Trump loves warrantless spying – on the people, not him – that is.

❝ The fight over a critical loophole in U.S. surveillance law may not be resolved in Congress before the year ends, but the Trump administration appears to have no qualms about keeping it open, even if the law expires…

❝ As The New York Times reports, “executive branch lawyers have now concluded that the government could lawfully continue to spy under the program through late April without new legislation,” a revelation that is sure to be just as controversial as the surveillance law itself, which is harshly criticized by privacy advocates for its practice of sweeping up the communications of American citizens while spying on foreign targets.

Trumps gets his shorts bunched if some kind of Fed says they’re going to check his tax returns. Turning loose any ordinary citizen’s communications to be Hoovered up by that Great NSA Vacuum Cleaner in the Sky doesn’t bother him in the least.

Now, your landlord can hire a specialist firm to check out your online profile – before you can move in

A new startup is selling details of the online activity log of your life, taking the screening of potential new housing tenants to a new level. Not dissimilar to China’s Sesame Credit — which incorporates online and offline data to generate people’s credit scores — a British company is selling dossiers on people’s social media profiles to everyone, from your landlord to potential employers.

…As if the world of private renting were not already beset by often insurmountable hurdles, the British startup is now profiting from the misery and helping your potential landlord suss out prospective tenants by mining personal data.

Tenant Assured, the first product of U.K. startup, Source Assured, boasts “insightful referencing like never before.” For a bulk subscription fee, a landlord can use the service to profile would-be tenants. After the landlord’s request is sent, the prospective renter must grant the service full access to their Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram profiles.

From there, the process scrapes the individual’s site activity. It scans entire conversation threads and public posts to record information on the the renter’s personality. Eventually, a report is produced detailing, among other things, the individual’s “financial stress level.” Although the landlord doesn’t directly view the social media posts, the report includes information on “activity times” and whether the prospective tenant mentions words like “no money,” “being poor,” “staying in,” “terrorist,” “fraud,” and “justice.”…

Source Assured co-founder Steve Thornhill’s attempt to reassure people is as creepy as his product. “If you’re living a normal life then, frankly, you have nothing to worry about,” he said.

Of course, stalking and spying on people is considered “normal” by Thornhill.

Thanks, NikiV

The CIA is investing your tax dollars in firms helping them to spy on you

Soft robots that can grasp delicate objects, computer algorithms designed to spot an “insider threat,” and artificial intelligence that will sift through large data sets — these are just a few of the technologies being pursued by companies with investment from In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital firm, according to a document obtained by The Intercept.

Yet among the 38 previously undisclosed companies receiving In-Q-Tel funding, the research focus that stands out is social media mining and surveillance; the portfolio document lists several tech companies pursuing work in this area, including Dataminr, Geofeedia, PATHAR, and TransVoyant…

Those four firms, which provide unique tools to mine data from platforms such as Twitter, presented at a February “CEO Summit” in San Jose sponsored by the fund, along with other In-Q-Tel portfolio companies.

The investments appear to reflect the CIA’s increasing focus on monitoring social media. Last September, David Cohen, the CIA’s second-highest ranking official, spoke at length at Cornell University about a litany of challenges stemming from the new media landscape.

The blather requires politically correct lies – so, official chatter is about terrorists.

The latest round of In-Q-Tel investments comes as the CIA has revamped its outreach to Silicon Valley, establishing a new wing, the Directorate of Digital Innovation, which is tasked with developing and deploying cutting-edge solutions by directly engaging the private sector. The directorate is working closely with In-Q-Tel to integrate the latest technology into agency-wide intelligence capabilities…

In-Q-Tel-backed companies are now openly embracing the practice. Geofeedia, for instance, promotes its research into Greenpeace activists, student demonstrations, minimum wage advocates, and other political movements. Police departments in Oakland, Chicago, Detroit, and other major municipalities have contracted with Geofeedia, as well as private firms such as the Mall of America and McDonald’s.

RTFA for all the delightful details. All of this expansion taking place under the aegis of bi-partisan scumbags in Congress – and a liberal Democrat in the White House.

But, we’re safe, now.

NSA data the White House “needs” to fight terrorists – will be turned over to local police

A while back, we noted a report showing that the “sneak-and-peek” provision of the Patriot Act that was alleged to be used only in national security and terrorism investigations has overwhelmingly been used in narcotics cases. Now the New York Times reports that National Security Agency data will be shared with other intelligence agencies like the FBI without first applying any screens for privacy. The ACLU of Massachusetts blog Privacy SOS explains why this is important:

❝ A while back, we noted a report showing that the “sneak-and-peek” provision of the Patriot Act that was alleged to be used only in national security and terrorism investigations has overwhelmingly been used in narcotics cases. Now the New York Times reports that National Security Agency data will be shared with other intelligence agencies like the FBI without first applying any screens for privacy. The ACLU of Massachusetts blog Privacy SOS explains why this is important:What does this rule change mean for you? In short, domestic law enforcement officials now have access to huge troves of American communications, obtained without warrants, that they can use to put people in cages.

FBI agents don’t need to have any “national security” related reason to plug your name, email address, phone number, or other “selector” into the NSA’s gargantuan data trove. They can simply poke around in your private information in the course of totally routine investigations. And if they find something that suggests, say, involvement in illegal drug activity, they can send that information to local or state police. That means information the NSA collects for purposes of so-called “national security” will be used by police to lock up ordinary Americans for routine crimes. And we don’t have to guess who’s going to suffer this unconstitutional indignity the most brutally. It’ll be Black, Brown, poor, immigrant, Muslim, and dissident Americans: the same people who are always targeted by law enforcement for extra “special” attention.

This basically formalizes what was already happening under the radar. We’ve known for a couple of years now that the Drug Enforcement Administration and the IRS were getting information from the NSA. Because that information was obtained without a warrant, the agencies were instructed to engage in “parallel construction” when explaining to courts and defense attorneys how the information had been obtained. If you think parallel construction just sounds like a bureaucratically sterilized way of saying big stinking lie, well, you wouldn’t be alone. And it certainly isn’t the only time that that national security apparatus has let law enforcement agencies benefit from policies that are supposed to be reserved for terrorism investigations in order to get around the Fourth Amendment, then instructed those law enforcement agencies to misdirect, fudge and outright lie about how they obtained incriminating information — see the Stingray debacle. This isn’t just a few rogue agents. The lying has been a matter of policy. We’re now learning that the feds had these agreements with police agencies all over the country, affecting thousands of cases…

It’s all another sobering reminder that any powers we grant to the federal government for the purpose of national security will inevitably be used just about everywhere else. And extraordinary powers we grant government in wartime rarely go away once the war is over. And, of course, the nifty thing for government agencies about a “war on terrorism” is that it’s a war that will never formally end.

And if you believe the FBI – for example – only wants Apple to help them break into one cellphone that was used by a terrorist murderer, then, you’re dumb enough to believe just about anything the FBI, CIA, NSA, White House and Congress says is needed to protect you and every other American.

They have lied, again and again. The USA Patriot Act being the biggest lie. Every revision since its first passage has only been to sooth American voters. You should go back to reality TV and Game Shows and ignore any questions about who is watching you – not watching over you – 24 hours a day.

Obama to expand data-sharing from NSA snooping

The Obama administration is on the verge of permitting the National Security Agency to share more of the private communications it intercepts with other American intelligence agencies without first applying any privacy protections to them…

The change would relax longstanding restrictions on access to the contents of the phone calls and email the security agency vacuums up around the world, including bulk collection of satellite transmissions, communications between foreigners as they cross network switches in the United States, and messages acquired overseas or provided by allies.

The idea is to let more experts across American intelligence gain direct access to unprocessed information, increasing the chances that they will recognize any possible nuggets of value. That also means more officials will be looking at private messages — not only foreigners’ phone calls and emails that have not yet had irrelevant personal information screened out, but also communications to, from, or about Americans that the N.S.A.’s foreign intelligence programs swept in incidentally.

Civil liberties advocates criticized the change, arguing that it will weaken privacy protections. They said the government should disclose how much American content the N.S.A. collects incidentally — which agency officials have said is hard to measure — and let the public debate what the rules should be for handling that information.

And we know how much the Obama administration – and its predecessors – really care about privacy rights of Americans. Don’t we? Just ask your friendly neighborhood FBI agent.

NSA makes up for loss of surveillance powers — returns to Facebook


Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty

The National Security Agency is compensating for the expiration of its power to collect the American people’s personal information by logging on to Facebook, the agency confirmed on Monday.

The director of the N.S.A., Admiral Michael S. Rogers, said that when parts of the Patriot Act expired at midnight on Sunday, intelligence analysts immediately stopped collecting mountains of phone metadata and started reading billions of Facebook updates instead.

“From a surveillance point of view, the transition has been seamless,” Rogers said.

While the N.S.A. has monitored Facebook in the past, it is now spending twenty-four hours a day sifting through billions of baby pictures, pet videos, and photographs of recently enjoyed food to detect possible threats to the United States…

Citing one possible downside of the new surveillance regime, Rogers said that some N.S.A. analysts who now do nothing but monitor Facebook all day report feelings of worthlessness and despair. “I remind them that they’re doing this for America,” he said.

I think this is satire. Harder to tell, nowadays.

Germany expels CIA official over US spying on German government

The German government has ordered the expulsion of a CIA official in Berlin in response to two cases of alleged spying by the US…The official is said to have acted as a CIA contact at the US embassy, reports say, in a scandal that has infuriated German politicians.

A German intelligence official was arrested last week on suspicion of spying.

An inquiry had also begun into a German defence ministry worker, reports said…

Earlier this week the White House described the partnership between the US and Germany as one built on respect. But no-one likes to be spied on, especially when it’s your friend doing the spying.

This latest episode is yet another reminder of how American surveillance programmes are causing friction with allies. It’s angered many in Germany, where the issue of snooping is historically a very sensitive one, and many are asking: “What? Again?”

It wasn’t too long ago, after all, that we heard the National Security Agency was spying on Chancellor Merkel’s mobile phone. After a review into the surveillance programmes, President Obama promised the US wouldn’t spy on its friends overseas…

The request by the German government follows increasing frustration that it has failed to get US assurances that spying would cease on German citizens from Chancellor Merkel down.

She was shocked to learn that her mobile phone conversations were secretly being monitored while President Obama was greeting her as a friend on his visit to Berlin.

Chancellor Merkel has tried to maintain a balance between condemning America’s actions but also maintaining cordial relations. Each revelation has made that balance harder to achieve…

The chairman of the Bundestag (parliament) committee overseeing the secret service said the action had been taken because of America’s spying on German politicians and its failure to co-operate and provide adequate responses.

The US has not denied allegations that a German intelligence agency employee arrested last week was passing secret documents to the US National Security Agency (NSA).

However, the latest reports that an employee within the defence ministry was also spying for the US were considered more serious. Although no arrest was made, searches were carried out on Wednesday at the ministry and elsewhere…

On Thursday, Mrs Merkel said spying on allies was a “waste of energy”…”We have so many problems, we should focus on the important things,” she said…”In the Cold War maybe there was general mistrust. Today we are living in the 21st Century. Today there are completely new threats.”

Anyone who thinks American foreign policy is governed by someone living in the 21st Century should change their meds. From the advent of the Cold War right through Bush/Obama playing kissy-kissy with the NSA and CIA there is no change in the attitude of Imperial America towards the rest of the world.

Our government, the White House and Congress both, not only think we’re the cops of the world, we’re the same kind of cops who beat civil rights demonstrators, who colluded with the worst of racist America, who serve as flunkies for the most backwards elements of corporate wealth. Same as it ever was – for the last seventy years.

U.S. won’t agree to a deal with Germany to end spying


The effort to remake the intelligence relationship between the United States and Germany after it was disclosed last year that the National Security Agency was tapping Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone has collapsed, according to German officials, who say there will be no broad intelligence sharing or “no-spy” agreement between the two countries when Ms. Merkel visits the White House on Friday.

The failure to reach a broader accord has led to some bitter recriminations on both sides, with sharply diverging accounts from officials in Berlin and Washington about who was responsible for what was supposed to be a political solution to an embarrassing disclosure. But it also raises broader questions at a moment that President Obama and Ms. Merkel will attempt to show that they are in general accord on a strategy for both punishing Russia for its actions in Ukraine and containing President Vladimir V. Putin in the years ahead…

While the disclosure that the N.S.A. had listened to Ms. Merkel’s conversations for more than a decade was a passing story in the United States — one of many from the files that Edward J. Snowden took with him when he left Hawaii with the agency’s crown jewels — it has remained an issue in Germany. After the disclosure, Mr. Obama said the United States would not monitor Ms. Merkel’s communications, but he made no such commitment for any other German officials. And he said nothing about the future of the N.S.A.’s operations in Germany, including whether a listening station based in the American Embassy in Berlin, would stay intact.

For a number of months, German officials said the chancellor could not visit Washington until there was a resolution, including what they called a “restoration of trust” between the allies.

But the talks hit the rocks as soon as they began. Germany demanded a no-spy agreement that would ban the United States from conducting espionage activities on its soil. That led to a series of tough exchanges between the president’s national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, and her German counterpart, Christoph Heusgen.

Ms. Rice, according to American officials, said that the United States did not have no-spy agreements with any of its close allies, even with the other members of the so-called Five Eyes — the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand — which share virtually all of their intelligence. She said any such agreement with Germany would set a precedent that every other major European ally, along with the Japanese, the South Koreans and others, would soon demand to replicate.

American officials said that in January, the Germans terminated…talks, saying that if an accord could not include a no-spy agreement — a political necessity for Ms. Merkel — it was not worth signing.

Democracy, transparency, constitutional freedoms. Big words used so often by our politicians – who haven’t the slightest inclination to honor them other than by deceit and arrogance – rejecting their meaning.

Guardian and Washington Post win Pulitzer prize for NSA revelations by Edward Snowden

The Guardian and the Washington Post have been awarded the highest accolade in US journalism, winning the Pulitzer prize for public service for their groundbreaking articles on the National Security Agency’s surveillance activities based on the leaks of Edward Snowden.

The award, announced in New York on Monday, comes 10 months after the Guardian published the first report based on the leaks from Snowden, revealing the agency’s bulk collection of US citizens’ phone records.

In the series of articles that ensued, teams of journalists at the Guardian and the Washington Post published the most substantial disclosures of US government secrets since the Pentagon Papers on the Vietnam war in 1971.

The Pulitzer committee praised the Guardian for its “revelation of widespread secret surveillance by the National Security Agency, helping through aggressive reporting to spark a debate about the relationship between the government and the public over issues of security and privacy”.

Snowden, in a statement, said: “Today’s decision is a vindication for everyone who believes that the public has a role in government. We owe it to the efforts of the brave reporters and their colleagues who kept working in the face of extraordinary intimidation, including the forced destruction of journalistic materials, the inappropriate use of terrorism laws, and so many other means of pressure to get them to stop what the world now recognises was work of vital public importance.”

He said that his actions in leaking the documents that formed the basis of the reporting “would have been meaningless without the dedication, passion, and skill of these newspapers”.

At the Guardian, the reporting was led by Glenn Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill and film-maker Laura Poitras, and at the Washington Post by Barton Gellman, who also co-operated with Poitras. All four journalists were honoured with a George Polk journalism award last week for their work on the NSA story…

The Pulitzers have been bestowed since 1917, at the bequest of the legendary newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer who established the honour in his will as a means of encouraging publicly-spirited journalism. The awards have shifted and grown over the years to reflect the modern publishing landscape and today stands at 22 categories, including 14 journalism awards and seven gongs for books, drama and music. All the awards are administered by Columbia University.

Bravo! Stick that in your eye Mr. Constitutional Scholar Obama! Freedom of the Press still exists in a small brightly-illuminated corner of what has become entertainment media. The mass of what passes for journalism nowadays extends from pallid to putrid, an imitation of the life once generated by courageous writers and editors.

I’ve read the Guardian since early days based in Manchester – even then a focus on the world of principle and journalistic freedom that has been unrelenting. The best witness for that being the voices of death and destruction that try day in and day out to shout down this voice of reason and progress.