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Last week we wrote about the USTR suggesting that any attempt by the European Union to create its own local cloud in order to minimize surveillance by the NSA would violate trade agreements. This has not gone down well with European politicians, parti… Continue reading
Nature has a few examples of animals coming back to life after appearing to be dead — and not just pretending to be dead, but actually surviving a state of very low metabolism. There are even a few bizarre news reports about people coming back to life. (Ahem, and we’re not referring to a certain someone who is well-known for Easter.) Here are just a few examples of seemingly-extreme resuscitation.
- North American wood frogs can freeze solid and appear dead, until they thaw in the spring and get down to business. The trick is to thaw in the right way. If a frog’s brain thawed before its heart did, the frog would have some problems. [url]
- Hibernating black bears stay dormant for 5-7 months without eating, drinking or doing much of anything. However, a hibernating bear’s body temperature doesn’t drop much — about 10 °F — even though the bear’s metabolism is at about 25% of its normal rate. [url]
- There are a few companies working on cryonics — freezing people who believe they can be revived when medical technology is much more advanced. Maybe these people are hoping to meet Erin Gray someday…. [url]
If you’d like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post via StumbleUpon.
Snowden’s puzzling single-question Q&A with Russian president Vladimir Putin on the topic of domestic surveillance prompted many to believe this was an indication that he was, at the very least, under control of Russian intelligence, if not actually acting in concert with it. Putin took the apparent softball and lined it right down the middle, responding with a series of statements and denials that made Russia appear to be the antithesis of the US government: tightly controlled intelligence built on respect for its citizens’ privacy.
As Snowden later clarified, he was pulling a Wyden — crafting a question about the mass collection and storage of communications that would either result in transparency or an easily-disproven denial. Putin delivered the latter.
“Mr Snowden you are a former agent, a spy, I used to work for a intelligence service, we are going to talk the same language.”
He said Russia did not have a comparable programme, stating: “Our agents are controlled by law. You have to get court permission to put an individual under surveillance. We don’t have mass permission, and our law makes it impossible for that kind of mass permission to exist.”
Putin’s response was laughable. After all, his nation’s intelligence services originally put the “surveillance” in Surveillance State. In the USSR, along with the Eastern Bloc, citizens were very closely watched and routinely punished for not toeing the Party line.
Not much has changed, even if Russia is nominally a “free” country. The Russian Federal Service for Telecoms Supervision (Roskomnazdor) is continually expanding its internet censorship efforts and Russian intelligence services have made public announcements about their surveillance plans, like the collection of all foreign communications during the Sochi Olympics.
While Roskomnazdor mans the front door, Russian intelligence lets itself in the back, according to information gathered by Privacy International.
When the Soviet Union collapsed, many of the KGB’s regional branches became the security services of the newly independent states. But they didn’t stray far from the Kremlin’s lead. They modeled their governing laws after Moscow’s, and used similar technology, too. Namely, SORM — Russia’s nationwide system of automated and remote legal interception on all kinds of communications.
SORM’s tactical and technical foundations were developed by a KGB research institute in the mid-1980s. Initially SORM was installed on analogue telephone lines. As new technologies developed, SORM did, as well.
Today SORM-1 intercepts telephone traffic, including mobile networks, while SORM-2 is responsible for intercepting internet traffic, including VoIP. SORM-3 gathers information from all communication media, and offers long-term storage (three years), providing access to all data on subscribers. In addition, SORM enables the use of mobile control points, a laptop that can be plugged directly into communication hubs and immediately intercept and record the operator’s traffic.
SORM also proved essential to spy on social networks based in Russia. “We can use SORM to take stuff off their servers behind their backs,” an FSB official told us. According to figures published by Russia’s Supreme Court, over the last five years the number of legal telephone intercepts alone has almost doubled, from 265,937 intercepts and recordings of phone calls and e-mails to 466,152 in 2011.
Going back to Putin’s statement, he claims that “court permission” is needed to put someone under surveillance. From the above paragraph, that statement would appear to be true. But further digging into SORM reveals that court orders and warrants are little more than surveillance blank checks.
In Russia, an FSB operative is also required to get an eavesdropping warrant, but he is not obliged to show it to anyone. Telecom providers have no right to demand that the FSB show them the warrant. The providers are required to pay for the SORM equipment and its installation, but they are denied access to the surveillance boxes.
Thus, the FSB does not need to contact the ISP’s staff; instead the security service calls on the special controller at the FSB HQ that is connected by a protected cable directly to the SORM device installed on the ISP network. This system is copied all over the country: In every Russian town there are protected underground cables, which connect the HQ of the local FSB department with all ISPs and telecom providers in the region.
If the FSB needs to add targets to its existing “tap,” it doesn’t need to notify the court. The agent in place simply updates the SORM control device. So, one controller and one court order can easily trap the communications of an unlimited number of citizens, all without anyone but SORM knowing who’s being surveilled. This technology has made its way to the former Eastern Bloc (which hasn’t made those countries happy) and has been deployed to intercept communications from political opponents. The more things change, the more Russian intelligence appears to be happy to return to its KGB heyday.
Beyond the fact that Putin’s answer was simply (and knowingly) false, there’s also the fact that his denials echo those delivered by NSA and GCHQ officials. Whenever a new leak surfaces, the routine denial is dispensed. Here’s GCHQ’s canned response:
[A]ll of GCHQ’s work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight…
Putin basically says the same thing while denying information that’s already been made public. According to him, it’s all legal and subject to oversight, something that clearly isn’t the case. Certainly Snowden expected a canned answer, and he got one — one in which Putin lied about his intelligence agency’s capabilities and tactics. At one point, we in the US (and the UK) could have mocked such a clearly false denial, but after the events of the past nine months, we no longer have that luxury.
The problem isn’t that we don’t expect Russia’s government to have made a sea change in its relationship with its citizens. The problem is that we didn’t expect ours had. Putting this on Snowden’s head because a softball question was handled with a PR-savvy answer doesn’t make him complicit with the FSB’s surveillance activities. But our politicians and government agencies have made us unwillingly complicit with our own. “Legality” and “oversight” are mere buzzwords in the hands of surveillance state defenders. The words don’t mean what they used to… if they ever meant anything at all.
More evidence is being uncovered indicating that if the government wants access to privileged attorney-client communications, it will find a way to do so. This new incident, tied to the 9/11 trials, follows the news that the NSA gave Australian intelligence the go-ahead to intercept communications between an American lawyer and his Indonesian clients.
This previous incident resulted in the American Bar Association sending a letter to the NSA asking it to uphold the sanctity of attorney-clients communications. Gen. Alexander’s response was basically “of course we respect that, but we grab so much stuff there’s no way for us to guarantee we’ll never intercept privileged communications.” Not much in the way of reassurance there, and this following story shows there’s even less reason to believe that investigative and national security agencies won’t insert themselves into the attorney-client relationship.
Two weeks ago, a pair of F.B.I. agents appeared unannounced at the door of a member of the defense team for one of the men accused of plotting the 9/11 terrorist attacks. As a contractor working with the defense team at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the man was bound by the same confidentiality rules as a lawyer. But the agents wanted to talk.
They asked questions, lawyers say, about the legal teams for Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and other accused terrorists who will eventually stand trial before a military tribunal at Guantánamo. Before they left, the agents asked the contractor to sign an agreement promising not to tell anyone about the conversation.
With that signature, Mr. bin al-Shibh’s lawyers say, the government turned a member of their team into an F.B.I. informant.
There’s not much more available detail-wise, as the defense’s motion informing the court of this subversion is — like most of the documents related to this trial — under seal. But everything leading up to this new revelation indicates the government views this trial to be a forum where the normal rules just don’t apply.
To begin with, this was never meant to be much more than a show trial. The special tribunal system was set up by President Bush after the 9/11 attacks, specifically for suspected terrorists. (Despite the stacked deck — foreign terrorism suspects aren’t afforded the same legal protections as US citizens — the court has yet to secure a conviction in its 12+ years of existence.) This special system has resulted in several instances of access to attorney-client communications, some intentional and others (supposedly) more inadvertent.
Last year, the government acknowledged that microphones were hidden inside what looked like smoke detectors in the rooms where detainees met with their lawyers. Those microphones gave officials the ability to eavesdrop on confidential conversations, but the military said it never did so…
A botched computer update gave prosecutors and defense lawyers access to the other side’s confidential work. And the Pentagon acknowledged inadvertently searching and copying defense lawyers’ emails but said nobody read them.
And it’s not just the defense that’s bothered by these incidents.
Christopher Jenks, a Southern Methodist University law professor and a former military prosecutor, said he sympathized with the Guantánamo prosecutors, who appeared to have been just as surprised as defense lawyers by the appearance of the F.B.I. and C.I.A. in their cases.
But even more troubling is the fact that an agency supposedly uninvolved in the proceedings has gone so far as to subvert the judicial process altogether.
Last year, as a lawyer for Mr. Mohammed was speaking during another hearing, a red light began flashing. Then the videofeed from the courtroom abruptly cut out. The emergency censorship system had been activated. But why? And by whom? The defense lawyer had said nothing classified. And the court officer responsible for protecting state secrets had not triggered the system. Days later, the military judge, Col. James L. Pohl, announced that he had been told that an “original classification authority” — meaning the C.I.A. — was secretly monitoring the proceedings. Unknown to everyone else, the agency had its own button, which the judge swiftly and angrily disconnected.
After witnessing the amount of effort the CIA has made in order to thwart the release of the torture report, it’s of no surprise that it tried to control the narrative here as well. It’s also no surprise the agency feels it should defer to no one, not even a presidentially-directed tribunal.
The government does have a little more leeway, considering these aren’t your normal, subject-to-due-process trials, but it’s still problematic that despite the advantages of a quasi-tribunal set up by a presidential order in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, government investigative agencies still feel compelled to not only insert themselves into the process, but to subvert client-attorney privilege on top of it. All’s fair in the War on Terror, it would appear, even when those suspects are safely locked up and going into their second decade of detention as the broken process labors on.
A New York University trustee has found a way to chill speech critical of him and the companies he owns: subpoena the personal emails of two particularly outspoken opponents.
A New York University Law trustee’s company wants two students to hand over their personal emails after they circulated a letter criticizing him, according to a subpoena.
The law students, second-year Luke Herrine and first-year Leo Gertner, were targeted after they helped circulate a letter denouncing NYU Law School trustee Daniel Straus, who owns Care One Management, a home health aide and nursing home company embroiled in a labor dispute.
The two students started a petition asking for the removal of Straus from the Board of Trustees, pointing out that a law school should probably be associated with someone who respects the law, something Straus’ companies seem to have trouble doing. His two companies, CareOne and HealthBridge Management, have been cited at least 38 times by the National Labor Relations Board for violating federal labor laws. In addition, HealthBridge was held in contempt of court for refusing to allow 600 workers to return to their jobs at their pre-strike pay levels.
CareOne’s current legal battle with a local labor union, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), something that has dragged on for years at this point, has seemingly turned into a convenient way for Straus to get back at his critics. Of course, CareOne claims otherwise.
CareOne spokesperson Deborah Maxson said the deadline for the requested information is April 25.
“Straus is not a party to the lawsuit and is not managing the litigation,” Maxson said.
Straus may not be a party to this lawsuit, but these are his companies, and there can be very little doubt that Straus would prefer the ongoing criticism of his business efforts be halted. If CareOne wants to use the excuse that Straus isn’t a “party” to this lawsuit, then it needs to extend that same courtesy to the two students, who also aren’t a “party” to the ongoing legal fight.
Then there’s the content sought by the subpoenas. This, too, mentions Straus directly, even as CareOne claims this has nothing to do with him. According to a letter sent by the Board of Trustees to NYU administration, this is what CareOne is hoping to obtain:
“The subpoenas requested information regarding any contact the students may have had with SEIU and any activity they may have engaged in, such as protests or meetings, relating to Mr. Straus or CareOne…”
If Straus isn’t “party” to this lawsuit, why does CareOne need information relating to Straus? Beyond that, the information requested bears all the hallmarks of trying to use the power of the court to silence free speech. Protests and meetings, both activities covered by the First Amendment, are mentioned specifically by the subpoena.
For what it’s worth, NYU has stepped up and has provided the students with the pro bono help of one of the school’s lawyers. It also issued a very carefully-worded defense of the students, no doubt mindful of Straus’ $1.25 million annual endowment.
“The Law School is not a party to the litigation between Care One and SEIU, and will remain uninvolved in it,” the school wrote in a statement to DNAinfo New York sent Thursday. “We vigorously support the right of our students to express their views and to organize and participate in lawful demonstrations and other protest activity, at the same time that we acknowledge that parties to litigation are permitted, subject to applicable rules and judicial oversight, to gather evidence in support of their case.”
Further statements reiterated NYU’s support for its students’ rights but also noted it considered Straus to be an “upright and honorable person.”
That said, it seems that there is a clear — and somewhat massive — conflict of interest for Straus to remain on the board of trustees at NYU Law at the same time he’s using the legal process to demand the email contents from two of its students.
As is noted by the students’ new petition demanding the withdrawal of the subpoenas, this sort of activity, undertaken by a “victim” of criticism, will discourage others from approaching anything remotely controversial.
Forcing students to turn over emails and other private communications in litigation that does not concern them can chill free speech on campus and make students think twice about raising their voice about controversial issues. This is antithetical to NYU’s mission of open academic inquiry and commitment to the public interest.
Rather than address these concerns, Straus is allowing (or directing) his company to shut down his critics by seeking personal communications from non-party NYU students. Straus also has additional leverage with the university should this fail to keep future criticism at bay. Of course, there’s always a chance NYU will side with the students and decide that Straus’ companies don’t really reflect the culture it’s trying to instill in its students. But until this all plays out, we’re just witnessing the sort of tactics deployed by entities who would rather shut people up than address their concerns.
A few weeks back, I read a Washington Post story “Inside the admissions process at George Washington University” and noted this interesting tidbit towards the end:
GW also asks students to list a role model and two words to describe themselves. As for herself, Freitag said, she would list “Martha Stewart/Tina Fey” and “sassy/classy.” This year, she’s seeing a lot of Edward Snowden citations.
I had thought about writing it up, but decided it was a pretty small thing, really. It’s not secret that, as a group, younger people have a much more favorable impression of Snowden than older people.
However, apparently it set off alarm bells in James Clapper’s head. He recently gave a keynote speech at the GEOINT conference, and used the opportunity to vent about stupid kids and their stupid love of that stupid Ed Snowden. And apparently he’s going to be doing a lot of that.
“An admissions officer from George Washington University told The Post that for the admissions’ essay question, ‘Who’s your personal hero?’ the admissions officer observed that she was seeing a lot more of Edward Snowden citations. And the idea that young people see Edward Snowden as a hero really bothers me. So I thought I needed to talk about Snowden at Georgetown and Georgia and I am going to do the same elsewhere at colleges and universities.”
His attempts to do so in the speech, not surprisingly, really seem to fall flat. He claims that “despite being a geezer” he gets why you stupid kids like Snowden:
“I understand that a lot of young people see Snowden as a courageous whistleblower standing up to authority. I personally believe that whistleblowing in its highest form takes an incredible amount of courage and integrity. But Snowden isn’t a whistleblower,”
To prove this, Clapper comes up with an example of a whistleblower that he thinks “did it right.” The army reservist who alerted others to the photos of Abu Ghraib prisoners being abused. And that guy is a whistleblower too. But just because one whistleblower did things one way doesn’t discount the experience of other whistleblowers. And the reason so many people look up to Ed Snowden and see him as a hero is that, unlike the Abu Ghraib situation, with the NSA setup, basically the whole system was stacked against him. Clapper insists Snowden had legitimate paths to go down.
“Snowden said he felt NSA’s surveillance program was being used to violate privacy and civil liberties. If that was his concern, he had a lot of options on where to go with it. He could have reported it to seniors at NSA, which he didn’t do,”
Of course, Snowden claims that this is a lie and that he did raise concerns through the proper channels, only to have them ignored.
“There’s an inspector general for NSA and another one for the entire intelligence community. My office has a civil liberties and privacy protection officer. Snowden could also have gone to the Justice Department or the Congress. And as we’ve seen Snowden is superb at finding information so I think he could have tracked those people down had he given it a little thought,”
Of course, the inspector general for the NSA has since made it clear that if Snowden had complained to him, he would have shut him down and insisted there was nothing to worry about. Okay, so what about the one for the entire intelligence community? You mean the one that has rejected Congress’ request to investigate the NSA? Congress? Considering how much difficulty Senators Wyden and Udall had in getting anyone to listen to them over the past few years, that was clearly a dead end. The Justice Department has also been equally complicit in the whole thing, since the NSA works hand in hand with the FBI, and the DOJ itself is the one that goes to the FISA Court to request these secret interpretations of US law.
It’s pretty clear that the options Clapper listed were not options at all if you really believed that the intelligence community was in the wrong (as over half of the American public now believes). And of course, that’s what Clapper really means here. He would have been much, much happier if Snowden had gone down a path that would have completely buried his concerns, making sure there was no debate about the US’s creeping surveillance state, dismissal of the 4th Amendment and increasingly secret interpretation of laws to spy on everyone. And I’m sure he would have been a lot happier to never have had the fact that he flat out lied to Congress revealed.
Clapper also repeated the old saw that because of the leaks, those darn terrorists are changing how they communicate:
“We’re beginning to see changes in the communications behavior of our adversaries, particularly and most disturbingly terrorists, a trend that I anticipate will continue. And as a consequence our nation is less safe and our people less secure.”
Of course, as Kevin Gosztola points out, the same claim has been made for nearly a year, so it’s a bit bizarre to have Clapper say now that they’re just “beginning” to see changes. Even more to the point, these claims are almost certainly bullshit anyway. Elsewhere, when no press was around, Clapper has admitted that the NSA isn’t actually concerned about terrorists changing their communications practices, saying that they can track them just fine. Furthermore, the idea that any of the revelations really changed how terrorists view their communications habits seems unlikely. As we’ve pointed out a few times, it’s pretty clear that terrorists were well aware of our intelligence capabilities over a decade ago, and have acted accordingly.
The only new thing that has really been shown is how the US uses these same techniques across nearly all American citizens, as well as friends and allies.
Finally, as Gosztola points out, Clapper’s real guffaw-inducing statement in the speech is to argue that his “major takeaway from this whole experience though has been the need for transparency” followed by him taking credit for “the decision to declassify more than 2000 pages of documents beginning last summer because the best way to deal with the misconceptions that had resulted from the leaks was to increase transparency.” Except, as we’ve pointed out a few times, nearly all of the documents he’s released have not been because of any major epiphany by Clapper, but because of lawsuits from the EFF, ACLU and others, something Clapper’s office almost never admits (though, the last few releases have sometimes acknowledged it — the last one only acknowledged it on Twitter, though).
And trying not to gag while reading this:
But the same transparency that reassures our citizens comes with a cost. It hurts our capabilities because our adversaries go to school on that very transparency. But when we boil it all down, we felt I felt we needed to pay that cost. Even if it meant losing some sources and methods, we need to engage in the kind of national conversation that free societies have – to correct misunderstandings that lead to false allegations in the media and to counter misperceptions that the IC work force is violating civil liberties. So we made the painful choice to declassify critical documents in the interest of being more transparent
Yeah, right. There’s a reason people think Ed Snowden is a hero and James Clapper is a lousy liar. And this little tour to try to convince students otherwise isn’t likely to change that.
Why Is The US Gov’t Arguing In The Supreme Court To Reshape The Internet The Way Broadcasters Want It?
This is hardly a surprise, given that we’d already covered the brief submitted by the US Solicitor General’s office in support of the broadcasters and against Aereo, but the Supreme Court has agreed to allow the office to argue in court tomorrow in the Aereo case. Again, not surprisingly, the Solicitor General’s office tends to have a lot of sway with the Supreme Court, so this is effectively the US government tipping the scales of justice in favor of Hollywood and against the internet, where the impact of a ruling against Aereo may be quite severe.
The Solicitor General’s office has argued that a ruling for Hollywood won’t impact the cloud, basically because they say so. But, as we’ve discussed, its argument there is truly bizarre, in that it just asserts that such a ruling “need not” impact the cloud, and never bothers to address the many reasons it will absolutely impact the cloud. In fact, many of the other briefs in support of the broadcasters’ position insist that the broadcasters should win because all those other companies can “just get a license.” Now think about that for a second. Imagine using your Dropbox if nothing can be uploaded until Dropbox confirms it has a license for the work. Right. That’s not going to work.
And, of course, this is what this case is all about. Broadcasters have always hated the internet, because they can’t control it. Broadcasters have spent decades honing a business model that is based around a “broadcast” model. That is, they send out a signal, and the masses “consume” it. The internet has shaken that up in so many ways, because the internet is not a broadcast system. It’s a communications system that allows anyone to communicate with anyone. For decades now, broadcasters have worked hard to reshape the internet into a better “broadcast” medium. That’s what nearly every copyright challenge is about. Giving more control to the big broadcasters, while making it harder for the everyday internet user to do anything online without getting it shut down.
Stifling cloud computing by pushing for every bit of content — even those totally in control of an individual user — to be “licensed” is just the latest such attempt to stifle the internet as a communications medium of the people, and to push it to be a broadcast medium for a few giant entertainment companies.
So, really, the big question is why anyone thinks it’s appropriate at all for the US government to weigh in here. We’ve already noted the significant conflict of interest in that the Solicitor General himself, Donald Verrilli, spent many years as Hollywood’s top lawyer, even arguing in the Supreme Court on some key copyright cases. And while he recused himself from all of this, it at least smacks of the “too cozy” relationship between Hollywood and the US government. Also recused is Verrilli’s top deputy who, prior to rejoining the government a few years ago, was a top lawyer at Jenner & Block, the very same law firm representing the broadcasters in this case. Yes, they’ve recused themselves, but given that it’s rather bizarre that the Solicitor General’s office decided to get involved in this case in the first place, it certainly raises eyebrows about the reasons.
This is a dispute where the US government really has no role joining in the proceedings, but it has decided to assert itself, solely on the side of broadcasters and against the internet. Seems like an odd choice for an administration that has claimed to be so internet savvy.
So, we already wrote about the RIAA’s big new legal attack on Pandora over royalties on pre-1972 sound recordings. The legal issues there are complex and convoluted, involving a mix of state common law along with federal copyright law. However, the RIAA has clearly decided that it’s not going to delve into the nuances there, preferring to go with totally bogus spin. This started with an opinion piece by SoundExchange’s CEO, in which he claimed that it was unfair that artists from pre-1972 works weren’t getting paid. And with the launch of this lawsuit, the RIAA is trotting out some artists who are making similarly bogus statements:
The RIAA circulated the lawsuit on Thursday along with quotes from artists or their heirs. “It’s an injustice that boggles the mind,” says Booker T. & the MG’s Steve Cropper. “Just like the programmers who deserve to be paid for their work, I deserve to be paid for mine.”
This depresses me, in part, because I’m a huge Steve Cropper fan — and have spent tons of money purchasing a variety of music from Booker T. & the MG’s over the years (and plenty of other of Cropper’s work both at Stax and elsewhere). However, this is a really unfortunate and misleading argument. It’s obviously an attempt to hit at those terrible “techies” at Pandora, implying that Pandora’s engineering staff continually gets paid for their work.
But it actually underlines how silly the RIAA’s argument is here. Because no Pandora programmer expects to get paid for his work 50 years from now. They get paid today to work today. And that’s it. If that person leaves Pandora tomorrow, then they don’t keep getting paid for it. Nor do they expect their children and grandchildren to keep getting paid for it. Booker T. and the MG’s biggest hit, Green Onions, came out in 1962. It would be great if Cropper could point to a programmer who is still getting paid for code he wrote in 1962. Because I would imagine it’s not a very big list.
This is also why many of the other quotes the RIAA is pushing concerning this effort are so misleading as well. Buddy Holly’s wife, Maria Elena Holly, rightly notes that “Many artists from the 1950s are retired and struggling to support themselves or have families or heirs who are trying to make ends meet.” That is, no doubt, true. But that’s a different issue. Copyright was never meant to be a welfare system for artists. It was never meant to keep paying them in retirement. It was meant to be an incentive to create, and once it worked, that was it. In fact, under the copyright laws that were in place in 1958 when Buddy Holly released his hit “Everyday,” the absolute longest that the copyright on that song could have lasted was 56 years. In other words, when Holly released that song, he knew that by 2014 (hmmm…) that song would be in the public domain. So it seems, well, a bit unseemly to suddenly be whining about it now.
In fact, I’m sure that many programmers from the 1950s are similarly “retired and struggling to support themselves or have families or heirs who are trying to make ends meet.” And many of those retired programmers created the underlying structure and systems for today’s computers and internet, which has created so much value for the world. But we don’t see them and their heirs whining about how the world owes them a living for work they did more than half a century ago.
And this is the problem. There are almost no professions in the world in which you get to do some work (even if it’s amazing work) half a century ago, and then still have people paying you for it today. To act like this is some sort of massive offense just seems silly and misguided.
Our nation’s singular focus on terrorism has led to various branches of the government and counterterrorism pundits declaring all sorts of things to be warning signs of terrorist activity. Here’s a short (but by no means all-inclusive) list of activities that are supposedly indicators of terrorism-in-progress.
- Staying in a hotel and doing any number of “odd” things. Like not using the hotel’s wifi, making requests in person at the front desk, not bringing enough baggage, using entrances/exits other than the one in the lobby area or turning down room service.
- Complaining about the TSA.
- Complaining about the water quality.
- Contributing to Wikileaks (or even frequenting the site).
- Deploying glitter during a protest.
- Being a journalist. (UK edition)
- Encrypting your data.
- Expressing dissatisfaction with government policies.
- Having “money problems.”
- Operating a food truck.
Now, here’s a new one to add to the list. If Lisa Monaco (White House Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor) is to be believed, nearly every parent, especially those with stereotypical teens in the household, is harboring potential terrorists.
“Parents might see sudden personality changes in their children at home—becoming confrontational. Religious leaders might notice unexpected clashes over ideological differences. Teachers might hear a student expressing an interest in traveling to a conflict zone overseas. Or friends might notice a new interest in watching or sharing violent material.”
That’s right, parents. If your child seems moody, unreceptive to your religious leanings, enjoys watching violent “material” or wants to travel nearly anywhere in the world (not a whole lot left outside of the First World that can’t be described as war-torn), he or she is your family’s very own “insider threat.”
Monaco understands this might be troubling for parents to hear, but it’s all for the best. Remember, parents: only you can prevent terrorism.
“The government is rarely in position to observe these early signals, so we need to do more to help communities understand the warning signs, and then work together to intervene before an incident can occur.”
The nation’s counterterrorism forces are profoundly sympathetic for these terrorist-raisers. They truly wish they could be in the position to catch these early warning signs, but our short-sighted predecessors have prevented them from observing first-hand, thanks to obstacles like the Third and Fourth Amendments.
Not to worry. As Monaco points out, the nation has mobilized parents’ neighbors against them, providing them with any number of see-something-say-something venues with which to turn in your confrontational, agnostic, R-rated movie-watching hellspawn — just in case you don’t love America enough to do it yourself.
Oh, and P.S.: the DHS reiterates its commitment to flooding small towns with military vehicles and weaponry.
Monaco said that in addition to citizen alertness, the Department of Homeland Security is increasing its partnerships across the country and making hundreds of millions of dollars in grant money available annually to local law enforcement to help improve anti-terrorism security at the municipal and county level.
A terrorist in every household and a military assault vehicle in every unincorporated township. USA! USA! USA!
The battle for countries wishing to take control over internet governance (either to increase control and censorship or to “reward” local state-owned telcos) didn’t end with the whole WCIT debacle a year and a half ago. It’s an ongoing process. This week is NETmundial, or the Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Governance, and the usual countries are making the usual noise about changing how internet governance works. There will be lots of talk about how meaningful these discussions will be, or if they’ll just be a “farce” to enable authoritarian governments more control. Either way, there are some important proposals and discussions happening at the event.
And some nutty ones.
Take, for example, India’s proposal that we rename the internet as the Equinet as a way to “challenge US hegemony.” Because that will do it.
In a major diplomatic initiative, India is all set to challenge the U.S.’ hegemony of the World Wide Web at a global meet on Internet governance in Sao Paulo (Brazil) next week. India has decided to propose renaming of Internet as ‘Equinet’ so that all nations can have equal say in its operations, besides calling for “internationalisation” of core Internet resources.
Of course, the naming bit is the smokescreen attention-grabber for the other point. Setting up so that “all nations” (note: not all people) can have a say in the operations of the internet is a specific attack on the so-called “multistakeholder” model that is currently in place, in which it’s not government entities making these decisions, but a broad group of folks from different backgrounds and specialties (including, many technical experts). Hand the internet over to “governments” and you have a recipe for disaster. If you want more evidence of how troubling this is, look at who India is “aligning itself” with in this proposal:
India is likely to side with Brazil, Russia, China, South Africa and Iran to make its point.
Brazil, which organized this event, has been pushing for stronger internet freedoms lately, but also has a history of going in the other direction. Russia, China and Iran, of course, are very much focused on greater control and censorship of the internet, not greater freedom.
There are lots of important things worth discussing concerning internet governance, but renaming the internet as a challenge to US control (which isn’t actually US control) is pretty silly. What’s much more concerning is the underlying attempt to give some authoritarian countries with long histories of censorship more direct control over the internet. Equinet sounds ridiculous, but Censornet may be more accurate.