Shahid Buttar, Bill of Rights Defense Committee executive director, spoke to Tyler Bass at In These Times Thursday.
The Guardian has obtained a top-secret ruling by a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court ordering Verizon to turn over call records for millions of Americans to the FBI and the National Security Agency for a three-month period ending in mid-July. This revelation, which has sparked outrage and garnered major mainstream media attention, not only adds weight to alarms long raised by legislators and civil liberties advocates, but has also raised ire even in the most stalwart defenders of the Patriot Act—the 2001 law that enables this kind of covert court ruling and mass surveillance.
Shahid Buttar, executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, founded 12 years ago to fight the Patriot Act, expressed dismay that the surveillance of millions of Americans had been OK’ed. He told In These Times by phone, “The rule of law requires transparency. And a secret court [such as a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court] is not a court at all. Its decision-making is not judicial or ‘jurisprudencial’ in any meaningful sense of the word. It is ultimately political.”
An Anonymous spokesperson claimed to have hacked Obama’s Skype by gaining access to PRISM
INTERNET — Anonymous hackers claimed to have infiltrated PRISM’s network infrastructure after gaining access to the graphical user interface which was intended only for use by federal agents in cases of terrorism. Because the PRISM system has access to a log of all Internet phone calls (voIP via Skype, Google, etc.) and video chats, Anonymous vigilante intelligence researchers quickly unearthed evidence of high-level collusion between corporate executives and government officials. “We have access to President Obama’s Skype,” said a spokesperson for Anonymous, “and we’re only afraid it’s too absurd to be true.”
Anonymous will not comment on details of the leak until the information has been confirmed and verified. This time, Anonymous is seeking input from government sources so that their final release will be seen by the public as an even-handed nonpartisan attempt at uncovering the truth. “We want to know the government’s point of view simply because it will help us build a more complete view of what’s really going on. Even clever lies, denials, and evasion help us in our pursuit of truth. We won’t release the information until we’ve run it all over with several officials and received a frank appraisal of its context.”
President Obama has scheduled a press conference for Monday, and the White House has already released a statement condemning Anonymous. “The sad irony is that PRISM doesn’t even exist, but because of hacks like these we need something like it,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. “We will not cooperate with terrorists on any level, and we refuse to comment on illegally obtained confidential information.”
Despite such polemic rhetoric, the general consensus of Anonymous is that truth is still of the utmost importance. “The White House can’t order all 20 million of its employees around. Someone will always talk to us, and help us understand the truth behind these troubling but somewhat ambiguous conversations and other communications. All your PRISM are belong to us, and it’s going to be this way for as long as something like PRISM exists.”
One fine morning several weeks ago, I received a phone call from the local FBI office requesting an interview about Barrett Brown, former spokesperson for the Anonymous hacking collective. I told the agent, on the phone, that I didn’t really have any useful information, but he still wanted to talk to me. I didn’t see the harm in it, so I agreed to meet him that afternoon at a nearby coffee shop. For the rest of the day I grew increasingly nervous about the meeting as new and scarier possibilities came into my mind, despite their improbability. Was this guy a legitimate FBI agent, or was he something else? Did he intend to harm me, or possibly kill me?
I arrived to the coffee place a few minutes early and browsed through a selection of used books which included Bruce Sterling’s Hacker Crackdown — on sale for ten cents. Nearly immediately, I was accosted by a gregarious teenage girl, who complimented my beard and compared me to a popular musician I had never heard of. She was blonde, cute, and bubbly, but just underneath the surface lurked high culture. For the next few minutes we talked about Nietzsche and Goethe, until I saw the FBI agent staring at me from the corner of my eye. I said to the girl something like, “I’m sorry. I’m here to meet an FBI agent and talk to him about some shit.” She did not ask why, but instead exclaimed, loudly, “I hope he doesn’t drag you away and poison you!” This bizarre exchange, to which I have done little justice, was surely within earshot of the agent, and I still wonder whether it was some insidious kind of psychological manipulation. I am sure it was even stranger from the point of view of the agent.
He sat at a small table with a little pile of papers, and I joined him. On the papers were questions for me and information about me. I saw my driver’s license photo in full color for the first time, but with a distorted aspect ratio which widened my face. His manner was gentle, as you’d expect from a computer guy, and he wore an impeccable grey suit with fancy wingtip shoes. Because he alluded to a position with national security implications, that is all the description I will provide. Despite warning me that he was not an expert on Anonymous, he came across as generally well-informed, if not hopelessly misled on a few specifics. His praise for my writing was effusive and embarrassing, so much so that he apologized, and I could not help but glance at the girl, who now sat with her friends just a table away, as circuit breakers in my brain began to blow. What does she think of me, sitting here, getting this kind of incredible praise from an FBI agent? Surely she must be hearing this shit, and certainly she must not believe any of it. This boiling cauldron of ego soup was all the hotter for the chilling anxiety I had felt leading up to it. Yet, for all that, I did not detect a hint of inauthenticity in the agent’s manner, and, in fact, I saw genuine disappointment after a joke he told bombed because of my abnormally serious demeanor.
The business of the interview, the source of my anxiety, turned out to be a bit of a sad joke and far less disconcerting than all the continuous praise. Several questions, for instance, hinged on a case of mistaken identity. Because I use the pseudonym Kilgore Trout and had been somewhat of a nemesis to Barrett Brown, the FBI had apparently connected me with another Kilgore Trout who was, several years before I knew of Brown, also at odds with Brown. Both Brown and the other Trout had participated on the Little Green Footballs web site, some despicable hole of fringe punditry, but I knew very little about it. The agent claimed Brown had tasked a hacker with cracking Little Green Footballs — a fairly explosive piece of information. Evidence of Brown giving jobs to hackers has been alluded to in many stories about LulzSec, but no one has been sure of Brown’s level of involvement. If it was true he tasked someone with hacking Little Green Footballs, then his involvement with LulzSec could have possibly been pivotal. It was shocking, but of course I knew nothing that could be of help in any case. With grave seriousness which was not present in any other part of the conversation, he asked something like, “You once wrote that Barrett Brown worked for China or Russia. Is this true?” Like his joke that bombed earlier, my mind was too messed up to laugh at the right cue, and I did my best to seriously explain the joke. While anything is possible, I can’t get over the certainty that the FBI, in general, is seriously convincedin Anonymous and its possible connections to foreign power. It brings to mind reports out of Iranian state-owned media that attacks by Anonymous are orchestrated by the American government.
It’s nice to be reminded that law enforcement agents are real people, but it’s also a bit disturbing — because they’re real people. Anons, especially, tend to imagine law enforcement as a monolithic edifice which sees all and acts like a hatefully inhuman machine in exacting draconian punishments for the smallest infractions. Maybe that likeness is accurate enough in a few cases, but at the same time it’s really humans we’re talking about — prone to the same fear, misinterpretation, misinformation, and confusion as the rest of us.
For to this fearful mind, surely, all our science and art are but chemical processes signifying nothing of our subjective state.
SINGULARITY, Tex. — Wednesday night, it was revealed that the NSA has nearly achieved a limited omniscient point of view over the planet Earth through extra-constitutional top-secret wiretapping of all major communications hubs. The Obama administration responded Thursday morning, defending this capability as necessary in America’s ongoing struggle against terrorists. Earlier this year, a leaked document revealed the omnipotence of the Pentagon, which has been granted the power to kill any human being in any part of the globe, effectively giving the Military Industrial Complex de facto sovereignty over the planet.
Dr. Angstrom H. Troubador, Emergence Theorist, has declared that the conjunction of near-omniscience and near-omnipotence in such an entity heralds the coming of the so-called Singularity.
“Because of our limited point of view and our arrogance,” he said, via taped phone conversation, “we are like brain cells that believe they can understand the whole brain. The Singularity has passed by unnoticed even by those who have long predicted it. It was the emergence of such large ‘wholes’ as nations and corporations which allowed for the formation of this planetary ‘whole’. This is much bigger than overgrown and corrupt government practices, or mere collusion with corporations. These large powers have coalesced into a singular entity, which not only strides the planet with unmitigated force, but also sees, or can see, a great body of sense data that has very few practical limits. Perhaps it cannot recognize its Self, yet it has found cohesion — cohesion borne out of a single-minded fear of terrorism. Few individuals seem to be able to come to grips with the astonishing implications, for on the human level such power seems monstrous. Have we invented a near-God, which we are now obliged to worship at the threat of instant death by drone? Will we now look back at Atheism and Rationalism as an innocent age before the birth of such a mind as this? For to this mind, surely, all our science and art are but chemical processes signifying nothing of our subjective state.”
Russia Today has been hacked, leading some to believe Soviet influence may once again be on the rise.
MOSCOW — Russia Today, the state-owned media outlet that recently aired a television program hosted by Julian Assange, was driven offline Monday morning by an unprecedented cyberassault.
Not much is known about the attack, but several theories have been put forward by experts in the field, and some anti-WikiLeaks hackers have taken credit without providing credible proof.
Dr. Angstrom H. Troubador, professor of history at Cambridge and expert on geopolitics, said that large-scale cyberattacks like these are generally outside of the scope of individual actors.
“There is little doubt in my mind that a sophisticated organization was involved in this attack,” he said via email.
Dr. Troubador refused to speculate on possible suspect organizations, but commenters on social media were abuzz with rumor.
A recent article put out by the Associated Press and widely syndicated by thousands of publications, including Russia Today, brought huge publicity to organized crime taking place on the antiquated Soviet Union domain name extension. Cybercriminals in Russia and Eastern Europe have long been known for their sophistication and integration with traditional organized crime in the region, and many have ties with former Soviet organizations, which are at odds with Russia Today.
Meanwhile, Russia Today has brought publicity to civil disturbances in Turkey, leading many to believe the attack was carried out by militant Islamist groups who have quickly integrated cyberattacks into their arsenal of terror and want to heighten the drama of what they believe is part of the Islamic Revolution. Yet others believe the Turkish government itself has deployed this cyberattack in order to dispel the riots plaguing their cities.
Because of the huge attention given to WikiLeaks, the Occupy movement, and Anonymous by Russia Today, still others believe some operative from the United States Government may have deployed this devastating attack. It was recently revealed that almost all of America’s cyberwar capabilities are controlled by private contractors who often act far outside of the boundaries of law.
CTHONOS, Pelopponesia — On the border of the Earth’s mantle and crust, NASA astrobiologists have discovered a civilization of beings that challenge both our conception of ‘life’ and of ‘intelligence.’ These beings, which defy all taxonomy, are fist-sized nodes of rapidly regenerating proteins that have only been observed in their natural environment, deep in the Earth’s crust. Each fist-sized “nodian,” as these creatures have been dubbed, appears to be as complex as the human brain at any given moment but changes its morphology so rapidly that scientists believe “nodians” are most likely far more complex.
The conditions where “nodians” survive are believed to be very common, and Dr. Angstrom H. Troubador, leader of the Florida State University expedition, explained, “There is no doubt that the “nodians” are displaying signs of culture and specialization. By a very conservative estimate, their should be at least 50 billion “nodian” individuals, and we would be foolish to forget the numerous sightings of UFOs entering and exiting volcanoes, as well as USOs, which may enter and exit the crust through fissures in the sea floor.”
Actual Video Evidence of “Nodians” Entering and Exiting the Earth’s Crust:
William Binney, former NSA analyst, sits in the offices of Democracy Now! in New York City during a 2012 discussion about the federal government and their access to citizens’ private information. (Jacob Applebaum / Wikimedia Commons)
It’s been a frightening few weeks for journalists concerned with protecting their sources—and for Americans concerned with protecting their privacy. On May 13, the Associated Press revealed that the Justice Department secretly obtained two months of reporters’ call logs. Citing the Espionage Act, which prohibits the disclosure of classified information, the Justice Department had subpoenaed Verizon Wireless for the call logs of more than 20 AP phone lines. Within a week The Washington Post reported that in 2010 the DOJ had subpoenaed emails from Fox News’ chief Washington correspondent James Rosen’s personal Gmail, also with the motive of prosecuting leakers.
The revelations have caused a furor over whether national security interests should trump civil liberties. AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt called the DOJ surveillance an “unprecedented intrusion.” Michael Clemente, Fox News executive vice president of news, released a statement calling the DOJ’s surveillance of Rosen “chilling” and an “outrage.” He wrote, “We will unequivocally defend [Rosen's] right to operate as a member of what up until now has always been a free press.”
And a Pew survey showed a plurality of voters, 44 percent, disapproved of the DOJ obtaining AP phone records. Thirty-six percent, on the other hand, approved of the department’s obtaining the records.
What’s been largely overlooked, however, is that, subpoenaed call logs aside, the government may be recording your actual phone calls. And your emails. And all that data may be a mouse click, not a subpoena, away.
Kim Dotcom has faced illegal surveillance by the New Zealand government and now faces extradition to the United States. (Photo: Wikipedia)
Eccentric German-Finnish billionaire Kim Dotcom and his attorneys fired back at federal prosecutors Wednesday by accusing them, alongside other domestic authorities, of conspiracy to “deprive defendants of their presumption of innocence.” Dotcom is currently fighting attempts to extradite him from his haven in New Zealand, where he has faced illegal surveillance from that government, in addition to the charges of mass copyright violation that motivated the surveillance. According to his indictment by the United States last year, Dotcom’s former media-sharing website Megaupload was at some points responsible for 4 percent of all Internet traffic.
Dotcom’s lawyers wrote Wednesday, “[T]he outside motivating factor in this case stems from Motion Picture Association of America’s (erroneous) view of Megaupload as “the very top of the piracy pyramid,” coupled with the current Administration’s desire to placate an association whose members, as a group, are some of the Democratic Party’s strongest political supporters and most generous campaign contributors.”
Haters rejoiced late Easter Sunday, as a plot was devised to devour and destroy the illustrious and mighty Internet Chronicle. The plan was hatched on an encrypted video chat platform that only hackers use, called “TinyChat“. We managed to grab a few logs from the encrypted chat, but they were using what we believe may be the SHA-1 hash function so we could only decrypt parts of it.
The hack was done by the great and knowledgeable Hack Forums Hero known as f0rsaken aka hoic aka @itsd00m. He is well versed in social engineering trickery, such as jacking amazon accounts and some say he may have a “botnet,” but these are simply unconfirmed allegations.
While the deface was rather gauche, it did provide clear dox of all Chronicle.su employees and their families, while giving a nod to the great John Thiessen, aka Ron Brynaert. “#hatesec” was plastered all over the site, which seems to be a new hacking group with more skills than Dan Kaminsky, as they poisoned the Chronicles DNS and rerouted all traffic to 9gag, all the while maintaining root and mining information to SWAT people with.
As you can see, the critical infrastructure of the site is completely crippled and our lives are all over.
WASHINGTON — The Internet Chronicle has obtained footage of classification authorities discussing the classification process and allegations of overclassification. Early this month the national intelligence director counsel, Robert Litt, and a former director of the Information Security Oversight Office, J. William Leonard, took questions from attendees of a Brennan Center forum on secrecy and security.
Leonard pointed out that Obama administration officials had been instructed not to discuss the CIA’s targeted assassination program. That statement at the forum by Leonard, who served from 2002 to 2007, was in line with what former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told MSNBC’s last month. Then Gibbs said that his own vetting process had included that instruction that he was “not even to acknowledge the drone program.”
“[W]hen the principal architect of that program,” said Litt on March 14, “goes before Congress in order to be confirmed as a director of the Central Intelligence Agency, he then makes the observation that, ‘yeah, maybe it’s a good idea to debate these things in public.’”
But, said Leonard, Brennan’s call for transparency about the CIA’s drone came too late. Leonard said that when the government unleashes any and all violence upon an individual, the American public must be informed.
Our next snippet of footage comes in the Q-and-A, when an attorney rose to ask the national intelligence director’s own lawyer about the nature of alleged retroactive classification. This analyst cannot be sure of her client list, but the cases she mentions seems evocative of that of whistleblower Thomas Drake. Leonard has been altogether sympathetic to his plight.
The incidence of retroactive classification has for years heightened concerns among activists and whistleblowers that classification could be used for professional retribution — not, to wit, safeguarding the American people.
Executive Order 13526, from 2009, is intended to prohibit overclassification, and the questioner references its matter. (Specifically, she alludes to Section 5.5(b)(2), which offers “sanctions” for overclassification.) What stood out in the hundreds of thousands of State Department cables leaked by Bradley Manning is not the career-ending content but rather the arbitrary level of secrecy present. Said Litt at a later point in the forum (see video below), “My experience is that there’s very little conscious abuse of the classification process. What there is, is a set of incentives that lead people to apply the rules in a way that leans towards classification.”
The questioner said that her clients, “after their [books have] gone through pre-publication review,” had been told they stepped over the line with disclosures.
When another questioner complained that White House Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) had not been adequately transparent on the use of drones, against foreign nationals and potentially citizens alike, Robert Litt was dismissive.
There is a “long history of Congress,” said Litt, “claiming they’re not getting information from the executive branch.” Indeed at a March 6 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca.), also of Senate Select Intelligence, expressed misgivings that the Judiciary Committee could not see the executive branch’s legal rationale for the use of drones, abroad or potentially at home.
“[A]ny suggestion,” said Litt this month at the Brennan Center, “that the [House and Senate] Intelligence Committees did not understand the legal basis for the targeted killing program is wrong,” adding that they “were fully briefed on and fully informed of the reason” for drone use.
The legislative branch’s increased demands — climaxing with a day of filibuster by Kentucky Sen. Ran Paul (R) — and the executive branch’s recalcitrance, said Litt, amounts to a “creative tension,” adding, “No amount of reforms that we do will solve that problem.”