability that you belong to certain social strata, or share certain interests/views.

Look at https://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/nakedcapitalism.com for the set of metrics computed.

All that means that for any person the history of Web activities for a year or more allows to create Web profile (or dossier, if you wish) in which professional interests and personal interests somewhat overlap (especially if you work from home), but some (or even large) part of them still can be distinguished.

You can actually create you own Web profile yourself installing Web proxy and using some scripts like AWstats. That's a very interesting and educational exercise. Of course, if you a programmer you can write your own scripts or enhance existing to get more information. But in any case just looking at your one year Web stats you probably will be surprised how much of your "personal interests" can be deduced from this profile. First of all just the list of sites you visit recurrently creates a certain profile. Also from them you can calculate certain integral metrics, for example something like "index of loyalty/political correctness" (I heard that China is doing or planning to do something along those lines).

Also "professional interests" related Web surfing of not, there are certain "outliers sites" that you visit and certain "trigger sites/pages" which allow to narrow the set of your personal "trait" visible in your Web profile. Which, among other things, can help to identify you on other devices even if you do not login to any sites.

Bulk of surfing can be discarded, but just timestamps give quite a bit information about your personal life, about how you plan you day, etc. If for example a person usually spend 10 hours a day surfing the Web that fact alone is an important part of the Web profile characterizing the person as "Web junky".

Which usually tells a lot about this particular person personal life and even allows to deduce some personal traits.

Outliers, sites not commonly visited by similar surfers, might be even more interesting.

Also interesting is how your Web browsing "footprint" evolves from one month to another.

For example set of sites that there were prominent in the past disappeared from your Web profile might suggest that a certain problem is solved, or put on backburner, etc. And many other things along those lines.

[Nov 08, 2017] Learning to Love McCarthyism by Robert Parry

Highly recommended!
Russiagate witch hunt is destroying CIA franchise in Facebook and Twitter, which were used by many Russians and Eastern Europeans in general.
One telling sign of the national security state is "demonizing enemies of the state" including using neo-McCarthyism methods, typically for Russiagate.
In the beginning, "Russiagate" was about alleged actions by Russian secret services. Evidence for these allegations has never emerged, and it seems that the Russiagate conspiracy theorists largely gave up on this part (they still sometimes write about it as if it was an established fact, but since the only thing in support of it they can adduce is the canard about the 17 intelligence services, it probably is not that interesting any more).
Now, they have dropped the mask, and the object of their hatred are openly all Russian people, as the new Undermensch. If these people and US MSM recognized the reality that they are now a particularly rabid part of the xenophobic far right in the United States
Notable quotes:
"... Buried in the story's "jump" is the acknowledgement that Milner's "companies sold those holdings several years ago." But such is the anti-Russia madness gripping the Establishment of Washington and New York that any contact with any Russian constitutes a scandal worthy of front-page coverage. On Monday, The Washington Post published a page-one article entitled, "9 in Trump's orbit had contacts with Russians." ..."
"... The anti-Russian madness has reached such extremes that even when you say something that's obviously true – but that RT, the Russian television network, also reported – you are attacked for spreading "Russian propaganda." ..."
"... We saw that when former Democratic National Committee chairwoman Donna Brazile disclosed in her new book that she considered the possibility of replacing Hillary Clinton on the Democratic ticket after Clinton's public fainting spell and worries about her health. ..."
"... In other words, the go-to excuse for everything these days is to blame the Russians and smear anyone who says anything – no matter how true – if it also was reported on RT. ..."
"... The CIA has an entire bureaucracy dedicated to propaganda and disinformation, with some of those efforts farmed out to newer entities such as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) or paid for by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). NATO has a special command in Latvia that undertakes "strategic communications." ..."
"... Israel is another skilled player in this field, tapping into its supporters around the world to harass people who criticize the Zionist project. Indeed, since the 1980s, Israel has pioneered many of the tactics of computer spying and sabotage that were adopted and expanded by America's National Security Agency, explaining why the Obama administration teamed up with Israel in a scheme to plant malicious code into Iranian centrifuges to sabotage Iran's nuclear program. ..."
"... And, if you're really concerned about foreign interference in U.S. elections and policies, there's the remarkable influence of Israel and its perceived ability to effect the defeat of almost any politician who deviates from what the Israeli government wants, going back at least to the 1980s when Sen. Chuck Percy and Rep. Paul Findley were among the political casualties after pursuing contacts with the Palestinians. ..."
"... The answer seems to be the widespread hatred for President Trump combined with vested interests in favor of whipping up the New Cold War. That is a goal valued by both the Military-Industrial Complex, which sees trillions of dollars in strategic weapons systems in the future, and the neoconservatives, who view Russia as a threat to their "regime change" agendas for Syria and Iran. ..."
"... After all, if Russia and its independent-minded President Putin can be beaten back and beaten down, then a big obstacle to the neocon/Israeli goal of expanding the Mideast wars will be removed. ..."
"... Right now, the neocons are openly lusting for a "regime change" in Moscow despite the obvious risks that such turmoil in a nuclear-armed country might create, including the possibility that Putin would be succeeded not by some compliant Western client like the late Boris Yeltsin but by an extreme nationalist who might consider launching a nuclear strike to protect the honor of Mother Russia. ..."
"... The likely outcome from the anti-Russian show trials on Capitol Hill is that technology giants will bow to the bipartisan demand for new algorithms and other methods for stigmatizing, marginalizing and eliminating information that challenges the mainstream storylines in the cause of fighting "Russian propaganda." ..."
"... America's Stolen Narrative, ..."
"... witch hunt by congressional Democrats, working with the intelligence agencies and leading media outlets, to legitimize censorship and attack free speech on the Internet. ..."
"... The aim of this campaign is to claim that social conflict within the United States arises not from the scale of social inequality in America, greater than in any other country in the developed world, but rather from the actions of "outside agitators" working in the service of the Kremlin. ..."
"... The McCarthyite witch hunts of the 1950s sought to suppress left-wing thought and label all forms of dissent as illegitimate and treasonous. Those who led them worked to purge left-wing opinion from Hollywood, the trade unions and the universities. ..."
"... Likewise, the new McCarthyism is aimed at creating a political climate in which left-wing organizations and figures are demonized as agents of the Kremlin who are essentially engaged in treasonous activity deserving of criminal prosecution. ..."
"... Danny there was a time not to long ago, I would have said of how we are 'moving towards' to us becoming a police state, well instead replace that prediction of 'moving towards' to the stark reality to be described as 'that now we are', and there you will have it that we have finally arrived to becoming a full blown 'police state'. ..."
"... Thanks to Mr. Parry for this very fair and complete review of the latest attempts to generate a fake foreign enemy. The tyrant over a democracy must generate fake foreign enemies to pose falsely as a protector, so as to demand domestic power and accuse his opponents of disloyalty, as Aristotle and Plato warned thousands of years ago. ..."
"... The insanity of the entire "Russian hacking" narrative has been revealed over and over, including this past weekend when +/-100 Clinton loyalists published a screed on Medium saying Donna Brazile had been taken in by Russian propaganda. ..."
"... I have come to expect just about anything when it comes to Russia-Gate, but I was taken aback by the Hillary bots' accusation that videos of Hillary stumbling and others showing her apparently having a fit of some kind and also needing to be helped up the steps to someone's house -- which were taken by Americans and shown by Americans and seen by millions of shocked Americans -- were driven by Russia-Gate. ..."
"... Now, since the extremist xenophobic idea that contact with *any* Russians is a scandal has taken hold in the United States, people are probably not too eager to mention these contacts in these atmosphere of extreme xenophobic anti-Russian hatred in today's United States. Furthermore, people who have contact with large numbers of people probably really have difficulties remembering and listing these all. ..."
"... Their contacts are with Russian business and maybe the Russian mob, not the Russian state. There is really not question that Trump and his cronies are crooks, but they are crooks in the US and in all the other countries where they do business, not just Russia. I'm sure Mueller will be able to tie Trump directly to some of the sleeze. But there is no evidence that the Russian government is involved in any of it. "Russia-gate" implies Russian government involvement, not just random Russians. There is no evidence of that and moreover the logic is against. ..."
"... Mr. Cash . I think George Papadopoulis, Trump's young Aide, was an inside mole for neocon pro-Israel interests. Those interests needed to knock the unreliable President Trump out of the way to get the "system" back where it belonged – in their pocket. Papadopoulis, on his own, was rummaging around making Trump/Russian connections that finally ended with the the William (Richard?) Browder (well-known Washington DC neocon)/Natalia Veselnitskaya/Donald Trump, Jr. fiasco. The Trumps knew nothing of those negotiations, and young Trump left when he realized Natalia was only interested in Americans being allowed to adopt Russian children again and had no dirt on Hillary. ..."
"... It was never my impression that Cold War liberals opposed McCarthy or the anti-Communist witch hunt. Where they didn't gleefully join in, they watched quietly from the sidelines while the American left was eviscerated, jailed, driven from public life. Then the liberals stepped in when it was clear things were going a little too far and just as the steam had run out of McCarthy's slander machine. ..."
"... At that point figures like Adlai Stevenson, Hubert Humphrey and John F. Kennedy found the path clear for their brand of political stagecraft. They were imperialists to a man, something they proved abundantly when given the chance. Liberals supplanted the left in U.S. life- in the unions, the teaching profession, publishing and every other field where criticism of the Cold War and the enduring prevalence of worker solidarity across international lines threatened the new order. ..."
"... The book concludes that by equating dissent with disloyalty, promoting guilt by association, and personally commanding loyalty programs, ""Truman and his advisors employed all the political and programmatic techniques that in later years were to become associated with the broad phenomenon of McCarthyism."" ..."
"... Formed by Google in June 2015 with Eliot Higgins of the Atlantic Council's Bellingcat as a founding member, the "First Draft" coalition includes all the usual mainstream media "partners" in "regime change" war propaganda: the Washington Post, New York Times, CNN, the UK Guardian and Telegraph, BBC News, the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensics Research Lab and Kiev-based Stopfake. ..."
"... In the beginning, "Russiagate" was about alleged actions by Russian secret services. Evidence for these allegations has never emerged, and it seems that the Russiagate conspiracy theorists largely gave up on this part (they still sometimes write about it as if it was an established fact, but since the only thing in support of it they can adduce is the canard about the 17 intelligence services, it probably is not that interesting any more) ..."
"... Now, they have dropped the mask, and the object of their hatred are openly all Russian people, anyone who is "Russian linked" by ever having logged in to social networks from Russia or using Cyrillic letters. If these people and their media at least recognized the reality that they are now a particularly rabid part of the xenophobic far right in the United States ..."
"... The interview of Roger Waters on RT is one of the best I have seen in a long while. I wish some other artists get the courage to raise their voices. The link to the Roger Waters interview is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7jcvfbLoIA This Roger Waters interview is worth watching. ..."
"... It would seem that everyone on the US telivision , newspaper and internet news has mastered the art of hand over mouth , gasp and looking horrified every time Russia is mentioned. It looks to me that the US is in the middle of another of it´s mid life crises. Panic reigns supreme every where. If it was not so sad it would be funny. i was born in the 1940s and remember the McCarthy witch hunts and the daily shower of people jumping out of windows as a result of it. ..."
"... In The Fifties (1993), American journalist and historian David Halberstam addressed the noxious effect of McCarthyism: "McCarthy's carnival like four year spree of accusation charges, and threats touched something deep in the American body politic, something that lasted long after his own recklessness, carelessness and boozing ended his career in shame." (page 53) ..."
"... Halberstam specifically discussed how readily the so-called "free" press acquiesced to McCarthy's masquerading: "The real scandal in all this was the behavior of the members of the Washington press corps, who, more often than not, knew better. They were delighted to be a part of his traveling road show, chronicling each charge and then moving on to the next town, instead of bothering to stay behind and follow up. They had little interest in reporting how careless McCarthy was or how little it all meant to him." (page 55) ..."
"... Why have they not investigated James Comey? Why has the MSM instead created a Russian Boogeyman? Why was he invited to testify about the Russian connection but never cross examined about his own influence? Why is the clearest reason for election meddling by James Comey not even spoken of by the MSM? This is because the MSM does not want to cover events as they happened but wants to recreate a alternate reality suitable to themselves which serves their interests and convinces us that the MSM has no part at all in downplaying the involvement of themselves in the election but wants to create a foreign enemy to blame. ..."
Nov 08, 2017 | consortiumnews.com

Special Report: Many American liberals who once denounced McCarthyism as evil are now learning to love the ugly tactic when it can be used to advance the Russia-gate "scandal" and silence dissent, reports Robert Parry.

The New York Times has finally detected some modern-day McCarthyism, but not in the anti-Russia hysteria that the newspaper has fueled for several years amid the smearing of American skeptics as "useful idiots" and the like. No, the Times editors are accusing a Long Island Republican of McCarthyism for linking his Democratic rival to "New York City special interest groups." As the Times laments, "It's the old guilt by association."

Yet, the Times sees no McCarthyism in the frenzy of Russia-bashing and guilt by association for any American who can be linked even indirectly to any Russian who might have some ill-defined links to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

On Monday, in the same edition that expressed editorial outrage over that Long Island political ad's McCarthyism, the Times ran two front-page articles under the headline: "A Complex Paper Trail: Blurring Kremlin's Ties to Key U.S. Businesses."

The two subheads read: " Shipping Firm Links Commerce Chief to Putin 'Cronies' " and " Millions in Facebook Shares Rooted in Russian Cash ." The latter story, which meshes nicely with the current U.S. political pressure on Facebook and Twitter to get in line behind the New Cold War against Russia, cites investments by Russian Yuri Milner that date back to the start of the decade.

Buried in the story's "jump" is the acknowledgement that Milner's "companies sold those holdings several years ago." But such is the anti-Russia madness gripping the Establishment of Washington and New York that any contact with any Russian constitutes a scandal worthy of front-page coverage. On Monday, The Washington Post published a page-one article entitled, "9 in Trump's orbit had contacts with Russians."

The anti-Russian madness has reached such extremes that even when you say something that's obviously true – but that RT, the Russian television network, also reported – you are attacked for spreading "Russian propaganda."

We saw that when former Democratic National Committee chairwoman Donna Brazile disclosed in her new book that she considered the possibility of replacing Hillary Clinton on the Democratic ticket after Clinton's public fainting spell and worries about her health.

Though there was a video of Clinton's collapse on Sept. 11, 2016, followed by her departure from the campaign trail to fight pneumonia – not to mention her earlier scare with blood clots – the response from a group of 100 Clinton supporters was to question Brazile's patriotism: "It is particularly troubling and puzzling that she would seemingly buy into false Russian-fueled propaganda, spread by both the Russians and our opponents about our candidate's health."

In other words, the go-to excuse for everything these days is to blame the Russians and smear anyone who says anything – no matter how true – if it also was reported on RT.

Pressing the Tech Companies

Just as Sen. Joe McCarthy liked to haul suspected "communists" and "fellow-travelers" before his committee in the 1950s, the New McCarthyism has its own witch-hunt hearings, such as last week's Senate grilling of executives from Facebook, Twitter and Google for supposedly allowing Russians to have input into the Internet's social networks. Executives from Facebook, Twitter and Google hauled before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on crime and terrorism on Oct. 31, 2017. Trying to appease Congress and fend off threats of government regulation, the rich tech companies displayed their eagerness to eradicate any Russian taint.

Twitter's general counsel Sean J. Edgett told the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on crime and terrorism that Twitter adopted an "expansive approach to defining what qualifies as a Russian-linked account."

Edgett said the criteria included "whether the account was created in Russia, whether the user registered the account with a Russian phone carrier or a Russian email address, whether the user's display name contains Cyrillic characters, whether the user frequently Tweets in Russian, and whether the user has logged in from any Russian IP address, even a single time. We considered an account to be Russian-linked if it had even one of the relevant criteria."

The trouble with Twitter's methodology was that none of those criteria would connect an account to the Russian government, let alone Russian intelligence or some Kremlin-controlled "troll farm." But the criteria could capture individual Russians with no link to the Kremlin as well as people who weren't Russian at all, including, say, American or European visitors to Russia who logged onto Twitter through a Moscow hotel.

Also left unsaid is that Russians are not the only national group that uses the Cyrillic alphabet. It is considered a standard script for writing in Belarus, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Serbo-Croatia and Ukraine. So, for instance, a Ukrainian using the Cyrillic alphabet could end up falling into the category of "Russian-linked" even if he or she hated Putin.

Twitter's attorney also said the company conducted a separate analysis from information provided by unidentified "third party sources" who pointed toward accounts supposedly controlled by the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency (IRA), totaling 2,752 accounts. The IRA is typically described in the U.S. press as a "troll farm" which employs tech-savvy employees who combat news and opinions that are hostile to Russia and the Russian government. But exactly how those specific accounts were traced back to this organization was not made clear.

And, to put that number in some perspective, Twitter claims 330 million active monthly users, which makes the 2,752 accounts less than 0.001 percent of the total.

The Trouble with 'Trolling'

While the Russia-gate investigation has sought to portray the IRA effort as exotic and somehow unique to Russia, the strategy is followed by any number of governments, political movements and corporations – sometimes using enthusiastic volunteers but often employing professionals skilled at challenging critical information or at least muddying the waters.

Those of us who operate on the Internet are familiar with harassment from "trolls" who may use access to "comment" sections to inject propaganda and disinformation to sow confusion, to cause disruption, or to discredit the site by promoting ugly opinions and nutty conspiracy theories.

As annoying as this "trolling" is, it's just a modern version of more traditional strategies used by powerful entities for generations – hiring public-relations specialists, lobbyists, lawyers and supposedly impartial "activists" to burnish images, fend off negative news and intimidate nosy investigators. In this competition, modern Russia is both a late-comer and a piker.

The U.S. government fields legions of publicists, propagandists, paid journalists, psy-ops specialists , contractors and non-governmental organizations to promote Washington's positions and undermine rivals through information warfare.

The CIA has an entire bureaucracy dedicated to propaganda and disinformation, with some of those efforts farmed out to newer entities such as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) or paid for by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). NATO has a special command in Latvia that undertakes "strategic communications."

Israel is another skilled player in this field, tapping into its supporters around the world to harass people who criticize the Zionist project. Indeed, since the 1980s, Israel has pioneered many of the tactics of computer spying and sabotage that were adopted and expanded by America's National Security Agency, explaining why the Obama administration teamed up with Israel in a scheme to plant malicious code into Iranian centrifuges to sabotage Iran's nuclear program.

It's also ironic that the U.S. government touted social media as a great benefit in advancing so-called "color revolutions" aimed at "regime change" in troublesome countries. For instance, when the "green revolution" was underway in Iran in 2009 after the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Obama administration asked Twitter to postpone scheduled maintenance so the street protesters could continue using the platform to organize against Ahmadinejad and to distribute their side of the story to the outside world.

During the so-called Arab Spring in 2011, Facebook, Twitter and Skype won praise as a means of organizing mass demonstrations to destabilize governments in Tunisia, Egypt and Syria. Back then, the U.S. government denounced any attempts to throttle these social media platforms and the free flow of information that they permitted as proof of dictatorship.

Social media also was a favorite of the U.S. government in Ukraine in 2013-14 when the Maidan protests exploited these platforms to help destabilize and ultimately overthrow the elected government of Ukraine, the key event that launched the New Cold War with Russia.

Swinging the Social Media Club

The truth is that, in those instances, the U.S. governments and its agencies were eagerly exploiting the platforms to advance Washington's geopolitical agenda by disseminating American propaganda and deploying U.S.-funded non-governmental organizations, which taught activists how to use social media to advance "regime change" scenarios.

A White Helmets volunteer pointing to the aftermath of a military attack.

While these uprisings were sold to Western audiences as genuine outpourings of public anger – and there surely was some of that – the protests also benefited from U.S. funding and expertise. In particular, NED and USAID provided money, equipment and training for anti-government operatives challenging regimes in U.S. disfavor.

One of the most successful of these propaganda operations occurred in Syria where anti-government rebels operating in areas controlled by Al Qaeda and its fellow Islamic militants used social media to get their messaging to Western mainstream journalists who couldn't enter those sectors without fear of beheading.

Since the rebels' goal of overthrowing President Bashar al-Assad meshed with the objectives of the U.S. government and its allies in Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, Western journalists uncritically accepted the words and images provided by Al Qaeda's collaborators.

The success of this propaganda was so extraordinary that the White Helmets, a "civil defense" group that worked in Al Qaeda territory, became the go-to source for dramatic video and even was awarded the short-documentary Oscar for an info-mercial produced for Netflix – despite evidence that the White Helmets were staging some of the scenes for propaganda purposes.

Indeed, one argument for believing that Putin and the Kremlin might have "meddled" in last year's U.S. election is that they could have felt it was time to give the United States a taste of its own medicine.

After all, the United States intervened in the 1996 Russian election to ensure the continued rule of the corrupt and pliable Boris Yeltsin. And there were the U.S.-backed street protests in Moscow against the 2011 and 2012 elections in which Putin strengthened his political mandate. Those protests earned the "color" designation the "snow revolution."

However, whatever Russia may or may not have done before last year's U.S. election, the Russia-gate investigations have always sought to exaggerate the impact of that alleged "meddling" and molded the narrative to whatever weak evidence was available.

The original storyline was that Putin authorized the "hacking" of Democratic emails as part of a "disinformation" operation to undermine Hillary Clinton's candidacy and to help elect Donald Trump – although no hard evidence has been presented to establish that Putin gave such an order or that Russia "hacked" the emails. WikiLeaks has repeatedly denied getting the emails from Russia, which also denies any meddling.

Further, the emails were not "disinformation"; they were both real and, in many cases, newsworthy. The DNC emails provided evidence that the DNC unethically tilted the playing field in favor of Clinton and against Sen. Bernie Sanders, a point that Brazile also discovered in reviewing staffing and financing relationships that Clinton had with the DNC under the prior chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

The purloined emails of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta revealed the contents of Clinton's paid speeches to Wall Street (information that she was trying to hide from voters) and pay-to-play features of the Clinton Foundation.

A Manchurian Candidate?

Still, the original narrative was that Putin wanted his Manchurian Candidate (Trump) in the White House and took the extraordinary risk of infuriating the odds-on favorite (Clinton) by releasing the emails even though they appeared unlikely to prevent Clinton's victory. So, there was always that logical gap in the Russia-gate theory.

Since then, however, the U.S. mainstream narrative has shifted, in part, because the evidence of Russian election "meddling" was so shaky. Under intense congressional pressure to find something, Facebook reported $100,000 in allegedly "Russian-linked" ads purchased in 2015-17, but noted that only 44 percent were bought before the election. So, not only was the "Russian-linked" pebble tiny – compared to Facebook's annual revenue of $27 billion – but more than half of the pebble was tossed into this very large lake after Clinton had already lost.

So, the storyline was transformed into some vague Russian scheme to exacerbate social tensions in the United States by taking different sides of hot-button issues, such as police brutality against blacks. The New York Times reported that one of these "Russian-linked" pages featured photos of cute puppies , which the Times speculated must have had some evil purpose although it was hard to fathom. (Oh, those devious Russians!).

The estimate of how many Americans may have seen one of these "Russian-linked" ads also keeps growing, now up to as many as 126 million or about one-third of the U.S. population. Of course, the way the Internet works – with any item possibly going viral – you might as well say the ads could have reached billions of people.

Whenever I write an article or send out a Tweet, I too could be reaching 126 million or even billions of people, but the reality is that I'd be lucky if the number were in the thousands. But amid the Russia-gate frenzy, no exaggeration is too outlandish or too extreme.

Another odd element of Russia-gate is that the intensity of this investigation is disproportionate to the lack of interest shown toward far better documented cases of actual foreign-government interference in American elections and policymaking.

For instance, the major U.S. media long ignored the extremely well-documented case of Richard Nixon colluding with South Vietnamese officials to sabotage President Lyndon Johnson's Vietnam War peace talks to gain an advantage for Nixon in the 1968 election. That important chapter of history only gained The New York Times' seal of approval earlier this year after the Times had dismissed the earlier volumes of evidence as "rumors."

In the 1980 election, Ronald Reagan's team – especially his campaign director William Casey in collaboration with Israel and Iran – appeared to have gone behind President Jimmy Carter's back to undercut Carter's negotiations to free 52 American hostages then held in Iran and essentially doom Carter's reelection hopes.

There were a couple of dozen witnesses to that scheme who spoke with me and other investigative journalists – as well as documentary evidence showing that President Reagan did authorize secret arms shipments to Iran via Israel shortly after the hostages were freed during Reagan's inauguration on Jan. 20, 1981.

However, since Vice President (later President) George H.W. Bush, who was implicated in the scheme, was well-liked on both sides of the aisle and because Reagan had become a Republican icon, the October Surprise case of 1980 was pooh-poohed by the major media and dismissed by a congressional investigation in the early 1990s. Despite the extraordinary number of witnesses and supporting documents, Wikipedia listed the scandal as a "conspiracy theory."

Israeli Influence

And, if you're really concerned about foreign interference in U.S. elections and policies, there's the remarkable influence of Israel and its perceived ability to effect the defeat of almost any politician who deviates from what the Israeli government wants, going back at least to the 1980s when Sen. Chuck Percy and Rep. Paul Findley were among the political casualties after pursuing contacts with the Palestinians.

If anyone doubts how Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has continued to pull the strings of U.S. politicians, just watch one of his record-tying three addresses to joint sessions of Congress and count how often Republicans and Democrats jump to their feet in enthusiastic applause. (The only other foreign leader to get the joint-session honor three times was Great Britain's Prime Minister Winston Churchill.)

So, what makes Russia-gate different from the other cases? Did Putin conspire with Trump to extend a bloody war as Nixon did with the South Vietnamese leaders? Did Putin lengthen the captivity of U.S. hostages to give Trump a political edge? Did Putin manipulate U.S. policy in the Middle East to entice President George W. Bush to invade Iraq and set the region ablaze, as Israel's Netanyahu did? Is Putin even now pushing for wider Mideast wars, as Netanyahu is?

Indeed, one point that's never addressed in any serious way is why is the U.S. so angry with Russia while these other cases, in which U.S. interests were clearly damaged and American democracy compromised, were treated largely as non-stories.

Why is Russia-gate a big deal while the other cases weren't? Why are opposite rules in play now – with Democrats, many Republicans and the major news media flogging fragile "links," needling what little evidence there is, and assuming the worst rather than insisting that only perfect evidence and perfect witnesses be accepted as in the earlier cases?

The answer seems to be the widespread hatred for President Trump combined with vested interests in favor of whipping up the New Cold War. That is a goal valued by both the Military-Industrial Complex, which sees trillions of dollars in strategic weapons systems in the future, and the neoconservatives, who view Russia as a threat to their "regime change" agendas for Syria and Iran.

After all, if Russia and its independent-minded President Putin can be beaten back and beaten down, then a big obstacle to the neocon/Israeli goal of expanding the Mideast wars will be removed.

Right now, the neocons are openly lusting for a "regime change" in Moscow despite the obvious risks that such turmoil in a nuclear-armed country might create, including the possibility that Putin would be succeeded not by some compliant Western client like the late Boris Yeltsin but by an extreme nationalist who might consider launching a nuclear strike to protect the honor of Mother Russia.

The Democrats, the liberals and even many progressives justify their collusion with the neocons by the need to remove Trump by any means necessary and "stop fascism." But their contempt for Trump and their exaggeration of the "Hitler" threat that this incompetent buffoon supposedly poses have blinded them to the extraordinary risks attendant to their course of action and how they are playing into the hands of the war-hungry neocons.

A Smokescreen for Repression

There also seems to be little or no concern that the Establishment is using Russia-gate as a smokescreen for clamping down on independent media sites on the Internet. Traditional supporters of civil liberties have looked the other way as the rights of people associated with the Trump campaign have been trampled and journalists who simply question the State Department's narratives on, say, Syria and Ukraine are denounced as "Moscow stooges" and "useful idiots."

The likely outcome from the anti-Russian show trials on Capitol Hill is that technology giants will bow to the bipartisan demand for new algorithms and other methods for stigmatizing, marginalizing and eliminating information that challenges the mainstream storylines in the cause of fighting "Russian propaganda."

The warning from powerful senators was crystal clear. "I don't think you get it," Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, warned social media executives last week. "You bear this responsibility. You created these platforms, and now they are being misused. And you have to be the ones who do something about it. Or we will."

As this authoritarian if not totalitarian future looms and as the dangers of nuclear annihilation from an intentional or unintentional nuclear war with Russia grow, many people who should know better are caught up in the Russia-gate frenzy.

I used to think that liberals and progressives opposed McCarthyism because they regarded it as a grave threat to freedom of thought and to genuine democracy, but now it appears that they have learned to love McCarthyism except, of course, when it rears its ugly head in some Long Island political ad criticizing New York City.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America's Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com ).

Joe Tedesky , November 6, 2017 at 3:12 pm

I watched the C-Span 'Russian/2016 Election Investigation Hearings' in horror, as each congressperson grilled the Hi-Tech executives in a way to suggest that our First Amendment Rights are now on life support, and our Congress is ready to pull the plug at any moment. I thought, of how this wasn't the America I was brought up to believe in. So as I have reached the age in life where nothing should surprise me, I realize now how fragile our Rights are, in this warring nation that calls itself America.

When it comes to Israel I have two names, Jonathan Pollard & the USS Liberty, and with that, that is enough said.

Danny Weil , November 6, 2017 at 6:33 pm

This week's congressional hearings on "extremist content" on the Internet mark a new stage in the McCarthyite witch hunt by congressional Democrats, working with the intelligence agencies and leading media outlets, to legitimize censorship and attack free speech on the Internet.

One after another, congressmen and senators goaded representatives of Google, Twitter and Facebook to admit that their platforms were used to sow "social divisions" and "extremist" political opinions. The aim of this campaign is to claim that social conflict within the United States arises not from the scale of social inequality in America, greater than in any other country in the developed world, but rather from the actions of "outside agitators" working in the service of the Kremlin.

The hearings revolved around claims that Russia sought to "weaponize" the Internet by harnessing social anger within the United States. "Russia," said Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, promoted "discord in the US by inflaming passions on a range of divisive issues." It sought to "mobilize real Americans to sign online petitions and join rallies and protests."

The McCarthyite witch hunts of the 1950s sought to suppress left-wing thought and label all forms of dissent as illegitimate and treasonous. Those who led them worked to purge left-wing opinion from Hollywood, the trade unions and the universities.

Likewise, the new McCarthyism is aimed at creating a political climate in which left-wing organizations and figures are demonized as agents of the Kremlin who are essentially engaged in treasonous activity deserving of criminal prosecution.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/11/03/pers-n03.html

Joe Tedesky , November 7, 2017 at 12:32 am

Thanks for the informative link Danny.

Watching this Orwellian tragedy play out in our American society, where our Congress is insisting that disclaimers and restrictions be placed upon suspicious adbuys and editorial essays, is counterintuitive to what we Americans were brought up to belief. Why, all my life teachers, and adults, would warn us students of reading the news to not to believe everything we read as pure fact, but to research a subject before coming to a conclusion toward your accepting an opinion to wit. And with these warnings of avoiding us being suckered into a wrong belief, we were told that this was the price we were required to pay for having a free press society. This freedom of speech was, and has always been the bedrock of our hopes and wishes for our belief in the American Dream.

Danny there was a time not to long ago, I would have said of how we are 'moving towards' to us becoming a police state, well instead replace that prediction of 'moving towards' to the stark reality to be described as 'that now we are', and there you will have it that we have finally arrived to becoming a full blown 'police state'. Little by little, and especially since 911 one by one our civil liberties were taken away. Here again our freedom of speech is being destroyed, and with this America is now where Germany had been in the mid-thirties. America's own guilty conscience is rapidly doing some physiological projections onto their imaginary villain Russia.

All I keep hearing is my dear sweet mother lecturing me on how one lie always leads to another lie until the truth will finally jump up and bite you in the ass, and think to myself of how wise my mother had been with her young girl Southside philosophy. May you Rest In Peace Mum.

Martin , November 7, 2017 at 3:21 pm

Yankees chicks are coming home to roost. So many peoples rights and lives had to be extinguished for Americans to have the illusion of pursuing their happiness, well, what goes around comes around.

Gregory Herr , November 7, 2017 at 8:39 pm

Gee wiz Adam Schiff you make it sound as if signing petitions and rallying to causes and civil protests are unamerican or something. And Russians on the internet are harnessing social anger! Pathetic. These jerks who would have us believe they are interested in "saving" democracy or stopping fascism have sure got it backward.

Geoffrey de Galles , November 8, 2017 at 12:33 pm

Joe, Allow me please, respectfully, to add Mordecai Vanunu -- Israel's own Daniel Ellsberg -- to your two names.

Erik G , November 6, 2017 at 3:55 pm

Thanks to Mr. Parry for this very fair and complete review of the latest attempts to generate a fake foreign enemy. The tyrant over a democracy must generate fake foreign enemies to pose falsely as a protector, so as to demand domestic power and accuse his opponents of disloyalty, as Aristotle and Plato warned thousands of years ago.

It is especially significant that the zionists are the sole beneficiaries of this scam as well as the primary sponsors of the DNC, hoping to attack Russia and Iran to support Israeli land thefts in the Mideast. It is well established that zionists control US mass media, which never examine the central issue of our times, the corruption of democracy by the zionist/MIC/WallSt influence upon the US government and mass media. Russia-gate is in fact a coverup for Israel-gate.

Those who would like to petition the NYT to make Robert Parry their senior editor may do so here:
https://www.change.org/p/new-york-times-bring-a-new-editor-to-the-new-york-times?recruiter=72650402&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink
While Mr. Parry may prefer independence, and we all know the NYT ownership makes it unlikely, and the NYT may try to ignore it, it is instructive to them that intelligent readers know better journalism when they see it. A petition demonstrates the concerns of a far larger number of potential or lost subscribers.

mike k , November 6, 2017 at 4:10 pm

Why did we ever believe that the democrat party was a defender of free speech? These bought and paid for tools of the economic elites are only interested in serving their masters with slavish devotion. Selfishness and immorality are their stock in trade; betraying the public their real intention.

Cratylus , November 6, 2017 at 4:11 pm

Great essay.

But one disagreement. I may agree with Trump on very, very few things, among them getting rid of the horrible TPP, one cornerstone of Hillary's pivot; meeting with Putin in Hamburg; the Lavrov-Tillerson arranged cease-fire in SE Syria; the termination of the CIA's support for anti-Assad jihadis in Syria; a second meeting with Putin at the ASEAN conference this week; and in general the idea of "getting along with Russia" (a biggie) which Russia-gate is slowing to a crawl as designed by the neocons.

But Trump as an "incompetent buffoon" is a stretch albeit de rigueur on the pages of the NYT, the programs of NPR and in all "respectable" precincts. Trump won the presidency for god's sake – something that eluded the 17 other GOP primary candidates, some of them considered very"smart" and Bernie and Jill, and in the past, Ralph Nader and Ron Paul – and the supposedly "very smart" Hillary for which we should be eternally grateful. "Incompetent" hardly seems accurate. The respectable commentariat has continually underestimated Trump. We should heed Putin who marveled at Trump's seemingly impossible victory.

Bill Cash , November 6, 2017 at 4:13 pm

How do you explain all the connections between Trump acolytes and Russia and their lying about it. I think they've all lied about their contacts. Why would they do that?I lived through the real McCarthyism and, so far, this isn't close to what happened then.

Bill , November 6, 2017 at 4:40 pm

Probably because they are corruptly involved. Thing is, the higher priority is to avoid another decades-long cold war risking nuclear war. Do you remember how many close calls we had in the last one?

I'm more suspicious of Trump than most here, but even I think we need some priorities. Far more extensive corruption of a similar variety keeps occurring and no one cares, as Mr. Parry points out here yet again.

As for McCarthyism, whatever the current severity, the result is unfolding as a new campaign against dissenting voices on the internet. That's supremely not-okay with me.

Gregory Herr , November 7, 2017 at 8:46 pm

Right. Just because we don't yet have another fulll-fledged HUAC happening doesn't mean severe perils aren't attached to this new McCarthyism. Censorship of dissent is supremely not-okay with me as well.

Elizabeth Burton , November 6, 2017 at 4:58 pm

That class of people lie as a matter of course; it's standard procedure. If you exacerbate it by adding on the anti-Russia hysteria that was spewed out by the Democrats before the ink was dry on the ballots, what possible reason would they have for being truthful?

The insanity of the entire "Russian hacking" narrative has been revealed over and over, including this past weekend when +/-100 Clinton loyalists published a screed on Medium saying Donna Brazile had been taken in by Russian propaganda.

Litchfield , November 6, 2017 at 7:10 pm

I have come to expect just about anything when it comes to Russia-Gate, but I was taken aback by the Hillary bots' accusation that videos of Hillary stumbling and others showing her apparently having a fit of some kind and also needing to be helped up the steps to someone's house -- which were taken by Americans and shown by Americans and seen by millions of shocked Americans -- were driven by Russia-Gate.

Obviously, Brazile, like millions of voters, saw these films and made appropriate inferences: that Hillary's basic health and stamina were a question mark. Of course, Hillary also offered Americans nothing in her campaign rhetoric. She came across as the mother-in-law from hell.

Was it also a Russia-Gate initiative when Hillary hid from her supporters on election night and let Podesta face the screaming sobbing supporters? Too much spiked vodka or something? Our political stage in the USA is a madhouse.

Adrian Engler , November 6, 2017 at 6:20 pm

These people probably have "connections" with a relatively large number of people, and only very small fraction of the people they have contact with are probably Russians. Now, since the extremist xenophobic idea that contact with *any* Russians is a scandal has taken hold in the United States, people are probably not too eager to mention these contacts in these atmosphere of extreme xenophobic anti-Russian hatred in today's United States. Furthermore, people who have contact with large numbers of people probably really have difficulties remembering and listing these all.

Today's political atmosphere in the United States probably has a lot in common with the Soviet Union. There, people got in trouble if they had contacts with people from Western, capitalist countries – and if they were asked and did not mention these contacts in order to avoid problems, they could get in trouble even more.

I think it is absolutely clear that no one who takes part in this hateful anti-Russian campaign can pretend to be liberal or progressive. The kind of society these xenophobes who detest pluralism and accuse everyone who has opinions outside the mainstream of being a foreign agent is absolutely abhorrent, in my view.

Leslie F , November 6, 2017 at 6:40 pm

Their contacts are with Russian business and maybe the Russian mob, not the Russian state. There is really not question that Trump and his cronies are crooks, but they are crooks in the US and in all the other countries where they do business, not just Russia. I'm sure Mueller will be able to tie Trump directly to some of the sleeze. But there is no evidence that the Russian government is involved in any of it. "Russia-gate" implies Russian government involvement, not just random Russians. There is no evidence of that and moreover the logic is against.

occupy on , November 7, 2017 at 12:47 am

Mr. Cash . I think George Papadopoulis, Trump's young Aide, was an inside mole for neocon pro-Israel interests. Those interests needed to knock the unreliable President Trump out of the way to get the "system" back where it belonged – in their pocket. Papadopoulis, on his own, was rummaging around making Trump/Russian connections that finally ended with the the William (Richard?) Browder (well-known Washington DC neocon)/Natalia Veselnitskaya/Donald Trump, Jr. fiasco. The Trumps knew nothing of those negotiations, and young Trump left when he realized Natalia was only interested in Americans being allowed to adopt Russian children again and had no dirt on Hillary.

In the meantime, Trump Jr. was connected with an evil Russian (Natalia), William Browder was able to link the neocon-hated Trump Sr with neocon-hated, evil Russians (who currently have a warrant out for Browder's arrest on a 15 [or 50?] million dollar tax evasion charge), and neocons have a good chance of claiming victory out of chaos (as is their style and was their intent for the Middle East [not Washington DC!] in the neocon Project For a New American Century – 1998). Clinton may have lost power in Washington DC, but Clinton-supporting neocons may not have – thanks to George Papadopoulis. We shall see. Something tells me the best is yet to come out of the Mueller Investigations.

Roy G Biv , November 7, 2017 at 2:03 pm

You are seeing it clearly Bill. This site was once a go-to-source for investigative journalism. Now it is a place for opinion screeds, mostly with head buried in the sand about the blatant Russian manipulation of the 2016 election. The dominant gang of posters here squash any dissent and dissenting comments usually get deleted within a day. I don't understand why and how it came to be so, but the hysterical labeling of Comey/Mueller investigations as McCarthyism by Parry has ruined his sterling reputation for me.

Stygg , November 7, 2017 at 2:24 pm

If this "Russian manipulation" was as blatant as everyone keeps telling me, how come it's all based on ridiculous BS instead of evidence? Where's the beef?

anon , November 7, 2017 at 3:22 pm

Unable to substantiate anything you say nor argue against anything said here, you disgrace yourself. Do you think anyone is fooled by your repeated lie that you are a disaffected former supporter of this site? And you made the "Stygg" reply above.

Tom Hall , November 6, 2017 at 4:46 pm

It was never my impression that Cold War liberals opposed McCarthy or the anti-Communist witch hunt. Where they didn't gleefully join in, they watched quietly from the sidelines while the American left was eviscerated, jailed, driven from public life. Then the liberals stepped in when it was clear things were going a little too far and just as the steam had run out of McCarthy's slander machine.

At that point figures like Adlai Stevenson, Hubert Humphrey and John F. Kennedy found the path clear for their brand of political stagecraft. They were imperialists to a man, something they proved abundantly when given the chance. Liberals supplanted the left in U.S. life- in the unions, the teaching profession, publishing and every other field where criticism of the Cold War and the enduring prevalence of worker solidarity across international lines threatened the new order.

So it's no surprise that liberalism is the rallying point for a new wave of repression. The dangerous buffoon currently occupying the White House stands as a perfect foil to the phony indignation of the liberal leadership- Schumer, Pelosi et al.. The jerk was made to order, and they mean to dump him as their ideological forebears unloaded old Tail Gunner Joe. In fact, Trump is so odious, the Democrats, their media colleagues and major elements of the national security state believe that bringing down the bozo can be made to look like a triumph of democracy. Of course, by then dissent will have been stamped out far more efficiently than Trump and his half-assed cohorts could have achieved. And it will be done in the name of restoring sanity, honoring the constitution, and protecting everyone from the Russians. I was born in the fifties, and it looks like I'm going to die in the fifties.

Danny Weil , November 6, 2017 at 6:37 pm

Truman started it. And he used it very well.

THE TRUMAN DOCTRINE AND ORIGINS OF ""McCARTHYISM
By Richard M. Freeland

This book argues that Truman used anti-Communist scare tactics to force Congress to implement his plans for multilateral free trade and specifically to pass the Marshall Plan. This is a sound emphasis, but other elements of postwar anti-Communist campaigns are neglected, especially anti-labor legislation; and Freeland attributes to Truman a ""go-soft"" attitude toward the Soviets, which is certainly not proven by the fact that he restrained the ultras Forrestal, Kennan, and Byrnes -- indeed, some of Freeland's own citations confirm Truman's violent anti-Soviet spirit.

The book concludes that by equating dissent with disloyalty, promoting guilt by association, and personally commanding loyalty programs, ""Truman and his advisors employed all the political and programmatic techniques that in later years were to become associated with the broad phenomenon of McCarthyism."" Freeland's revisionism is confined and conservative: he deems the Soviets most responsible for the Cold War and implies that ""subversion"" was in fact a menace.

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/richard-m-freeland/the-truman-doctrine-and-origins-of-mccarthyism/

Howard Mettee , November 6, 2017 at 4:50 pm

Bob,

You are one of the very few critical journalists today willing to print objective measures of the truth, while the MSM spins out of control under the guise of "protecting America" (and their vital sources), while at the same time actually undermining the very principles of a working democracy they sanctimoniously pretend to defend. It makes me nostalgic for the McCarthy era, when we could safely satirize the Army-McCarthy Hearings (unless you were a witness!). I offer the following as a retrospective of a lost era.:

Top-Ten Criteria for being a Putin Stooge, and a Chance at Winning A One Way Lottery Ticket:to the Gala Gitmo Hotel:
:
(1) Reading Consortium News, Truth Dig, The Real News Network, RT and Al Jeziera
(2) Drinking Starbucks and vodka at the Russian Tea Room with Russian tourists (with an embedded FSS agent) in NYC.
(3) Meeting suspicious tour guides in Red Square who accept dollars for their historical jokes.
(4) Claiming to catch a cell phone photo of the Putin limousine passing through the Kremlin Tower gate.
(4) Starting a joint venture with a Russian trading partner who sells grain to feed Putin's stable of stallions. .
(5) Catching the flu while being sneezed upon in Niagara Falls by a Russian violinist.
(6) Finding the hidden jewels in the Twelfth Chair were nothing but cut glass.
(7) Reading War and Peace on the Brighton Beach ferry.
(8) Playing the iPod version of Rachmaninoff's "Vespers" through ear buds while attending mass in Dallas, TX..
(9) Water skiing on the Potomac flying a pennant saying "Wasn't Boris Good Enough?"
(10) Having audibly chuckled even once at items (1) – (9). Thanks Bob, Please don't let up!

Lisa , November 6, 2017 at 7:47 pm

Howard,

I chuckled loudly more than once – but luckily, no one heard me! No witnesses! So you are acquainted with the masterpiece "12 chairs"? Very suspicious.

David G , November 6, 2017 at 8:42 pm

I've heard that's Mel Brooks favorite among his own movies.

David G , November 6, 2017 at 8:48 pm

I always find it exasperating when I have to remind the waiter at the diner to bring Russian dressing along with the reuben sandwich, but these days I wonder if my loyalty is being tested.

Dave P. , November 6, 2017 at 10:27 pm

David G –

They will change the name of dressing very soon. Remember 2003 when French refused to endorse the invasion of Iraq. I think they unofficially changed the name of "French Fries" to "Freedom Fries".

It is just the start. The whole History is being rewritten – in compliance with Zionist Ideology. Those evil Russkies will be shown as they are!

Elizabeth Burton , November 6, 2017 at 4:53 pm

Clearly, since I've published one book by a Russian, one by a now-deceased US ex-pat living in Russia, and have our catalog made available in Russia via our international distributor, I am a traitor to the US. If you add in my staunch resistance to the whole Russiagate narrative AND the fact I post links to stories in RT America, I'm doomed.

I wish I could think I'm being wholly sarcastic.

Danny Weil , November 6, 2017 at 6:38 pm

You are not alone. Many of us live outside the open air prison and feel the same way

Abe , November 6, 2017 at 5:29 pm

Robert Parry has described "the New McCarthyism" having "its own witch-hunt hearings". In fact "last week's Senate grilling of executives from Facebook, Twitter and Google" was merely an exercise in political theatre because all three entities already belong to the "First Draft" coalition:

http://fortune.com/2016/09/13/facebook-twitter-join-first-draft-coalition/

Formed by Google in June 2015 with Eliot Higgins of the Atlantic Council's Bellingcat as a founding member, the "First Draft" coalition includes all the usual mainstream media "partners" in "regime change" war propaganda: the Washington Post, New York Times, CNN, the UK Guardian and Telegraph, BBC News, the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensics Research Lab and Kiev-based Stopfake.

In a remarkable post-truth declaration, the "First Draft" coalition insists that members will "work together to tackle common issues, including ways to streamline the verification process".

In the "post-truth" regime of US and NATO hybrid warfare, the deliberate distortion of truth and facts is called "verification".

The Washington Post / PropOrNot imbroglio, and "First Draft" coalition "partner" organizations' zeal to "verify" US intelligence-backed fake news claims about Russian hacking of the US presidential election, reveal the "post-truth" mission of this new Google-backed hybrid war propaganda alliance.

Abe , November 6, 2017 at 5:45 pm

The Russia-gate "witch-hunt" has graduated from McCarthyism to full Monty Pythonism: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k3jt5ibfRzw

Dan Kuhn , November 6, 2017 at 6:41 pm

You get the gold star for best comment today.

Abe , November 7, 2017 at 1:57 pm

Hysterical demonization of Russia escalated dramatically after Russia thwarted the Israeli-Saudi-US plan to dismember the Syrian state.

With the rollback of ISIS and Al Qaeda terrorist proxy forces in Syria, and the failure of Kurdish separatist efforts in Iraq, Israel plans to launch military attacks against southern Lebanon and Syria.

South Front has presented a cogent and fairly detailed analysis of Israel's upcoming war in southern Lebanon.

Conspicuously absent from the South Front analysis is any discussion of the Israeli planned assault on Syria, or possible responses to the conflict from the United States or Russia.

Israeli propaganda preparations for attack are already in high gear. Unfortunately, sober heads are in perilously short supply in Israel and the U.S., so the prognosis can hardly be optimistic.

"Scenarios for the Third Lebanon War

Over time, IDF's military effectiveness had declined. [ ] In the Second Lebanon War of 2006 due to the overwhelming numerical superiority in men and equipment the IDF managed to occupy key strong points but failed to inflict a decisive defeat on Hezbollah. The frequency of attacks in Israeli territory was not reduced; the units of the IDF became bogged down in the fighting in the settlements and suffered significant losses. There now exists considerable political pressure to reassert IDF's lost military dominance and, despite the complexity and unpredictability of the situation we may assume the future conflict will feature only two sides, IDF and Hezbollah. Based on the bellicose statements of the leadership of the Jewish state, the fighting will be initiated by Israel.

"The operation will begin with a massive evacuation of residents from the settlements in the north and centre of Israel. Since Hezbollah has agents within the IDF, it will not be possible to keep secret the concentration of troops on the border and a mass evacuation of civilians. Hezbollah units will will be ordered to occupy a prepared defensive position and simultaneously open fire on places were IDF units are concentrated. The civilian population of southern Lebanon will most likely be evacuated. IDF will launch massive bombing causing great damage to the social infrastructure and some damage to Hezbollah's military infrastructure, but without destroying the carefully protected and camouflaged rocket launchers and launch sites.

"Hezbollah control and communications systems have elements of redundancy. Consequently, regardless of the use of specialized precision-guided munitions, the command posts and electronic warfare systems will not be paralysed, maintaining communications including through the use of fibre-optic communications means. IDF discovered that the movement has such equipment during the 2006 war. Smaller units will operate independently, working with open communication channels, using the pre-defined call signs and codes.

"Israeli troops will then cross the border of Lebanon, despite the presence of the UN peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon, beginning a ground operation with the involvement of a greater number of units than in the 2006 war. The IDF troops will occupy commanding heights and begin to prepare for assaults on settlements and actions in the tunnels. The Israelis do not score a quick victory as they suffer heavy losses in built-up areas. The need to secure occupied territory with patrols and checkpoints will cause further losses.

"The fact that Israel itself started the war and caused damage to the civilian infrastructure, allows the leadership of the movement to use its missile arsenal on Israeli cities. While Israel's missile defence systems can successfully intercept the launched missiles, there are not enough of them to blunt the bombardment. The civilian evacuation paralyzes life in the country. As soon IDF's Iron Dome and other medium-range systems are spent on short-range Hezbollah rockets, the bombardment of Israel with long-range missiles may commence. Hezbollah's Iranian solid-fuel rockets do not require much time to prepare for launch and may target the entire territory of Israel, causing further losses.

"It is difficult to assess the duration of actions of this war. One thing that seems certain is that Israel shouldn't count on its rapid conclusion, similar to last September's exercises. Hezbollah units are stronger and more capable than during the 2006 war, despite the fact that they are fighting in Syria and suffered losses there.

"Conclusions

"The combination of large-scale exercises and bellicose rhetoric is intended to muster Israeli public support for the aggression against Hezbollah by convincing the public the victory would be swift and bloodless. Instead of restraint based on a sober assessment of relative capabilities, Israeli leaders appear to be in a state of blood lust. In contrast, the Hezbollah has thus far demonstrated restraint and diplomacy.

"Underestimating the adversary is always the first step towards a defeat. Such mistakes are paid for with soldiers' blood and commanders' careers. The latest IDF exercises suggest Israeli leaders underestimate the opponent and, more importantly, consider them to be quite dumb. In reality, Hezbollah units will not cross the border. There is no need to provoke the already too nervous neighbor and to suffer losses solely to plant a flag and photograph it for their leader. For Hezbollah, it is easier and safer when the Israeli soldiers come to them. According to the IDF soldiers who served in Gaza and southern Lebanon, it is easier to operate on the plains of Gaza than the mountainous terrain of southern Lebanon. This is a problem for armoured vehicles fighting for control of heights, tunnels, and settlements, where they are exposed to anti-armor weapons.

"While the Israeli establishment is in a state of patriotic frenzy, it would be a good time for them to turn to the wisdom of their ancestors. After all, as the old Jewish proverb says: 'War is a big swamp, easy to go into but hard to get out'."

Israeli Defense Forces: Military Capabilities, Scenarios for the Third Lebanon War
https://southfront.org/israeli-defense-forces-military-capabilities-scenarios-for-the-third-lebanon-war/

Realist , November 6, 2017 at 5:36 pm

Yes, the latest "big fish" outed yesterday as an agent of the Kremlin was the U.S. Secretary of Commerce (Wilbur Ross) who was discovered to hold stock in a shipping company that does business with a Russian petrochemical company (Sibur) whose owners include Vladimir Putin's son-in-law (Kirill Shamalov). Obviously the orders flow directly from Putin to Shamalov to Sibur to the shipping company to Ross to Trump, all to the detriment of American citizens.

From RT (another tainted source!): "US Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross Jr. has a stake in a shipping firm that receives millions of dollars a year in revenue from a company whose key owners include Russian President Vladimir Putin's son-in-law and a Russian tycoon sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department as a member of Putin's inner circle," says the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), the main publisher of the Paradise Papers. After the report was published, some US lawmakers accused Ross of misleading Congress during his confirmation hearings." Don't go mistaking the "International Consortium of Investigative Journalists for "Consortium News." These guys are dedicated witch hunters, searching for anyone with six degrees of separation to Vladimir Putin and his grand plan to thwart the United States and effect regime change within its borders.

In a clear attempt to weasel out of his traitorous transgression, Ross stated "In a separate interview with CNBC, that Sibur [which is NOT the company he owned stock in] was not subject to US sanctions." 'A company not under sanction is just like any other company, period. It was a normal commercial relationship and one that I had nothing to do with the creation of, and do not know the shareholders who were apparently sanctioned at some later point in time,' he said." Since when can we start allowing excuses like that? Not knowing that someone holds stock in a company that does business with a company in which you own stock may at some later point in time become sanctioned by the all-wise and all-good American federal government?

I can't wait till they make the first Ben Stiller comedy based on this fiasco twenty years from now. It will be hilarious slap-stick, maybe titled "Can You Believe these Mother Fockers?" President Chelea Clinton of our great and noble idiocracy will throw out the first witch on opening day of the movie.

Danny Weil , November 6, 2017 at 6:27 pm

Let's be honest. Most Americans think McCarthy is a retail store. No education. And they think Russia is the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, Trump is in Japan to start war with N. Korea to hide the blemishes or the canker on his ass. America is rapidly collapsing.

Adrian Engler , November 6, 2017 at 6:34 pm

In the beginning, "Russiagate" was about alleged actions by Russian secret services. Evidence for these allegations has never emerged, and it seems that the Russiagate conspiracy theorists largely gave up on this part (they still sometimes write about it as if it was an established fact, but since the only thing in support of it they can adduce is the canard about the 17 intelligence services, it probably is not that interesting any more).

Now, they have dropped the mask, and the object of their hatred are openly all Russian people, anyone who is "Russian linked" by ever having logged in to social networks from Russia or using Cyrillic letters. If these people and their media at least recognized the reality that they are now a particularly rabid part of the xenophobic far right in the United States

But when people daily spew hate against anything and anyone "Russia linked" and still don't recognize that they have gone over to the far right and even claim they are liberal or progressive, this is completely absurd.

McCarthyism, as terrible as it was, at least originally was motivated by hatred against a certain political ideology that also had its bad sides. But today's Russiagate peddlers clearly are motivated by hatred against a certain ethnicity, a certain country, and a certain language. I don't think there is any way to avoid the conclusion that with their hatred against anyone who is "Russia linked", they have become right-wing extremists.

Litchfield , November 6, 2017 at 6:46 pm

"Israel is another skilled player in this field, tapping into its supporters around the world to harass people who criticize the Zionist project."

Yes, very well organized.
In fact virtually every synagogue is a center for organizing people to harass others who are exercising their First Amendment rights to diseminate information about Israel's occupation of Palestine. The link below is to a protest and really, personal attack, against a Unitarian minister in Marblehead, Mass., for daring to screen the film ""The Occupation of the American Mind, Israel's Public Relations War in the United States." In other words, for daring to provide an dissenting opinion and, simply, to tell the truth. Ironic is that the protesters' comment actually reinforce the basic message of the film.
No other views on Israel will be allowed to enter the public for a good airing and discussion and debate. The truth about the illegal Israeli occupation will be shouted down, and those who try to provide information to the public on this subject will be vilified as "anti-semites." Kudos to this minister for screening the film.

http://www.salemnews.com/news/local_news/screening-of-film-sparks-protest-in-marblehead/article_0b075cbc-c2ae-5d46-916a-24eed79d30cd.html

http://cdn.field59.com/SALEMNEWS/ebb60114f782c4213f068bf0a39a4a46451ed871_fl9-360p.mp4

Abe , November 7, 2017 at 1:03 am

The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel's Public Relations War in the United States (2016) examines pro-Israel Hasbara propaganda efforts within the U.S.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LD7mOyfclIk

This important documentary, narrated by Roger waters, exposes how the Israeli government, the U.S. government, and the pro-Israel Lobby join forces to shape American media coverage in Israel's favor.

Documentary producer Sut Jhally is professor of Communication at the University of Massachusetts, and a leading scholar on advertising, public relations, and political propaganda. He is also the founder and Executive Director of the Media Education Foundation, a documentary film company that looks at issues related to U.S. media and public attitudes.

Jhally is the producer and director of dozens of documentaries about U.S. politics and media culture, including Peace, Propaganda & the Promised Land: U.S. Media & the Israeli–Palestinian Conflict.

The Occupation of the American Mind provides a sweeping analysis of Israel's decades-long battle for the hearts, minds, and tax dollars of the American people – a battle that has only intensified over the past few years in the face of widening international condemnation of Israel's increasingly right-wing policies.

Dave P. , November 7, 2017 at 2:45 am

Abe –

The interview of Roger Waters on RT is one of the best I have seen in a long while. I wish some other artists get the courage to raise their voices. The link to the Roger Waters interview is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7jcvfbLoIA This Roger Waters interview is worth watching.

Dan Kuhn , November 6, 2017 at 6:57 pm

It would seem that everyone on the US telivision , newspaper and internet news has mastered the art of hand over mouth , gasp and looking horrified every time Russia is mentioned. It looks to me that the US is in the middle of another of it´s mid life crises. Panic reigns supreme every where. If it was not so sad it would be funny. i was born in the 1940s and remember the McCarthy witch hunts and the daily shower of people jumping out of windows as a result of it.

As a Canadian I could not get over, even though I was just a teenager back then, just how a people in a supposedly advanced country could be so collectively paniced. I think back then it was just a scam to get rid of unions and any kind of collective action against the owners of the country, and this time around I think it is just a continuation of that scam, to frighten people into subservience to the police state. I heard a women on TV today commenting on the Texas masscre, she said " The devil never sleeps", well in the USA the 1/10 of 1% never sleeps when it comes to more control, more pwoer and more wealth, in fact I think they are after the very last shekle still left in the pockets of the bottom 99.9 % of the population. Those evil Russians are just a ploy in the scam.

Litchfield , November 6, 2017 at 6:58 pm

"The Democrats, the liberals and even many progressives justify their collusion with the neocons by the need to remove Trump by any means necessary and "stop fascism." But their contempt for Trump and their exaggeration of the "Hitler" threat that this incompetent buffoon supposedly poses have blinded them to the extraordinary risks attendant to their course of action and how they are playing into the hands of the war-hungry neocons."

And they are driving more and more actual and potential Dem Party members away in droves, further weakening the party and depriving it of its most intelligent members. Any non-senile person knows that this is all BS and these people are not only turning their backs on the Dem Party but I think many of them are being driven to the right by their disgust with this circus and the exposure of the party's critical weaknesses and derangement.

Paolo , November 6, 2017 at 6:59 pm

You correctly write that "the United States intervened in the 1996 Russian election to ensure the continued rule of the corrupt and pliable Boris Yeltsin". The irony is that a few years later Yeltsin chose Putin as his successor, and presumably the 'mericans gave him a hand to win his first term.
How extremely sad it is to see the USA going totally nuts.

Abe , November 6, 2017 at 9:00 pm

In The Fifties (1993), American journalist and historian David Halberstam addressed the noxious effect of McCarthyism: "McCarthy's carnival like four year spree of accusation charges, and threats touched something deep in the American body politic, something that lasted long after his own recklessness, carelessness and boozing ended his career in shame." (page 53)

Halberstam specifically discussed how readily the so-called "free" press acquiesced to McCarthy's masquerading: "The real scandal in all this was the behavior of the members of the Washington press corps, who, more often than not, knew better. They were delighted to be a part of his traveling road show, chronicling each charge and then moving on to the next town, instead of bothering to stay behind and follow up. They had little interest in reporting how careless McCarthy was or how little it all meant to him." (page 55)

Abe , November 6, 2017 at 9:15 pm

On March 9, 1954, Edward R. Murrow and a news team at CBS produced a half-hour See It Now special titled "A Report on Senator Joseph McCarthy".

Murrow interspersed his own comments and clarifications into a damaging series of film clips from McCarthy's speeches. He ended the broadcast with a warning:

"As a nation we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. We proclaim ourselves–as indeed we are–the defenders of freedom, what's left of it, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home. The actions of the junior senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad and given considerable comfort to our enemies, and whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn't create the situation of fear; he merely exploited it, and rather successfully. Cassius was right: 'The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves.'"

CBS reported that of the 12,000 phone calls received within 24 hours of the broadcast, positive responses to the program outnumbered negative 15 to 1. McCarthy's favorable rating in the Gallup Poll dropped and was never to rise again.

Gary , November 6, 2017 at 11:34 pm

Sad to see so many hypocrites here espousing freedom from McCarthyism while they continue to vote for capitalist candidates year in year out. Think about the fact that in 2010 when Citizens United managed to get the Supreme Court to certify corporations as people the fear among many was that this would open US company subsidiaries to be infiltrated by foreign money. I guess it is happening in spades with collusion between Russian money & Trump's organization along with Facebook, Twitter & many others. How Mr. Parry can maintain that this parallels the 1950s anti-communist crusade is quite ingenuous. When libertarians, the likes of Bannon, Mercer, Trump et al, with their "destruction of the administrative state" credo are compared to the US communists of the 50s we know progressives have become about as disoriented as can be.

geeyp , November 7, 2017 at 3:30 am

I guess these "Paradise Papers" were released just yesterday, i.e., Sunday the 5th. Somehow I didn't get to it.

john wilson , November 7, 2017 at 6:01 am

So it looks like Hillary will be crossing Putin off her Xmas card list this year! I sometimes wonder if all we posters on here and other similar sites are on a list somewhere and when the day of reckoning comes, the list will be produced and we will have to account for our treasonous behaviour? Of course, one man's treason is another man's truth. I suppose in the end it boils down to the power thing. If you have a perceived enemy you can claim the need for an army. If you have an army you have power and with that power you can dispose of anyone who disagrees with you simply by calling them the enemy.

Lisa , November 7, 2017 at 9:38 am

John, your post made me wonder whether I would be on a list of traitors. I've written three posts, starting yesterday, and tried to explain something about the background of Yuri Milner, mentioned in the article. After "your comment has been posted, thank you" nothing has appeared on this thread.
Well, once more: Milner is known to me as a well-educated physicist from Moscow State University, and the co-founder and financier of The Breakthrough Prize, handing out yearly awards to promising scientists, with a much larger sum than the humble Nobel Prize. The awarding ceremony is held in December in Silicon Valley.

john wilson , November 7, 2017 at 12:34 pm

Hi Lisa, I have just looked up Milner on Wiki and he appears to be into everything including investment in internet companies. He is the co-founder of the "break through prize" that you mention and seems to have backed face book and twitter in their start up. I don't see why you posts haven't appeared as anyone can look Milner up on Wiki and elsewhere in great detail. You don't say where you have tried to post, but I would have thought on this site you would have no trouble whatever. If you have watched the last episode of 'cross talk' on RT you will see that anyone who as ever mentioned Russia in a public place is regarded as some kind of traitor. I guess you and me are due for rendition anytime now!! LOL

Lisa , November 7, 2017 at 1:49 pm

Hi John,
Naturally I had been trying to post on this site. First I tried three times in the comment space below all other posts, and they never went through. Only when I posted a reply to someone else's comment, my reply appeared. Maybe some technical problem on the site.

My motive was to show that Milner is doing worthwhile things with his millions, even if he is an "evil Russian oligarch". The mentioned prize has its own website: breakthroughprize.org. Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) is a board member.

The prize is certainly a "Putin conspiracy", as it has links to Russia. (sarc)

Zachary Smith , November 7, 2017 at 8:05 pm

Maybe some technical problem on the site.

Possibly that's the case. Disappearing-forever posts happen to me from time to time. For at least a while afterwards I cut/paste what I'm about to attempt to "post" to a WORD file before hitting the "post comment" button.

In any event, avoid links whenever possible. By cut/pasting the exact title of the piece you're using as a reference, others can quickly locate it themselves without a link.

K , November 7, 2017 at 9:44 am

I'm a lifelong Democrat. I was a Bernie supporter. But logic dictates my thinking. The Russia nonsense is cover for Hillary's loss and a convenient hammer with which to attack Trump. Not biting. Bill Maher is fixated on this. The Rob Reiner crowd is an embarrassment. The whole thing is embarrassing. The media is inept. Very bizarre times.

Patricia Schaefer , November 7, 2017 at 10:14 am

Excellent article which should shed light on the misunderstandings manifested to manipulate and censor Americans. Personally, it's ludicrous to imply that Russia was the primary reason I could not vote for Hillary. My interest in Twitter peaked when Sidney Blumenthal's name popped up selling arms in Libya. He was on The Clinton Foundation's Payroll for $120K, while the Obama Administration specifically told HRC Sidney Blumenthal was not to work for the State Department.

Further research showed Chris Stevens had no knowledge of Sidney Blumenthal selling arms in Libya. Hillary NEVER even gave Chris Stevens, a candidate with an outstanding background for diplomatic relations in the Middle East, her email. Chris Stevens possessed a Law Degree in International Trade, and had previously worked for Senator Lugar (R). Senator Lugar had warned HRC not to co-mingle State Department business with The Clinton Foundation.

To add salt to the wound Hillary choose to put a third rate security firm in Libya, changing firms a couple of short weeks before the bombing. I think she anticipated the bombing, remarking "What difference does it make? " at the congressional hearings.

If you remember Guccifer (that hacker) he said he'd hacked both Hillary and Sidney Blumenthal. He also said he found Sidney Blumenthal's account more interesting.

That's just one reason why I started surfing the internet. Sidney Blumenthal was a name that hung in the cobwebs of my memory, and I wanted to know what this scum-job of a journalist was doing!

Then there was Clinton Cash, BoysonTheTracks, Clinton Chronicles, the outrageous audacity of the Democrats Superdelegates voting before a single primary ballot had been cast, MSM bias to Hillary, Kathy Shelton's video "I thought you should know." and maybe around September 2016, wondering what dirty things Hillary had done with Russia since 1993?

So I guess it's true. In the end after witnessing what has transpired since the election I would not vote for Hillary because she'd rather risk WWIII, than have the TRUTH come out why she lost.

Gary , November 7, 2017 at 3:16 pm

After living in Europe much of the last three years we've recently returned to the U.S. I must say that life here feels very much like I'm living within a strange Absurdist theatre play of some sort (not that Europe is vastly better). Truth, meaning, rationality, mean absolutely nothing at this juncture here in the United States. Reality has been turned on its head. The only difference between our political parties runs along identity politics lines: "do you prefer your drone strikes, illegal invasions, regime change black-ops, economic warfare and massive government spying 'with' or 'without' gender specific bathrooms?" MSM refer to this situation as "democracy" while of course any thinking person knows we are actually living within a totalitarian nightmare. Theatre of the Absurd as a way of life. I must admit it feels pretty creepy being home again.

Realist , November 7, 2017 at 4:09 pm

Should this give us hope? https://sputniknews.com/us/201711071058899018-trump-cia-meet-whistleblower-russian-hacking/ Trump ordered Pompeo to meet with Binney of VIPS re "Russian hacking." Is it time for the absurd Russia-gate narrative to finally be publicly deconstructed? Or is that asking too much?

Skip Scott , November 8, 2017 at 9:04 am

I wish it wasn't asking too much, but I suspect it is. If the NYT was reporting it, I'd feel better about our chances. But the Deep State controls the narrative, and thus controls Pompeo, Trump's order notwithstanding. I hope I'm wrong.

Dave P. , November 7, 2017 at 4:17 pm

Yes Joe. It is rather painful to watch as you said this Orwellian Tragedy playing out in the Country which has just about become a police state. For those of us who grew up admiring the Western Civilization starting with the Greeks and Romans, and then for its institutions enshrining Individual Rights; and its scientific, literary, and cultural achievements, it is as if it still happening in some dream, though it has been coming for some time now – more than two decades now at least. The System was not perfect but I think that it was good as it could get. The system had been in decline for four decades or so now.

From Robert Parry's article:

"The warning from powerful senators was crystal clear. "I don't think you get it," Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, warned social media executives last week. "You bear this responsibility. You created these platforms, and now they are being misused. And you have to be the ones who do something about it. Or we will."

Diane Feinstein's multi-billionaire husband was implicated in those Loan and Savings scandals of Reagan and G.H.W. Bush Era and in many other financial scandals later on but Law did not touch him. He has a dual residency in Israel. These are very corrupt people.

Paul Wolfowitz, Elliot Abrams, Perle, Nulad-Kagan clan, Kristol, Gaffney . . . the list goes on; add Netanyahu to it. In the Hollywood Harvey Weinstein, Rob Reiner. and the rest . . . In Finance and wall Street characters like Sandy Weiss and the gang. The Media and TV is directly or indirectly owned and controlled by "The Chosen People". So, where would you put the blame for all what is going on in this country, and all this chaos, death, and destruction going on in ME and many countries in Africa.

Any body who points out their role in it or utters a word of criticism of Israel is immediately called an anti-semite. Just to tell my own connections, my wife youngest sister is married to person who is Jewish (non-practicing). In all the relatives we have, they are closest to us for more than thirty five years now. They are those transgender common restroom liberals, but we have many common views and interests. In life, I have never differentiated people based on their ethnic or racial backgrounds; you look at the principles they stand for.

As I see it, this era of Russia-Gate and witch hunt is hundred times worse than McCarthy era. It seems irreversible. There is no one in the political establishment or elsewhere in Media or academia left for regeneration of the "Body Politic". In fact, what we are witnessing here is much worse than it was in the Soviet Union. It is complete degeneration of political leadership in this country. It extends to Media and other institutions as well. People in Soviet Union did not believe the lies they were told by the government there. And there arose writers like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in Soviet Union. What is left here now except are these few websites?

Maedhros , November 7, 2017 at 4:27 pm

If there is evidence, you should be able to provide some so that readers can analyze and discuss it. Exactly what evidence has been provided that the Russian government manipulated the 2016 election?

CitizenOne , November 7, 2017 at 10:42 pm

Robert Parry You Nailed It!!!

I need to do a little research to see how far back you used the term "New McCarthyism" to describe the next cold war with Russia. It was about the same time the first allegations of a Trump-Russia conspiracy was floated by the MSM. I do not pretend to know how much airtime they spent covering their coverup for all that the MSM did to profit from SuperPacs. They have webed a weave that conspires to conceive to the tunes of billions of dollars spent to reprieve their intent to deceive us and distract us away from their investment in Donald Trump which was the real influence in the public spaces to gain mega profits from extorting the SuperPacs into spending their dollars to defeat the trumped up candidate they created and boosted. One has to look no further than the Main Stream Press (MSM) to find the guilty party with motive and opportunity to cash in on a candidacy which if not for the money motive would not pass any test of journalistic integrity but would make money for the Media.

The Russian Boogeyman was created shortly after the election and is an obvious attempt to shield and defend the actions of the MSM which was the real fake news covered in the nightly news leading up to the election which sought to get money rather than present the facts.

This is an example of how much power and influence the MSM has on us all to be able to upend a National election and turn around and blame some foreign Devil for the results of an election.

The Russians had little to do with Trumps election. The MSM had everything to do with it. They cast blame on the Russians and in so doing create a new Cold War which suits the power establishment and suitably diverts all of our attention away from their machinations to influence the last presidential election.

Win Win. More Nuclear Weapons and more money for the MIC and more money for all of the corporations who would profit from a new Cold War.

Profit in times of deceit make more money from those who cheat.

CitizenOne , November 7, 2017 at 11:25 pm

Things not talked about:

1. James Comey and his very real influence on the election has never entered the media space for an instant. It has gone down the collective memory hole. That silence has been deafening because he was the person who against DOJ advice reopened the investigation into Hillary Clinton and the Servergate investigation after it had been closed by the FBI just days before the election.

The silence of the media on the influence on the election by the reopening of James Comey's Servergate investigation and how the mass media press coverage implicating Hillary Clinton (again) in supposed crimes (which never resulted in an indictment) influenced the National Election in ways that have never been examined by the MSM is a nail in the coffin of media impartiality.

Why have they not investigated James Comey? Why has the MSM instead created a Russian Boogeyman? Why was he invited to testify about the Russian connection but never cross examined about his own influence? Why is the clearest reason for election meddling by James Comey not even spoken of by the MSM? This is because the MSM does not want to cover events as they happened but wants to recreate a alternate reality suitable to themselves which serves their interests and convinces us that the MSM has no part at all in downplaying the involvement of themselves in the election but wants to create a foreign enemy to blame.

It serves many interests. The MSM lies to all of us for the benefit of the MIC. It serves to support White House which will deliver maximum investments in the Defense Industry. It does this by creating a foreign enemy which they create for us to fear and be afraid of.

It is obvious to everyone with a clear eyed history of how the last election went down and how the MSM and the government later played upon our fears to grab more cash have cashed in under the present administration.

It is up to us to elect leaders who will reject this manipulation by the media and who will not be cowed by the establishment. We have the power enshrined in our Constitution to elect leaders who will pave the path forward to a better future.

Those future leaders will have to do battle with a media infrastructure that serves the power structure and conspires to deceive us all.

Jessica K , November 8, 2017 at 9:43 am

Clear critical thinking must accompany free speech, however, and irrationality seems to have beset Americans, too stuck in the mud of identity politics. Can they get out? I have hopes that a push is coming from the new multipolar world Xi and Putin are advocating, as well as others (but not the George Soros NWO variety). The big bully American government, actually ruled by oligarchy, has not been serving its regular folks well, so things are falling apart. Seems like the sex scandals, political scandals especially of the Democrat brand, money scandals are unraveling to expose underlying societal sickness in the Disunited States of America.

It is interesting that this purge shakeup in Saudi Arabia is happening in 2017, one hundred years since the shakeup in Russia, the Bolshevik Revolution. So shake-ups are happening everywhere. I think a pattern is emerging of major changes in world events. Just yesterday I read that because "Russia-gate" isn't working well, senators are looking to start a "China-gate", for evidence of Trump collusion with Chinese oligarchs. Ludicrous. As Seer once said, "The Empire in panic mode".

Patricia, thanks for the info on Sid Blumenthal, HRC and the selling of arms from Libya to ME jihadists, which seems to exonerate Chris Stevens from those dirty deeds and lays blame squarely at Blumenthal's and Clinton's doorstep; changes my thinking. And thanks to Robert Parry for continuing to push back at the participation of MSM and government players in the Orwellian masquerade being pulled on the sheeple.

Truther , November 8, 2017 at 12:54 pm

Just the facts for those of you who have minds still open. suggest you bookmark it quickly as the moderator will delete it within the hour.

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/a-timeline-of-the-trump-russia-scandal-w511067

[Nov 01, 2017] Don't feed the beast. Duckduckgo is a good alternative to Google. And Facebook and Twitter's revenues are advertisement based

To abandon Amazon is unrealistic, but to control what you are buying (in view that all purchases goes into your Dossier) is probably the necessary precaution.
Google as a search engine deteriorated (Any search engine based on advertizing revenue is promoting spyware. and Google is especially bad in this respect due to its dominant position-- those guy pay Google and push themselves to the top of searches) , and alternative are not much worse, if not batter. It might make sense to change engine periodically, not to stick to a single one.
Facebook is intelligence collection company that masquerade itself as social site. So anybody who use Facebook is actually making creation of a comprehensive dossier on him/her much easier. You contacts are especially important. Same is true for Gmail and hotmail.
Notable quotes:
"... From the beginning of Zuckerberg's empire, I thought Facebook was an idiotic excuse to get people involved in trivia, even the name turned me off. ..."
Nov 01, 2017 | consortiumnews.com

geeyp, November 1, 2017 at 7:18 am

I would like to posit that we stop with the Googling on the internet. I have never "Googled" ever. Oh sure, Google is involved with connecting you when you might click on some links. That you seemingly can't avoid. I also don't Face or Twitter. If everyone could avoid doing that now, perhaps we could show our disdain with these entities acquiescing to Feinstein, et. al. I am so fed up with the Clinton crime family getting away with almost as much as the George H.W. crime family.

Skip Scott , November 1, 2017 at 8:46 am

geeyp-

That is a very good suggestion. Don't feed the beast. Duckduckgo is a good alternative to google. And facebook and twitter's revenues are add based, so don't go there either, as they have been shown to be caving to TPTB. Amazon is also one to avoid for Bezo's links to the CIA.

Jessica K , November 1, 2017 at 9:55 am

From the beginning of Zuckerberg's empire, I thought Facebook was an idiotic excuse to get people involved in trivia, even the name turned me off.

Now, Twitter is planning extending tweets to 280 characters, as if 140 is not bad enough. Unfortunately, Twitter can work to tell lies as well as push back on lies, same for Facebook and Google.

Seriously, this society has become unglued and as Lois says, "It ain't a pretty sight". Bad choices are leading to the American empire's downfall.

There's an interesting article from a week ago on Zero Hedge, "China's Rise, America's Fall", about China's launch of the petroyuan and other countries' desire to get off of dollar dominance.

Has a graph showing empire dominance from Portugal in 15th century, then Netherlands followed by Spain, then France, Great Britain, and finally the American empire, poised to be replaced by China.

[Oct 30, 2017] Could Papadopoulos case be an entrapment ? This "Russian professor" looks exactly like the heroes of Nigerian spam letters

Entrapment is as old as civilization. "In criminal law, entrapment is a practice whereby a law enforcement agent induces a person to commit a criminal offence that the person would have otherwise been unlikely or unwilling to commit. [1] It "is the conception and planning of an offence by an officer, and his procurement of its commission by one who would not have perpetrated it except for the trickery, persuasion or fraud of the officer." [2] "
Previously I thought that members of Hillary entourage were complete idiots both as for computer security and generally security wise. Now it looks like Trump entourage have has the same problem: many of they were idiots.
In "After Snowden" world anybody who wants to communicate with a unknown foreign person via Facebook of Twitter on issues of any political significance is an idiot. Because chances of hoax, provocation of in case of Trump team "false flag operation" are nearly 100%. This way you can implicate anybody in Russian ties: hire a hoaxer and ask him to pretend that he is Russian. To simp0lify the matter ask him to use Skype to communicate with the target. Send a couple of incriminating emails. Any of Nigerian spammers can be used for this purpose. They are already trained. Rinse and repeat.
So how we can be sure that this idiot Papadopoulos was not set up? BTW he ws born in 1987 -- so he just out of the college (graduated in 2009). What does he know about foreign policy?He never has been an ambassador to an important country, words in State Depertment, or servers as a senior fellow in some research institution which study those issues. (he was "unpaid intern" in Hudson institute" in 2011) What foreign policy advisor role for such a guy ? He looks like a huckster to me.
Of cause Kieren McCarth in her joy over the development is unable to contemplate this question.
Notable quotes:
"... Papadopoulos has been assisting Mueller's special inquiry for several months, but word of this cooperation only emerged today when his guilty plea to making false statements to the FBI was unsealed. ..."
"... he used Facebook Messenger and Skype to communicate with a Russian government agent, called "the Professor," who promised to provide damaging information on the Clinton campaign. Emails, no less. ..."
"... the Professor showed interest in defendant PAPADOPOULOS only after learning of his role." ..."
"... And then there is extensive evidence -- confirmed by Papadopoulos -- that he acted as a go-between for the Trump campaign and the Russian government, including being supplied with damaging information on the Clinton campaign. ..."
"... There are also emails from other Trump campaign staff -- so far unnamed -- that show explicit efforts to work with Russians in gathering damaging information on the real-estate tycoon's political rival. In other words, efforts to engage a foreign power to swing a US presidential election. ..."
"... For one, using Facebook to carry out highly dubious and potentially illegal activity is not a good idea. This is a social network that periodically changes account settings to keep up the pretense that it's not gathering and selling every snippet of information it can get out of you. Anything you say on Facebook may go straight down a pipe to the NSA and a database searchable by the FBI. It's called Section 702 . ..."
Oct 30, 2017 | www.theregister.co.uk
Originally from: Manafort, Stone, Trump, Papadopoulos, Kushner, Mueller, Russia All the tech angles in one place • The Register By Kieren McCarthy

Former Trump foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos -- no, not that one -- has been turned by ex-FBI director Robert Mueller as part of the latter's investigation into Trump campaign team members. Mueller is probing allegations of obstruction of justice, money laundering and other financial crimes, and collusion with Russian government agents seeking to meddle with last year's US presidential election.

Papadopoulos has been assisting Mueller's special inquiry for several months, but word of this cooperation only emerged today when his guilty plea to making false statements to the FBI was unsealed.

Coincidentally, Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort surrendered himself this morning to Mueller at his nearest FBI office, as requested, to answer allegations ranging from making false statements to acting as a foreign agent.

Ex-Trump campaign official Rick Gates, also accused of conspiracy and money laundering, handed himself in today, too. The indictment against the pair is here , and both deny any wrongdoing.

Among the wealth of details in Papadopoulos' 14-page statement [PDF] is the fact that he used Facebook Messenger and Skype to communicate with a Russian government agent, called "the Professor," who promised to provide damaging information on the Clinton campaign. Emails, no less.

"This isn't like he [the Professor]'s messaging me while I'm in April with Trump," Papadopoulos told the FBI. "I wasn't even on the Trump team." Except he was on the team in April 2016. The Feds noted in their court paperwork: "Defendant PAPADOPOULOS met the Professor for the first time on or about March 14, 2016, after defendant PAPADOPOULOS had already learned he would be a foreign policy advisor for the Campaign; the Professor showed interest in defendant PAPADOPOULOS only after learning of his role."

And then there is extensive evidence -- confirmed by Papadopoulos -- that he acted as a go-between for the Trump campaign and the Russian government, including being supplied with damaging information on the Clinton campaign.

There are also emails from other Trump campaign staff -- so far unnamed -- that show explicit efforts to work with Russians in gathering damaging information on the real-estate tycoon's political rival. In other words, efforts to engage a foreign power to swing a US presidential election.

But let's take a quick look at Facebook.

For one, using Facebook to carry out highly dubious and potentially illegal activity is not a good idea. This is a social network that periodically changes account settings to keep up the pretense that it's not gathering and selling every snippet of information it can get out of you. Anything you say on Facebook may go straight down a pipe to the NSA and a database searchable by the FBI. It's called Section 702 .

Papadopoulos is obviously not a man well versed in spy craft. Something that becomes more apparent when it's revealed the day after he was pulled in for questioning, he deleted his entire Facebook account and started a new one. He also tried changing his phone number to sidestep the Feds.

You can just imagine Mueller's team at their morning meeting: so how did the Papadopoulos interview go yesterday? Well, this morning he deleted his Facebook account. Great, now we know where to look.
... ... ...

[Oct 29, 2017] In Facebook We Antitrust by Patricia J. Williams

The author presentation of Facebook social effects is somewhat hysteric and lacks depth, but still mining data on two billion people is probably the moment when quantity turns into quality. For many people usage of Facebook is the symbol of being stupid. But other are too stupid to notice that they are being used. The same actually is true for Goggle.
Still, those in intelligence agencies who financed Facebook can now be proud.
Notable quotes:
"... Online organizers, who arguably have more awareness of the problems with Facebook, are equally committed to sticking with it, because "that's where the people are." To imagine fixing the democracy-distorting effects of Facebook's power, you have to be able to see beyond its boundaries, to a world where how we learn, play, and socialize isn't structured by the Lawnmower Man and surveillance capitalism. And I fear that our ability to imagine that world is rapidly fading ..."
Oct 29, 2017 | www.thenation.com

On June 27, Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook, announced that "the Facebook community is now officially 2 billion people!" It took the platform a little more than eight years to reach 1 billion users, and then less than five years to reach the second billion. Close to two-thirds of users visit the site at least once a day. There is no other human entity on earth as big as Facebook -- no country, no business, no single religious denomination.

We have to trust Facebook when its spokespeople say they are not abusing these powers to the benefit of any partisan cause. While the company has tried to downplay its ability to influence political choices, internal documents obtained by The Australian revealed that Facebook routinely tells advertisers that it knows exactly which buttons they should press to sell their products to impressionable young people. We should assume the same is true for other audiences. Don't forget, dear reader, especially if -- as is more than likely -- you are reading this article on Facebook right now: You are not Facebook's customer; you are its product. Facebook's only true constituency is its millions of advertisers.

... ... ...

Indeed, it is becoming more clear with each passing day that operatives tied to Russia used Facebook to insinuate themselves into the 2016 election, by creating fake accounts and group pages, pumping up false news stories, and targeting tens of millions of users with ads designed to sow division and affect their inclination to vote. Because Facebook's algorithms are tuned to optimize "engagement," meaning the amount of time its users spend on the site, such inflammatory content was catnip. But the Russia-Trump connection is not the central question to focus on when it comes to Facebook's power; it's just the tipping point that is causing many people to pay attention at last.

You can't solve a problem if you can't even name it, and we're just beginning to find words to adequately describe the issues raised by Facebook and other dominant tech platforms like Google and Amazon. In a very important article in The Yale Law Journal, "Amazon's Antitrust Paradox," Lina Khan of the Open Markets Institute notes that, while Amazon has lowered prices for consumers across many market categories, it has also abused its monopoly power in numerous ways. For example, it has mined internal data on the usage of its Amazon Web Services platform to figure out which tech start-ups were taking off and thus gain an insider's advantage on investment decisions. It has also created copycat products under the AmazonBasics label to directly compete with outside retailers by using internal data about the best-selling products on the site. Third-party sellers who use Amazon's delivery service do better in search results. Likewise, Google has used its dominant position as the main place that people go to search for information to sometimes favor its own content, such as travel-booking services and restaurant recommendations.

Since Facebook is currently a de facto social utility, it's tempting to propose that it be regulated, perhaps in a manner similar to the ways that the government has regulated telecommunications companies. For example, as Harold Feld of Public Knowledge has argued, Facebook could be required to show that it is not discriminating against particular classes of users or individuals when it comes to who it allows on the platform or how they're permitted to use it. Thus, when Facebook fires up its voter megaphone, the company could be required to show technical auditors that it is indeed being used in a neutral way. Likewise, when Google or Amazon exploit their market dominance in Web searches to privilege their own products, an antitrust case could be made that they're unfairly rigging the marketplace.

It's hard to see where the political will to explore these sorts of remedies is going to come from. Most of my liberal friends, confronted by the evidence that Facebook was used to meddle in the election, still can't find the energy to quit or stop using the platform. Online organizers, who arguably have more awareness of the problems with Facebook, are equally committed to sticking with it, because "that's where the people are." To imagine fixing the democracy-distorting effects of Facebook's power, you have to be able to see beyond its boundaries, to a world where how we learn, play, and socialize isn't structured by the Lawnmower Man and surveillance capitalism. And I fear that our ability to imagine that world is rapidly fading.

Patricia J. Williams is the James L. Dohr Professor of Law at Columbia University School of Law and a columnist for The Nation.

[Oct 27, 2017] False Flag Bombings, Murder Plots, Bizarre Phone Calls The Stunning Revelations In The JFK Assassination Files Zero Hedge

Oct 27, 2017 | www.zerohedge.com

Following last night's release of the latest set of JFK Assassination Files, the public has been busy combing through the several thousand documents. Among the more notable discoveries so far are the following: the CIA contemplated mafia hits on Cuban President Fidel Castro, involving the "false flag" staging of bombings in Miami; Someone calling the FBI threatening to kill Lee Harvey Oswald a day before Oswald's murder; the US examined sabotaging airplane parts heading to Cuba. As a reminder, following a deadline 25 years in the making, last night the National Archives released an abridged dump of JFK Assassination files. While president Trump blocked the release of some, arguably the most controversial, documents citing national security concerns, the release still left researchers and conspiracy theorists with 52 previously unreleased full documents and thousands in part to sift through.

Here are the key highlights from the trove so far, courtesy of CBS and AP :

[Oct 24, 2017] The Weinstein story was suppressed by Hollywood, using its legal and financial muscle to keep a lid on it until now. But there are also power centres in the US government that can dictate to Hollywood: the Pentagon and the CIA

Oct 24, 2017 | marknesop.wordpress.com

Warren , October 22, 2017 at 4:37 am

Al Jazeera English
Published on 22 Oct 2017
SUBSCRIBE 1.6M
The Weinstein story was suppressed by Hollywood, using its legal and financial muscle to keep a lid on it – until now. But there are also power centres in the US government that can dictate to Hollywood: the Pentagon and the CIA

Patient Observer , October 22, 2017 at 7:51 am
What did Weinstein do to get thrown under the bus by his peers? Just on general principles, it could be surmised that this basically a turf war among the Hollywood power elites that went nuclear on Weinstein. When one scumbag accuses another scumbag of being a scumbag, there is more to the story than feigned moral outrage.
yalensis , October 22, 2017 at 11:55 am
When I first heard about the Hollywood scandal, I was confused for a minute, thinking, "Weinstein is so gay,why would he harrass women?"
And then I realized that I was confusing Harvey Weinstein with Harvey Fierstein!

[Oct 23, 2017] Why Trump Is Releasing the JFK Files by Adrienne LaFrance

Looks like Atlantic honchos are really worrying at the possibility of the release of the JFK assassination documents. I like the line "One, that the press is "the enemy of the American people" working in cahoots with the deep state, and, two, by lending credibility to the idea that the official story of JFK's assassination is indeed suspect."
Notable quotes:
"... The phrase "conspiracy theory" was invented by the CIA to cover up what they were doing. It shouldn't take much smarts to see that LHO was just a patsy. ..."
"... Here's a smarts question for you: did Bush try to launch a rightwing military coup in the USA, yes or no? ..."
"... I don't think there's any doubt that the CIA has and had assets in the media who did and do perpetuate disinformation and distraction. ..."
"... Of course they've tried to hide the fact, but the Church Committee hearings on the plots and assassinations and other criminal behavior by The Agency back in the 1950s and 1960s exposed all sorts of similar schemes. ..."
Oct 22, 2017 | www.theatlantic.com
Trump tweeted Saturday morning, "I will be allowing, as President, the long blocked and classified JFK FILES to be opened."

Trump's announcement came a day after his longtime confidant Roger Stone went on Infowars , a radio show and website known for spreading conspiracy theories, and announced that Trump would not block the release of the documents, which are set to be issued by the National Archives in the coming days. Earlier that day, Politico Magazine had published an in-depth piece saying that Trump would likely block the release of the files.

Here's the thing that happens, apparently, when a conspiracy theorist becomes president of the United States: The lines between decision and reaction blur. The American people are accustomed to public officials spinning their way through public office. No president has been truly forthcoming with the electorate. Many have misled the American people.

... ... ...

Regardless of the files, though, Trump's attention to them is a window into how he wants to be seen. In one dashed-off tweet, Trump positions himself as doing something noble -- advocating for transparency, against the warnings of the intelligence community -- while feeding at least two major conspiracies. One, that the press is "the enemy of the American people" working in cahoots with the deep state, and, two, by lending credibility to the idea that the official story of JFK's assassination is indeed suspect.

"The best conspiracy theories have all the trappings of a classic underdog story," wrote Rob Brotherton in his book, Suspicious Minds . "We want to see top dogs taken down a peg; we want the downtrodden underdog to triumph. And when it comes to conspiracy theories, unfair disadvantage is par for the course

Nikolas Bourbaki SatanicPanic , October 22, 2017 5:36 PM

The best initial attitude to have is one of skepticism...not only of conspiracy theories but of denials of conspiracy theories. Until, that is, definitive evidence is revealed. You are a fool to believe in conspiracy theories without credible evidence You are also a fool for denying them without evidence. The fact is that we know through credible records including the CIA's own internal records that they have been involved with many conspiracies with foreign militias, dictatorships, corporations, thugs, gangsters and assassins. You are a damn fool not to take an allegation seriously and to blanket dismiss new allegations unless proven false. In fact, the CIA had (has?) a campaign to discredit any criticism of its policies as "conspiracy theory". Gaslighting is a common tool they have used against anyone who dares critiques or questions them.

24AheadDotCom SatanicPanic , October 22, 2017 10:37 PM

The phrase "conspiracy theory" was invented by the CIA to cover up what they were doing. It shouldn't take much smarts to see that LHO was just a patsy.

Here's a smarts question for you: did Bush try to launch a rightwing military coup in the USA, yes or no?

David Ticas Polite Democrat , October 22, 2017 1:32 PM

The files were due to be released on this day after 25 years. In 1992, after the movie JFK came out, people were intrigued and wanted the files released. The president ordered them sealed for another 25 years (Oct 2017) and President Trump happens to be President. He will release the files, if no conspiracy there, we will FINALLY get the transparency we the people have been asking for. Nothing more, nothing less.

Richard Turnbull David Ticas , October 22, 2017 1:50 PM

How exactly will the files show there was "no conspiracy there"? Do you expect somehow the files will erase the numerous eyewitness accounts of shots from in front of the motorcade?

Johnny Burnette Richard Turnbull , October 22, 2017 3:02 PM

Not only that, but the Parkland doctors said JFK's wounds ran contrary to what the Warren Report concluded. And the only doctor who saw both the assassination, the Parkland Hospital work, and the Bethesda autopsy, Dr. Burkley, was never consulted by the Warren Commission, and when asked later whether he thought shots may have hit Kennedy from more than one direction, replied: "I don't care to comment on that."

Richard Turnbull Johnny Burnette , October 22, 2017 5:44 PM

That's exactly why Vincent Bugliosi buried "What the Parkland Doctors Saw" as Endnote 404 on a CD-ROM accompanying his part of the coverup.

Johnny Burnette Richard Turnbull , October 22, 2017 7:20 PM

Bugliosi was intellectually dishonest in his massive tome. He hid inconvenient facts in order to push his agenda; i.e. that a lone gunman did all of the work alone. Serious scholars like Newman and DiEugenio have revealed his omissions for all to see.

Liars N. Fools , October 22, 2017 3:52 PM

I can't say for sure how the Clintons did it, but we should recall that Bill met JFK in 1963 and used that opportunity to plant a miniature tracking device. Hillary, using one of her witch spells, then met Bill earlier than officially recorded, and the two of them recruited Oswald and Ruby, with the help of Soviet agents using Vince Foster as a temporal go-between. Foster killed himself over his guilt in the assasination. They were desperate to get Hillary elected to stop the release of the files, but of course they failed. Now we will get another reason to lock her up. I have no proof but know this in my heart to be true.

Richard Turnbull Liars N. Fools , October 22, 2017 4:42 PM

They would have had to recruit Jack Ruby from organized crime --- see Who Was Jack Ruby? by Scripps-Howard White House correspondent Seth Kantor for more on "the mob's front man when they moved into Dallas."

Edit: Kantor was previously a reporter in Dallas-Ft. Worth and before that, a veteran of Guadalcanal --- he played a key role in testifying that Jack Ruby, who he knew well, was at Parkland Hospital while JFK was in Trauma Room One, which Ruby denied. The circumstances indicate a strong possibility Ruby planted the so-called "Magic Bullet" on an unattended stretcher.

@disqus_hbolPDDKSP , October 22, 2017 2:53 PM

The lame stream news media are forever searching for ways to attack Trump. You'd think he would get some credit for releasing the 3,000 documents. But no, once again he has ulterior motives.

I remember Walter Cronkite saying that it's difficult for people to come to the conclusion that one man could have affected history to the extent that Oswald did.

Richard Turnbull @disqus_hbolPDDKSP , October 22, 2017 6:08 PM

That's a fine thought, but has nothing to do with an actual murder case in which Oswald is supposed to have killed Patrolman Tippit and then President Kennedy, despite not one single shred of concrete, credible evidence tying him to either of the weapons supposedly used. In fact, even worse, the weapon or weapons used don't even consistently show up in the chain-of-custody by the Dallas police, bullets don't match, wounds are seen by attending physicians which had to be fired from the front, etc.

"How could Oswald shoot Kennedy in the front from the back?" is one reductio of the Warren Commission fantasies, which is why they assiduously avoided calling scores of eyewitnesses of the assassination to testify, and mucked up the autopsy evidence. I mean, their whole "case" amounted to "Well, Oswald was a communist" (not correct) "who hated Kennedy" (wrong again!) "and killed a policeman" (this is completely bogus, with key Tippit-killing witness Helen Markham described by a WC attorney as a "crackpot" among other problems) and "Oswald was at the Texas School Book Depository" (True, he worked there in a job arranged by Ruth Paine) "so he must have shot JFK" ---

(Wrong, the eyewitness testimony --- see The Girl on the Stairs: My Search for a Missing Witness to the Assassination of John F. Kennedy by Barry Ernest, for example -- places him in the "wrong place" to have shot anyone down in the motorcade from the sixth floor, and that's just the first major problem, it would take too long to recount them all, as in HUNDREDS OF PAGES, so that's just a few hints about what faces anyone investigating and/or reading about the JFK assassination, as well as the murders of Tippit and Oswald, or Jack Ruby's extensive ties as an organized crime factotum in Dallas and Cuba. Yes, Cuba.

David Ticas , October 22, 2017 1:26 PM

Adrienne Lagrange, being the highly intellectual you try and portray. Why don't you see that by writing this negative story about President Trump you not only make yourself sound foolish, but you push neutral people to the President's side. Why do you think former President Bush came out after 9 years of silence to condemn "conspiracy theorist" days before President Trump announced the release of the JFK files? President Bush sr WAS involved with the CIA in Texas during the JFK assasination in 1963. Obviously, he does not want the truth to come out and so he got out in front of story to discredit what the files will show. Corruption is common in the U.S Government, President Trump is dismantling this corruption a little bit at a time. This is only the beginning.

Qoquaq En Transic Richard Turnbull , October 22, 2017 1:33 PM

I don't think Bush's "role" is really necessarily in question.

Frankly, even with the documents coming out (IF they actually do, and IF we actually get them all) I doubt the truth will be really revealed.

Richard Turnbull Qoquaq En Transic , October 22, 2017 1:40 PM

What more do you need? The JFK literature is voluminous, and maybe you need to actually try to read some of the key source material and critics and go from there.

Try reading Accessories after the Fact by Sylvia Meagher or On the Trail of the Assassins by Jim Garrison, or Plausible Denial by Mark Lane. If you have the time to deal with over 1200 pages about the JFK assassination, read Vincent Bugliosi's Reclaiming History , and THEN read the ferocious debunkings of Bugliosi available online.

N.B. Some of the most important discussions in Bugliosi's massive tome are in the Endnotes, especially but not only "What the Parkland Doctors Saw." Conspiracy of Silence by Parkland M.D. Dr. Charles Crenshaw is another useful text, as is Mafia Kingfish by John Davis.

Richard Turnbull Qoquaq En Transic , October 22, 2017 6:21 PM

Ok: my honest opinion is that you can't summarize anything as complex as the planning, execution, and subsequent coverup of the JFK assassination (including extensive use of media assets for DECADES afterward) in anything short of a manuscript of hundreds of pages, and many of the best work is already available, "just google it" ---but again, you have to be willing to read those hundreds of pages with some sense of other background facts about the Cold War and spy agencies.

This is one of the most intricate and far reaching events or set of interconnected events in modern history --- just take a look at the "tags" on the front page of kennedysandking.com and you'll see what I mean.

On the only occasion in which I had time in tutorials with Chomsky, I asked him first about his views on the nexus of players at 544 Camp Street. That question and his answer might not even make much sense to you without extensive background reading. Sorry, but that's just the facts.

Qoquaq En Transic Richard Turnbull , October 22, 2017 7:08 PM

I truly understand your point regarding the complexity of the issue and I apologize for my earlier comment.

I'm aware of the massive inconsistencies in the examination of his body, how it was "handled", "magic bullets", and lots of other stuff I once knew but have forgotten. There's a LOT of stuff, that's for sure.

I'm also very aware of how certain agencies (especially intel agencies) operate. Their allegience to the truth is suspect at best.

I guess I was asking for was something like "It was basically an effort by (a list such as... certain elements in the FBI/CIA/NSA/government... and/or foreign governments... and/or the Mafia... or Cuba... or it was basically a coup driven by the MIC... (which I think it was) or whatever combination it may be)." Basically the 100k foot view, a very simplistic view. And I realize my opinion is not _nearly_ as informed as yours.

But that would certainly open up much noise from people like that moron I blocked earlier. And certainly no one needs more of that....

I'll check out the links. Thanks.

By the way... I met Jim Marrs twice when I lived in Texas, actually around a campfire. It was interesting meeting him, and he was a very interesting man regarding the JFK assassination. I didn't know he passed, apparently quite recently.

I hope these documents get released and I hope they answer a lot of the open questions still remaining.

truthynesslover , October 22, 2017 6:10 PM

JFK was murdered by the CIA.....he wanted to "to splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds"......he fired Allen Dulles. Dulles was one of seven commissioners of the Warren Commission to investigate the assassination of the U.S. President John F. Kennedy..oh and he had no problem murdering people....

This Trump?

Who hasn't even been a republican since 1999?

2008 Trump: 'I Support Hillary; I Think She's Fantastic' - YouTube
▶ 2:00
https://www.youtube.com/wat...

Aug 15, 2016 - Uploaded by The PolitiStickGet More PolitiStick Read: http://PolitiStick.com Like: https://www.facebook.com/Po...

Richard Turnbull truthynesslover , October 22, 2017 10:01 PM

Correction: "rogue elements" of the CIA with some complicity by very high-level officials.

Иван truthynesslover , October 22, 2017 6:23 PM

I don't believe a single word from a politician. They are professional liars. It's their job to lie and spin webs of deception. I watch and judge them by their actions.

truthynesslover Иван , October 22, 2017 6:27 PM

1.JFK fired Dulles and top generals. He was pulling out of Vietnam and working secretly to make a deal with Castro..

2.Trump wasnt even a republican....and ran against Bush and the GOP...

Trump in 1999: GOP is 'just too crazy' | MSNBC

▶ 6:42

www.msnbc.com/.../trump-in-... ...

Aug 17, 2015The last time Donald Trump was on 'Meet the Press' he announced he was quitting the GOP. Plus, Trump .

Иван truthynesslover , October 22, 2017 6:33 PM

I couldn't care less what color orange TrumPutin wears. He declared war on corporate media and that is good enough for me. I don't support him because of his position on Snowden but I agree with him on many issues.

JFK was a naive fool. He moved against forces he did not fully understand. I don't blame him for trying. He was a patriot.

truthynesslover Иван , October 22, 2017 6:41 PM

Trump may be a baboon but he made the right enemies....the DNC ad GOP and neocons all hate him.

Those forces JFK tried to reign in are in complete control today. Trump threw them through a loop.......

Ayna Иван , October 22, 2017 7:35 PM

But some politicians lie more than others. That's why Madame Never President became Madame Never President.

Иван , October 22, 2017 4:12 PM

Atantuc reasserting it's superior newsmaking capabilities with click-bait headlines, unsupported assumptions and trolling. Well done. You fall below tabloid, yellow journalism.

basarov , October 22, 2017 3:15 PM

LOL---americans are little antagonistic children that prefer lies to truth...see comments below! and are gullible enough to believe anything told them...who needs conspiracy theories when people are so stupid...everyone in Europe understood that americans were idiots when they accepted the impossible claim that 1 shooter killed JFK...and now they are more stupid believing that 1 gambler shot 500 people in las vegas...a nation of dimwits

Richard Turnbull basarov , October 22, 2017 4:49 PM

The American public had to wait TWELVE YEARS to see the Zapruder film of the assassination, showing the effect of the kill shot from in front of the motorcade. But by the time Rush to Judgment by Mark Lane had become a best seller a few years after the 26 volumes of the Warren Commission's hearings and exhibits were published (with no index --- it was left to United Nations-employed scientist Sylvia Meagher to assemble that, which spurred critics of the WC fantasies and outright lies to expose the multiple flaws and fallacies in the first "official investigation," i.e., the first attempted coverup) the credibility of the Krazy Kid Oswald nonsense was already held in disrepute by informed observers.

The article above can't whitewash the mainstream media's role in the coverup, of course --- search "Operation Mockingbird" or "Walter Sheridan and the Garrison investigation" or " Jim Di Eugenio critique of Phil Shenon's JFK books" etc,

Иван basarov , October 22, 2017 6:14 PM

If you like conspiracy theories, there were claims that Soviets did it.

and please ease up on anti-Americanism.

Johnny Burnette Иван , October 22, 2017 8:42 PM

Any claims that the Soviets or Cubans did it have been thoroughly debunked. It was an American domestic coup. If you believe the Warren Commission, I've got Indian treaties to show you.

Michael Kosanovich basarov , October 22, 2017 3:22 PM

No one has presented evidence that there was another shooter. Clint Black, the secret service agent at the scene adamantly say's no other gunshots from the grassy knoll area. Simply no proof. As for the Vegas shooting as well.

Johnny Burnette Michael Kosanovich , October 22, 2017 4:00 PM

I disagree with your faith-based following of Bugliosi. I think Dr. Cyril Wecht blows Bugliosi out of the water, from a forensics standpoint.
https://www.youtube.com/wat...

This guy debunks Bugliosi's position too: https://www.youtube.com/wat...

As for the Vegas guy? Yeah, he did it alone. That's pretty much in the forensics bag.

wmlady Johnny Burnette , October 22, 2017 4:49 PM

I agree with you about Bugliosi and Wecht. Wecht pokes sufficient holes in the pristine "magic bullet" theory that it's simply unbelievable.

Richard Turnbull wmlady , October 22, 2017 5:03 PM

See the book Reclaiming Parkland for an extended dismantling of Bugliosi's Reclaiming History, or just search "critical reviews of Bugliosi's JFK assassination book." It's an embarrassment that Bugliosi wrote such fine books on the Simpson case and on the Supreme Court's Bush v. Gore decision, but was apparently either blackmailed into writing obvious lies or somehow convinced himself "no one with sufficient familiarity with the JFK assassination in the requisite granular detail will ever read my book and expose my silly attempts to distort the historical record." It took enormous chutzpah on his part to title the book "Reclaiming History."

Search "Reclaiming History? Or Re-framing Oswald?" at reclaiminghistory.org , which has links to a series of reviews of Bugliosi, none of which you will ever see discussed on CNN or any other corporate mass media outlet. Instead, without bothering to read the book much less deal with hundreds and hundreds of footnotes and "Endnotes," some of bear on crucial points about the JFK assassination (such as "What the Parkland Doctors Saw" ---see the Endnotes from 404-408} the corporate media is happy to perpetuate as best they can the "one lone nut with no ties to the CIA killed two days later by another lone nut with no relevant ties to the mob" confabulations.

wmlady Richard Turnbull , October 22, 2017 5:23 PM

"Reclaiming Parkland" is not one I've read, but I will. I don't think there's any doubt that the CIA has and had assets in the media who did and do perpetuate disinformation and distraction.

Richard Turnbull wmlady , October 22, 2017 5:31 PM

Of course they've tried to hide the fact, but the Church Committee hearings on the plots and assassinations and other criminal behavior by The Agency back in the 1950s and 1960s exposed all sorts of similar schemes.

Search "MKUltra" and "Operation Artichoke" or just "The CIA and Lee Harvey Oswald" and you can run across all sorts of interesting facts. not wild speculation, but facts, some of it from CIA documents etc. etc.

wmlady Richard Turnbull , October 22, 2017 6:02 PM

I did manage to slog through Newman's "Oswald and the CIA"

Johnny Burnette wmlady , October 22, 2017 8:44 PM

Newman did his homework. He has combed through the declassified records and published his findings on Oswald and the CIA, and on what really happened in Vietnam.

wmlady Richard Turnbull , October 22, 2017 5:34 PM

I have read about Bolden.

In my view the Miami and Chicago plans being aborted make the existence of multiple shooters in Dallas-- such as Files -- more believable; the conspirators were simply not going to miss another chance. Interestingly, Files himself says his superior told him the Dallas plot was supposed to be called off, but they ignored the order.

wmlady Guest , October 22, 2017 3:09 PM

Did you know that Gerald Posner, who wrote the definitive book concluding that Oswald acted alone ("Case Closed"), is fully in favor of releasing the remainder of the documents -- in agreement with Pres. Trump's friend Roger Stone, who is a "conspiracy theorist"?

Did you know that the original "conspiracy theorist" -- the late Mark Lane -- was a leftist and ardent supporter of JFK?

For the educated, this is about transparency, not ignorance.

Richard Turnbull wmlady , October 22, 2017 5:06 PM

Posner? Are you posting this as some kind of joke? Posner fabricated, altered, distorted evidence on practically EVERY key point about the supposed role of Oswald, and totally ignored all the revelations about Oswald's connections which exposed the role he played as an intelligence agency asset.
Try reading some "critical reviews" of Case Closed, they are devastating and some are maliciously funny, as well.

wmlady Richard Turnbull , October 22, 2017 5:29 PM

I was being sarcastic. I was pointing out that if a guy like Posner is in favor of releasing the rest of the documents, it's a non-controversial issue.

Michael Kosanovich wmlady , October 22, 2017 3:36 PM

I can promise you this; Vincent Buglioti wrote THEE masterpiece. Reclaiming history, The JFK assassination. 1612 pages, twenty year's of research, and he embarrassed every other JFK assassination writer' I've read Posner's book. Very well researched. But truthfully, it cannot compare to Bugliotis " opus"

Richard Turnbull Michael Kosanovich , October 22, 2017 5:15 PM

Get real --- Bugliosi has been thoroughly debunked. One of his favorite tricks is to partially quote the FBI reports from Sibert and O'Neill out-of-context and ignore contradictory witness testimony from witnesses (and there were dozens) not called to testify before the Warren Commission. His book (and yes, I read ALL of it but with the advantage of having ALSO read the WC report (the 26 volumes in large part, although not the part where they had dental x-rays from Jack Ruby's mother --- I kid you not --- so much as the inadvertently revelatory portions) as well as dozens and dozens of other books on the assassination, so I could immediately spot some of Bugliosi's howlers) is considered essentially a fraud on the public by informed critics of the JFK assassination.

Maud Pie , October 22, 2017 2:38 PM

"Conspiracy theories are a way to stand up, through disbelief, against the powerful. Those who spread conspiracy theories in earnest are, whether they mean to or not, partaking in an act of defiance against established institutions as much as they are questioning accepted truths."

I disagree. Conspiracy theories are a way for the ignorant and stupid to delude themselves that they are right and everyone who disagrees is wrong. Conspiracy theories provide a way of feeling smart and shrewd without bothering with all that evidence and logic stuff.

Richard Turnbull Maud Pie , October 22, 2017 2:49 PM

Your comment makes no sense, since there are political assassinations like that of Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy, for example, which have been both officially and "unofficially" found to be the result of conspiracies. The House Select Committee on Assassinations is one "official theory" that posits a conspiracy in the killing of President Kennedy. You could also search "The Lincoln Conspiracy the book" and read that. In fact, you don't have any idea at all about any of this, do you? You're just parroting some supposed sage advice from the usual suspects.

Maud Pie Richard Turnbull , October 22, 2017 2:59 PM

Learn to read. I didn't say conspiracies never exist, My remarks were addressed to conspiracy "theories" not supported by evidence and logic.

Richard Turnbull , October 22, 2017 1:30 PM

"[L]ending credibility to the idea that the official story (sic) of JFK's assassination is indeed suspect" is the incontrovertible fact that there are multiple "official stories," and at least one of them posits the probability of a conspiracy behind JFK's assassination.

Since Oswald cannot even be tied to the supposed murder weapon by a credible chain-of-evidence, nor placed in the so-called "sniper's nest" at the time shots rang out in Dealey Plaza, nor be credibly rigged up as the killer of Dallas policeman J.D. Tippit, it is hardly surprising that anyone stuck trying to defend the relentlessly debunked Warren Commission fantasies about the JFK-Tippit-Oswald murders is up against equally relentless debunking right up to today.

See jfkfacts.org , Jefferson Morley's website and kennedysandking.com for various paths into the maze.

julianpenrod , October 22, 2017 7:31 PM

A fact that the Democratic Party toadies try to push is that Trump does not tell the truth.

He says things that are at variance with the claims the "press" try to toss at the people, but that doesn't make them untrue.

The "press" was determined to tell people that the U.S.S. Maine was sunk by Spain, even though it made no sense for them to be engage in aggressive actions that the New York Journal claimed would then escalate into overt military action. If they felt that way, they would have acted militarily from the start. Morons never questioned this and the U.S. easily entered war with Spain. Even though the explosion on the Maine seems to have been the result of a carelessly disposed of cigar.

Similarly with R.M.S. Lusitania. Imbeciles wouldn't ask why the Germans would engage in something like murdering innocent civilians on an ocean liner if they wanted war. Why not just carry out an invasion or declare war? Only now it's being admitted that Lusitania was illegally carrying war supplies and ammunition from the U.S. to the Allies, making it a legitimate target. Indeed, it is not necessarily proved that it actually carried civilian passengers.

Similarly for the claims the the U.S. spied on the USSY with U-2 spy planes. The same with the failure of the government and the "press" to admit the suspicious nature of claims of the "Gulf of Tonkin Incident".

The fact is, Trump and others in the Republican Party have said many things that the "press" denied, only to have the "press" shown to be lying later.

Hillary Clinton supporters were carrying out acts of violence after the election in Trump's name to try to undermine him. Germany didn't pay its agreed upon amount for the maintenance of NATO. Obama did bug Trump's campaign headquarters. Puerto Rico's sorry condition is the result of massive corruption in its government. There are many women who, as Trump asserted, will let a man with money and power take liberties. In fact, climate isn't changing. "Climate" is the massive, interconnected, self regulating system comprised of things like land, ocean, sky, solar energy, life. Land, ocean, solar energy, life are no different from fifty years ago. Only the weather is changing, and that is caused by chemtrails, the program of doping the air with weather modification chemicals from high flying jets, producing long, non dissipating vapor lanes that stretch from horizon to horizon and can last for an hour or more. Stop chemtrails and everything will return to normal.

Todd Akin was criticized for saying that, in "legitimate rape" women's bodies will fight being impregnated. Democratic Party followers insisted Akin was saying rape was legal. He was referring to rapes that actually occurred, not lies that many women do lodge against rich and powerful men to get money.

J. Edgar Hoover said that "civil rights" marches and such were tools of the Kremlin to try to undermine democracy. In their desperate attempt to rescue the claim that the Russians interfered with the 2016 election, none other than The Atlantic has taken up Hoover's insistence that such demonstrations were a means used by the USSR to try to destroy democracy. And the dullards of the Democratic Party's target audience won't realize they are now agreeing with the Republicans.

Trump and the politicians come from rarefied levels that know facts that government and the "press" lies to the public about. One fact, that there may be actual sections of government, or "government", that act independently of any rules and can even roll over the rest of "government". "Government" is just a sleazy swindle to make the rich richer. No one controls them! Not even elections! They publish fake "vote tallies", then put who they want in. Trump speaks of the Deep State of power mongering going on behind the scenes. Hillary Clinton operated her own shadow government with a system of unregistered servers only one of which has been acknowledged. It's been suspected for a long time that the "intelligence network" acted solely on its own recognizance, answerable to no one. Questions Trump raises can point people to the truth.

Richard Turnbull Qoquaq En Transic , October 22, 2017 2:40 PM

"My" research? Look, just GO ONLINE to another website like JFKfacts.org or kennedysand king.com , or search "James Di Eugenio on the JFK assassination," I have read around 150 books and articles and much of the Warren Report (the volumes not the summary) and the House Select Committee hearings reports, but compared to "serious researchers" I am a dilletante. Besides, you really NEED to study this either for yourself as a kind of "research project" or if possible, in a university level course environment.

There are THOUSANDS of really interesting books about aspects of the JFK assassination --- search "Reclaiming Parkland" by Di Eugenio and go from there, whatever.

Follow the links, and expect it to take many many hours to get the beginning of an understanding.

Richard Turnbull Qoquaq En Transic , October 22, 2017 2:54 PM

Ok, why don't you at least realize it's FAR more complex than any possible "avionics system," it's something akin to people on Quora asking me to "summarize Hamlet," or "summarize King Lear." It's just absurd. Besides which, the subject matter is far too important for anyone to take their views from a few summarized paragraphs, whether about Hamlet or Lear or the JFK assassination.

So yeah, I did "research" and I think the facts speak for themselves, as you would learn by delving into the posts at jfkfacts.org or kennedysandking.com , or reading Plausible Denial by Mark Lane. The thing is, it's one of the most complicated interlocking sets of topics in modern history, not something that can be scrawled on a postcard.

[Oct 22, 2017] Silicon Valley is not your friend by Dan Crawford

Notable quotes:
"... Growth becomes the overriding motivation -- something treasured for its own sake, not for anything it brings to the world. Facebook and Google can point to a greater utility that comes from being the central repository of all people, all information, but such market dominance has obvious drawbacks, and not just the lack of competition. As we've seen, the extreme concentration of wealth and power is a threat to our democracy by making some people and companies unaccountable. ..."
"... Out of curiosity, the other day I searched "cellphones" on Google. Before finding even a mildly questioning article about cellphones, I paged down through ads for phones and lists of phones for sale, guides to buying phones and maps with directions to stores that sell phones, some 20 results in total. Somewhere, a pair of idealistic former graduate students must be saying: "See! I told you so!" ..."
Oct 20, 2017 | angrybearblog.com
Vis New York Times

Growth becomes the overriding motivation -- something treasured for its own sake, not for anything it brings to the world. Facebook and Google can point to a greater utility that comes from being the central repository of all people, all information, but such market dominance has obvious drawbacks, and not just the lack of competition. As we've seen, the extreme concentration of wealth and power is a threat to our democracy by making some people and companies unaccountable.

In addition to their power, tech companies have a tool that other powerful industries don't: the generally benign feelings of the public. To oppose Silicon Valley can appear to be opposing progress, even if progress has been defined as online monopolies; propaganda that distorts elections; driverless cars and trucks that threaten to erase the jobs of millions of people; the Uberization of work life, where each of us must fend for ourselves in a pitiless market.

As is becoming obvious, these companies do deserve the benefit of the doubt. We need greater regulation, even if it impedes the introduction of new services. If we can't stop their proposals -- if we can't say that driverless cars may not be a worthy goal, to give just one example -- then are we in control of our society? We need to break up these online monopolies because if a few people make the decisions about how we communicate, shop, learn the news, again, do we control our own society?

Out of curiosity, the other day I searched "cellphones" on Google. Before finding even a mildly questioning article about cellphones, I paged down through ads for phones and lists of phones for sale, guides to buying phones and maps with directions to stores that sell phones, some 20 results in total. Somewhere, a pair of idealistic former graduate students must be saying: "See! I told you so!"

[Oct 22, 2017] What Facebook Did to American Democracy by Alexis C. Madrigal

The danger is that intelligence agencies cause Facebook to influence elections.
Notable quotes:
"... Fowler told Rosen that it was "even possible that Facebook is completely responsible" for the youth voter increase. And because a higher proportion of young people vote Democratic than the general population, the net effect of Facebook's GOTV effort would have been to help the Dems. ..."
"... In June 2014, Harvard Law scholar Jonathan Zittrain wrote an essay in New Republic ..."
"... The Filter Bubble, ..."
"... The Filter Bubble ..."
"... The New York Times ..."
"... The New York Times ..."
"... The New York Times ..."
"... The Washington Post, ..."
"... the Pope himself ..."
"... New York Magazine ..."
"... The New York Times Magazine ..."
"... 340 million times ..."
"... Information Operations and Facebook ..."
"... The Washington Post ..."
"... sat with the Obama tech team ..."
"... The New York Times ..."
"... Prototype Politics , ..."
"... The Huffington Post ..."
"... But the point isn't that a Republican beat a Democrat. The point is that the very roots of the electoral system -- the news people see, the events they think happened, the information they digest -- had been destabilized. ..."
"... Chaos Monkeys ..."
"... The information systems that people use to process news have been rerouted through Facebook, and in the process, mostly broken and hidden from view. It wasn't just liberal bias that kept the media from putting everything together. Much of the hundreds of millions of dollars that was spent during the election cycle came in the form of "dark ads." ..."
"... Update: After publication, Adam Mosseri, head of News Feed, sent an email describing some of the work that Facebook is doing in response to the problems during the election. They include new software and processes "to stop the spread of misinformation , click-bait and other problematic content on Facebook." ..."
"... "The truth is we've learned things since the election, and we take our responsibility to protect the community of people who use Facebook seriously. As a result, we've launched a company-wide effort to improve the integrity of information on our service," he wrote. "It's already translated into new products, new protections, and the commitment of thousands of new people to enforce our policies and standards... We know there is a lot more work to do, but I've never seen this company more engaged on a single challenge since I joined almost 10 years ago." ..."
Oct 22, 2017 | www.theatlantic.com

And why it was so hard to see it coming

In the media world, as in so many other realms, there is a sharp discontinuity in the timeline: before the 2016 election, and after.

Things we thought we understood -- narratives, data, software, news events -- have had to be reinterpreted in light of Donald Trump's surprising win as well as the continuing questions about the role that misinformation and disinformation played in his election.

Tech journalists covering Facebook had a duty to cover what was happening before, during, and after the election. Reporters tried to see past their often liberal political orientations and the unprecedented actions of Donald Trump to see how 2016 was playing out on the internet. Every component of the chaotic digital campaign has been reported on, here at The Atlantic , and elsewhere: Facebook's enormous distribution power for political information, rapacious partisanship reinforced by distinct media information spheres, the increasing scourge of "viral" hoaxes and other kinds of misinformation that could propagate through those networks, and the Russian information ops agency.

But no one delivered the synthesis that could have tied together all these disparate threads. It's not that this hypothetical perfect story would have changed the outcome of the election. The real problem -- for all political stripes -- is understanding the set of conditions that led to Trump's victory. The informational underpinnings of democracy have eroded, and no one has explained precisely how.

* * *

We've known since at least 2012 that Facebook was a powerful, non-neutral force in electoral politics. In that year, a combined University of California, San Diego and Facebook research team led by James Fowler published a study in Nature , which argued that Facebook's "I Voted" button had driven a small but measurable increase in turnout, primarily among young people.

Rebecca Rosen's 2012 story, " Did Facebook Give Democrats the Upper Hand? " relied on new research from Fowler, et al., about the presidential election that year. Again, the conclusion of their work was that Facebook's get-out-the-vote message could have driven a substantial chunk of the increase in youth voter participation in the 2012 general election. Fowler told Rosen that it was "even possible that Facebook is completely responsible" for the youth voter increase. And because a higher proportion of young people vote Democratic than the general population, the net effect of Facebook's GOTV effort would have been to help the Dems.

The research showed that a small design change by Facebook could have electoral repercussions, especially with America's electoral-college format in which a few hotly contested states have a disproportionate impact on the national outcome. And the pro-liberal effect it implied became enshrined as an axiom of how campaign staffers, reporters, and academics viewed social media.

In June 2014, Harvard Law scholar Jonathan Zittrain wrote an essay in New Republic called, " Facebook Could Decide an Election Without Anyone Ever Finding Out ," in which he called attention to the possibility of Facebook selectively depressing voter turnout. (He also suggested that Facebook be seen as an "information fiduciary," charged with certain special roles and responsibilities because it controls so much personal data.)

In late 2014, The Daily Dot called attention to an obscure Facebook-produced case study on how strategists defeated a statewide measure in Florida by relentlessly focusing Facebook ads on Broward and Dade counties, Democratic strongholds. Working with a tiny budget that would have allowed them to send a single mailer to just 150,000 households, the digital-advertising firm Chong and Koster was able to obtain remarkable results. "Where the Facebook ads appeared, we did almost 20 percentage points better than where they didn't," testified a leader of the firm. "Within that area, the people who saw the ads were 17 percent more likely to vote our way than the people who didn't. Within that group, the people who voted the way we wanted them to, when asked why, often cited the messages they learned from the Facebook ads."

In April 2016, Rob Meyer published " How Facebook Could Tilt the 2016 Election " after a company meeting in which some employees apparently put the stopping-Trump question to Mark Zuckerberg. Based on Fowler's research, Meyer reimagined Zittrain's hypothetical as a direct Facebook intervention to depress turnout among non-college graduates, who leaned Trump as a whole.

Facebook, of course, said it would never do such a thing. "Voting is a core value of democracy and we believe that supporting civic participation is an important contribution we can make to the community," a spokesperson said. "We as a company are neutral -- we have not and will not use our products in a way that attempts to influence how people vote."

They wouldn't do it intentionally, at least.

As all these examples show, though, the potential for Facebook to have an impact on an election was clear for at least half a decade before Donald Trump was elected. But rather than focusing specifically on the integrity of elections, most writers -- myself included , some observers like Sasha Issenberg , Zeynep Tufekci , and Daniel Kreiss excepted -- bundled electoral problems inside other, broader concerns like privacy , surveillance , tech ideology , media-industry competition , or the psychological effects of social media .

The same was true even of people inside Facebook. "If you'd come to me in 2012, when the last presidential election was raging and we were cooking up ever more complicated ways to monetize Facebook data, and told me that Russian agents in the Kremlin's employ would be buying Facebook ads to subvert American democracy, I'd have asked where your tin-foil hat was," wrote Antonio García Martínez, who managed ad targeting for Facebook back then. "And yet, now we live in that otherworldly political reality."

Not to excuse us, but this was back on the Old Earth, too, when electoral politics was not the thing that every single person talked about all the time. There were other important dynamics to Facebook's growing power that needed to be covered.

* * *

Facebook's draw is its ability to give you what you want. Like a page, get more of that page's posts; like a story, get more stories like that; interact with a person, get more of their updates. The way Facebook determines the ranking of the News Feed is the probability that you'll like, comment on, or share a story. Shares are worth more than comments, which are both worth more than likes, but in all cases, the more likely you are to interact with a post, the higher up it will show in your News Feed. Two thousand kinds of data (or "features" in the industry parlance) get smelted in Facebook's machine-learning system to make those predictions.

What's crucial to understand is that, from the system's perspective, success is correctly predicting what you'll like, comment on, or share. That's what matters. People call this "engagement." There are other factors, as Slate' s Will Oremus noted in this rare story about the News Feed ranking team . But who knows how much weight they actually receive and for how long as the system evolves. For example, one change that Facebook highlighted to Oremus in early 2016 -- taking into account how long people look at a story, even if they don't click it -- was subsequently dismissed by Lars Backstrom, the VP of engineering in charge of News Feed ranking , as a "noisy" signal that's also "biased in a few ways" making it "hard to use" in a May 2017 technical talk.

Facebook's engineers do not want to introduce noise into the system. Because the News Feed, this machine for generating engagement, is Facebook's most important technical system. Their success predicting what you'll like is why users spend an average of more than 50 minutes a day on the site, and why even the former creator of the "like" button worries about how well the site captures attention. News Feed works really well.

But as far as " personalized newspapers " go, this one's editorial sensibilities are limited. Most people are far less likely to engage with viewpoints that they find confusing, annoying, incorrect, or abhorrent. And this is true not just in politics, but the broader culture.

That this could be a problem was apparent to many. Eli Pariser's The Filter Bubble, which came out in the summer of 2011, became the most widely cited distillation of the effects Facebook and other internet platforms could have on public discourse.

Pariser began the book research when he noticed conservative people, whom he'd befriended on the platform despite his left-leaning politics, had disappeared from his News Feed. "I was still clicking my progressive friends' links more than my conservative friends' -- and links to the latest Lady Gaga videos more than either," he wrote. "So no conservative links for me."

Through the book, he traces the many potential problems that the "personalization" of media might bring. Most germane to this discussion, he raised the point that if every one of the billion News Feeds is different, how can anyone understand what other people are seeing and responding to?

"The most serious political problem posed by filter bubbles is that they make it increasingly difficult to have a public argument. As the number of different segments and messages increases, it becomes harder and harder for the campaigns to track who's saying what to whom," Pariser wrote. "How does a [political] campaign know what its opponent is saying if ads are only targeted to white Jewish men between 28 and 34 who have expressed a fondness for U2 on Facebook and who donated to Barack Obama's campaign?"

This did, indeed, become an enormous problem. When I was editor in chief of Fusion , we set about trying to track the "digital campaign" with several dedicated people. What we quickly realized was that there was both too much data -- the noisiness of all the different posts by the various candidates and their associates -- as well as too little. Targeting made tracking the actual messaging that the campaigns were paying for impossible to track. On Facebook, the campaigns could show ads only to the people they targeted. We couldn't actually see the messages that were actually reaching people in battleground areas. From the outside, it was a technical impossibility to know what ads were running on Facebook, one that the company had fought to keep intact .

Pariser suggests in his book, "one simple solution to this problem would simply be to require campaigns to immediately disclose all of their online advertising materials and to whom each ad is targeted." Which could happen in future campaigns .

Imagine if this had happened in 2016. If there were data sets of all the ads that the campaigns and others had run, we'd know a lot more about what actually happened last year. The Filter Bubble is obviously prescient work, but there was one thing that Pariser and most other people did not foresee. And that's that Facebook became completely dominant as a media distributor.

* * *

About two years after Pariser published his book, Facebook took over the news-media ecosystem. They've never publicly admitted it, but in late 2013, they began to serve ads inviting users to "like" media pages. This caused a massive increase in the amount of traffic that Facebook sent to media companies. At The Atlantic and other publishers across the media landscape, it was like a tide was carrying us to new traffic records. Without hiring anyone else, without changing strategy or tactics, without publishing more, suddenly everything was easier.

While traffic to The Atlantic from Facebook.com increased, at the time, most of the new traffic did not look like it was coming from Facebook within The Atlantic 's analytics. It showed up as "direct/bookmarked" or some variation, depending on the software. It looked like what I called "dark social" back in 2012. But as BuzzFeed 's Charlie Warzel pointed out at the time , and as I came to believe, it was primarily Facebook traffic in disguise. Between August and October of 2013, BuzzFeed 's "partner network" of hundreds of websites saw a jump in traffic from Facebook of 69 percent.

At The Atlantic, we ran a series of experiments that showed, pretty definitively from our perspective, that most of the stuff that looked like "dark social" was, in fact, traffic coming from within Facebook's mobile app. Across the landscape, it began to dawn on people who thought about these kinds of things: Damn, Facebook owns us . They had taken over media distribution.

Why? This is a best guess, proffered by Robinson Meyer as it was happening : Facebook wanted to crush Twitter, which had drawn a disproportionate share of media and media-figure attention. Just as Instagram borrowed Snapchat's "Stories" to help crush the site's growth, Facebook decided it needed to own "news" to take the wind out of the newly IPO'd Twitter.

The first sign that this new system had some kinks came with " Upworthy -style " headlines. (And you'll never guess what happened next!) Things didn't just go kind of viral, they went ViralNova , a site which, like Upworthy itself , Facebook eventually smacked down . Many of the new sites had, like Upworthy , which was cofounded by Pariser, a progressive bent.

Less noticed was that a right-wing media was developing in opposition to and alongside these left-leaning sites. "By 2014, the outlines of the Facebook-native hard-right voice and grievance spectrum were there," The New York Times ' media and tech writer John Herrman told me, "and I tricked myself into thinking they were a reaction/counterpart to the wave of soft progressive/inspirational content that had just crested. It ended up a Reaction in a much bigger and destabilizing sense."

The other sign of algorithmic trouble was the wild swings that Facebook Video underwent. In the early days, just about any old video was likely to generate many, many, many views. The numbers were insane in the early days. Just as an example, a Fortune article noted that BuzzFeed 's video views "grew 80-fold in a year, reaching more than 500 million in April." Suddenly, all kinds of video -- good, bad, and ugly -- were doing 1-2-3 million views.

As with news, Facebook's video push was a direct assault on a competitor, YouTube . Videos changed the dynamics of the News Feed for individuals, for media companies, and for anyone trying to understand what the hell was going on.

Individuals were suddenly inundated with video. Media companies, despite no business model, were forced to crank out video somehow or risk their pages/brands losing relevance as video posts crowded others out.

And on top of all that, scholars and industry observers were used to looking at what was happening in articles to understand how information was flowing. Now, by far the most viewed media objects on Facebook, and therefore on the internet, were videos without transcripts or centralized repositories. In the early days, many successful videos were just "freebooted" (i.e., stolen) videos from other places or reposts. All of which served to confuse and obfuscate the transport mechanisms for information and ideas on Facebook.

Through this messy, chaotic, dynamic situation, a new media rose up through the Facebook burst to occupy the big filter bubbles. On the right, Breitbart is the center of a new conservative network. A study of 1.25 million election news articles found "a right-wing media network anchored around Breitbart developed as a distinct and insulated media system, using social media as a backbone to transmit a hyper-partisan perspective to the world."

Breitbart , of course, also lent Steve Bannon, its chief, to the Trump campaign, creating another feedback loop between the candidate and a rabid partisan press. Through 2015, Breitbart went from a medium-sized site with a small Facebook page of 100,000 likes into a powerful force shaping the election with almost 1.5 million likes. In the key metric for Facebook's News Feed, its posts got 886,000 interactions from Facebook users in January. By July, Breitbart had surpassed The New York Times ' main account in interactions. By December, it was doing 10 million interactions per month, about 50 percent of Fox News, which had 11.5 million likes on its main page. Breitbart 's audience was hyper-engaged.

There is no precise equivalent to the Breitbart phenomenon on the left. Rather the big news organizations are classified as center-left, basically, with fringier left-wing sites showing far smaller followings than Breitbart on the right.

And this new, hyperpartisan media created the perfect conditions for another dynamic that influenced the 2016 election, the rise of fake news.

Sites by partisan attention ( Yochai Benkler, Robert Faris, Hal Roberts, and Ethan Zuckerman )

* * *

In a December 2015 article for BuzzFeed , Joseph Bernstein argued that " the dark forces of the internet became a counterculture ." He called it "Chanterculture" after the trolls who gathered at the meme-creating, often-racist 4chan message board. Others ended up calling it the "alt-right." This culture combined a bunch of people who loved to perpetuate hoaxes with angry Gamergaters with "free-speech" advocates like Milo Yiannopoulos with honest-to-God neo-Nazis and white supremacists. And these people loved Donald Trump.

"This year Chanterculture found its true hero, who makes it plain that what we're seeing is a genuine movement: the current master of American resentment, Donald Trump," Bernstein wrote. "Everywhere you look on 'politically incorrect' subforums and random chans, he looms."

When you combine hyper-partisan media with a group of people who love to clown "normies," you end up with things like Pizzagate , a patently ridiculous and widely debunked conspiracy theory that held there was a child-pedophilia ring linked to Hillary Clinton somehow. It was just the most bizarre thing in the entire world. And many of the figures in Bernstein's story were all over it, including several who the current president has consorted with on social media.

But Pizzagate was but the most Pynchonian of all the crazy misinformation and hoaxes that spread in the run-up to the election.

BuzzFeed , deeply attuned to the flows of the social web, was all over the story through reporter Craig Silverman. His best-known analysis happened after the election, when he showed that "in the final three months of the U.S. presidential campaign, the top-performing fake election-news stories on Facebook generated more engagement than the top stories from major news outlets such as The New York Times , The Washington Post , The Huffington Post , NBC News, and others."

But he also tracked fake news before the election , as did other outlets such as The Washington Post, including showing that Facebook's "Trending" algorithm regularly promoted fake news. By September of 2016, even the Pope himself was talking about fake news, by which we mean actual hoaxes or lies perpetuated by a variety of actors.

The longevity of Snopes shows that hoaxes are nothing new to the internet. Already in January 2015 , Robinson Meyer reported about how Facebook was " cracking down on the fake news stories that plague News Feeds everywhere ."

What made the election cycle different was that all of these changes to the information ecosystem had made it possible to develop weird businesses around fake news. Some random website posting aggregated news about the election could not drive a lot of traffic. But some random website announcing that the Pope had endorsed Donald Trump definitely could . The fake news generated a ton of engagement, which meant that it spread far and wide.

A few days before the election Silverman and fellow BuzzFeed contributor Lawrence Alexander traced 100 pro–Donald Trump sites to a town of 45,000 in Macedonia . Some teens there realized they could make money off the election, and just like that, became a node in the information network that helped Trump beat Clinton.

Whatever weird thing you imagine might happen, something weirder probably did happen. Reporters tried to keep up, but it was too strange. As Max Read put it in New York Magazine , Facebook is "like a four-dimensional object, we catch slices of it when it passes through the three-dimensional world we recognize." No one can quite wrap their heads around what this thing has become, or all the things this thing has become.

"Not even President-Pope-Viceroy Zuckerberg himself seemed prepared for the role Facebook has played in global politics this past year," Read wrote.

And we haven't even gotten to the Russians.

* * *

Russia's disinformation campaigns are well known. During his reporting for a story in The New York Times Magazine , Adrian Chen sat across the street from the headquarters of the Internet Research Agency, watching workaday Russian agents/internet trolls head inside. He heard how the place had "industrialized the art of trolling" from a former employee. "Management was obsessed with statistics -- page views, number of posts, a blog's place on LiveJournal's traffic charts -- and team leaders compelled hard work through a system of bonuses and fines," he wrote. Of course they wanted to maximize engagement, too!

There were reports that Russian trolls were commenting on American news sites . There were many, many reports of Russia's propaganda offensive in Ukraine. Ukrainian journalists run a website dedicated to cataloging these disinformation attempts called StopFake . It has hundreds of posts reaching back into 2014.

A Guardian reporter who looked into Russian military doctrine around information war found a handbook that described how it might work. "The deployment of information weapons, [the book] suggests, 'acts like an invisible radiation' upon its targets: 'The population doesn't even feel it is being acted upon. So the state doesn't switch on its self-defense mechanisms,'" wrote Peter Pomerantsev.

As more details about the Russian disinformation campaign come to the surface through Facebook's continued digging, it's fair to say that it's not just the state that did not switch on its self-defense mechanisms. The influence campaign just happened on Facebook without anyone noticing.

As many people have noted, the 3,000 ads that have been linked to Russia are a drop in the bucket, even if they did reach millions of people. The real game is simply that Russian operatives created pages that reached people "organically," as the saying goes. Jonathan Albright, research director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, pulled data on the six publicly known Russia-linked Facebook pages . He found that their posts had been shared 340 million times . And those were six of 470 pages that Facebook has linked to Russian operatives. You're probably talking billions of shares, with who knows how many views, and with what kind of specific targeting.

The Russians are good at engagement! Yet, before the U.S. election, even after Hillary Clinton and intelligence agencies fingered Russian intelligence meddling in the election, even after news reports suggested that a disinformation campaign was afoot , nothing about the actual operations on Facebook came out.

In the aftermath of these discoveries, three Facebook security researchers, Jen Weedon, William Nuland, and Alex Stamos, released a white paper called Information Operations and Facebook . "We have had to expand our security focus from traditional abusive behavior, such as account hacking, malware, spam, and financial scams, to include more subtle and insidious forms of misuse, including attempts to manipulate civic discourse and deceive people," they wrote.

One key theme of the paper is that they were used to dealing with economic actors, who responded to costs and incentives. When it comes to Russian operatives paid to Facebook, those constraints no longer hold. "The area of information operations does provide a unique challenge," they wrote, "in that those sponsoring such operations are often not constrained by per-unit economic realities in the same way as spammers and click fraudsters, which increases the complexity of deterrence." They were not expecting that.

Add everything up. The chaos of a billion-person platform that competitively dominated media distribution. The known electoral efficacy of Facebook. The wild fake news and misinformation rampaging across the internet generally and Facebook specifically. The Russian info operations. All of these things were known.

And yet no one could quite put it all together: The dominant social network had altered the information and persuasion environment of the election beyond recognition while taking a very big chunk of the estimated $1.4 billion worth of digital advertising purchased during the election. There were hundreds of millions of dollars of dark ads doing their work. Fake news all over the place. Macedonian teens campaigning for Trump. Ragingly partisan media infospheres serving up only the news you wanted to hear. Who could believe anything? What room was there for policy positions when all this stuff was eating up News Feed space? Who the hell knew what was going on?

As late as August 20, 2016 , the The Washington Post could say this of the campaigns:

Hillary Clinton is running arguably the most digital presidential campaign in U.S. history. Donald Trump is running one of the most analog campaigns in recent memory. The Clinton team is bent on finding more effective ways to identify supporters and ensure they cast ballots; Trump is, famously and unapologetically, sticking to a 1980s-era focus on courting attention and voters via television.

Just a week earlier, Trump's campaign had hired Cambridge Analytica. Soon, they'd ramped up to $70 million a month in Facebook advertising spending. And the next thing you knew, Brad Parscale, Trump's digital director, is doing the postmortem rounds talking up his win .

"These social platforms are all invented by very liberal people on the west and east coasts," Parscale said. "And we figure out how to use it to push conservative values. I don't think they thought that would ever happen."

And that was part of the media's problem, too.

* * *

Before Trump's election, the impact of internet technology generally and Facebook specifically was seen as favoring Democrats. Even a TechCrunch critique of Rosen's 2012 article about Facebook's electoral power argued, "the internet inherently advantages liberals because, on average, their greater psychological embrace of disruption leads to more innovation (after all, nearly every major digital breakthrough, from online fundraising to the use of big data, was pioneered by Democrats)."

Certainly, the Obama tech team that I profiled in 2012 thought this was the case. Of course, social media would benefit the (youthful, diverse, internet-savvy) left. And the political bent of just about all Silicon Valley companies runs Democratic . For all the talk about Facebook employees embedding with the Trump campaign , the former CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, sat with the Obama tech team on Election Day 2012.

In June 2015, The New York Times ran an article about Republicans trying to ramp up their digital campaigns that began like this: "The criticism after the 2012 presidential election was swift and harsh: Democrats were light-years ahead of Republicans when it came to digital strategy and tactics, and Republicans had serious work to do on the technology front if they ever hoped to win back the White House."

It cited Sasha Issenberg, the most astute reporter on political technology. "The Republicans have a particular challenge," Issenberg said, "which is, in these areas they don't have many people with either the hard skills or the experience to go out and take on this type of work."

University of North Carolina journalism professor Daniel Kreiss wrote a whole (good) book, Prototype Politics , showing that Democrats had an incredible personnel advantage. " Drawing on an innovative data set of the professional careers of 629 staffers working in technology on presidential campaigns from 2004 to 2012 and data from interviews with more than 60 party and campaign staffers," Kriess wrote, "the book details how and explains why the Democrats have invested more in technology, attracted staffers with specialized expertise to work in electoral politics, and founded an array of firms and organizations to diffuse technological innovations down ballot and across election cycles."

Which is to say: It's not that no journalists, internet-focused lawyers, or technologists saw Facebook's looming electoral presence -- it was undeniable -- but all the evidence pointed to the structural change benefitting Democrats. And let's just state the obvious: Most reporters and professors are probably about as liberal as your standard Silicon Valley technologist, so this conclusion fit into the comfort zone of those in the field.

By late October, the role that Facebook might be playing in the Trump campaign -- and more broadly -- was emerging. Joshua Green and Issenberg reported a long feature on the data operation then in motion . The Trump campaign was working to suppress "idealistic white liberals, young women, and African Americans," and they'd be doing it with targeted, "dark" Facebook ads. These ads are only visible to the buyer, the ad recipients, and Facebook. No one who hasn't been targeted by then can see them. How was anyone supposed to know what was going on, when the key campaign terrain was literally invisible to outside observers?

Steve Bannon was confident in the operation. "I wouldn't have come aboard, even for Trump, if I hadn't known they were building this massive Facebook and data engine," Bannon told them. "Facebook is what propelled Breitbart to a massive audience. We know its power."

Issenberg and Green called it "an odd gambit" which had "no scientific basis." Then again, Trump's whole campaign had seemed like an odd gambit with no scientific basis. The conventional wisdom was that Trump was going to lose and lose badly. In the days before the election, The Huffington Post 's data team had Clinton's election probability at 98.3 percent. A member of the team, Ryan Grim, went after Nate Silver for his more conservative probability of 64.7 percent, accusing him of skewing his data for "punditry" reasons. Grim ended his post on the topic, "If you want to put your faith in the numbers, you can relax. She's got this."

Narrator: She did not have this.

But the point isn't that a Republican beat a Democrat. The point is that the very roots of the electoral system -- the news people see, the events they think happened, the information they digest -- had been destabilized.

In the middle of the summer of the election, the former Facebook ad-targeting product manager, Antonio García Martínez, released an autobiography called Chaos Monkeys . He called his colleagues "chaos monkeys," messing with industry after industry in their company-creating fervor. "The question for society," he wrote, "is whether it can survive these entrepreneurial chaos monkeys intact, and at what human cost." This is the real epitaph of the election.

The information systems that people use to process news have been rerouted through Facebook, and in the process, mostly broken and hidden from view. It wasn't just liberal bias that kept the media from putting everything together. Much of the hundreds of millions of dollars that was spent during the election cycle came in the form of "dark ads."

The truth is that while many reporters knew some things that were going on on Facebook, no one knew everything that was going on on Facebook, not even Facebook. And so, during the most significant shift in the technology of politics since the television, the first draft of history is filled with undecipherable whorls and empty pages. Meanwhile, the 2018 midterms loom.

Update: After publication, Adam Mosseri, head of News Feed, sent an email describing some of the work that Facebook is doing in response to the problems during the election. They include new software and processes "to stop the spread of misinformation , click-bait and other problematic content on Facebook."

"The truth is we've learned things since the election, and we take our responsibility to protect the community of people who use Facebook seriously. As a result, we've launched a company-wide effort to improve the integrity of information on our service," he wrote. "It's already translated into new products, new protections, and the commitment of thousands of new people to enforce our policies and standards... We know there is a lot more work to do, but I've never seen this company more engaged on a single challenge since I joined almost 10 years ago."

[Oct 19, 2017] Privacy is dead Get over it by Paul Croke

Mar 24, 2015 | baltimorepostexaminer.com
In the days before cellular communications were well on their way to being the dominant form of personal electronic communication, the Federal Communications Commission had strict regulatory control governing third party monitoring of telephone conversations. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies were the only branches of government which could legally tap phones, and these only with a court order.

Into the ether

But cellular communications, being radio transmissions, had no such official protection. And the Internet, either carried by cable or through wireless data transmission, is still baffling government regulatory agencies as to whether they have any jurisdiction over Net use or Internet service providers.

So although we got along pretty well with the status quo regarding personal privacy from the government for 200 years or so, the explosive growth of the Internet and the many, many ways we usually unwittingly expose our private affairs to Big Business and the government has raced toward the formation of behemoths of so-called Big Data.

Big Data is a catchall term which includes the collection of personal, business and government information that has brought us to a point beyond the extremely pessimistic dreams of George Orwell.

Exposure of the willing

Millions spill the most intimate details of their lives on Facebook. Their photo posts to Instagram may contain geolocational tags. Hackers have figured out how to use the front facing cameras on laptops to catch their owners' parading by in various states of undress. Illicit credit card readers are inserted into gas station swipers, recording hundreds of card numbers and passwords, then removed, numbers collected, then sold to brokers, or fences, who resell them to the usual suspects. There are even butt swipers, devices that scan back pockets and purses to read your credit card card info.

internet-of-thingsGoogle reads your email and if you mention a brand name for a product or an item you're thinking of buying, the next search you make Google throws up ads for that product or its competitors.

But we're just now on the brink of a yawning chasm. Be prepared to take the leap into the new age of No Privacy, courtesy of the coming ubiquity of the Internet of things. Not only will your remaining privacy be rendered a dead letter, but the very definition of privacy is about to change.

The Internet of things is already here in nascent form, from smart cars to smart refrigerators to smart thermostats to home security monitors which know when you're home and when you're not, what room you're in and what you're doing there.

Death by a thousand cuts

We're no strangers in the past century to technological advances that change our lives. We've also witnessed how the pace of technological change accelerates. And these changes, in their turn, have not only altered our lives, but each has affected them faster and has been more keenly felt by society.

1373563853701.cachedBut previous changes have been mostly incremental, a rapidly moving series of small steps that affect one portion of our lives. These include instant phone calls or texts to anyone on the planet, email, cloud storage of personal or business data, the latter facilitating group work on projects or reports.

But still a measure of personal privacy was maintained, depending a lot on how much you were willing to share using that cunning new app or seductive new Internet-connected device.

But the sheer volume of small personal habits and activities added up over time, allowing government and business to put the pieces together to form quite an accurate, and highly detailed, snapshot of you, your spending habits, your circle of friends, your politics etc.

Your life, exposed

But with the Internet of things, these sketches of you will turn into full-fledged portraits. No longer will one device or app do its one trick to change your life, such as storage in the cloud of personal data, or online banking or Internet shopping. The sheer number of embedded sensors in your house and car, the latter long legally protected as bastions of privacy, will reveal every detail of your private life. The Internet of things will affect not just one facet of your life, such as industry, commerce or politics, it will completely rewrite the definition of personal privacy.

[Oct 18, 2017] Spy Schools How the CIA, FBI and Foreign Intelligence Secretly Exploit America's Universities by Nick Roll

Notable quotes:
"... Spy Schools: How the CIA, FBI and Foreign Intelligence Secretly Exploit America's Universities ..."
"... The Boston Globe ..."
"... Inside Higher Ed ..."
"... The Wall Street Journal ..."
"... The Price of Admission ..."
"... Inside Higher Ed ..."
"... Inside Higher Ed ..."
"... look back to Stalin, Hitler, Franco, Mao, Mussolini et.al with THIER use of domestic agencies to impose lock-step thinking and to ferret out free-thinkers. ..."
"... It is amazing how many biochemists and microbiologists from the People's Republic of China would e-mail me asking if I had a position in my "lab," touting their bench skills, every time I published a paper on the federal bioterrorism program, medical civic action programs, etc. ..."
"... When I started teaching 48 years ago, the president of my college was James Dovonan, Bill Donovan's (founder of the OSS) brother, portrayed by Tom Hanks in the movie, "Bridge of Spies." ..."
"... Beyond NIH funded grant-based research, Homeland Security, Energy, Defense, and the Intelligence Community agencies have long histories of relationships with American academia. This could be funded research, collaborative research, shared personnel relationships, or all other manner of cooperation. Sometimes it's fairly well known and sometimes it's kept quiet, and sometimes it's even classified. But it is much more extensive and expansive than what Golden describes, and much less "cozy" or suspicious. ..."
"... For years I have said that it is foolish to look to universities for moral guidance, and this story is one more instance. In this case, the moral ground is swampy at best, and the universities do not appear to have spent a lot of time worrying about possible problems as long as the situation works to their advantage financially. ..."
"... Does Golden discuss at all the way in which the CIA and other intelligence services funnel money into academic research without the source of the funding ever being revealed? This was common practice in the 1960s and 1970s, and colleges like MIT were among those involved in this chicanery. ..."
"... Where has IHE been for the past several decades? Read Rosenfeld's book, Subversives..... about the FBI's illegal acts at Berkeley. Or read this, a summary of his book: https://alumni.berkeley.edu... Or read George R. Stewart, The Year of the Oath. ..."
www.chronicle.com
October 3, 2017

The CIA Within Academe 21 Comments

Book documents how foreign and domestic intelligence agencies use -- and perhaps exploit -- higher education and academe for spy operations.
Foreign and domestic intelligence services spar and spy on one another all across the world. But it would be naïve to think it's not happening in the lab or classroom as well.

In his new book, Spy Schools: How the CIA, FBI and Foreign Intelligence Secretly Exploit America's Universities ( Henry Holt and Company ), investigative journalist Daniel Golden explores the fraught -- and sometimes exploitative -- relationship between higher education and intelligence services, both foreign and domestic. Chapters explore various case studies of the Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation using the open and collaborative nature of higher education to their advantage, as well as foreign governments infiltrating the U.S. via education.

"It's pretty widespread, and I'd say it's most prevalent at research universities," Golden, an editor at ProPublica and an alumnus of The Boston Globe 's "Spotlight" team, told Inside Higher Ed . "The foreign intelligence services have the interest and the opportunity to learn cutting-edge, Pentagon-funded or government-funded research."

Golden, who has also covered higher education for The Wall Street Journal , previously wrote about the intersection of wealth and admissions in his 2006 book The Price of Admission .

Each of the case studies in Spy Schools , which goes on sale Oct. 10, is critical. One could read the chapters on the Chinese government's interest in U.S. research universities as hawkish, but then turn to the next chapter on Harvard's relationship with the CIA and read it as critical of the American intelligence establishment as well.

"People of one political persuasion might focus on [the chapters regarding] foreign espionage; people of another political persuasion might focus on domestic espionage," Golden said. "I try to follow where the facts lead."

Perhaps the most prestigious institution Golden examines is Harvard University, probing its cozy relationship with the CIA. (While Harvard has recently come under scrutiny for its relationship with the agency after it withdrew an invitation for Chelsea Manning to be a visiting fellow -- after the agency objected to her appointment -- this book was written before the Manning incident, which occurred in September.) The university, which has had varying degrees of closeness and coldness with the CIA over the years, currently allows the agency to send officers to the midcareer program at the Kennedy School of Government while continuing to act undercover, with the school's knowledge. When the officers apply -- often with fudged credentials that are part of their CIA cover -- the university doesn't know they're CIA agents, but once they're in, Golden writes, Harvard allows them to tell the university that they're undercover. Their fellow students, however -- often high-profile or soon-to-be-high-profile actors in the world of international diplomacy -- are kept in the dark.

"Kenneth Moskow is one of a long line of CIA officers who have enrolled undercover at the Kennedy School, generally with Harvard's knowledge and approval, gaining access to up-and-comers worldwide," Golden writes. "For four decades the CIA and Harvard have concealed this practice, which raises larger questions about academic boundaries, the integrity of class discussions and student interactions, and whether an American university has a responsibility to accommodate U.S. intelligence."

But the CIA isn't the only intelligence group operating at Harvard. Golden notes Russian spies have enrolled at the Kennedy School, although without Harvard's knowledge or cooperation.

When contacted by Inside Higher Ed , Harvard officials didn't deny Golden's telling, but defended the university's practices while emphasizing the agreement between the university and the CIA -- which Golden also writes about -- on not using Harvard to conduct CIA fieldwork.

"Harvard Kennedy School does not knowingly provide false information or 'cover' for any member of our community from an intelligence agency, nor do we allow members of our community to carry out intelligence operations at Harvard Kennedy School," Eric Rosenbach, co-director of the Kennedy School's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, said in a statement.

While Golden said the CIA's involvement on campus raises existential questions about the purpose and integrity of higher education, Harvard maintained that the Kennedy School was living up to its mission.

"Our community consists of people from different spheres of public service. We are proud to train people from the U.S. government and the intelligence community, as well as peace activists and those who favor more open government," Rosenbach said in his statement. "We train students from a wide range of foreign countries and foreign governments, including -- among others -- Israel, U.K., Russia and China. That is consistent with our mission and we are proud to have that reach."

On the other hand, other countries are interested in exploiting U.S. higher education. Golden documents the case of Ruopeng Liu, a graduate student at Duke University who siphoned off U.S.-government-funded research to Chinese researchers. Liu eventually returned to China and has used some of the research for his Chinese-government-funded start-up ventures.

Golden is comprehensive, interviewing Duke researchers who worked with Liu, as well as dispatching a freelance journalist in China to interview Liu (he denied wrongdoing, saying his actions were taken as part of higher education's collaborative norms regarding research projects). Despite questions that arose while Liu was a student, he received his doctorate in 2009 without any formal questions or pushback from the university. A week before Liu defended his dissertation, Golden notes that Duke officials voted to move forward in negotiations with the Chinese government regarding opening a Duke campus in China -- raising questions about whether Duke was cautious about punishing a Chinese student lest there were negative business implications for Duke. ( The building of the campus proved to be a controversial move in its own right. )

The Duke professor Liu worked under told Golden it would be hard to prove Liu acted with intentional malice rather than out of genuine cultural and translational obstacles, or ethical slips made by a novice researcher. Duke officials told Inside Higher Ed that there weren't any connections between Liu and the vote.

"The awarding of Ruopeng Liu's degree had absolutely no connection to the deliberations over the proposal for Duke to participate in the founding of a new university in Kunshan, China," a spokesman said in an email.

These are just two chapters of Golden's book, which also goes on to document the foreign exchange relationship between Marietta College, in Ohio, and the controversial Chinese-intelligence-aligned University of International Relations. Agreements between Marietta and UIR, which is widely regarded a recruiting ground for Chinese intelligence services, include exchanging professors and sending Chinese students to Marietta. Conversely, Golden writes, as American professors teach UIR students who could end up spying on the U.S., American students at Marietta are advised against studying abroad at UIR if they have an interest in working for the government -- studying at UIR carries a risk for students hoping to get certain security clearances. Another highlight is the chapter documenting the CIA's efforts to stage phony international academic conferences, put on to lure Iranian nuclear scientists as attendees and get them out of their country -- and in a position to defect to the U.S. According to Golden's sources, the operations, combined with other efforts, have been successful enough "to hinder Iran's nuclear weapons program."

But Golden's book doesn't just shed light on previously untold stories. It also highlights the existential questions facing higher education, not only when dealing with infiltration from foreign governments, but also those brought on by cozy relationships between the U.S. intelligence and academe.

"One issue is American national security," Golden said. "Universities do a lot of research that's important to our government and our military, and they don't take very strong precautions against it being stolen," he said. "So the domestic espionage side -- I'm kind of a traditionalist and I believe in the ideal of universities as places where the brightest minds of all countries come together to learn, teach each other, study and do research. Espionage from both sides taints that that's kind of disturbing."

After diving deep into the complex web that ties higher education and espionage together, however, Golden remains optimistic about the future.

"It wouldn't be that hard to tighten up the intellectual property rules and have written collaboration agreements and have more courses about intellectual safeguards," he said. "In the 1970s, Harvard adopted guidelines against U.S. intelligence trying to recruit foreign students in an undercover way they didn't become standard practice [across academe, but], I still think those guidelines are pertinent and colleges would do well to take a second look at them."

"In the idealistic dreamer mode, it would be wonderful if the U.N. or some other organization would take a look at this issue, and say, 'Can we declare universities off-limits to espionage?'"

Nicholas Dujmovic , October 3, 2017 8:18 AM

Equating the presence and activities of US intelligence on campuses with that of foreign intelligence is pretty obtuse moral relativism. US academia and US intelligence alike benefit from cooperation, and the American people are the winners overall. By the way, is it really necessary to twice describe this relationship as "cozy"? What does that mean, other to suggest there's something illicit about it?

Grace Alcock -> Nicholas Dujmovic , October 4, 2017 1:30 AM

It'd be nice if American intelligence was paying a bit more attention to what goes on in academic research--as far as I can tell, the country keeps making policies that don't seem particularly well-informed by the research in relevant areas. Can we get them to infiltrate more labs of scientists working on climate change or something?

Maybe stick around, engage in some participant observation and figure that research out? It's not clear they have any acquaintance with the literature on the causes of war. Really, pick a place to start, and pay attention.

alsotps -> Nicholas Dujmovic , October 3, 2017 5:20 PM

If you cannot see how a gov't intelligence agency, prohibited from working in the USA by statute and who is eye-deep in AMERICAN education is wrong, then I am worried. Read history. Look back to the 1970's to start and to the 1950's with FBI and the military agents in classrooms; then read about HUAC.

Now, look back to Stalin, Hitler, Franco, Mao, Mussolini et.al with THIER use of domestic agencies to impose lock-step thinking and to ferret out free-thinkers.

Get it? it is 'illicit!"

Nicholas Dujmovic -> alsotps , October 4, 2017 12:38 PM

Actually, I read quite a bit of history. I also know that US intelligence agencies are not "prohibited from working in the USA." If they have relationships in academia that remind you of Stalin, Hitler, etc., how have US agencies "imposed lock-step thinking and ferreted out free-thinkers?" Hasn't seemed to work, has it? Your concern is overwrought.

Former Community College Prof -> Nicholas Dujmovic , October 3, 2017 12:12 PM

"Cozy" might refer to the mutual gains afforded by allowing the federal government to break many rules (and laws) while conducting their "intelligence operations" in academe. I do not know if I felt Homeland Security should have had permission to bring to this country, under false premises supported by ICE and accrediting agencies, thousands of foreign nationals and employed them at companies like Facebook, Apple, Morgan Stanley and the U.S. Army. While Homeland Security collected 16K tuition from each of them (and the companies that hired these F-1s didn't have to pay FICA) all our nation got was arrests of 20 mid level visa brokers.

https://www.nytimes.com/201...

Personally, I think cozy was quite complimentary as I would have chosen other words. Just imagine if there are additional "undercover students" with false credentials in numbers significant enough to throw off data or stopping universities and colleges from enforcing rules and regulations. If you set up and accredit a "fake university" and keep the proceeds, it strikes me as illicit.

alsotps -> Former Community College Prof , October 3, 2017 5:21 PM

Hey...don't imagine it. Read about Cointelpro and military 'intelligence' agents in classes in the early 1970's....

Trevor Ronson -> Nicholas Dujmovic , October 3, 2017 2:36 PM

And behaving as if the "the presence and activities of US intelligence on campuses" is something to accept without question is also "obtuse moral relativism". We are talking about an arrangement wherein a / the most prestigious institutions of higher learning has an established relationship with the CIA along with some accepted protocol to ongoing participation.

Whether it is right, wrong, or in between is another matter but please don't pretend that it's just business as usual and not worthy of deeper investigation.

alsotps -> Trevor Ronson , October 3, 2017 5:16 PM

Unfortunately for many people, it IS business as usual.

George Avery , October 3, 2017 9:46 AM

It is amazing how many biochemists and microbiologists from the People's Republic of China would e-mail me asking if I had a position in my "lab," touting their bench skills, every time I published a paper on the federal bioterrorism program, medical civic action programs, etc.

Never mind that I primarily do health policy and economics work, and have not been near a lab bench since I returned to school for my doctorate.....anything with a defense or security application drew a flurry of interest in getting involved.

As a result, I tended to be very discerning in who I took on as an advisee, if only to protect my security clearance.

alsotps -> George Avery , October 3, 2017 5:22 PM

PAr for the course for both UG and grad students from China who have not paid a head hunter. ANY school or program offering money to international students was flooded by such inquiries. Get over yourself.

John Lobell , October 3, 2017 6:25 AM

When I started teaching 48 years ago, the president of my college was James Dovonan, Bill Donovan's (founder of the OSS) brother, portrayed by Tom Hanks in the movie, "Bridge of Spies."

We had a program in "Tropical Architecture" which enrolled students form "third world" countries. Rumor was -- --

jloewen , October 3, 2017 10:38 AM

When I got my Ph.D. from Harvard in 1968, the Shah of Iran got an honorary doctorate at the same commencement. The next year, by pure coincidence!, he endowed three chairs of Near Eastern Studies at H.U.

alsotps -> jloewen , October 3, 2017 5:24 PM

Absolutely a coincidence! You don't think honoraria have anything whatsoever to do with the Development Office do you? (Snark)

Kevin Van Elswyk , October 3, 2017 9:31 AM

And we are surpised?

Robert4787 , October 4, 2017 6:28 PM

So glad to see they're on campus. Many young people now occupy the CIA; the old "cowboys" of the Cold War past are gone. U may find this interesting>> http://osintdaily.blogspot....

TinkerTailor1620 , October 3, 2017 5:29 PM

Hundreds of government civil servants attend courses at the Kennedy School every year. That a few of them come from the CIA should be no surprise. It and all the other intelligence agencies are nothing more than departments within the federal government, just like Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, the FDA, Energy, and so on. Nothing sneaky or suspicious about any of it. Why anyone with cover credentials would tell the Kennedy School admin that is beyond me. When I was in cover status, I was in cover status everywhere; to not be was to blow your cover, period, and was extremely dangerous.

Beyond NIH funded grant-based research, Homeland Security, Energy, Defense, and the Intelligence Community agencies have long histories of relationships with American academia. This could be funded research, collaborative research, shared personnel relationships, or all other manner of cooperation. Sometimes it's fairly well known and sometimes it's kept quiet, and sometimes it's even classified. But it is much more extensive and expansive than what Golden describes, and much less "cozy" or suspicious.

Phred , October 3, 2017 1:49 PM

For years I have said that it is foolish to look to universities for moral guidance, and this story is one more instance. In this case, the moral ground is swampy at best, and the universities do not appear to have spent a lot of time worrying about possible problems as long as the situation works to their advantage financially.

alsotps -> Phred , October 3, 2017 5:25 PM

The key, here, is financially. The bean counters and those whose research is funded don't look hard at the source of the funding. Just so it keeps coming.

Jason , October 4, 2017 6:34 PM

Academic treason.

Sanford Gray Thatcher , October 4, 2017 6:13 PM

Does Golden discuss at all the way in which the CIA and other intelligence services funnel money into academic research without the source of the funding ever being revealed? This was common practice in the 1960s and 1970s, and colleges like MIT were among those involved in this chicanery.

Remember also how intelligence agency money was behind the journal Encounter? Lots of propaganda got distributed under the guise of objective social science research.

donald scott , October 3, 2017 6:05 PM

Where has IHE been for the past several decades? Read Rosenfeld's book, Subversives..... about the FBI's illegal acts at Berkeley. Or read this, a summary of his book: https://alumni.berkeley.edu... Or read George R. Stewart, The Year of the Oath.

In the research for my biography of Stewart I found significant information about CIA presence on the UC Berkeley campus, in the mid-twentieth century, which reached in to the highest levels of the administration and led to a network of "professors" recruited by that unAmerican spy agency.

The oaths, the current gender wars and the conviction by accusation of harassment are all later attempts to politicize education and turn fiat lux into fiat nox. IHE should be writing more about that and about the current conviction by sexual accusation, and the effect of such on free thought and free inquiry.

[Oct 17, 2017] Google launches advanced Gmail security features for high-risk users

Notable quotes:
"... The program would include additional reviews and requests in the account recovery process to prevent fraudulent access by hackers who try to gain access by pretending they have been locked out. ..."
Oct 17, 2017 | www.msn.com

Alphabet's Google Inc said on Tuesday that it would roll out an advanced protection program in order to provide stronger security for some users such as government officials and journalists who are at a higher risk of being targeted by hackers.

The internet giant said that users of the program would have their account security continuously updated to deal with emerging threats.

The company said it would initially provide three defenses against security threats, which include blocking fraudulent account access and protection against phishing.

The program would include additional reviews and requests in the account recovery process to prevent fraudulent access by hackers who try to gain access by pretending they have been locked out.

... ... ...

[Oct 16, 2017] Who rules this Facebook

Notable quotes:
"... Among the advertisements included hundreds of irrelevant issues (even simple pictures with puppies), while 65% of the messages were uploaded after the US presidential elections, so, apparently, they would not had been able to influence the final result. So, the big news was not the content of the Ads, but the fact that Zuckerberg agreed to cooperate with the US authorities by offering information of Facebook users - a policy immediately followed by Google and Twitter. ..."
"... For many, the informal proclamation was an expression of "subjugation" to the US deep state, and especially to the reborn camp of neoconservatives, who, led by Hillary Clinton, have launched a new witch hunt against Moscow. For others, it was just a compromise move that proved that Zuckerberg can "swim" comfortably into the deep waters of the American political scene. ..."
Oct 16, 2017 | failedevolution.blogspot.gr

The decision of the founder of Facebook to work with the US authorities on the hunting of Russian hackers is a turning point in the policy of the largest social medium on the planet. Perhaps it is the moment that officially enters the political arena.
globinfo freexchange
There are two things that have been commonplace for White House occupants for centuries: a long tour in all the American states before the elections and a proclamation to the American people after their election. Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook, did both.
In the last year he visits all the American states, taking pictures with farmers, workers, priests and even addicted people in a personal "election campaign" without any opponents. And then, it was time to turn Urbi et Orbi to the two billion "believers" who keep active Facebook accounts.
The reason was that the known social medium allowed the publication of paid Ads by Russian users, supposedly aimed at influencing the outcome of the US elections. Although initially Facebook reported that it had not identified any suspicious action, when the pressures began to rise, Zuckerberg said in his "statement" that he would provide data to a congressional committee for about 3,000 related Ads posted on his pages. Of course, as the researcher and journalist Max Blumenthal explained, this "treasure" turned out to be coal too.
Among the advertisements included hundreds of irrelevant issues (even simple pictures with puppies), while 65% of the messages were uploaded after the US presidential elections, so, apparently, they would not had been able to influence the final result. So, the big news was not the content of the Ads, but the fact that Zuckerberg agreed to cooperate with the US authorities by offering information of Facebook users - a policy immediately followed by Google and Twitter.
For many, the informal proclamation was an expression of "subjugation" to the US deep state, and especially to the reborn camp of neoconservatives, who, led by Hillary Clinton, have launched a new witch hunt against Moscow. For others, it was just a compromise move that proved that Zuckerberg can "swim" comfortably into the deep waters of the American political scene.
In any case, the incident once again brought to light the terrifying power that Facebook has acquired in the already oligopolistic market of social media. "Facebook users could outnumber Christians before the end of the year" CNBC stated a few days ago - a peculiar way indeed to explain that soon one-third of the world's inhabitants will use Zuckerberg's platform at least once a month.
The case of the Russian Ads, however, has triggered an even more interesting debate. Most of those who criticized Zuckerberg's decision accused him of interfering in the operation of the algorithms that determine which news, Ads, and friend's messages will be viewed by each user on his "wall". This view, however, implies that algorithms consist a kind of objective (and mostly apolitical) mechanism.
In a sense, as writer Franklin Foer explained in his new book, "World Without Mind," the myth of the objective algorithm is the contemporary expression of a technocratic concept, first appeared in 18th century Europe by writers such as Henri de Saint-Simon.
Known as the Utopian precursor of "scientific socialism," Saint-Simon envisioned a society in which the interests of the corrupt old regime and the chaos that the power of "mob" might bring to the society, would give their place to a body of technocrats engineers who would regulate the functioning of society exclusively with scientific criteria. Instead of philosophers in politics, or, philosophical politicians, the new vision foresaw positions only for engineers.
The seemingly neutral algorithms of present era, Franklin Foer argues, come to replace the Utopia and the myth of the first technocrats. In fact, as he explains quite thoroughly, each algorithm hides enormous amounts of politics and political economy too, depending on the aspirations of its creators.
Perhaps the next US president will be elected by an algorithm - that of Mark Zuckerberg.
Article by Aris Chatzistefanou, translated from the original source:
http://info-war.gr/pios-kyverna-afto-to-facebook/

[Oct 14, 2017] Install a Complete Mail Server with Postfix and Webmail in Debian 9

Oct 14, 2017 | www.tecmint.com

Install a Complete Mail Server with Postfix and Webmail in Debian 9

by Matei Cezar | Published: October 12, 2017 | Last Updated: October 10, 2017

This tutorial will guide you on how to install and configure a complete mail server with Postfix in Debian 9 release. It will also cover how to configure accounts mailboxes using Dovecot in order to retrieve and compose mails via IMAP protocol. The users will use Rainloop Webmail interface as the mail user agent to handle mail.

Requirements

◾Debian 9 Minimal Installation
◾A static IP address configured for the network interface
◾A local or a public registered domain name.

In this tutorial we'll use a private domain account for mail server setup configured via /etc/hosts file only, without any DNS server involved in handling DNS resolution.

Step 1: Initial Configurations for Postfix Mail Server on Debian

1. In the first step, login to your machine with an account with root privileges or directly with the root user and make sure your Debian system is up to date with the latest security patches and software and packages releases, by issuing the following command.
# apt-get update
# apt-get upgrade

2. On the next step install the following software packages that will be used for system administration, by issuing the following command.
# apt-get install curl net-tools bash-completion wget lsof nano

3. Next, open /etc/host.conf file for editing with your favorite text editor and add the following line at the beginning of the file in order for DNS resolution to read the hosts file first.
order hosts,bind
multi on

4. Next, setup your machine FQDN and add your domain name and your system FQDN to /etc/hosts file. Use your system IP address to resolve the name of the domain and FQDN as illustrated in the below screenshot.

Replace IP address and domain accordingly. Afterwards, reboot the machine in order to apply the hostname properly.
# hostnamectl set-hostname mail.tecmint.com
# echo "192.168.0.102 tecmint.com mail.tecmint.com" >> /etc/hosts
# init 6

Set Hostname in Debian

5. After reboot, verify if the hostname has been correctly configured by issuing the following series of commands. The domain name, the FQDN, the hostname and the IP address of the system should be returned by hostname command.
# hostname
# hostname -s
# hostname -f
# hostname -A
# hostname -i
# cat /etc/hostname

Check Hostname in Debian
Check Hostname in Debian

6. Also, test if the domain correctly replies to local queries by issuing the below commands. Be aware that the domain won't replay to remote queries issued by other systems in your network, because we're not using a DNS server.

However, the domain should reply from other systems if you manually add the domain name to each of their /etc/hosts file. Also, be aware that the DNS resolution for a domain added to /etc/hosts file won't work via host, nslookup or dig commands.
# getent ahosts mail.tecmint.com
# ping tecmint.com
# ping mail.tecmint.com

Query Domain DNS
Query Domain DNS

Step 2: Install Postfix Mail Server on Debian

7. The most important piece of software required for a mail server to function properly is the MTA agent. The MTA is a software built in a server-client architecture, which is responsible for mail transfer between mail servers.

In this guide we'll use Postfix as the mail transfer agent. To install postfix in Debian from official repositories execute the following command.
# apt-get install postfix

8. During the installation process of Postfix you will be asked a series of questions. On the first prompt, select Internet Site option as the general type for Postfix configuration and press [enter] key to continue and then add your domain name to system mail name, as illustrated in the following screenshots.

Postfix Mail Configuration
Postfix Mail Configuration

Configure Postfix Mail Domain
Configure Postfix Mail Domain

Step 3: Configure Postfix Mail Server on Debian

9. Next, backup Postfix main configuration file and configure Postfix for your domain by using the following commands.
# cp /etc/postfix/main.cf{,.backup}
# nano /etc/postfix/main.cf

Now configure Postfix configuration in the main.cf file as shown.
# See /usr/share/postfix/main.cf.dist for a commented, more complete version
smtpd_banner = $myhostname ESMTP
biff = no
# appending .domain is the MUA's job.
append_dot_mydomain = no
readme_directory = no
# See http://www.postfix.org/COMPATIBILITY_README.html -- default to 2 on
# fresh installs.
compatibility_level = 2
# TLS parameters
smtpd_tls_cert_file=/etc/ssl/certs/ssl-cert-snakeoil.pem
smtpd_tls_key_file=/etc/ssl/private/ssl-cert-snakeoil.key
smtpd_use_tls=yes
smtpd_tls_session_cache_database = btree:${data_directory}/smtpd_scache
smtp_tls_session_cache_database = btree:${data_directory}/smtp_scache
# See /usr/share/doc/postfix/TLS_README.gz in the postfix-doc package for
# information on enabling SSL in the smtp client.
smtpd_relay_restrictions = permit_mynetworks permit_sasl_authenticated defer_unauth_destination
myhostname = mail.debian.lan
mydomain = debian.lan
alias_maps = hash:/etc/aliases
alias_database = hash:/etc/aliases
#myorigin = /etc/mailname
myorigin = $mydomain
mydestination = $myhostname, $mydomain, localhost.$mydomain, localhost
relayhost =
mynetworks = 127.0.0.0/8, 192.168.1.0/24
mailbox_size_limit = 0
recipient_delimiter = +
inet_interfaces = all
#inet_protocols = all
inet_protocols = ipv4
home_mailbox = Maildir/
# SMTP-Auth settings
smtpd_sasl_type = dovecot
smtpd_sasl_path = private/auth
smtpd_sasl_auth_enable = yes
smtpd_sasl_security_options = noanonymous
smtpd_sasl_local_domain = $myhostname
smtpd_recipient_restrictions = permit_mynetworks,permit_auth_destination,permit_sasl_authenticated,reject

Replace the myhostname, mydomain and mynetworks variables to match your own configurations.

You can run postconf -n command in order to dump Postfix main configuration file and check eventual errors, as shown in the below screenshot.
# postconf -n

Postfix Mail Configuration
Postfix Mail Configuration

10. After all configurations are in place, restart Postfix daemon to apply changes and verify if the service is running by inspecting if Postfix master service is binding on port 25 by running netstat command.
# systemctl restart postfix
# systemctl status postfix
# netstat -tlpn

Start and Verify Postfix
Start and Verify Postfix

Step 3: Test Postfix Mail Server on Debian

11. In order to test if postfix can handle mail transfer, first install mailutils package by running the following command.
# apt-get install mailutils

12. Next, using mail command line utility, send a mail to the root account and check if the mail was successfully transmitted by issuing the below command in order to check mail queue and listing the content of the root's home Maildir directory.
# echo "mail body"| mail -s "test mail" root
# mailq
# mail
# ls Maildir/
# ls Maildir/new/
# cat Maildir/new/[TAB]

Test Postfix by Sending Mail
Test Postfix by Sending Mail

13. You can also verify in what manner the mail was handled by postfix service by inspecting the content of the mail log file by issuing the following command.
# tailf /var/log/mail.log

Step 4: Install and Configure Dovecot IMAP on Debian

14. The mail delivery agent that we'll be using in this guide to deliver e-mail messages to a local recipient's mailboxes is Dovecot IMAP. IMAP is a protocol which runs on 143 and 993 (SSL) ports, which is responsible reading, deleting or moving mails across multiple email clients.

The IMAP protocol also uses synchronization in order to assure that a copy of each message is saved on the server and allows users to create multiple directories on the server and move mails to this directories in order to sort the e-mails.

This is not the case with POP3 protocol. POP3 protocol won't allow users to create multiple directories on the server to sort your mail. You only have the inbox folder to manage mail.

To install Dovecot core server and Dovecot IMAP package on Debian execute the following command.
# apt install dovecot-core dovecot-imapd

15. After Dovecot has been installed in your system, open the below dovecot files for editing and make the following changes. First, open /etc/dovecot/dovecot.conf file, search and uncomment the following line:
listen = *, ::

Configure Dovecot Connection
Configure Dovecot Connection

16. Next, open /etc/dovecot/conf.d/10-auth.conf for editing and locate and change the below lines to look like in the below excerpt.
disable_plaintext_auth = no
auth_mechanisms = plain login

17. Open /etc/dovecot/conf.d/10-mail.conf file and add the following line to use Maildir location instead of Mbox format to store emails.
mail_location = maildir:~/Maildir

Configure Postfix Maildir
Configure Postfix Maildir

18. The last file to edit is /etc/dovecot/conf.d/10-master.conf. Here search for Postfix smtp-auth block and make the following change:
# Postfix smtp-auth
unix_listener /var/spool/postfix/private/auth {
mode = 0666
user = postfix
group = postfix
}

Configure Postfix SMTP Auth
Configure Postfix SMTP Auth

19. After you've made all the above changes, restart Dovecot daemon to reflect changes, check its status and verify if Dovecot is binding on port 143, by issuing the below commands.
# systemctl restart dovecot.service
# systemctl status dovecot.service
# netstat -tlpn

Start and Verify Dovecot
Start and Verify Dovecot

20. Test if the mail server is running properly by adding a new user account to the system and use telnet or netcat command to connect to the SMTP server and send a new mail to the new added user, as illustrated in the below excerpts.
# adduser matie
# nc localhost 25
# ehlo localhost
mail from: root
rcpt to: matie
data
subject: test
Mail body
.
quit

Test Postfix SMTP
Test Postfix SMTP

21. Check if the mail has arrived to the new user mailbox by listing the content of user's home directory as shown in the below screenshot.
# ls /home/test_mail/Maildir/new/

Verify User Mail
Verify User Mail

22. Also, you can connect to user's mailbox from command line via IMAP protocol, as shown in the below excerpt. The new mail should be listed in user's Inbox.
# nc localhost 143
x1 LOGIN matie user_password
x2 LIST "" "*"
x3 SELECT Inbox
x4 LOGOUT

Step 5: Install and Configure Webmail in Debian

23. Users will manage their emails via Rainloop Webmail client. Before installing Rainloop mail user agent, first install Apache HTTP server and the following PHP modules required by Rainloop, by issuing the following command.
# apt install apache2 php7.0 libapache2-mod-php7.0 php7.0-curl php7.0-xml

24. After Apache web server has been installed, change directory path to /var/www/html/ directory, remove the index.html file and issue the following command in order to install Rainloop Webmail.
# cd /var/www/html/
# rm index.html
# curl -sL https://repository.rainloop.net/installer.php | php

25. After Rainloop Webmail client has been installed in the system, navigate to your domain IP address and login to Rainloop admin web interface with the following default credentials:
http://192.168.0.102/?admin
User: admin
Password: 12345

Postfix Webmail Login
Postfix Webmail Login

26. Navigate to Domains menu, hit on Add Domain button and add your domain name settings as shown in the below screenshot.

Add Domain in Webmail
Add Domain in Webmail

27. After you've finished adding your domain settings, log out from Ranloop admin interface and point the browser to your IP address in order to log in to webmail client with an e-mail account.

After you've successfully logged in to Rainloop webmail you should see the email sent earlier from command line into your Inbox folder.
http://192.168.0.102
User: matie@tecmint.com
Pass: the matie password

Postfix Webmail User Login
Postfix Webmail User Login

Postfix Webmail User Inbox
Postfix Webmail User Inbox

27. To add a new user issue useradd command with -m flag in order to create the user home directory. But, first make sure you configure the Maildir path variable for every user with the following command.
# echo 'export MAIL=$HOME/Maildir' >> /etc/profile
# useradd -m user3
# passwd user3

28. If you want to redirect all root's email to a specific local mail account from the system, run the below commands. All mails redirected or destined to root account will be forwarded to your mail user as shown in the below image.
# echo "root: test_mail" >> /etc/aliases
# newaliases

That's all! You have successfully installed and configured a mail server at your premises in order for local users to communicate via e-mails. However, this type of mail configuration is not secured in any way and it's advisable to be deployed only for small setups in systems and networks under your full control.

[Oct 11, 2017] Spy Spin Fuels Anti-Kaspersky Campaign

Indiscriminate spying is a costly and not very efficient operation. The problem of drinking form a fire hose arise. So a lot of money spend by US, GB and other countries on installation of such software are wasted. If the user of such computers uses steganography this does not even allow to detect the targeted activities.
It in not that elimination of Kaspersky software from the US market (due to current anti-Russia witch hunt) is a big loss. The efficiency of AV program against new threats was always problematic. But this hysteria points to a larger problem: threat from regular hackers to your data, especially financial data and access to financial sites. I would say that the person who does not use two separate computers for browsing and for his financial and other confidential operations and data is reckless indeed. Now anybody with important financial data can afford two laptops. A good used, enterprise class, Dell laptop is around $400.
In Windows each antivirus is simultaneously a backdoor. That's given. So usage by the US government agencies of foreign AV software was an oversight; and the US government is doing the right thing to prohibit such usage. Similarly it would be highly irresponsible for, say Russian government, to use MacAfee software on government computers. Even with large transnational companies there are some tricky problems about which AV software to use. And that was the problem already understood long ago, say in 1996.
For governments any large AV company represents tremendous asset as for surveillance. Also intelligence community probably has close understanding of signature updaters and their vulnerabilities and probably have agents in each of major AV company. And for government AV signature updates are the best way to install malware on your computer. And much simpler then hijacking OS updates.
So it is only natural that AV companies are primary target of intelligence agencies. I remember being very surprised the McAfee was bought by Intel. Now I know why ;-). In the past some mass deployed AV companies software (Symantec) as well as Google software (Google bar) were spyware even without intelligence agencies interference. In a way they were pioneers of mass surveillance.
In no way linux is a panacea. This is another monstrously complex OS with multiple backdoors, especially on application level (Apache is one recent example). But it will be much less attacked by non-government hackers. This is true. Security via obscurity does work. Still if you need security against exfiltration of your data MS DOS and Windows 3.1 are also useful option (any non-networked computer actually would work; you can exchange data via parallel port too. for example Total Commander has such an option ).
Notable quotes:
"... The British spy agency regarded the Kaspersky software in particular as a hindrance to its hacking operations and sought a way to neutralize it. ..."
"... An NSA slide describing "Project CAMBERDADA" lists at least 23 antivirus and security firms that were in that spy agency's sights . They include the Finnish antivirus firm F-Secure, the Slovakian firm Eset, Avast software from the Czech Republic. and Bit-Defender from Romania. Notably missing from the list are the American anti-virus firms Symantec and McAfee as well as the UK-based firm Sophos ..."
"... That the NSA and the British GCHQ did not list U.S. and British made anti-virus products on their "to do" list lets one assume that these packages can already be controlled by them. ..."
"... The Kaspersky anti-virus software, which the NSA employee had installed, identified parts of these tools as malware and uploaded them for analysis to the Kapersky's central detection database. The Kaspersky software behaved exactly as it should . Any other anti-virus software behaves similar if it detects a possibly new virus. ..."
"... The only person in the tale who did something illegal was the NSA employee. The case also demonstrates that the NSA continues to have a massive insider security problem. There is no hint in the story to any evidence for its core claim of "Russian hackers". ..."
"... Meanwhile its a well reported established fact that american virus/antimalware corps have allowed the FBI and other agencies to compromize their software with silent signatures - as with Magic Lantern for example (and imagine how far its gone since then) ..."
"... In the network security world there is this concept of a honeypot where you entice/allow the world to attack/invade your honeypot so you can study the tools they use and insure the trail back to them is useful. ..."
Oct 11, 2017 | www.moonofalabama.org
... ... ...

U.S. and British spies systematically target all anti-virus products and companies :

The British spy agency regarded the Kaspersky software in particular as a hindrance to its hacking operations and sought a way to neutralize it.
...
An NSA slide describing "Project CAMBERDADA" lists at least 23 antivirus and security firms that were in that spy agency's sights . They include the Finnish antivirus firm F-Secure, the Slovakian firm Eset, Avast software from the Czech Republic. and Bit-Defender from Romania. Notably missing from the list are the American anti-virus firms Symantec and McAfee as well as the UK-based firm Sophos

That the NSA and the British GCHQ did not list U.S. and British made anti-virus products on their "to do" list lets one assume that these packages can already be controlled by them.

In February 2015 Kaspersky announced that it found U.S. and UK government spying and sabotage software infecting computers in various foreign countries. Later that year the CIA and FBI tried to recruit Kaspersky employees but were warned off. In June 2015 Kaspersky Lab detected a breach in its own systems by an Israeli government malware. It published an extensive autopsy of the breach and the malware programs used in it.

That the U.S. government now attempts to damage Kaspersky is likely a sign that Kaspersky products continue to be a hard-target that the NSA and GCHQ find difficult to breach.

To justify the campaign against Kaspersky, which began in May, U.S. officials recently started to provide a series of cover stories. A diligent reading of these stories reveals inconsistencies and a lack of logic. On October 5 the Wall Street Journal reported: Russian Hackers Stole NSA Data on U.S. Cyber Defense :

Hackers working for the Russian government stole details of how the U.S. penetrates foreign computer networks and defends against cyberattacks after a National Security Agency contractor removed the highly classified material and put it on his home computer, according to multiple people with knowledge of the matter.

The hackers appear to have targeted the contractor after identifying the files through the contractor's use of a popular antivirus software made by Russia-based Kaspersky Lab, these people said.

A NSA employee copied code of top-secret NSA spy tools and put it on his private computer. ("It's just that he was trying to complete the mission, and he needed the tools to do it." said 'one person familiar with the case' to WaPo.)

The Kaspersky anti-virus software, which the NSA employee had installed, identified parts of these tools as malware and uploaded them for analysis to the Kapersky's central detection database. The Kaspersky software behaved exactly as it should . Any other anti-virus software behaves similar if it detects a possibly new virus.

The "multiple people with knowledge of the matter" talking to the WSJ seem to allege that this was a "Russian hacker" breach of NSA code. But nothing was hacked. If the story is correct, the Kaspersky tool was legally installed and worked as it should. The only person in the tale who did something illegal was the NSA employee. The case also demonstrates that the NSA continues to have a massive insider security problem. There is no hint in the story to any evidence for its core claim of "Russian hackers".

... ... ...

Further down the WSJ story says :
The incident occurred in 2015 but wasn't discovered until spring of last year , said the people familiar with the matter."

The stolen material included details about how the NSA penetrates foreign computer networks, the computer code it uses for such spying and how it defends networks inside the U.S., these people said.

If the last sentence is true the employee must have had top access to multiple NSA programs.

A new story in the New York Times today builds on the WSJ tale above. It makes the claims therein even more suspicious. The headline - How Israel Caught Russian Hackers Scouring the World for U.S. Secrets :

It was a case of spies watching spies watching spies: Israeli intelligence officers looked on in real time as Russian government hackers searched computers around the world for the code names of American intelligence programs.

What gave the Russian hacking, detected more than two years ago , such global reach was its improvised search tool -- antivirus software made by a Russian company, Kaspersky Lab, ...

The Israeli officials who had hacked into Kaspersky's own network alerted the United States to the broad Russian intrusion, which has not been previously reported, leading to a decision just last month to order Kaspersky software removed from government computers.

The Russian operation, described by multiple people who have been briefed on the matter, is known to have stolen classified documents from a National Security Agency employee who had improperly stored them on his home computer.

The Washington Post version of the story is remarkable different. Unlike the NYT it does not claim any Russian government involvement in Kaspersky systems:

In 2015, Israeli government hackers saw something suspicious in the computers of a Moscow-based cybersecurity firm : hacking tools that could only have come from the National Security Agency.

Israel notified the NSA, where alarmed officials immediately began a hunt for the breach, according to people familiar with the matter, who said an investigation by the agency revealed that the tools were in the possession of the Russian government

Israeli spies had found the hacking material on the network of Kaspersky Lab ...

While the NYT asserts that the Russian government had access to the Kaspersky systems, the Washington Post does not assert that at all.

The NYT claims that the Israelis alerted the NSA of Russian government knowledge of its tools while WaPo says that it was the NSA itself that found this out. That Israel alerts the NSA when it has its hands on a valuable source that reveals NSA tools is not believable. There is no love lost between Israeli and U.S. spy agencies. They spy on each other whenever they can with even deadly consequences .

The NYT story is based on "current and former government officials", not on the usual " U.S. officials". It might well be that Israeli spies are spinning the NYT tale.

We already knew that the Israeli government had in 2015 breached some Kaspersky systems. Kaspersky Lab itself alarmed the public about it and provided an extensive forensic report.

There are several important questions that the above quote stories do not ask:

If the Israelis detected NSA malware in the hand of the Russian government "more than two years ago" (NYT) how come that the NSA hole was only found in 2016 (WSJ)? Did the Israelis use their claimed knowledge for a year without alarming their "allies" at the NSA? Why?

And why would the detection of alleged Russian government intrusion into Kaspersky products lead to a ban of these products only in fall 2017?

If the story were true the NSA should have reacted immediately. All Kaspersky products should have been banned from U.S. government systems as soon as the problem was known. The NSA allowed the Russian government, for more than a year, to sniff through all systems of the more than two dozen American government agencies (including the military) which use the Kaspersky products? That does not make sense.

These recently provided stories stink. There is no evidence provided for the assertions therein. They make the false claim that the NSA employees computer was "hacked". Their timelines make no sense. If not complete fantasies they are likely to be heavily spun to achieve a specific goal: to justify the banning of Kaspersky products from U.S. markets.

I regard these stories as part of "blame Russia" campaign that is used by the military-industrial complex to justify new defense spending. They may also be useful in removing a good security product that the NSA failed to breach from the "western" markets.

Oilman2 | Oct 11, 2017 10:29:02 AM | 10

Computers are dirt cheap these days. My first Mac cost me $3000 and the first clone PC I built cost me $1500. Today, I can buy a super-duper-anti-pooper PC device for $500. Hell folks, that is cheaper than an Iphone...

Use one computer for your critical work that has no internet connection, or use an old PC that has no network card. The OS may be uncool by today's standards, but the dang business software has hardly changed - just gotten more bloated with features.

Have one computer for exposure to wild viruses and all that crap, and another you can rely on. Move files one-way using cheap, new memory sticks.

My old PC runs the last version of Windows NT - and never crashes or locks up. It uses MS Office from that period, and the files are still readable by newer products.

My outward looking computer is either a Mac or a Linux box. I only transfer sensitive files one-way - from isolated to unisolated. Periodically, I toss the hard drive and pop in a new one. My 'sensitive' stuff is miniscule, as I don't work in the military or spook world. It's patent stuff.

And run Kaspersky - it works and the other's don't. Unless you are working on sensitive government crap, do you really even care if Russians can fish a few of your files? Do most people have PLC devices hung off their computers that stuxnet things can access?

If you have Alexa and other IoT crap - get rid of it because they are gadgets that have more downside than upside. Do you TRULY need a talking fridge? A washer you can turn on with your phone? A talking link to Google?

I don't care if the alphabet guys get my files - because they aren't of use to them. Most of the guys working at the alphabet agencies are spending their time on porno anyway or looking for blackmail files and images - which is why they can't seem to ever do anything useful except maybe foul a keyboard irretrievably.

It's hilarious to me that so much effort is put into all this when the old school ways of passing notes and talking are such simple workarounds, IF you are truly wanting privacy and fear for your precious files.

Robert Browning | Oct 11, 2017 10:43:32 AM | 11
Kaspersky uncovered the Stuxnet virus.
sejomoje | Oct 11, 2017 11:59:05 AM | 13
Yep this is payback for revealing who was behind Stuxnet, among other things. Every day, a little more USSA.
LXV | Oct 11, 2017 12:27:49 PM | 14
Isn't it to little to late for a payback, since it's been 5+ years since Kaspersky Labs discovered and revealed who is behind Stuxnet and Flame? Nah, this one smells more of a good ole-fashioned fascist market protectionism where you simply ban "those vile Russians" from a large portion of the market. Of course, all in context of the Empire's ongoing Blame Russia! campaign.
c1ue | Oct 11, 2017 3:12:28 PM | 19
Linux doesn't have many viruses - instead it has all manner of extremely dangerous 0-day bugs that can be exploited, plus a multitude of open source library vulnerabilities and channel attacks.
I was at a presentation by Paul Vixie - one of the 2 people who first proclaimed open source as the best way to product good and secure products 10 years ago. He's Internet Hall of Fame, ICANN Security Board, etc.
He no longer believes that for this reason: 10 years ago, there were 50 million lines of open source code, and you could rely that it was reviewed regularly and reasonably widely.
Today there are 50 billion lines of open source code, and the majority is never reviewed by anybody.
If you really want to go secure: don't use email. Don't use the internet. Just use your computer with no outside connection. Of course, you can't read Moon of Alabama, either - a fantastic way to nail all you paranoid types would be to watering hole attack this site.
As for the story: it is believable that one or more spy agencies hacked into Kaspersky's systems.
What again is not being said is whether Kaspersky was actively participating or abetting this activity.
While banning Kaspersky from US government and military isn't completely nonsensical, the reality is that *all* AV and other type of security products - any ones which auto update include FireEye, Palo Alto, Symantec, Microsoft and so forth all have the same vulnerability: The ability to access all data on a computer is an inherent ability to spy.
c1ue | Oct 11, 2017 3:13:26 PM | 20
And just FYI: Apache - you know, the source of the Struts vulnerability that lead to the Equifax breach, among others? It is Linux.
Thominus | Oct 11, 2017 3:24:35 PM | 21
Meanwhile its a well reported established fact that american virus/antimalware corps have allowed the FBI and other agencies to compromize their software with silent signatures - as with Magic Lantern for example (and imagine how far its gone since then)

With such subservience by the corporations anything is possible with whats been buried in these closed source systems.

I'm pretty sure the US establishment never accuses anyone of something if they aren't already themselves doing the same in the extreme.

Steve | Oct 11, 2017 3:27:13 PM | 22
@19 & 20

What you say may be correct in the most part. However, is it better to run an OS where there is a possibility of someone reviewing the code to improve it or run an OS where the vulnerabilities are intentionally left in the OS at the behest of the three-lettered agencies ? Only one choice gives the possibility of security even if it is remote.

The greater problem is the lack of maturity in so much of the software on Linux.

c1ue | Oct 11, 2017 3:37:19 PM | 23
@Steve #11
I guess you didn't read far enough into Vixie's comment: No one is reviewing the code - there is just too much.
Apache is an enormously widely used Linux platform with presumably an optimal reviewer population - it has millions of installs worldwide and is used from huge corporations to individuals, yet the Struts bug was also enormous (allows someone to remotely run code on any Apache server via a command line in a browser).

From my view as a security professional: I'd rather have a platform where there are thousands to tens of thousands of people actively trying to improve its security as opposed to one where there might be a few hundred.

The reality is that iOS, for example, is far more secure than Android.

iOS is not open source, Android is.

But the relative security has nothing to do with open sourcedness - it has to do with the architects of iOS continuously adding capabilities to make it more secure. iOS was the first widespread OS to use signed firmware updates - which is why jailbreaking an iPhone is so much harder than it used to be.

Despite that, there are still vulns which the 3 letter agencies likely know about and use.

That doesn't change the overall fact that iOS is more secure than Android and will be for the foreseeable future, because Android simply doesn't do all the things iOS can (and does) do.

If your concern is 3 letter agencies, then you need to create your own OS.

If your concern is overall security except for the 3 letter agencies, open source is *not* the way.

And lest you think I'm an Apple fanboi - I am not. I don't use iOS/iPhone/OSX or any of the Apple products for reasons outside of security. It doesn't mean I do not recognize the reality, however.

blues | Oct 11, 2017 4:39:24 PM | 28
Well sure if the NSA or some super-hacker specifically targets your machine, you will get owned (unless you invest in some kind of cyber Fort Knox, and are very lucky as well). These people who rant that Linus is "unsafe" are 100% full of it. In the end NOTHING is "safe". But Linux has astonishing advantages! Pay no heed to those naysayers!

I could write a book about how colossally dreadful Microsoft Windows is.

The BSD systems were clunky as hell so far.

So that leaves Linux. Big Problem: 98% of the Linuxes out there have been coerced into adopting "systemd" (yikes!). This is an allegedly open source (so it might be "audited" for trap doors and such) giant blob of 500,000+ lines of code (!) that has sneakily been infiltrated into 98% of the Linux distributions (distros) by the Red Hat Corporation and their NSA buddies. Obviously no one is ever going to "audit" it!

This Windows-like monster infests all of the Ubuntu and Linux Mint brand distros. The real question becomes "how many teams are you going to trust?"

Presumably the easiest distro to install and use "designed for home computer users" is Devuan based, systemd-free "Refracta Linux":
https://sourceforge.net/projects/refracta/files/isohybrid/
(I suggest ONLY the "refracta8.3_xfce_amd64-20170305_0250.iso" version for modern machines.)

You can "unlock" the upper panel, and move it to the bottom with the mouse.

You have to launch Konqueror five seconds before Firefox or it will crash :(

My very best alternative is the systemd-free "Void Linux":
https://repo.voidlinux.eu/live/current/
(I suggest ONLY the "void-live-x86_64-20171007-xfce.iso" version for most modern machines.)

I think Void Linux is just as nice as Refracta Linux, and they have different available programs (but they can work together) but it requires a bit more Linux chops to install. I needed to get the "live DVD file" GParted, which is a free partition editor DVD that you can burn yourself for free:
http://linux.softpedia.com/get/System/System-Administration/GParted-3725.shtml

Look up "Troubleshooters.Com®" -- Quick and Reliable Void Linux Installation:
http://www.troubleshooters.com/linux/void/quickinst.htm

I had to create a "MS-DOS"-style primary ext4 partition (could be between 80 to 200 GiB) with "boot" flag set, and a 20 GiB "Linux swap partition" with GParted before the install (may have to fiddle with the "BIOS" first). Then insert the Void DVD, open the "command window" and type "void-install". At some point the options look hopeless, but continue, and when it starts to repeat go back and back and continue on to completion. It's a BEAUTIFUL system! Have TWO passwords ready to use before starting (any Linux install) -- they might be of the form: "hermitcabbagetorus

I would get a book(s) about Linux. Maybe "Linux Cookbook" from Alibris. This will all prove to be VERY MUCH WORTH THE THE TROUBLE as time goes on!

psychohistorian | Oct 11, 2017 4:39:53 PM | 29
In the network security world there is this concept of a honeypot where you entice/allow the world to attack/invade your honeypot so you can study the tools they use and insure the trail back to them is useful.

If I were a security vendor I would set up a honeypot that looked like my business as simply one of many best practices. It is a great way to learn what others are doing while honing your skills at staying secure and invisible to potential perps.

If I had to wade into the "which OS is more secure" discussion I would just note that, IMO, in the long run open source is going to win the war world wide for most stuff but there will always be room for proprietary OS's and application software.

[Oct 11, 2017] Elite Hackers Stealing NSA Secrets Is 'Child's Play'

What a great waste of taxpayers dollars. After Stuxnet any government that cares about secrecy does not use open, connected to internet networks for sensitive information. Some switched to typewriters, at least for highly sensitive operations, which is probably overkill. but good, old DOS can still be used to above NSA spook pretty much like typewriter; and communication via parallel port is not that easy to hack; UUCP is also pretty much available for serial port communication ;-)
But the effect on undermining the US software and hardware sales is overwhelming. Why anybody in foreign government would buy the US hardware or software, when it is clear that NSA can put a backdoor into both "before arrival". In this sense the game is over and net beneficiary might be Taiwanese and other East Asia firms as China is suspect too.
To say nothing about the effects of the US consumers and business when those tools are incorporated by criminal hacking groups into commercial malware. And this is a real dnager of NSA activities. Boomerang tends to return. And the security culture in most US companies (including government security contractors) is simply rudimentary or non existent. In no way they can withstand the attack of NSA tools. The sordid take of Hillary shadow IT and "bathroom server" is actually not an exception. Creation of "Shadow IT" is pretty common in fossilized and over-bureaucratized US enterprise It world.
Moreover operations like "Its operations that violate sovereignty of other nations, like digging into China's networks , developing the tools British spies used to break into Belgium's largest telecom, and hacking sections of the Mexican government " are clearly criminal, and are possible only due to the status of the USA as a sole of superpower. But they can result is some shipment of arms to anti-USA factions as a state-to-state retaliation. Moreover "There is no honor among thieves" and sharing of this information should be assumed is always larger then intended.
Like drone strikes they inflame anti-Americanism and has constrained U.S. foreign policy options in ways that civilian and military planners neither imagined nor anticipated.
Oct 11, 2017 | www.msn.com

The NSA's hackers have a problem.

Last week, multiple outlets reported that the NSA's elite Tailored Access Operations unit -- tasked with breaking into foreign networks -- suffered another serious data breach. The theft of computer code and other material by an employee in 2015 allowed the Russian government to more easily detect U.S. cyber operations, according to the Washington Post. It's potentially the fourth large scale incident at the NSA to be revealed in the last five years.

Now, multiple sources with direct knowledge of TAO's security procedures in the recent past tell The Daily Beast just how porous some of the defenses were to keep workers from stealing sensitive information -- either digitally or by simply walking out of the front door with it.

One source described removing data from a TAO facility as "child's play." The Daily Beast granted the sources anonymity to talk candidly about the NSA's security practices.

TAO is not your average band of hackers. Its operations have included digging into China's networks , developing the tools British spies used to break into Belgium's largest telecom, and hacking sections of the Mexican government . While other parts of the NSA may focus on tapping undersea cables or prying data from Silicon Valley giants, TAO is the tip of the NSA's offensive hacking spear, and could have access to much more sensitive information ripped from adversaries' closed networks. The unit deploys and creates sophisticated exploits that rely on vulnerabilities in routers, operating systems, and computer hardware the general population uses -- the sort of tools that could wreak havoc if they fell into the wrong hands.

That doesn't mean those tools are locked down, though. "TAO specifically had a huge amount of latitude to move data between networks," the first source, who worked at the unit after Edward Snowden's mega-leak, said. The former employee said TAO limited the number of USB drives -- which could be used to steal data -- after that 2013 breach, but he still had used several while working at TAO.

"Most operators knew how they could get anything they wanted out of the classified nets and onto the internet if they wanted to, even without the USB drives," the former TAO employee said.

A second source, who also worked at TAO, told The Daily Beast, "most of the security was your co-workers checking to see that you had your badge on you at all times."

The NSA -- and recently TAO in particular -- have suffered a series of catastrophic data breaches. On top of the Snowden incident and this newly-scrutinized 2015 breach, NSA contractor Hal Martin allegedly hoarded a trove of computer code and documents from the NSA and other agencies in the U.S. Intelligence Community. Martin worked with TAO, and he ended up storing the material in his car and residence, according to prosecutors. Like Snowden, Martin was a contractor and not an employee of the NSA, as was Reality Winner, who allegedly leaked a top-secret report about Russian interference in the U.S. election to news site The Intercept.

Then there's the incident now in the news. Israeli operatives broke into the systems of the Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab, officials told The Washington Post. On those systems were samples of sophisticated NSA hacking tools; a TAO employee had brought them home and placed them on his home computer. That machine was running Kasperky software, which allegedly sent the NSA tools back to Moscow.

It's not totally clear how the breach overlaps with any others, but in 2016, a group called The Shadow Brokers started publishing full NSA exploit and tool code. Various hackers went on to incorporate a number of the dumped exploits in their own campaigns, including some designed to break into computers and mine digital currency, as well as the WannaCry ransomware, which crippled tens of thousands of computers around the world. (A handful of other, smaller NSA-related disclosures, including a catalogue of TAO hacking gear from 2007 and 2008, as well as intelligence intercepts, were not attributed to the Snowden documents, and the public details around where that information came from are muddy.)

Although not a data breach per se, in 2015 Kaspersky publicly revealed details on the history and tools of the so-called Equation Group, which is widely believed to be part of the NSA. A third source, who worked directly with TAO, said the fallout from that exposure meant the hacking unit entered a "significant shutdown," and "ran on minimum ops for months."

Nevertheless, a report by the Defense Department's inspector general completed in 2016 found that the NSA's "Secure the Net" project -- which aimed to restrict access to its most sensitive data after the Snowden breach -- fell short of its stated aims. The NSA did introduce some improvements, but it didn't effectively reduce the number of user accounts with 'privileged' access, which provide more avenues into sensitive data than normal users, nor fully implement technology to oversee these accounts' activities, the report reads.

Physical security wasn't much better, at least at one TAO operator's facility. He told The Daily Beast that there were "no bag checks or anything" as employees and contractors left work for the day -- meaning, it was easy smuggle things home. Metal detectors were present, including before Snowden, but "nobody cared what came out," the second source added. The third source, who visited TAO facilities, said bag checks were random and weak.

"If you have a thumb drive in your pocket, it's going to get out," they said.

Unsurprisingly, workers need to swipe keycards to access certain rooms. But, "in most cases, it's pretty easy to get into those rooms without swipe access if you just knock and say who you're trying to see," the third source added.

To be clear, The Daily Beast's sources described the state of security up to 2015 -- not today. Things may have improved since then. And, of course, the NSA and TAO do of course have an array of security protections in place. TAO operators are screened and people on campus are already going to have a high level clearance, some of the sources stressed. The part of the NSA network that TAO uses, and which contains the unit's tools, can only be accessed by those with a designated account, according to the source who worked with TAO. Two of the sources believed in the NSA's ability to track down where a file came from after a breach.

Indeed, the system TAO members use to download their hacking tools for operations has become more heavily audited over the years too, although the network did have a known security issue, in which users could make their own account and automatically gain access to additional information, the source who worked with TAO said.

"The NSA operates in one of the most complicated IT environments in the world," an NSA spokesperson told The Daily Beast in a statement. "Over the past several years, we have continued to build on internal security improvements while carrying out the mission to defend the nation and our allies."

"We do not rely on only one initiative. Instead, we have undertaken a comprehensive and layered set of defensive measures to further safeguard operations and advance best practices," the spokesperson added.

The problem of securing this data from the inside is not an easy one to solve. If the NSA was to lock down TAO systems more ferociously, that could hamper TAO's ability to effectively build tools and capabilities in the first place, and two of the sources emphasised that excessive searches would likely create a recruiting problem for the agency. "It's not prison," one of the former TAO employees said.

"The security is all predicated on you having a clearance and being trusted," the source who has worked with TAO said.

"The system is just not setup to protect against someone with a clearance who is determined to go rogue," they added.

[Oct 10, 2017] The Israeli algorithm criminalizing Palestinians for online dissent

Notable quotes:
"... "Israeli intelligence has developed a predictive policing system – a computer algorithm – that analyzes social media posts to identify Palestinian "suspects." " ..."
Oct 10, 2017 | www.unz.com

SolontoCroesus > , October 10, 2017 at 4:30 pm GMT

@Talha

How to fix it? I don't know – maybe the internet . . . that is also a big IF – since there is so much on the internet which is just trash and lacks any sort of serious vetting.

The Israeli algorithm criminalizing Palestinians for online dissent
Oct 4 2017

https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/nadim-nashif-marwa-fatafta/israeli-algorithm-criminalizing-palestinians-for-o?utm_source=Daily+Newsletter&utm_campaign=d2cd3e7ec3-DAILY_NEWSLETTER_MAILCHIMP&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_717bc5d86d-d2cd3e7ec3-407397135

"Israeli intelligence has developed a predictive policing system – a computer algorithm – that analyzes social media posts to identify Palestinian "suspects." "

[Oct 09, 2017] Masquerading Hackers Are Forcing a Rethink of How Attacks Are Traced

Oct 09, 2017 | theintercept.com

The growing propensity of government hackers to reuse code and computers from rival nations is undermining the integrity of hacking investigations and calling into question how online attacks are attributed, according to researchers from Kaspersky Lab.

In a paper set for release today at the Virus Bulletin digital security conference in Madrid , the researchers highlight cases in which they've seen hackers acting on behalf of nation-states stealing tools and hijacking infrastructure previously used by hackers of other nation-states. Investigators need to watch out for signs of this or risk tracing attacks to the wrong perpetrators, the researchers said.

Threat researchers have built an industry on identifying and profiling hacking groups in order to understand their methods, anticipate future moves, and develop methods for battling them. They often attribute attacks by "clustering" malicious files, IP addresses, and servers that get reused across hacking operations, knowing that threat actors use the same code and infrastructure repeatedly to save time and effort. So when researchers see the same encryption algorithms and digital certificates reused in various attacks, for example, they tend to assume the attacks were perpetrated by the same group. But that's not necessarily the case.

... ... ...

Intelligence agencies and military hackers are uniquely positioned to trick researchers through code and tool reuse because of something they do called fourth-party collection. Fourth-party collection can encompass a number of activities, including hacking the machine of a victim that other hackers have already breached and collecting intelligence about the hackers on that machine by stealing their tools. It can also involve hacking the servers the hackers use to launch their assaults. These machines sometimes store the arsenal of malicious tools and even source code that the attackers use for their attacks. Once the other group's tools and source code are stolen, it's easy to go a step further and reuse them.

"Agency A could steal another agency's source code and leverage it as their own. Clustering and attribution in this case begin to fray," wrote Juan Andrés Guerrero-Saade, principal security researcher with Kaspersky, and his colleague, Costin Raiu, who leads Kaspersky's global research and analysis team.

"[O]ur point in the paper was: This is what it would look like [if someone were to do a false-flag operation] and these are the cases where we've seen people trying and failing," said Guerrero-Saade.

The recent WannaCry ransomware outbreak is an obvious example of malware theft and reuse. Last year, a mysterious group known as the Shadow Brokers stole a cache of hacking tools that belonged to the National Security Agency and posted them online months later. One of the tools -- a so-called zero-day exploit, targeting a previously unknown vulnerability -- was repurposed by the hackers behind WannaCry to spread their attack. In this case, it was easy to make a connection between the theft of the NSA code and its reuse with WannaCry, because the original theft was well-publicized. But other cases of theft and reuse won't likely be so obvious, leaving researchers in the dark about who is really conducting an attack.

"[I]f a superpower were to break fully into, let's say, the DarkHotel group tomorrow and steal all of their code and have access to all of their [command-and-control infrastructure], we're not going to find out about that monumental event," Guerrero-Saade told The Intercept, referring to a hacker group that has conducted a series of sophisticated attacks against guests in luxury hotels . "At that point, they're in a position to mimic those operations to a T without anyone knowing."

[Oct 07, 2017] US Intelligence Unit Accused Of Illegally Spying On Americans' Financial Records

Oct 07, 2017 | www.buzzfeed.com

The intelligence division at the Treasury Department has repeatedly and systematically violated domestic surveillance laws by snooping on the private financial records of US citizens and companies, according to government sources.

Over the past year, at least a dozen employees in another branch of the Treasury Department, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, have warned officials and Congress that US citizens' and residents' banking and financial data has been illegally searched and stored. And the breach, some sources said, extended to other intelligence agencies, such as the National Security Agency, whose officers used the Treasury's intelligence division as an illegal back door to gain access to American citizens' financial records. The NSA said that any allegations that it "is operating outside of its authorities and knowingly violating U.S. persons' privacy and civil liberties is categorically false."

In response to detailed questions, the Treasury Department at first issued a one-sentence reply stating that its various branches "operate in a manner consistent with applicable legal authorities." Several hours after this story published, the department issued a more forceful denial : "The BuzzFeed story is flat out wrong. An unsourced suggestion that an office within Treasury is engaged in illegal spying on Americans is unfounded and completely off-base." It added that "OIA and FinCEN share important information and operate within the bounds of statute."

Still, the Treasury Department's Office of the Inspector General said it has launched a review of the issue. Rich Delmar, a lawyer in that office, offered no further comment.

But a senior Treasury official, who is not authorized to speak on the matter so requested anonymity, did not mince words: "This is domestic spying."

Sources said the spying had been going on under President Barack Obama, but the Donald Trump appointees who now control how the department conducts intelligence operations are Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Sigal Mandelker.

At issue is the collection and dissemination of information from a vast database of mostly US citizens' banking and financial records that banks turn over to the government each day. Banks and other financial institutions are required, under the Bank Secrecy Act of 1970, to report suspicious transactions and cash transactions over $10,000. The database is maintained by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN , a bank regulator charged with combatting money laundering, terrorist financing, and other financial crimes. Under the law, it has unfettered powers to peruse and retain the data.

In contrast to FinCEN, Treasury's intelligence division, known as the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, or OIA, is charged with monitoring suspicious financial activity that occurs outside the US. Under a seminal Reagan-era executive order, a line runs through the Treasury Department and all other federal agencies separating law enforcement, which targets domestic crimes, from intelligence agencies, which focus on foreign threats and can surveil US citizens only in limited ways and by following stringent guidelines.

FinCEN officials have accused their counterparts at OIA, an intelligence unit, of violating this separation by illegally collecting and retaining domestic financial information from the banking database. Some sources have also charged that OIA analysts have, in a further legal breach, been calling up financial institutions to make inquiries about individual bank accounts and transactions involving US citizens. Sources said the banks have complied with the requests because they are under the impression they are giving the information to FinCEN, which they are required to do.

One source recalled an instance from 2016 in which OIA personnel, inserting themselves into a domestic money-laundering case, sought information from a Delaware financial institution. In other cases, according to a second source, FinCEN gave OIA reports with the names of US citizens and companies blacked out. OIA obtained those names by calling the banks, then used those names to search the banking database for more information on those American citizens and firms. "This is such an invasion of privacy." -- Treasury Department official

Sources also claimed that OIA has opened a back door to officers from other intelligence agencies throughout the government, including the the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency. Officials from those agencies have been coming to work at OIA for short periods of time, sometimes for as little as a week, and thereby getting unrestricted access to information on US citizens that they otherwise could not collect without strict oversight.

"This is such an invasion of privacy," said another Treasury Department official, who, lacking authorization to speak on the matter, asked not to be named. This person predicted that banks "would lose their minds" if they knew that their customers' records were being used by government intelligence officers who did not have the legal authority to do so.

The Defense Intelligence Agency did not respond to a request for comment. CIA spokesman Dean Boyd said, "Suggestions that the Agency may be improperly collecting and retaining US persons data through the mechanisms you described are completely inaccurate."

Sources claimed the unauthorized inspection and possession of Americans' financial data have been going on for years but only became controversial in 2016, when officials at FinCEN learned about it and began objecting. Early last year, Treasury's Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, which oversees OIA, proposed transferring much of FinCEN's work to OIA.

In a bureaucratic turf war, FinCEN officials objected to the proposal, which would have shifted numerous employees and a portion of FinCEN's budget to OIA. They said the move was illegal without prior approval from Congress.

[Sep 24, 2017] The New Monopolists While innovations in information technology have transformed how people live, work, and connect, the IT industry's growth pattern has contributed to a widening gap between rich and poor.

Notable quotes:
"... But, by enabling the rise of monopoly power, and by facilitating barriers to entry, the growth of IT has also had major negative economic, social, and political side effects, including the proliferation of "fake news." ..."
"... For starters, the very structure of the IT sector allows for the formation of monopoly power. IT has improved the processing, storage, and transmission of data, and IT innovators are the sole owners of major information channels that they actively work to prevent competitors from using. ..."
"... consolidate a dominant market position by issuing ongoing software updates that, by default, serve as barriers that are difficult for competitors to breach. When potential new technologies emerge, bigger firms often acquire their challengers, either to develop the competing technologies on their own, or to suppress them. ..."
"... Once an innovative firm establishes platform dominance, size becomes an advantage. Because the cost of processing and storing information has declined in recent years, a firm with a size advantage has smaller operating costs, and profits rise rapidly as the number of users multiplies (Google and Facebook are good examples). These cost and economies-of-scale advantages are almost impossible for competitors to overcome. ..."
"... In addition, because these firms derive their power from information, their positions are enhanced by their ability to use their customers' private information as a strategic asset. Indeed, many IT platforms are not producers in the traditional sense; they are public utilities that enable coordination and information-sharing among users in diverse fields. In short, IT enables the creation of barriers to market entry, and then encourages leading firms to become further entrenched. With the pace of IT innovation increasing, monopoly power is also rising. ..."
Sep 24, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

anne -> pgl... , September 23, 2017 at 02:49 PM

https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/monopoly-power-wealth-income-inequality-by-mordecai-kurz-1-2017-09

September 22, 2017

The New Monopolists
While innovations in information technology have transformed how people live, work, and connect, the IT industry's growth pattern has contributed to a widening gap between rich and poor. Addressing it will require new taxation schemes and modernization of antitrust legislation.
By MORDECAI KURZ

STANFORD – For more than 30 years in advanced economies, particularly the United States, wealth and income inequality have increased, real (inflation-adjusted) wages have risen slowly, and retirees have faced declining interest rates on savings. This has occurred while corporate profits and stock prices have risen sharply. Now, research I have conducted shows that these changes were primarily caused by the rise in modern information technology (IT).

IT has impacted the economy in myriad ways; the computer, the Internet, and mobile technology have transformed media, online retailing, the pharmaceutical industry, and countless other consumer-related services. IT has improved life enormously.

But, by enabling the rise of monopoly power, and by facilitating barriers to entry, the growth of IT has also had major negative economic, social, and political side effects, including the proliferation of "fake news."

For starters, the very structure of the IT sector allows for the formation of monopoly power. IT has improved the processing, storage, and transmission of data, and IT innovators are the sole owners of major information channels that they actively work to prevent competitors from using.

IT firms could defend their monopoly power through patents or by copyrighting intellectual property. But these routes require making trade secrets public. So, for strategic reasons, many firms forego legal protections, and consolidate a dominant market position by issuing ongoing software updates that, by default, serve as barriers that are difficult for competitors to breach. When potential new technologies emerge, bigger firms often acquire their challengers, either to develop the competing technologies on their own, or to suppress them.

Once an innovative firm establishes platform dominance, size becomes an advantage. Because the cost of processing and storing information has declined in recent years, a firm with a size advantage has smaller operating costs, and profits rise rapidly as the number of users multiplies (Google and Facebook are good examples). These cost and economies-of-scale advantages are almost impossible for competitors to overcome.

In addition, because these firms derive their power from information, their positions are enhanced by their ability to use their customers' private information as a strategic asset. Indeed, many IT platforms are not producers in the traditional sense; they are public utilities that enable coordination and information-sharing among users in diverse fields. In short, IT enables the creation of barriers to market entry, and then encourages leading firms to become further entrenched. With the pace of IT innovation increasing, monopoly power is also rising.

In a recent paper * measuring the economic effects of monopoly power, I approximated normal levels above which profits or stock values are not purely chance events, but rather reflective of monopoly power. With these levels, I measured the monopoly component of total stock values – what I call "monopoly wealth" – and of monopoly profits or rent. I then sought to determine how monopoly wealth and rent have evolved....

* http://web.stanford.edu/~mordecai/OnLinePdf/Formation%20of%20Capital%20and%20Wealth%20Draft%205%20%2007%202017.pdf

[Sep 23, 2017] Welcome to 1984 Big Brother Google Now Watching Your Every Political Move

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... Our willingness to place eternal faith in an earth-straddling company that oversees the largest collection of information ever assembled was doomed to end in a bitter divorce from the start. After all, each corporation, just like humans, has their own political proclivities, and Google is certainly no exception. But we aren't talking about your average car company here. ..."
"... Schmidt's grandiose vision, where there is just "one answer to every question," sounds like a chapter borrowed from Orwell's dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, where omnipresent Big Brother had an ironclad grip on history, news, information, everything. In such a intensely controlled, nightmarish world, individuals - as well as entire historical events - can be 'disappeared' down the memory hole without a trace. Though we've not quite reached that bad land yet, we're plodding along in that direction. ..."
"... Just before Americans headed to the polls in last year's presidential election, WikiLeaks delivered a well-timed steaming dump, revealing that Eric Schmidt had been working with the Democratic National Committee (DNC) as early as April 2014. ..."
"... The implications of the CEO of the world's most powerful company playing favorites in a presidential race are obvious, and make the Watergate scandal of the early 1970s resemble a rigged game of bingo at the local senior citizens center by comparison. Yet the dumbed-down world of American politics, which only seems to get excited when Republicans goof up, continued to turn on its wobbly axis as if nothing untold had occurred. ..."
"... Back to the 2016 campaign. Even CNN at the time was admitting that Google was Donald Trump's "biggest enemy." Indeed, not only was Schmidt apparently moonlighting for the DNC, his leftist company was actively shutting down information on the Republican front runner. At one point when Google users typed in a query for 'presidential candidates,' they got thousands of results for Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Missing in action from the search results, however, was, yes, Donald Trump. ..."
"... When NBC4 reached out to Google about the issue, a spokesperson said a "technical bug" was what caused Trump to disappear into the internet ether. Now, where have we heard the word "bug" before? It is worth wondering if this is what Eric Schmidt had in mind when he expressed his vision of a "one answer" Google search future? ..."
"... The fact that Trump - in direct contradiction to what the polls had been long predicting - ended up winning by such a huge margin, there is a temptation to say the polls themselves were 'fake news,' designed to convince the US voter that a Clinton landslide victory was forthcoming. This could have been a ploy by the pollsters, many of whom are affiliated with left-leaning news corporations, by the way, for keeping opposition voters at home in the belief their vote wouldn't matter. In fact, statisticians were warning of a "systemic mainstream misinformation" in poll data favoring Clinton in the days and weeks before Election day. Yet the Leftist brigade, in cahoots with the Googlers, were busy nurturing their own fervent conspiracy theory that 'fake news' - with some help from the Russians, of course - was the reason for Hillary Clinton's devastating defeat. ..."
"... Just one month after Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States, purportedly on the back of "fake news," Google quietly launched Project Owl, the goal of which was to devise a method to "demote misleading, false and offensive articles online," according to a Bloomberg report . The majority of the crackdown will be carried out by machines. Now here is where we enter the rat's nest. After all, what one news organization, or alternative news site, might consider legitimate news and information, another news group, possibly from the mainstream media, would dismiss as a conspiracy theory. And vice versa. ..."
"... With this masterly sleight of hand, did you notice what happened? We are no longer talking about the whereabouts of Clinton's estimated 33,000 deleted emails , nor are we discussing how the DNC worked behind the scenes to derail Bernie Sanders' chances at being a presidential candidate. Far worse, we are not considering the tragic fate of a young man named Seth Rich, the now-deceased DNC staffer who was gunned down in Washington, DC on July 10, 2016. Some news sites say Rich was preparing to testify against the DNC for "voter fraud," while others say that was contrived nonsense. ..."
"... "In the months since his murder, Rich has become an obsession of the far right, an unwilling martyr to a discredited cause," Newsweek commented . "On social media sites like Reddit and news outlets like World Net Daily, it is all but an article of faith that Rich, who worked for the Democratic National Committee, was the source who gave DNC emails to WikiLeaks, for which he was slain, presumably, by Clinton operatives. If that were to be true!and it very clearly isn't!the faithful believe it would invalidate any accusations that Donald J. Trump's campaign colluded with Russia in tilting the election toward him." ..."
"... Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? ..."
"... Unsurprisingly, Mr. Pichai and his increasingly Orwellian company already stand accused of censorship, following the outrageous decision to bar former Congressman Ron Paul and his online news program, Liberty Report, from receiving advertising revenue for a number of videos which Paul recently posted. ..."
"... Dr. Ron Paul would never be confused as a dangerous, far-right loony. Paul is a 12-term ex-congressman and three-time presidential candidate. However, he is popular among his supporters for views that often contradict those of Washington's political establishment, especially on issues of war and peace. Now if squeaky clean Ron Paul can't get a fair hearing before the Google/YouTube tribunal, what are chances for average commentators? "We have no violence, no foul language, no political extremism, no hate or intolerance," Daniel McAdams, co-producer of the Ron Paul Liberty Report, told RT America. "Our program is simply a news analysis discussion from a libertarian and antiwar perspective." ..."
"... In light of this inquisition against free speech and free thought, it is no surprise that more voices are calling for Google, and other massive online media, like Facebook and Amazon, to become nationalized for the public good. ..."
"... "If we don't take over today's platform monopolies, we risk letting them own and control the basic infrastructure of 21st-century society," wrote Nick Srnicek, a lecturer in the digital economy at King's College London. ..."
Sep 23, 2017 | ronpaulinstitute.org

Google has taken the unprecedented step of burying material, mostly from websites on the political right, that it has deemed to be inappropriate. The problem, however, is that the world's largest search engine is a left-leaning company with an ax to grind.

Let's face it, deep down in our heart of hearts we knew the honeymoon wouldn't last forever. Our willingness to place eternal faith in an earth-straddling company that oversees the largest collection of information ever assembled was doomed to end in a bitter divorce from the start. After all, each corporation, just like humans, has their own political proclivities, and Google is certainly no exception. But we aren't talking about your average car company here.

The first sign Google would eventually become more of a political liability than a public utility was revealed in 2005 when CEO Eric Schmidt (who is now executive chairman of Alphabet, Inc , Google's parent company) sat down with interviewer Charlie Rose, who asked Schmidt to explain "where the future of search is going."

Schmidt's response should have triggered alarm bells across the free world. "Well, when you use Google, do you get more than one answer," Schmidt asked rhetorically, before answering deceptively: "Of course you do. Well, that's a bug. We have more bugs per second in the world. We should be able to give you the right answer just once... and we should never be wrong."

Really?

Think about that for a moment. Schmidt believes, counter-intuitively, that getting multiple possible choices for any one Google query is not the desirable prospect it should be (aren't consumers always in search of more variety?), but rather a "bug" that should be duly squashed underfoot. Silly mortal, you should not expect more than one answer for every question because the almighty Google, our modern-day Oz, "should never be wrong!" This is the epitome of corporate hubris. And it doesn't require much imagination to see that such a master plan will only lead to a colossal whitewashing of the historic record.

For example, if a Google user performs a search request for - oh, I don't know - "what caused the Iraq War 2003," he or she would be given, according to Schmidt's algorithmic wet dream, exactly one canned answer. Any guesses on what that answer would be? I think it's safe to say the only acceptable answer would be the state-sanctioned conspiracy theory that Saddam Hussein was harboring weapons of mass destruction, an oft-repeated claim we now know to be patently false . The list of other such complicated events that also demand more than one answer - from the Kennedy assassination to the Gulf of Tonkin incident - could be continued for many pages.

Schmidt's grandiose vision, where there is just "one answer to every question," sounds like a chapter borrowed from Orwell's dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, where omnipresent Big Brother had an ironclad grip on history, news, information, everything. In such a intensely controlled, nightmarish world, individuals - as well as entire historical events - can be 'disappeared' down the memory hole without a trace. Though we've not quite reached that bad land yet, we're plodding along in that direction.

That much became disturbingly clear ever since Donald Trump routed Hillary Clinton for the presidency. This surprise event became the bugle call for Google to wage war on 'fake news' outlets, predominantly on the political right.

'Like being gay in the 1950s'

Just before Americans headed to the polls in last year's presidential election, WikiLeaks delivered a well-timed steaming dump, revealing that Eric Schmidt had been working with the Democratic National Committee (DNC) as early as April 2014. This news came courtesy of a leaked email from John Podesta, former chairman of the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, who wrote:

I met with Eric Schmidt tonight. As David reported, he's ready to fund, advise recruit talent, etc. He was more deferential on structure than I expected. Wasn't pushing to run through one of his existing firms. Clearly wants to be head outside advisor, but didn't seem like he wanted to push others out. Clearly wants to get going...
The implications of the CEO of the world's most powerful company playing favorites in a presidential race are obvious, and make the Watergate scandal of the early 1970s resemble a rigged game of bingo at the local senior citizens center by comparison. Yet the dumbed-down world of American politics, which only seems to get excited when Republicans goof up, continued to turn on its wobbly axis as if nothing untold had occurred.

Before continuing our trip down memory lane, let's fast forward a moment for a reality check. Google's romance with the US political left is not a matter of conjecture. In fact, it has just become the subject of a released internal memo penned by one James Damore, a former Google engineer. In the 10-point memo, Damore discussed at length the extreme liberal atmosphere that pervades Google, saying that being a conservative in the Silicon Valley sweat shop was like "being gay in the 1950s."

"We have... this monolithic culture where anyone with a dissenting view can't even express themselves. Really, it's like being gay in the 1950s. These conservatives have to stay in the closet and have to mask who they really are. And that's a huge problem because there's open discrimination against anyone who comes out of the closet as a conservative."

Beyond the quirky, laid back image of a Google campus, where "Googlers" enjoy free food and foot massages, lies a "monolithic culture where anyone with a dissenting view can't even express themselves," says Damore, who was very cynically fired from Google for daring to express a personal opinion. That is strange.

Although Google loudly trumpets its multicultural diversity in terms of its hiring policy, it clearly has a problem dealing with a diversity of opinion. That attitude does not seem to bode well for a search engine company that must remain impartial on all matters - political or otherwise.

Back to the 2016 campaign. Even CNN at the time was admitting that Google was Donald Trump's "biggest enemy." Indeed, not only was Schmidt apparently moonlighting for the DNC, his leftist company was actively shutting down information on the Republican front runner. At one point when Google users typed in a query for 'presidential candidates,' they got thousands of results for Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Missing in action from the search results, however, was, yes, Donald Trump.

When NBC4 reached out to Google about the issue, a spokesperson said a "technical bug" was what caused Trump to disappear into the internet ether. Now, where have we heard the word "bug" before? It is worth wondering if this is what Eric Schmidt had in mind when he expressed his vision of a "one answer" Google search future?

In any case, this brings to the surface another disturbing question that is directly linked to the 'fake news' accusations, which in turn is fueling Google's crackdown on the free flow of news from the political right today.

In the run up to the 2016 presidential election, poll after poll predicted a Clinton landslide victory. Of course, nothing of the sort materialized, as even traditional Democratic strongholds , like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan pulled the lever for Trump. As the Economist reported :

On the eve of America's presidential election, national surveys gave Hillary Clinton a lead of around four percentage points, which betting markets and statistical models translated into a probability of victory ranging from 70 percent to 99 percent.
The fact that Trump - in direct contradiction to what the polls had been long predicting - ended up winning by such a huge margin, there is a temptation to say the polls themselves were 'fake news,' designed to convince the US voter that a Clinton landslide victory was forthcoming. This could have been a ploy by the pollsters, many of whom are affiliated with left-leaning news corporations, by the way, for keeping opposition voters at home in the belief their vote wouldn't matter. In fact, statisticians were warning of a "systemic mainstream misinformation" in poll data favoring Clinton in the days and weeks before Election day. Yet the Leftist brigade, in cahoots with the Googlers, were busy nurturing their own fervent conspiracy theory that 'fake news' - with some help from the Russians, of course - was the reason for Hillary Clinton's devastating defeat.

Who will guard us against the Google guardians?

Just one month after Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States, purportedly on the back of "fake news," Google quietly launched Project Owl, the goal of which was to devise a method to "demote misleading, false and offensive articles online," according to a Bloomberg report . The majority of the crackdown will be carried out by machines. Now here is where we enter the rat's nest. After all, what one news organization, or alternative news site, might consider legitimate news and information, another news group, possibly from the mainstream media, would dismiss as a conspiracy theory. And vice versa.

In other words, what we have here is a battle for the misty mountain top of information, and Google appears to be paving the way for its preferred candidate, which is naturally the mainstream media. In other words, Google has a dog in this fight, but it shouldn't. Here is how they have succeeded in pushing for their crackdown on news and information.

The mainstream media almost immediately began peddling the fake news story as to why Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump. In fact, it even started before Clinton lost the election after Trump jokingly told a rally: "I will tell you this, Russia: If you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing... I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press." The Democrats, of course, found no humor in the remark. Indeed, they began pushing the fake news story, with help from the likes of Amazon-owned Washington Post, that it was Russians who hacked the DNC email system and passed along the information to WikiLeaks, who then dumped it at the most inopportune time for the Democrats.

With this masterly sleight of hand, did you notice what happened? We are no longer talking about the whereabouts of Clinton's estimated 33,000 deleted emails , nor are we discussing how the DNC worked behind the scenes to derail Bernie Sanders' chances at being a presidential candidate. Far worse, we are not considering the tragic fate of a young man named Seth Rich, the now-deceased DNC staffer who was gunned down in Washington, DC on July 10, 2016. Some news sites say Rich was preparing to testify against the DNC for "voter fraud," while others say that was contrived nonsense.

According to the mainstream media, in this case, Newsweek, only batshit crazy far-right conspiracy sites could ever believe Seth Rich leaked the Clinton emails.

"In the months since his murder, Rich has become an obsession of the far right, an unwilling