The future of propaganda – Q&A about big data and the War of Ideas


One pair of these feet belongs to George W. Bush

❝ In 2009, Sean Gourley, an Oxford-trained physicist, gave a TED talk called “The Mathematics of War.” Gourley had been working with the Pentagon, the United Nations and the Iraqi Government to help them better understand the nature of the insurgency in Iraq, and in his presentation he announced something fairly striking: After analyzing the location, timing, death toll and weapons used in thousands of deadly incidents around the country, he and his small team had discovered that the violence actually had a consistent footprint. In other words, you could develop an equation that would predict the likelihood of an attack of a certain size happening at a certain time.

And this wasn’t just true in Iraq: Gourley’s team had also analyzed insurgent-led wars in other parts of the world — from Colombia to Senegal — and had discovered the very same pattern, even though the underlying issues in those conflicts were totally different.

❝ Gourley has since moved on from war zones. He helped found a company called Quid that does big data projects for companies like Intel, Visa and Samsung. In March, he spoke at [the] Structure:Data conference in New York, where he talked about the difference between “data science” – which is about finding correlations – and “data intelligence” – which is about solving problems. He said we need to shift our focus toward the latter if we want to tackle the biggest challenges our world is facing.

From edited transcript of an interview with Gourley:

❝ Q: How would you use data differently in Iraq if you were doing it all over again?

A: It’s important to remind ourselves in 2013 where the information landscape was at the start of the Iraq war. In 2003, the world was very excited about something called blogging. We didn’t have Twitter. Cellphone coverage at the start of the war was exceedingly low. What we’ve seen over the past decade as the war unfolded was one of the biggest changes in the information landscape from a militaristic perspective in a long, long time…

Now, there is already more information being collected by the collective intelligence than by the military intelligence. One one hand, we’re moving into a world where you have drones recording continuous HD video. But we’re also seeing an upscaling in human reporting now with the likes of Instagram. You’re not just tweeting — you’re taking pictures that are triangulated.

The crowdsourced info is still going to be more complete and at a higher resolution than even the stuff that is done with the advent of drones and sensors by the military.

RTFA. Lots more interesting questions and even when answers are in short supply – there is more information about what’s coming. This isn’t only about technology it is about the political use of that tech.

I’d suggest it is in your own interest to learn about what’s coming – announced or undercover and hidden.

Yahoo scanned all incoming customer emails for US intelligence

❝ Yahoo last year secretly built a custom software program to search all of its customers’ incoming emails for specific information provided by U.S. intelligence officials…

The company complied with a classified U.S. government demand, scanning hundreds of millions of Yahoo Mail accounts at the behest of the National Security Agency or FBI, said three former employees and a fourth person apprised of the events.

Some surveillance experts said this represents the first case to surface of a U.S. Internet company agreeing to an intelligence agency’s request by searching all arriving messages, as opposed to examining stored messages or scanning a small number of accounts in real time…

❝ Reuters was unable to determine what data Yahoo may have handed over, if any, and if intelligence officials had approached other email providers besides Yahoo with this kind of request.

❝ According to two of the former employees, Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer’s decision to obey the directive roiled some senior executives and led to the June 2015 departure of Chief Information Security Officer Alex Stamos, who now holds the top security job at Facebook…

RTFA. It’s long and detailed – and I haven’t had a boatload of trust in the integrity of Yahoo in years. All credit to Alex Stamos for walking out.

Who hacked the NSA?

Last week, a group called the “Shadow Brokers” stole 234 megabytes of data from the National Security Agency. The leak included information about the cyberweapons the NSA uses to hack suspects and enemies, and a tracking code that reveals the fingerprints of the NSA’s malicious software.

But, before we can understand the significance of the leak, the mystery behind the identity of the Shadow Brokers, an eight-foot-tall alien, and the diplomatic chess game surrounding it all, we have to start with a report released in 2015.

Last year, the cybersecurity research organization Kaspersky Lab cataloged the most advanced and far-reaching hacking operation ever exposed. The perpetrators, known as the Equation Group, had established hundreds of backdoors in the governments of Russia, China, India, Iraq, and Iran, Britain, Mexico, and France. Forty-two countries in all had been penetrated. The Equation Group had had a penchant for physical attacks, too, intercepting shipments of hardware by IT companies like Fortinet, TopSec, Cisco, and Juniper, whose technologies form the backbone of much of the globe’s cybersecurity infrastructure.

By the time Kapersky pegged the Equation Group as a branch of the NSA’s preemptive hacking task force, TAO, the Equation Group had stealthily compiled an extensive network of backdoors into much of the world’s cyberinfrastructure over the course of 14 years. As an anonymous former TAO member put it for the Washington Post, their files are “the keys to the kingdom.”…

And it’s those files which are being leaked by the Shadow Brokers

Sensitive NSA information is usually stored on air-gapped networks — networks not connected to the Internet. Thanks to that and other security measures, they’re a pain to crack. Humans, however, are easy access points, and as Edward Snowden proved, someone with inside access and a flash drive can bypass such systems…

In retaliation to the proposal of sanctions, this leak embarrasses the NSA, exposes their backdoors into more Cisco and Fortinet infrastructure, and says, as Snowden puts it:

In other words, “back off, because we can show where your fingerprints have been.” And with many of the files dating back to 2013, the Shadow Brokers have been sitting on those fingerprints for some time.

We’re supposed to believe promises from the Liberal president and spineless Congress-critters approved by the NSA to publicly act like judges of the NSA. We’re supposed to believe the backdoors into allies and opponents alike – revealed by Edward Snowden – are all gone and sealed over with smiley faces. The same goes for domestic privacy blessed by our courageous FBI/DOJ squeakers.

Ed Snowden doesn’t believe that. Lots of geeks don’t believe that. I don’t believe that.

Spy chiefs briefed 8 Congress-drones a year ago on hacking of Democrats — didn’t tell DNC “because it was a secret”

U.S. intelligence officials told top congressional leaders a year ago that Russian hackers were attacking the Democratic Party, three sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday, but the lawmakers were unable to tell the targets about the hacking because the information was so secret…

The material was marked with additional restrictions and assigned a unique codeword, limiting access to a small number of officials who needed to know that U.S. spy agencies had concluded that two Russian intelligence agencies or their proxies were targeting the Democratic National Committee, the central organizing body of the Democratic Party…

Our spy professionals decided the DNC didn’t need to know.

The alleged hacking of the Democrats and the Russian connection did not become public until late last month when the FBI said it was investigating a cyber attack at the DNC…

The congressional briefing was given last summer in a secure room called a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or SCIF, to a group of congressional leaders informally known as the “Gang of Eight,” the sources said.

The group at the time included four Republicans: Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell and House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, and Senator Richard Burr and Representative Devin Nunes, the House and Senate intelligence committee chairs. Their Democratic counterparts were: Senator Harry Reid and Representative Nancy Pelosi, and Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representative Adam Schiff of the intelligence committees…

A bipartisan group of professional politicians who couldn’t care less about transparency, security.

The attack on the DNC later led the hackers to other party organizations, including the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which raises funds for House candidates, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, and other groups…

One of the sources said the Clinton campaign first detected attacks on its data system in early March, and was given what the source described as a “general briefing” about it by the FBI later that month. The source said the FBI made no mention of a Russian connection in that briefing and did not say when the penetration first took place.

According to a memo obtained by Reuters, interim DNC Chair Donna Brazile said on Thursday she was creating a Cybersecurity Advisory Board “to ensure prevent future attacks and ensure that the DNC’s cybersecurity capabilities are best-in-class.”

Better update security on your own. Obviously you can’t count on our bought-and-paid-for government spies to offer any help.

Privacy and civil liberty watchdog confronts right-wing limits in Congress

A leading Democrat in Congress is pushing back against an effort to impose new constraints on a civil liberties watchdog agency that investigates the nation’s security programs.

The agency, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, is a bipartisan five-member panel that Congress created after a recommendation by the commission that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Its members and staff have security clearances and a mandate to investigate government practices that affect individual rights…

Since the independent board began fully operating three years ago, it has produced a high-profile report about the once-secret National Security Agency program that collected bulk records of Americans’ phone calls. It called the program ineffective and illegal and said it should be shut down. Congress later did so by enacting the U.S.A. Freedom Act.

The oversight board also issued a report that brought to light new details about how the warrantless surveillance program authorized by the FISA Amendments Act worked. It is currently scrutinizing programs that operate under Executive Order 12333, which sets rules for espionage activities that Congress has left unregulated by statute.

In the letter, obtained by The New York Times, Mr. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, described the provisions as “completely unacceptable” and “misguided.” He deplored what he portrayed as an emerging pattern of efforts by the intelligence panels to undermine the oversight board’s independence and authority. He also said any proposed changes to the board should go through the Judiciary Committee.

That proposal comes at a time when the Obama administration has highlighted the privacy board’s role in negotiations over a recently completed trans-Atlantic agreement for handling private data amid concern in Europe about using internet and technology companies based in America. Those concerns came after leaks by the former intelligence contractor Edward J. Snowden about National Security Agency surveillance programs.

As usual, Senator Leahy is more polite to his most reactionary colleagues than truth presumes necessary. The usual cabal of right-wing creeps who care less about individual liberty than a controlling power of the free speech and thought, privacy and progress of American citizens. Regardless of the number of lies and contradictions they author.

RTFA for any details you might want. It ain’t news. It does require as much vigilance as ever.

Daniel Radcliffe and Edward Snowden in an off-Broadway play about “Privacy”

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and actor Daniel Radcliffe will appear together in a play starting on Saturday in New York City.

The show, Privacy, premiered in London in 2014 and has been refashioned for the American theatre. It was inspired by Snowden’s revelations that the US government was conducting mass surveillance on its citizens.

Radcliffe and Snowden…rehearsed…though Radcliffe was in a Manhattan auditorium speaking to Snowden on video from Moscow, where he has lived since June 2013.

Snowden’s appearance in the play at the Public Theater will be confined to a screen as the US government has a warrant out for his arrest, because he leaked confidential NSA documents to journalists, including those at the Guardian.

Snowden and Radcliffe will appear together for about one minute, according to the Times, and only one of the men will be speaking live – the one actually on stage. The dialogue comes at a climactic moment and centers on statements Snowden has made about privacy.

Gotta piss off Uncle Sugar. Many of the creeps in and outside government officialdom who leaped to condemn Snowden are stuffed from eating their words. Even Obama has to admit much of this generation’s fight against government surveillance of American citizens flows from the critical revelations of Edward Snowden.

Not that our elected and appointed overlords have reduced or limited their commitment to snooping on us all. They’ve just been forced into more judicious choices of words describing their paranoia.

The NSA wants to monitor your pacemaker — bet that makes you feel safe and secure!

The NSA is interested in collecting information from pacemakers and other biomedical devices for national security purposes, according to The Intercept. Richard Ledgett, the agency’s deputy director, reportedly said at a conference…that, “We’re looking at it sort of theoretically from a research point of view right now.”

That suggests this isn’t something the NSA is actively doing; and if it did have the ability, Ledgett indicates that it wouldn’t exactly be a core source of information. “Maybe a niche kind of thing … a tool in the toolbox,” he said, according to The Intercept.

Still, it’s both wild and disconcerting to think that something as critical as a pacemaker could be monitored by a hacker. The NSA doesn’t plan to stop at that, either. Perhaps less surprising is Ledgett’s broader suggestion that the NSA is interested in using information from any internet-connected device.

National Intelligence director James Clapper indicated as much back in February, as The Intercept points out. The Guardian reports Clapper saying, “In the future, intelligence services might use the [Internet of Things] for identification, surveillance, monitoring, location tracking, and targeting for recruitment, or to gain access to networks or user credentials.” Though he’s stating it here as a hypothetical, it’s not hard to imagine that the NSA views the addition of connectivity to more and more devices — be it a fridge or a pacemaker — as valuable.

The Intercept is becoming more and more a valuable source for anyone concerned with questions of individual liberty and privacy in a connected world.

Our government and the alphabetized creeps on the snoop payroll – really hate it.

Clinton and Obama are lying about Snowden

An explosive exposé shows that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden repeatedly tried to raise concerns about illegal mass surveillance, but was ignored.

Hundreds of internal NSA documents declassified and released by journalists prove that claims made by senior officials in the Obama administration and prominent politicians like Hillary Clinton, who accused Snowden of failing to use available whisteblower protections, are false…

U.S. government officials have previously claimed that Snowden did not raise concerns about illegal mass surveillance before leaking classified documents to reporters. The NSA originally insisted that Snowden had simply sent a single email raising concern of potential overreach.

Internal documents, on the other hand, VICE News writes, reveal “that not only was the truth about the ‘single email’ more complex and nuanced than the NSA disclosed to the public, but that Snowden had a face-to-face interaction with one of the people involved in responding to that email.”

The exposé also reveals that the NSA admitted to altering emails related to its discussions about Snowden…

In her response, Clinton echoed a debunked story that claimed that Russia and China got access to Snowden’s classified documents. The shoddy report originated in a right-wing British newspaper that referred to Snowden as a pilfering “fugitive” and cited no evidence, only unverifiable claims by anonymous British officials.

To date, there is no evidence Snowden’s leaks jeopardized U.S. security in any tangible way. The Obama administration has frequently claimed this, but thoroughly redacted its official reports on how this is supposedly true to such a point that no one can actually read its justification…

In his testimony to the European Parliament in March 2014, VICE noted, Snowden was asked whether he “exhausted all avenues before taking the decision to go public.”

“Yes,” he replied. “I had reported these clearly problematic programs to more than 10 distinct officials, none of whom took any action to address them\.”

“As an employee of a private company rather than a direct employee of the U.S. government,” continued Snowden, who had been an NSA contractor with the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, “I was not protected by U.S. whistleblower laws, and I would not have been protected from retaliation and legal sanction for revealing classified information about law breaking in accordance with the recommended process.”

The hundreds of pages of internal documents from the U.S. government that are now available, VICE News emphasizes, show that Snowden “had repeatedly attempted to raise his concerns inside the NSA about its surveillance of U.S. citizens — and the agency had done nothing.”

My cynicism about government led by either of the two old parties continues unabated. Defense of constitutional freedoms is not a standard honored by either party. There may be differences in corruption. Most of the time that feels like inquiries about being “a little bit pregnant” from an anti-abortion fanatic.

The only part I find confounding is that – in practice – Democrats really have nothing to lose by standing up and supporting whistleblowers, freedom fighters in a long American tradition. Their backwards practices in foreign policy are generally forgiven by a perpetually ignorant electorate. And the average voter still thinks the Dem Establishment is out there standing up for the little guy. They really should try living up to a reputation leftover from the days of FDR and the New Deal.

Tin foil hats actually make it easier for the Feds to track you, your thoughts

Let’s say some malevolent group — the government, powerful corporations, extraterrestrials — really is trying to read and/or control your thoughts with radio waves. Would the preferred headgear of the paranoid, a foil helmet, really keep The Man and alien overlords out of our brains?…

In 2005, a group of MIT students, prodded by “a desire to play with some expensive equipment,” tested the effectiveness of foil helmets at blocking various radio frequencies. Using two layers of Reynolds aluminum foil, they constructed three helmet designs, dubbed the Classical, the Fez, and the Centurion, and then looked at the strength of the transmissions between a radio-frequency signal generator and a receiver antenna placed on various parts of their subjects’ bare and helmet-covered heads.

The helmets shielded their wearers from radio waves over most of the tested spectrum…but, surprisingly, amplified certain frequencies: those in the 2.6 Ghz (allocated for mobile communications and broadcast satellites) and 1.2 Ghz (allocated for aeronautical radionavigation and space-to-Earth and space-to-space satellites) bands.

While the MIT guys’ tongue-in-cheek conclusion — “the current helmet craze is likely to have been propagated by the Government, possibly with the involvement of the FCC” — maybe goes a few steps too far, their study at least shows that foil helmets fail at, and even counteract, their intended purpose. That, or the students are aliens who fabricated these results in an effort to get you to take your perfectly functional helmet off.

I have no reason not to believe the latter conclusion. If not under extra-terrestrial control, the NSA will suffice.

If there’s a difference.

The Intercept is opening access to the Snowden archive — transparency our hypocrite government hates

From the time we began reporting on the archive provided to us in Hong Kong by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, we sought to fulfill his two principal requests for how the materials should be handled: that they be released in conjunction with careful reporting that puts the documents in context and makes them digestible to the public, and that the welfare and reputations of innocent people be safeguarded. As time has gone on, The Intercept has sought out new ways to get documents from the archive into the hands of the public, consistent with the public interest as originally conceived.

Now, The Intercept is announcing two innovations in how we report on and publish these materials. Both measures are designed to ensure that reporting on the archive continues in as expeditious and informative a manner as possible, in accordance with the agreements we entered into with our source about how these materials would be disclosed, a framework that he, and we, have publicly described on numerous occasions.

The first measure involves the publication of large batches of documents. We are, beginning today, publishing in installments the NSA’s internal SIDtoday newsletters, which span more than a decade beginning after 9/11. We are starting with the oldest SIDtoday articles, from 2003, and working our way through the most recent in our archive, from 2012…we will periodically release batches until we have made public the entire set

Accompanying the release of these documents are summaries of the content of each, along with a story about NSA’s role in Guantánamo interrogations, a lengthy roundup of other intriguing information gleaned from these files, and a profile of SIDtoday. We encourage other journalists, researchers, and interested parties to comb through these documents…to find additional material of interest.

The other innovation is our ability to invite outside journalists, including from foreign media outlets, to work with us to explore the full Snowden archive.

Here’s the link to the growing archive of NSA documents. Courtesy of Edward Snowden…and the editors of The Intercept.