January 28, 2014

Crisis: Russia & Snowden, interview Snowden, Spying * 2, stopping NSA, personal

   "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
   -- Benjamin Franklin [1]
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
   -- I.F. Stone.
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton

Prev- crisis -Next  

Russia Plans to Extend Snowden Asylum, Lawmaker Says
Edward Snowden Speaks in Half-Hour Televised

3. Spy Agencies Probe Angry Birds and Other Apps for
     Personal Data

4. NSA, GCHQ Using Data From 'Leaky' Smartphone Apps to

Cut Off the NSA’s Juice
6. Personal

About ME/CFS


This is another crisis file, and it has six sections, though the last is a brief personal section that tracks my progress of re-uploading the whole site.

1. Russia Plans to Extend Snowden Asylum, Lawmaker Says

To start with, an article by Michael J. de la Merced, in the New York Times:
This starts as follows:
Russia plans to extend its offer of asylum to Edward J. Snowden beyond August, a Russian lawmaker said Friday at the World Economic Forum here.

The lawmaker, Aleksei K. Pushkov, chairman of the foreign affairs committee in Russia’s lower house of Parliament, hinted during a panel discussion that the extension of temporary refugee status for Mr. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, might be indefinite.

“He will not be sent out of Russia,” Mr. Pushkov said. “It will be up to Snowden.”

He added that Mr. Snowden’s father believes his son could not get a fair trial in the United States.

Mr. Pushkov made his comments came against a backdrop of broad criticism of the American spying programs that have come to light since the summer. He pointed to the sheer volume of information that American authorities are able to gather.

“The U.S. has created a Big Brother system,” Mr. Pushkov said.

I think Mr. Pushkov is right on Big Brother - which is not to say it may not be similar in Russia (though nobody who is not a member of the KGB - or whatever it is called now - knows). Also, although the news is good, it may be easily undone.

2. Edward Snowden Speaks in Half-Hour Televised Interview 

Next, an article by the Common Dreams staff on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
German television station NDR News on Sunday night aired an in-person interview with American whistleblower Edward Snowden in which he speaks both broadly and specifically about the NSA surveillance programs his actions have helped expose to the world.

Conducted in Mosow, this is the first such interview with the former NSA contractor since journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras met and interviewed him in a Hong Kong hotel room last June.


[Though earlier available via YouTube, the video of the interview was pulled.]

The official NDR News transcript from the recorded interview follows.

One wonders who pulled it. But Commom Dreams has the transcript, which is good, and it is a good interview. (What part would Bill Maher call "batshit crazy"?)

Anyway, here are a few of the many good points, that you can all read in the last dotted link - and what I will do is quote Snowden, and head it by bold summaries of what he is talking about:

On his risk of being killed:
There are significant threats but I sleep very well. There was an article that came out in an online outlet called Buzz Feed where they interviewed officials from the Pentagon, from the National Security Agency and they gave them anonymity to be able to say what they want and what they told the reporter was that they wanted to murder me. These individuals - and these are acting government officials. They said they would be happy, they would love to put a bullet in my head, to poison me as I was returning from the grocery store and have me die in the shower

On abuses:

We’ve seen the President acknowledge that when he first said "we’ve drawn the right balance, there are no abuses", we’ve seen him and his officials admit that there have been abuses. There have been thousands of violations of the National Security Agency and other agencies and authorities every single year.

On the Obama regulation that wasn't:

It was clear from the President’s speech that he wanted to make minor changes to preserve authorities that we don’t need. The President created a review board from officials that were personal friends, from national security insiders, former Deputy of the CIA, people who had every incentive to be soft on these programs and to see them in the best possible light. But what they found was that these programs have no value, they’ve never stopped a terrorist attack in the United States and they have marginal utility at best for other things.

On the rights almost everyone lost:

Traditionally the government would identify a suspect, they would go to a judge, they would say we suspect he’s committed this crime, they would get a warrant and then they would be able to use the totality of their powers in pursuit of the investigation. Nowadays what we see is they want to apply the totality of their powers in advance - prior to an investigation.

On Five Eyes intelligence organizations being beyond law:

So we have the UK’s GCHQ, we have the US NSA, we have Canada’s C-Sec, we have the Australian Signals Intelligence Directorate and we have New Zealand’s DSD. What the result of this was over decades and decades what sort of a supra-national intelligence organisation that doesn’t answer to the laws of its own countries.

On what gets collected:

However, it’s no secret that every country in the world has the data of their citizens in the NSA. Millions and millions and millions of data connections from Germans going about their daily lives, talking on their cell phones, sending SMS messages, visiting websites, buying things online, all of this ends up at the NSA and it’s reasonable to suspect that the BND may be aware of it in some capacity. Now whether or not they actively provide the information I should not say.

On the value of assurances by the spies:

So realistically what’s happening is when they say there’s no spying on Germans, they don’t mean that German data isn’t being gathered, they don’t mean that records aren’t being taken or stolen, what they mean is that they’re not intentionally searching for German citizens. And that’s sort of a fingers crossed behind the back promise, it’s not reliable.

On the reason why the spying is possible:

The technological capabilities that have been provided because of sort of weak security standards in internet protocols and cellular communications networks have meant that intelligence services can create systems that see everything.

On the dangers of privatizing spying:

What that means is you have private for profit companies doing inherently governmental work like targeted espionage, surveillance, compromising foreign systems and anyone who has the skills who can convince a private company that they have the qualifications to do so will be empowered by the government to do that and there’s very little oversight, there’s very little review.

On who Edward Snowden betrayed:

The Chief of the Task Force investigating me as recently as December said that their investigation had turned up no evidence or indications at all that I had any outside help or contact or had made a deal of any kind to accomplish my mission. I worked alone. I didn’t need anybody’s help, I don’t have any ties to foreign governments, I’m not a spy for Russia or China or any other country for that matter. If I am a traitor who did I betray? I gave all of my information to the American public, to American journalists who are reporting on American issues.

On the law and being right:

I think it’s clear that there are times where what is lawful is distinct from what is rightful. There are times throughout history and it doesn’t take long for either an American or a German to think about times in the history of their country where the law provided the government to do things which were not right.

But I recommend you read the whole interview: It is on Common Dreams, and I find it idiotic that it was removed from Youtube.

3.  Spy Agencies Probe Angry Birds and Other Apps for Personal Data 

Next, an article by Jeff Larson, James Glanz and Andrew W. Lehren, that was publish on Pro Publica, in the New York Times, and in The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

When a smartphone user opens Angry Birds, the popular game application, and starts slinging birds at chortling green pigs, spy agencies have plotted how to lurk in the background to snatch data revealing the player’s location, age, sex and other personal information, according to secret British intelligence documents.

In their globe-spanning surveillance for terrorism suspects and other targets, the National Security Agency and its British counterpart have been trying to exploit a basic byproduct of modern telecommunications: With each new generation of mobile phone technology, ever greater amounts of personal data pour onto networks where spies can pick it up.

According to dozens of previously undisclosed classified documents, among the most valuable of those unintended intelligence tools are so-called leaky apps that spew everything from users’ smartphone identification codes to where they have been that day.

This is a long article, and there is a lot more - and in case you ask yourself "Why would anyone be interested in players of a game like Angry Birds?" the answer is: The NSA etc. (GCHQ, the other Four Eyes, and indeed many, though not all modern spies) want everything they can get of anyone, and Angry Birds has been downloaded a billion times and retains an enormous amount of personal data.

You can read the article by clicking the last dotted link. Meanwhile, I go to another article about the same subject plus some more:

4.  NSA, GCHQ Using Data From 'Leaky' Smartphone Apps to Spy

Next, an article by Andrea Germanos on Common Dreams:

This is in part about Angry Bird, dealt with in the previous item, but it also is about Google Maps, about which it says, in quotation:

Intelligence agencies collect so much data from the app that “you’ll be able to clone Google’s database” of global searches for directions, according to a top-secret N.S.A. report from 2007.

“It effectively means that anyone using Google Maps on a smartphone is working in support of a G.C.H.Q. system,” a secret 2008 report by the British agency says.

There is more in the article, that again illustrates that the NSA etc. spend enormous amounts of money and time to get everything they can get of anyone, no doubt to make the lives of future governors and rich people a lot easier than it might otherwise have been.

Also, I should say that while I have a computer since 1987, and used a personal computer (though not mine) from 1980 onwards (to write logic software, that indeed worked and has been used), I do not have nor want a cell phone, and also, while I have played a little bit with Google Maps, this was in 2009, and I very soon lost interest.

Then again, I also do not doubt my data and my site - like anyone's data and site, it seems - are known to the NSA, though I do not expect any confirmation.

Also, personally I do not care for the following reason: I have no children and no wife, and I am much too old to live another 20, 30, 40 or 50 years (and that is taking my chances quite optimistically). So I will write what I please, but I am also aware I am in a small minority.

5. Cut Off the NSA’s Juice

Finally, an article by Norman Solomon on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

The National Security Agency depends on huge computers that guzzle electricity in the service of the surveillance state. For the NSA’s top executives, maintaining a vast flow of juice to keep Big Brother nourished is essential—and any interference with that flow is unthinkable.

But interference isn’t unthinkable. And in fact, it may be doable.

Grassroots activists have begun to realize the potential to put the NSA on the defensive in nearly a dozen states where the agency is known to be running surveillance facilities, integral to its worldwide snoop operations.

Organizers have begun to push for action by state legislatures to impede the electric, water and other services that sustain the NSA’s secretive outposts.

That is interesting, at least. Of course, the NSA is government, and to be able to do anything effective against a major governmental institution, one needs laws. But then these are being created (and note that the Republican Party ought to be favourable to this, now that they are against global surveillance) or already have been created:

Those efforts are farthest along in the state of Washington, where a new bill in the legislature—the Fourth Amendment Protection Act—is a statutory nightmare for the NSA. The agency has a listening post in Yakima, in the south-central part of the state.

The bill throws down a challenge to the NSA, seeking to block all state support for NSA activities violating the Fourth Amendment. For instance, that could mean a cutoff of electricity or water or other state-government services to the NSA site. And the measure also provides for withholding other forms of support, such as research and partnerships with state universities.

Here’s the crux of the bill: “It is the policy of this state to refuse material support, participation, or assistance to any federal agency which claims the power, or with any federal law, rule, regulation, or order which purports to authorize, the collection of electronic data or metadata of any person pursuant to any action not based on a warrant that particularly describes the person, place, and thing to be searched or seized.”

If the windup of that long sentence has a familiar ring, it should. The final dozen words are almost identical to key phrases in the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

I say! That seems a good idea - although I also suppose I am not as optimistic as some. In any case, there is considerably more in the article.

6. Personal

I decided to track my progress through re-uploading my site here.

So... I re-uploaded today the following directories to my two sites:
  • images (    2.2 MB)
  • log         (138    MB)
The images directory is mainly a leftover from 10 years ago, especially since I decided circa 2011 to store the images I needed in the directories I needed them in, also if this implied storing the same images several times.

Also, the log section got completely re-uploaded: from 2004 till 2013 inclusive. The number of bytes I give is approximate, but it does not differ much from the real values. (There is considerably more on my hard disk).


P.S. Jan 29, 2014: Removed a redundant term.


[1] Here it is necessary to insist, with Aristotle, thay the governors do not rule, or at least, should not rule: The laws rule, and the government, if good, is part of its executive power. Here I quote Aristotle from my More on stupidity, the rule of law, and Glenn Greenwald:
It is more proper that law should govern than any of the citizens: upon the same principle, if it is advantageous to place supreme power in some particular persons, they should be appointed to be only guardians, and the servant of laws.
(And I note the whole file I quote from is quite pertinent.)

About ME/CFS (that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search machines) which is a disease I have since 1.1.1979:
1. Anthony Komarof

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)[2]

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2003)
5. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2011)
6. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

7. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
8. Malcolm
Magical Medicine (pdf)
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)

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