NSA: “Our Criminal Behavior Is A Small Percentage Of What We Do”

August 17, 2013


graph by The Washington Post


The NSA is floundering as they try to explain an internal audit that was leaked to The Washington Post (by Edward Snowden) revealing that they broke even the broadened privacy laws they were granted by Congress in 2008.

Here is what a senior NSA official told The Washington Post: “You can look at it as a percentage of our total activity that occurs each day,” he said. “You look at a number in absolute terms that looks big, and when you look at it in relative terms, it looks a little different.”

According to the audit, the NSA broke privacy rules thousands of times a year, then faked their reports to Congress.

Some anonymous Obama Administration officials say the NSA didn’t lie to the public last year when the director said the NSA didn’t collect the data of Americans, because: “the agency’s internal definition of ‘data’ does not cover ‘metadata’ such as the trillions of American call records that the NSA is now known to have collected and stored since 2006.”

Not so, The Washington Post Points out. The NSA definition of “data,” is “raw SIGINT data… [which] includes, but is not limited to, unevaluated and/or unminimized transcripts, gists, facsimiles, telex, voice, and some forms of computer-generated data, such as call event records and other Digital Network Intelligence (DNI) metadata as well as DNI message text.”

The Washington Post provides the full NSA audit here.

Meanwhile, Edward Snowden is hiding in Russia with temporary asylum. The US wants to prosecute him for espionage. How about prosecuting the NSA instead?


So Goes Thoreau, So Goes The Nation

August 14, 2013


Perhaps that headline is wishful thinking, but, the Wall Street Journal published two stories on Saturday (2!) about what Henry David Thoreau would do about all the tech distractions of today, and how it makes good sense to follow his lead (from 1845 no less).

Believe me, I see the irony in writing a blog post, that I will cross post on facebook, about the need to unplug. Here goes!

Called “Simplify Your Tech Life, Thoreau-Style,” Michael Hsu helps you power down in six easy steps. It’s worth the longer read for the detailed instructions and advice, but here they are in brief:

  1. Manage Your Facebook Friendships
  2. Stay Just Out of Touch (especially when the work day is through)
  3. Read Something Longer Than 140 Characters
  4. Ditch Your Smartphone While Driving [duh]
  5. Proactively Prevent Procrastination [for example, there are apps that will kick you off-line at the times you set like, say, bedtime]
  6. Take a Walk for the Heck of It [my favorite, along with #2]

Then, cleverly, Gary Sernovitz writes “We Are The Nine Percent,” which is the segment of the population that doesn’t own a cell phone (21 million adult Americans). For the online version, the article headline was changed to “Confessions of a Cellphone Holdout” A sample:

“For the last two decades, I have spent 83% of my waking hours enjoying the freedom of not owning a cellphone, 5% feeling smug about it, 2% in situations in which a phone would have been awfully convenient and 10% fielding incredulous questions.”

Quoting Thoreau, Sernovitz says “Our inventions ‘are but improved means to an unimproved end which it was already but too easy to arrive at;…’”

Want to find out for yourself, What Would Thoreau Do? Yes, there’s a digital collection from the Walden Library. So, download, but then get off-line to read it.

Who Knew There Was Secure Email? Well, Not Anymore

August 12, 2013


Two US companies that promised secure, encrypted, email and other communications for their customers have ceased operations due to NSA snooping.

Lavabit, an email service used by whistleblower Edward Snowden, closed its doors last week after losing a court battle with the NSA, who was demanding the company turn over user names and passwords. As reported by The Guardian, the Texas-based company posted a letter to customers on their web site. Here it is, in full:

My Fellow Users,

I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit. After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations. I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. I feel you deserve to know what’s going on–the first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this. Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise. As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests.

What’s going to happen now? We’ve already started preparing the paperwork needed to continue to fight for the Constitution in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. A favorable decision would allow me resurrect Lavabit as an American company.

This experience has taught me one very important lesson: without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would _strongly_ recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.

Ladar Levison
Owner and Operator, Lavabit LLC

Defending the constitution is expensive! Help us by donating to the Lavabit Legal Defense Fund here.

Lavabit cannot tell us what exactly happened, because of a gag order.

Following suit, a second US company, Silent Circle, “[saw] the writing on the wall, and we have decided that it is best for us to shut down Silent Mail now.”

Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian, who broke the story on the broad spying methods of the NSA, spoke to the hiding Snowden about Lavabit:

America cannot succeed as a country where individuals like Mr. Levison have to relocate their businesses abroad to be successful. Employees and leaders at Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Apple, and the rest of our internet titans must ask themselves why they aren’t fighting for our interests the same way small businesses are. The defense they have offered to this point is that they were compelled by laws they do not agree with, but one day of downtime for the coalition of their services could achieve what a hundred Lavabits could not.

Please see the entire Guardian article here.

Tom Tomorrow: The NSA Comes Clean…

August 9, 2013


Media Watchdog Group Sides With RNC On Hillary Clinton Miniseries

August 7, 2013

Media Matters, a non-profit media watchdog group that is often accused of having a liberal bias, is supporting the RNC (Republican National Committee) in asking NBC and CNN to drop movies about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that are set to air in 2014 — leading up to a potential presidential bid by the former First Lady. Media Matters founder, David Brock, argues that a fictionalized miniseries (NBC) and a documentary (CNN) opens the door to critics questioning the channels’ objectivity, equal time doctrine, and commitment to reality — especially when it comes to producing a fictionalized movie — that is a disservice to the voting public if Clinton does indeed run for president in 2016.

The letter to NBC is below.




Bradley Manning Verdict: the American People Are The Enemy

August 7, 2013
Acquitted of “Aiding the Enemy,” but found guilty of six Espionage charges, comedian Stephen Colbert makes the obvious point that if Bradley Manning is guilty of Espionage, and there is no foreign enemy, then the enemy is us—the American people. The government is prosecuting a man for exposing war crimes committed by the government.
Now that Russia has granted temporary asylum to Edward Snowden, perhaps this is the beginning of a new Cold War. But instead of the USA bragging to our foes that we are more free than they are, Russia, China, and the like get to point to our dismal human rights record.

The Great-Grandson of L. Ron Hubbard Tells Family Stories of Scientology In This Poetry Slam “Snap Performance”

August 3, 2013

The clear and distilled nature of Jamie DeWolf’s writing and performance above lays bare the origins of the Church of Scientology, chronicles the abandonment of the Church by DeWolf’s grandfather, which led L. Ron Hubbard, Jr. first to flee, then change his name, and finally go after the Hubbard estate in court.

The Church of Scientology hates it when it’s in the news. Thanks to the defection of a famous actress, everybody is talking about them again.

Actress Leah Remini left the Church last month with much publicity, because she really, really wants answers as to the whereabouts of her missing friend, who just happens to be Scientology leader David Miscavige’s wife Shelly– last seen in 2007.

What is Scientology? Here’s the opinion of L. Ron Hubbard’s son, from an interview in Penthouse magazine in 1983:

Penthouse: And what is the Church of Scientology?

Hubbard: It’s one of my father’s many organizations. It was formed in 1953, basically to avoid the harassment of my father by the medical profession and the IRS. The idea of Scientology didn’t really exist before that point as a religion, but my father hit upon turning it into a church after he started feeling pressured.

Penthouse: Didn’t your father have any interest in helping people?

Hubbard: No.

Penthouse: Never?

Hubbard: My father started out as a broke science-fiction writer. He was always broke in the late 1940s. He told me and a lot of other people that the way to make a million was to start a religion. Then he wrote the book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health while he was in Bayhead, New Jersey. When we later visited Bayhead, in about 1953, we were walking around and reminiscing –he told me that he had written the book in one month.

Penthouse: There was no church when he wrote the book?

Hubbard: Oh, no, no. You see, his goal was basically to write the book, take the money and run.

(full interview here, with Scientology rebuttal)

Very recently, the Church paid ex-members to keep their mouths shut. Their method of choice is intimidation.

Great-grandson DeWolf, calls Scientology’s methods “flat-lining your brain.”

All very sad. And as weird as Xenu, Evil Overlord of the Universe, in which Scientologists believe.