February 20, 2015
Crisis: SIM heist, FBI, Close to oblivion, American War Films, Special Crisis Issue
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
   -- Benjamin Franklin
   "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


1. The Great SIM Heist
2. FBI Flouts Obama Directive to Limit Gag Orders on
     National Security Letters

3. Tick-Tock-ing toward Oblivion
4. Tomgram: Peter Van Buren, Watching the Same Movie
     About American War for 75 Years

5. On a special crisis issue

This is a Nederlog of Friday, February 20, 2015.

This is a crisis log. There are 5 items with 7 dotted links: Item 1 is on the great SIM heist: It turns out billions of cell-phones' encryption keys have been hacked by the GCHQ, with help from the NSA; item 2 is on the firmly anti-democratic orders + gag orders that the FBI sends around to get parts of their data; item 3 is an interesting piece on the clock of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, that was recently set to 3 minutes to 12; item 4 is about American war films since 75 years; and item 5 is on a special crisis issue that I plan for the coming weekend.

The Great SIM Heist

The first item today is an article by Jeremy Scahill and Josh Begley on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:
AMERICAN AND BRITISH spies hacked into the internal computer network of the largest manufacturer of SIM cards in the world, stealing encryption keys used to protect the privacy of cellphone communications across the globe, according to top-secret documents provided to The Intercept by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The hack was perpetrated by a joint unit consisting of operatives from the NSA and its British counterpart Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ. The breach, detailed in a secret 2010 GCHQ document, gave the surveillance agencies the potential to secretly monitor a large portion of the world’s cellular communications, including both voice and data.

The company targeted by the intelligence agencies, Gemalto, is a multinational firm incorporated in the Netherlands that makes the chips used in mobile phones and next-generation credit cards. Among its clients are AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint and some 450 wireless network providers around the world. The company operates in 85 countries and has more than 40 manufacturing facilities. One of its three global headquarters is in Austin, Texas and it has a large factory in Pennsylvania.

In all, Gemalto produces some 2 billion SIM cards a year. Its motto is “Security to be Free.”

I say! That is, for the fifth year in succession, the NSA and the GCHQ have completely free access to "a large portion of the world’s cellular communications, including both voice and data", because they haven stolen the keys.

This is what it enables the NSA and the GCHQ to do:
With these stolen encryption keys, intelligence agencies can monitor mobile communications without seeking or receiving approval from telecom companies and foreign governments. Possessing the keys also sidesteps the need to get a warrant or a wiretap, while leaving no trace on the wireless provider’s network that the communications were intercepted. Bulk key theft additionally enables the intelligence agencies to unlock any previously encrypted communications they had already intercepted, but did not yet have the ability to decrypt.
Also, there is this:
Gemalto was totally oblivious to the penetration of its systems — and the spying on its employees. “I’m disturbed, quite concerned that this has happened,” Paul Beverly, a Gemalto executive vice president, told The Intercept.
And this:
Leading privacy advocates and security experts say that the theft of encryption keys from major wireless network providers is tantamount to a thief obtaining the master ring of a building superintendent who holds the keys to every apartment. “Once you have the keys, decrypting traffic is trivial,” says Christopher Soghoian, the principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union. “The news of this key theft will send a shock wave through the security community.”
There is a lot more under the last dotted link, that I recommend you to read all of.

Here are two other journalistic reactions, one on The Guardian, by Dominic Rushe:
And the other is by Jon Queally on Common Dreams:
The last one starts as follows:

Explosive new reporting by The Intercept published Thursday, based on documents obtained by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, reveals how the U.S. spy agency and their British counterpart, the GCHQ, worked together in order to hack into the computer systems of the world's largest manufacturer of cell phone SIM cards – giving government spies access to highly-guarded encryption codes and unparalleled abilities to monitor the global communications of those with phones using the cards.

Following its publication, journalist Glenn Greenwald called it "one of the biggest Snowden stories yet."

This also quotes tweets by Jeremy Scahill (I only quote the last two):
And there is this:
For its part, Gemalto told The Intercept it was totally unaware of the security breach or that the encryption keys to any of its cards had been compromised. In fact, after being reached for comment on the operation, Gemalto directed its own security team to investigate the situation, but told the journalists they could find no trace of the hack. However, according to the top-secret document detailing the program leaked by Snowden, an operative with the NSA boasted, "[We] believe we have their entire network."
As to The Guardian, this starts as follows:

American and British spies hacked into the world’s largest sim card manufacturer in a move that gave them unfettered access to billions of cellphones around the globe and looks set to spark another international row into overreach by espionage agencies.

The National Security Agency (NSA) and its British equivalent GCHQ hacked into Gemalto, a Netherlands sim card manufacturer, stealing encryption keys that allowed them to secretly monitor both voice calls and data, according to documents newly released by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The breach, revealed in documents provided to The Intercept, gave the agencies the power to secretly monitor a large portion of the world’s cellular communications, which experts said violated international laws.

There is a lot more under any of the above three dotted links. I hope this is going to be a huge story, and will report later on it (anyhow), but meanwhile I want to make one point I have been making since December 2012:

The American, English and other secret services are not out "to fight terrorism", though that is their pretext: They are out to implement state terrorism by knowing in principle everything anybody ever wrote with a computer or said into a cell-phone - and that was and is their main aim from the beginning, which started around 9/11/2001, because then they got the pretext, the money and the liberties signed by the U.S. president.

As to these liberties, see the next item:

2. FBI Flouts Obama Directive to Limit Gag Orders on National Security Letters

The next item is an article by Dan Froomkin on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:

Despite the post-Snowden spotlight on mass surveillance, the intelligence community’s easiest end-run around the Fourth Amendment since 2001 has been something called a National Security Letter.

FBI agents can demand that an Internet service provider, telephone company or financial institution turn over its records on any number of people — without any judicial review whatsoever — simply by writing a letter that says the information is needed for national security purposes. The FBI at one point was cranking out over 50,000 such letters a year; by the latest count, it still issues about 60 a day.

And it continues as follows:
The letters look like this:

Recipients are legally required to comply — but it doesn’t stop there. They also aren’t allowed to mention the order to anyone, least of all the person whose data is being searched. Ever. That’s because National Security Letters almost always come with eternal gag orders. Here’s that part:

That means the NSL process utterly disregards the First Amendment as well.

Precisely. And again I say that I regard especially the last gag order as fascistic: You must - at the very least - have the right to disclose that you are ordered to break the constitutionally guaranteed right of private communications to those who pay you for your services, and any order that says you should not is sick and immoral, and breaks the Constitution, quite intentionally so as well.

There is considerably more under the last dotted link.

Tick-Tock-ing toward Oblivion  

The next item is an article by Nicholas J.S. Davies on Consortiumnews:
This starts as follows:

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has moved the hands of the “Doomsday Clock” 2 minutes closer to midnight.  After 3 years at 11:55, the new edition published in January shows the hands of the clock at 11:57, with the dire warning, “It Is 3 Minutes to Midnight.”

Since 1947, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has warned the world of the threat from the weapons invented by its original authors: the scientists who built the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

I have written about this on January 23, but this is a welcome addition, that explains:
The present Board of Sponsors comprises 17 Nobel Prize winners and 20 other eminent scientists and experts, including Stephen Hawking, Brian Greene, Martin Rees and other public figures. Collectively they make up a unique brains trust whose advice the people and political leaders of the world should take very seriously.
Next, it is explained why the clock is set to 3 minutes before 12:
“The threat is serious, the time short,” they wrote. “The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists does not move the hands of the Doomsday Clock for light or transient reasons. The hands of the clock tick now at just 3 minutes to midnight because international leaders are failing to perform their most important duty – ensuring and preserving the health and vitality of human civilization.”
Yes, indeed - and in fact many of "our leaders" are doing the precise opppsite: They are destroying "the health and vitality of human civilization" by raping privacies of all kinds through spying on everyone, and also by doing extremely many things in highly secret and classified manners, including the preparation of new laws that will give the big corporations
all they desire, and that will screw the rights of hundreds of millions of ordinary people.

This is a very good article that deserves full reading. I will cite only two more bits:

Lady Thatcher provocatively referred to Tony Blair and New Labour as her “greatest achievement.” The true measure of the Reagan-Thatcher counterrevolution was not how they changed their own parties but that they remade their opposition in their own image, marginalizing progressive politics for a generation and clearing the way for the neoliberal transformation of society.
Yes, indeed, though she was very much helped in this by the untimely death of John Smith (the Labour leader who preceded Blair) and by Blair's extremely willing cooperation to do and say anything that would give him the personal power to gather at least 20 million pounds - and he did succeed, and did destroy Labour.

And there is finally this:
The economist J.M. Keynes is reputed to have described laissez-faire capitalism as “the absurd idea that the worst people, for the worst reasons, will do what is best for all of us.”
Precisely! But these worst people now rule the West, and come from almost any party ("left",  right, and "center"), and quite often tell themselves and others that they are very good people because they are greedy and egoistic, just as the greedy egoistic dumbass Rand taught them.

O Lord! (But again: This is a fine article that you should read all of.)

4. Tomgram: Peter Van Buren, Watching the Same Movie About American War for 75 Years  

The next item is an article by Peter Van Buren on tomdispatch:
This starts as follows, after an introduction by Tom Engelhardt. The piece is called "War Porn":

In the age of the all-volunteer military and an endless stream of war zone losses and ties, it can be hard to keep Homeland enthusiasm up for perpetual war. After all, you don't get a 9/11 every year to refresh those images of the barbarians at the airport departure gates. In the meantime, Americans are clearly finding it difficult to remain emotionally roiled up about our confusing wars in Syria and Iraq, the sputtering one in Afghanistan, and various raids, drone attacks, and minor conflicts elsewhere.

Fortunately, we have just the ticket, one that has been punched again and again for close to a century: Hollywood war movies (to which the Pentagon is always eager to lend a helping hand). American Sniper, which started out with the celebratory tagline “the most lethal sniper in U.S. history” and now has the tagline “the most successful war movie of all time,” is just the latest in a long line of films that have kept Americans on their war game. Think of them as war porn, meant to leave us perpetually hyped up. Now, grab some popcorn and settle back to enjoy the show.

There’s Only One War Movie

After this, the analysis starts, which is quite convincing for me (who also wrote the items wishful thinking, groupthinking, conformism, and totalitarian, to name a few relevant items in my Philosophical Dictionary).

Anyway, another recommended article.

On a special crisis issue

This is just to announce that there - probably [1] - will be tomorrow or the next day
a special crisis issue that reports on two social experiments I have been part of (like everyone of my age who lived in the West, indeed).

This also extends
It's the deregulation, stupid! that was published originally in the beginning of 2013.

[1] "Probably" because I have much to do and not a very good health, nor any help.
But it has been waiting now since more than a month, so I will try to finish it in the weekend.

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