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“When You Bareback With the Internet, You Ride With the NSA”

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You must watch this talk, even if some parts are a bit technical for mere mortals. No matter how bad you think the NSA’s information surveillance and capture is, I can just about guarantee that this will show you that it’s an order of magnitude worse than you imagined.

Jacob Appelbaum makes clear that the degree to which the NSA not only controls the Internet but on a routine basis inserts all sorts of surveillance tools into not just computers and smart phones but also communications infrastructure. He also provides an extensive list of service providers, manufacturers, and devices that have either been compromised or are active collaborators.

Appelbaum debunks the idea that you as an individual can take comfort in the idea that you are too small and insignificant to be of notice to the NSA…

If nothing else, watch the section starting at 48:30. Oh, and in case you missed it, the NSA can compromise “air gapped” (as in never connected to the Internet) computers. And don’t miss the part that starts at 56:00. And see the related Der Spiegel article here.

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84 comments

  1. the NSA ate my dingo

    very interesting that the Applebaum video doesn’t thank Snowden (watch the end; it thanks half a dozen others) and he reiterates several times that more people should leak. Greenwald then says;

    “Der Spiegel doesn’t actually indicate the origin of the documents, so I’m going to go ahead and let them speak to that themselves. What I can tell you is that there are documents in the archive that was provided to us by Edward Snowden that detail similar programs. Whether these specific documents that Der Spiegel published come from them or from a different source is something I’m going to go ahead and let them address.”

    Do we have another leaker in the midst? I hope so.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      “Do we have another leaker in the midst? I hope so.”

      Perhaps not, but I bet there are individuals who might suggest where reporters could look for problems. It may provide plausible deniability which may not change minds, but rumors will only keep the story alive among people who are upset. Democratic voters who were upset over the NSA may “forget” the problem if it leaves the internet, but if the stories are still out there, this presents a problem for a party which has a growing perception as more ethnically diverse GOP.

    2. hunkerdown

      I suspect the cagey response is the equivalent of the US Air Force flying sorties to tease the North Korean military into frequent high alert.

    3. Mister Bunny

      Applebaum is awesome, and his talk is astounding. I would like to think that the info came from another NSA source, but in any case it definitely broke the eyes-glazed-over disclosure-fatigue of the past couple of months. What he’s describing is not surveillance, but the wholesale deliberate sabotage of the entire structure of the internet and personal computing. It’s outrageous and criminal.

  2. ess emm

    The NSA has made the entire US infrastructure to attacks from other intelligence services, cybercrime rings. As China Matters remarked

    a significant element of the Snowden story is the collusion between Big Tech and the NSA, fueled by the awareness that both sides want the same thing: a thoroughly backdoored Internet open to individual data profiling and surveillance penetration (and tolerate the resultant security breaches as cost of doing business/collateral damage).

    The NSA has sabotaged American companies (and the companies themselves have kissed their overseas sales goodbye).

    1. Clive

      Hi, I’ve been thinking since I read your comment about the “sabotaged” bit… (I’ve alluded to this being, in my opinion, perhaps more of a “colluded with” than “sabotaged” but perhaps it’s a bit of both.)

      What I’m queasy about is how we, as consumers (meaning we have a choice) continually put up with suppliers who enforce a “store” model of software distribution — Apple is the worst offender (“App Store”), Microsoft is sort-a halfway there (having to use the Windows Store for Modern apps, but at least allows you the freedom to use whatever you want to download yourself for “old apps”). Appelbaum suggests strongly (within, I suspect, limits imposed by his lawyer) (c. 45 mins in) that it is difficult to conceive how the NSA can guaurentee to always succeed in an iOS implant attempt as they apparently do without Apple’s collusion. But Apple couldn’t implement their collusion to end users, if they chose to go down that path, there’s no actual evidence that they do, unless they insisted that users only installed from their App Store.

      Now, you can “jailbreak” your iOS devices. Then, you can install from anywhere. But that’s in the realms of your more advanced user so perhaps in the NSA’s mind (and Apple’s too ?) it’s something that they simply don’t foresee as a widespread possibility. So the more users who bypass these attempts to lock down what is our bought and paid for property the less easy it might be for these agencies to target individuals.

      I know I’m dangling form the end of a long speculative string here, I hope I’ve not broken it somewhere in the above for readers, but this section of the presentation was the lightbulb moment for me. I wasn’t too convinced until I saw the bit about an iOS compromise was “guaranteed” to succeed. Carrying forward my thoughts on users only having non-jailbroken iOS devices for this to be possible, it illustrated group-think in action. Large, inward facing organisations like the NSA and, yes, Apple too, are riven with group-think. If Apple thinks, collectively, that users shouldn’t jailbreak their devices, then their potential for group-think means that they think users won’t jailbreak their devices. So an attempt to compromise an iOS device which relies on a non-jailbroken iOS device must always be possible as no-one would, in Apple’s mind, (and if Appelbaum’s insinuations are true) jailbreak their iOS hardware. The NSA, being equally susceptible to such group-think would have either bought the notion (or else, not questioned it) hook, line and sinker.

      So ironically, it was the potential presence of group-think in action which made me more inclined to believe what was in the presentation. Only really big, really stupid organisations (like the NSA, they’re not stupid as in lacking cleverness, they’re merely stupid in the sense that they’re very, very clever people who know absolutely nothing) could end up acting in the way that Appelbaum is suggesting they do.

      “Act” being the relevant verb here; I’m unwilling to take at face value that these big corporations are not in this up to their necks. And beyond.

      1. human

        It’s the hardware itself that is compromised. The chips are designed and coded (firmware) to accomplish whatever they wish…without intervention from you. In some instances your device does not even have to be turned on for them to be able to use the hardware remotely.

        1. Clive

          Ah. Thanks. That could explain why Microsoft made TPM mandatory for Windows 8 and beyond. Doing a bit of fact-checking to make sure I’d not misremembered that point, I came across this lovely old 2012-vintage (yeah, really from way way back) article with the (now, with hindsight) somewhat sinister sounding Trusted Computing Group TPM Working Group being interviewed:

          http://threatpost.com/tpm-chip-windows-8-lays-foundation-widespread-enhancements-hardware-based-security-102612/77156

          It’s worth a read if you have time and like your entertainment unintentionally hilarious and of the “you couldn’t get away with that now !” variety. Like watching Benny Hill chase the scantily clad totty around the park.

          Who, for instance, post-Snowdon, cannot stop themselves from having a right good chuckle at this little peach:

          “If you listen to some of the things coming out of the NSA and other organizations that understand this stuff, the general state of security is one where the attackers are absolutely ahead. It’s nearly impossible using traditional technologies to create a safe environment. The NSA is leading charge and TCG and a lot of organizations are realizing this is the best answer to address this. It’s a situation where it’s really bad, and this is an opportunity to turn the tables and be able to create a foundation that can provide real protection.”

          Like I say, only in 2012 could you say/read that and keep a straight face…

      2. hunkerdown

        I’m not biting. That’s tantamount to saying the Moon landing was faked, and sounds far too “savvy” to be plausible. As it is documented, TAO likes to hack below the application OS level precisely because it is invisible and persists across OS upgrades.

        Plausible scenario #1a: Apple, being an entertainment service provider, likely has OTA device management and rights management infrastructure embedded at multiple levels. Typically, these take a cryptographically signed message, verify the signature, and (if it checks out) does what the message tells it to. If the signing key is embedded in the hardware, it could be gleaned from the mask by an implant in some semiconductor fab here or abroad. At which point it’s a simple matter to forge OTA management messages all day long. Machines already manufactured will be completely vulnerable and changing that key for future versions adds big headaches for the vendor or the consumer (cf. Sony PS3 jailbreaks by Geohot and by fail0verflow).

        Plausible scenario #1b: Get appropriate management signing keys for system, but the old-fashioned way: through existing vulns in the application OS.

        Plausible scenario #2a: Mobile wireless devices typically have a logically separate processor running a real-time OS (L4, eCOS, whatever) that liaises between the radio and the application processor. NSA likes to hack below the application OS, because it’s harder to detect and harder to wipe. Baseband software isn’t usually upgraded regularly as long as it still talks to the network. Baseband software also trusts the base station to a high degree (because only the good guys are licensed to send data over the GSM network, so hacking is unpossible!!!!1) and might only minimally validate what it receives, which presents plenty of opportunities for remote code execution for Fun and profit.

        Plausible scenario #2b: baseband implant done by an off-the-shelf chip foundry (e.g. Qualcomm, Infineon, Freescale) and cleverly hidden in that “make source code compile cleanly” patch. The product vendor doesn’t always get source code for their drivers, so they may never know such a capability is there even after auditing it, which they may even be forbidden to do by contract.

        Plausible scenario #2c: The NSA Information Assurance Directorate would surely be happy to review infrastructure security for the corporate citizenry. It would be unsurprising for them to pass a design with holes (OWASP ESAPI).

        Plausible scenario #2d: Apple is in this up to their necks and provides ready access to their cloud-to-device messaging stream to NSA or any corp.

        Of course, complex systems being what they are, many variations are plausible.

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      “(and the companies themselves have kissed their overseas sales goodbye).”

      Apple is now denying collusion. If these companies are denying, their brand must be plummeting abroad.

      1. participant-observer-observed

        I was never one for keeping automatic update set on, but now except for my Comodo antivirus (no doubt pimping us to GCHQ & Indian intel), NOBODY is getting updated on my computers until I can’t put them off any longer. The first thing I noticed is the video flash players want to “update” on your computer everyday. The only way to turn it off is to control-alt-delete task manager up, then kill the process after starting windows but before connecting to the internet. I haven’t started turning off power to my router but I keep computers offline until I want to be online. It may not keep me more secure in the long run, but it surely isn’t good for IT business either, but with Google et all funding ALEC, the only thing I will pimp to Google is my daily YouTube check ins (not signed in whenever possible).

        I’ve always had an air gapped computer (it still runs XP and old CD-based MS Office which doesn’t copy your hard drive to its clouds every time you open MS Word)-in that sense, I’ve never been a good tech customer. On the other hand, as a physicist who trained on punched cards on the IBM 370 mainframes, I’ve been a long term customer, if not a profitable one!

  3. Clive

    Makes me wonder if the whole “we can’t trust Huawei” (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/06/06/huawei_threat_to_uk_national_security/) is simply a huge piece of black propaganda put about by the NSA / GHCQ to ensure that the communications backbone was supplied by contractors (IBM, Cisco, Intel, RSA) who could be reliably “leaned on” to, ah-hem, “co-operate” in the “interests” of “national security”. Whatever. Those. May. Be.

    Did I really say only yesterday that, in shortform, this isn’t worthy of being on everyone’s worry / anger list ?

    (Clive, slapping his own dumb-ass wrist)

    But… but… but… one thing I’m still unable to reach a firm conclusion on (and will try and get to a point of being sufficiently well informed to come up with an opinion on, would be grateful if NC comments / links can provide help on this in future) is: should we actively migrate to a secure (~er) O/S e.g. Tails and / or Tor ? Or do we keep “in the clear” (i.e. unencrypted) to, basically say, “hey, NSA, come on, do your worst” ?

    1. garbagecat

      Some experts believe that a third to a half of the hosts in Tor are actually run by our friends in the intel services. You might be better off communicating unencrypted but watching what you say very carefully.

      1. ambrit

        Dear cat;
        This reminds me of all those well written “spy” books, (as in done by people who actually were involved in the “business” at one time or another,) that aver that the only “real” secure communications are peer to peer in the flesh.
        Like everything else on the internet, personal security is virtual, not virtuous.

        1. garbagecat

          Don’t be too sure. There are entities who really don’t want to see or hear their names mentioned. On multiple occasions I’ve had had private, in-the-flesh conversations with people who insist on having those conversations outdoors, look over their shoulders, drop their voices, and refuse to refer to certain agencies by name.

          And these guys aren’t tinfoil-hat wearers either. I work with the major DIB companies.

          1. ambrit

            Dear cat;
            Eric Larsens “In the Garden of the Beasts” which is about the family of the American Ambassador to the Reich in the Thirties mentions that ‘foreign’ diplomats, when they wanted to feel relatively secure in their conversations, would coordinate ‘accidental’ meetings in the park in central Berlin. This was viewed as a rational response to living in a police state. It’s very sad to see the same dynamic being enacted in what used to be called “The Land of the Free.”
            Stay safe.

      2. human

        It’s just like the late ’40′s eary ’50′s when it is considered that somewhere about half of the subscribed membership to the US communist parties were actually infiltrated agents. Often without them even knowing each other. Another example of spying being too big to be effective.

        1. ambrit

          Dear human;
          “Too big to be effective” depends on what the real motives were. If they were aiming to maintain control of the country through “fear of the other,” they were very successful.
          As many ‘false flag’ exercises show, the perception of a threat is usually just as good a tool as a real threat.

          1. human

            Yes, I did wish to edit that after I submitted. They did effectively undermine the socialist organizations to the point of marginalization, it was jut that nobody knew who was who. I wonder if there was any central database of informers/infiltrators, or if anybody even cared.

            1. LifelongLib

              They wanted to keep track of their own agents too — when an agent actually met some socialists/communists he might end up agreeing with them. Can’t have that.

      3. participant-observer-observed

        Tor is not primarily encrypting content, although it forces https on link openings. Rather, it gives you a random IP address. It is actually kind of fun, running Huffpo for example is likely to open to the Germany version if you IP looks German.

        Facebook, on the other hand, won’t let you log on if you are not “trackable” to your “usual” log in IP address, supposedly to protect YOUR security, so doesn’t really work with Tor. Given the close ties of Facebook to Larry Summers & DC gangs, we shouldn’t find this surprising.

        On thing useful to see on the tor project site is the blog and useful links.

      4. Snake Arbusto

        “You might be better off communicating unencrypted but watching what you say very carefully.” Yeah, well. In other words, only the Unsaid is safe to say. I flashed on _Fahrenheit 451_, where no one reads books anymore but people have “become” books by memorizing them, then teaching them to a younger person before they die, awaiting the far-off day when books will once again be permitted. Except that here, language itself is the books. What’s the solution, except to return to purely acoustic, real-space communication?

    2. Not Sanguine Anymore

      Good crypto (i.e. open source, >= 2048 size keys) is still secure. The Tor network is still secure (previous NSA/FBI interception of Tor has been down to user error or browser/host machine problems).

      Realistically, however, unless your extremely technically competent / a security engineer, the NSA are going to be reading your shit (e.g. you are using windows/intel & the NSA have backdoored your processors random number generator which breaks every security feature; https://plus.google.com/+TheodoreTso/posts/SDcoemc9V3J). Even with a Software Engineering degree, 15 years of programming experience, and linux/open source tech everywhere, I still assume this comment is going straight on my file.

      That said, IMO the key to fucking over the NSA is to make drag-netting harder/more expensive. Using Tails/Tor/GPG is not going to keep your data 100% safe (due to a backdoored BIOS, Harddrive, CPU, Router, the list is endless) but it will make it 10x harder for them, and if everyone started making it 10x harder for them then they’d have to start thinking harder about actual targeting.

  4. bob

    How much has Jacob Appelbaum been paid by the ONI to date? Office of Naval Intelligence, the creator of tor.
    Other defense/military contractors?
    I can’t argue with what the man says, he would know, much better than me. I just can’t help the feeling that I’m being lectured about the police state, by the warden, from inside a cell.

    1. TimR

      Yes… I put a big question mark over the motives/connections of Poitras, Greenwald, Assange, etc.
      It’s interesting to me how *some* whistle-blowers get lots of major media coverage, and others are relegated to obscure alt media.

      1. ess emm

        TimR, put your cards on the table. What connection/motive do Greenwald, Appelbaum, et. al., have besides they all want to preserve freedom/privacy and democracy? Only from an authoritarian viewpoint would those be considered questionable motives

        1. TimR

          It’s just a worldview based on reading/listening to a range of books and media. Was it in the movie “Network” (by Paddy Chayefsky) where the exec says something about “There are wheels within wheels..” Based on my reading I think that things (especially big media stories) are rarely what they appear on the surface. This is disconcerting because you have to question absolutely everything, and most people probably don’t want to bother, but that’s my view.
          W/r/t Greenwald et al, a number of critical thinkers who I admire have raised questions about it all. Here’s a link:
          http://www.corbettreport.com/interview-798-what-is-greenwald-covering-up-bfproundtable-02/
          YMMV. I posted this here on NC and somebody said it was all speculative, that the commentators live in an alternate reality like Fox News, but I find their concerns valid. Anyway we all live in our own realities! Nobody can see the whole picture. I try to get parts of the picture from anyone who seems critically minded and knowledgeable, and yet always remain at a remove (as best I can) so as not to start thinking dogmatically.
          You can also see spitfirelist.com for a series of articles/audio about some of the billionaire backers connected to Greenwald/Snowden. eg Peter Thiel, and the other names escape me. Spitfirelist (by Dave Emory) also cites a Mark Ames / nsfwcorp article Yves has linked to here.
          I remember one of the Naomis (I get them all mixed up), writing a brief note about Snowden raising some skeptical points. I just think when it comes to these intel types, you have to bear in mind that they live in this stange hall of mirrors world that regular civilians would never think about themselves, so don’t imagine anyone else would be capable of such schemes. Sort of like Hitler’s “tell a lie big enough and the average person won’t credit that anyone would be that audacious with the truth.”

          1. ess emm

            You cant possibly be swayed by Edmunds. She has an anonymous NSA source that says that Greenwald is holding back Paypal docs. are we supposed to be thunderstruck that a journalist does journalism for money? Also in zeal against corporate media she seems to ignore that Gellman freelances for WaPo.

            In the video Edmonds seems to think Snowden going to jail in the US is the most patriotic thing he can do; that Greenwald should just dump the docs on the internet; that Omidyar gave Greenwald $250M; “it raises her carefully manicured immaculate eyebrows” that Snowden gave the docs to a journalist to publish rather than dumping it on the internet. I mean, wtf.

            I’m not swayed. She isnt uncovering facts—she is making making charges based on innuendo. I call it BS. It’s the same kind of BS that Cesca, Johnson, Schindler, and (before he moved to another field) Foust do. They are aided by Bob Schieffer, 60 Minutes, David Gregory and Lawrence O’Donnell. No facts, no docs, just counter-attacking blather—which they try to excuse by saying “We’re just asking questions.”

            1. Dan Kervick

              Edmonds is just PO’s that there is a new leaker on the block hogging the limelight from her. People shouldn’t go down her crazy rabbit hole.

              1. TimR

                But she has formed a group for whistleblowers and interviews/promotes them (eg she has hosted Russ Tice.) Also she has not been given much “limelight” — why does Snowden get virtually ALL the major media coverage in this zone, and almost never these others? Yes he has docs, but shouldn’t there be a curiosity now (since they find Snowden credible) to go and really listen to these other leakers?
                “crazy rabbit hole” — this is like the “conspiracy theory” putdown, just an ad hominem to shut down conversation. Is she really so worthless a human being to be dismissed that way? AFAIK she’s on the level, and seems to be working hard to bring to light a realistic, complicated understanding of the world, as an alternative to propaganda from most outlets.

                1. hunkerdown

                  Snowden’s easier to hate: Wünderkind with a stripper girlfriend, six figure salary without suffering enough, decamped to Asia (how dare he!). Also, someone who keeps a private life leaves a vacuum into which it’s easy to spin fantastic smear tales.

                  Edmonds may have done good things, but that doesn’t make her good or bad. Sleeper agents may never know they’re sleepers until they’re given their orders, if even then.

                  Doesn’t it seem a little bit odd how consistently narrow the range of smears lobbed at Snowden, and how (aside from the usual comment trolling for fun and/or profit, which started on or about June 7 over at HuffPo) they seem to have come online in fairly close succession within the past month or two? As Yves said of the sudden push to get female “leaders” on front pages earlier this year, it doesn’t feel organic.

                  1. TimR

                    Wait, you think Edmonds may be a sleeper agent, but Snowden is beyond suspicion?
                    As I said, I think it’s necessary to question everyone in the media, even alt media, so yes it’s possible Edmonds is not as she presents herself. But I have not seen evidence so far of that myself. Whereas Snowden, I wonder if his respect for Ron Paul is just innocent ideological congruence, or if it’s a deeper spook/billionaire nexus acting to promote some private agenda of their own. Or maybe he’s real and they’re just using him, who knows.

            2. TimR

              I don’t want to get into the weeds on it; like I said, I’m keeping a question mark over the whole matter.
              I don’t know those names you compare her to (Cesca etc.) Are you saying she’s not really independent, that she’s some kind of establishment shill disguised as alt media?

              1. ess emm

                1. I dont want to get into the weeds on it And yet you give me an hour long video to check out. I did. It’s full of BS. You have no defense, no facts. Which brings me to

                2. I’m keeping a question mark over the whole matter Only because of willful head-in-the-sandism. Dont run away from logic and common sense, use them and look at the facts. Edmunds (and you) should be talking about the NSA and how they’ve pwned the internet and taken away privacy worldwide. Instead she counter-attacks with fact-free innuendo trying to make the story about Greenwald and that shiny personality-driven object distracts you. Keep your eye on the ball, watch Jacob Appelbaum’s video, read Schneier, read Gellman.

                1. TimR

                  I think Edmonds has been talking about the NSA and privacy issues extensively; maybe you’re only familiar with her criticism of Greenwald/Snowden, and that’s coloring your view of her overall?
                  I appreciate that you checked out the link, but the thing is if you found that unpersuasive, I’m not going to be able to persuade you, because I thought they (and others) have raised valid concerns.
                  This is a very secretive matter obviously, where it’s hard to know what’s reliable and what’s disinfo, so I don’t feel conclusive one way or another. Maybe you’re right, personally I’m just leaning to suspicion. I have a better intuitive sense about Corbett, Edmonds, Emory, who *seem* more genuine to me, whereas Greenwald et al seem like brilliant but possibly manipulative actors.

                  1. ess emm

                    Here’s a specific example of her idiocy from your video link (see 13:05-17:25).

                    Corbett asks a “valid question”: How does a retired NSA official even know Snowden has PayPal documents in the first place.

                    Edmunds answers by first talking about a previous topic. She then says in a very convoluted way, that her source worked in a software division and had a contract with another NSA division and knew that other division was hoovering information from PayPal and other financial institutions.Then Edmunds agrees with Corbett that nobody knows how many documents Snowden took (throwing out random numbers that we were “told” he had) and blames Greenwald for that. She concludes that something is seriously wrong here.

                    Dis you see what she did? She doesnt answer how her source knows PayPal is collaborating with NSA or how he knows that Snowden even has the alleged documents about it. The most the NSA guy could have known was that NSA hoovered financial info. She never answers the original question because it obviously, by very simple logic, refutes her source.

                    But it’s okay, TimR, go with your intuitions, dont let any facts interfere with that.

                    1. TimR

                      oh geez, I wrote you a long reply and it got eaten… I wish the browser would automatically save recent text for 15 minutes or something. Now I know how people feel who complain of this, I never had this problem until today.
                      Anyway.. In brief, I concede it’s convoluted, and I can’t make any sense of that myself. I’m glad Corbett was at least playing devil’s advocate to some degree, that shows his intellectual honesty. I’m not sure why you disagree that one should at least keep an open mind about Snowden/Greenwald, given the murky nature of the world of spies and psy-ops. But be that as it may I appreciate your close reading, and will try to be more critical minded of Edmonds myself in the future, not excuse any sloppy reasoning or vague arguments on her part.

        2. bob

          Go team Omidyar!! Billionare loan shark spooks, and their employees, are always looking out for you! Look at how much money they spend on “democracy”.

          1. TimR

            Right, Omidyar is another character involved in this group that should raise one’s eyebrows (“immaculately manicured” or not! Where is that line from btw? I mean of all things to attack her on, I’m surprised anyone is going after her *looks*…)

            1. ess emm

              Edmunds says having a journalist doing journalism “raises her eyebrows,” and I just wanted it in the record that she has very nice eyebrows, too. Her stupid view that journalist doing journalism is something surprising enough to raise eyebrows is what deserves disapproval—not her lovely eyebrows.

            2. hunkerdown

              That’s as may be, but seriously, what’s the worst case if the anti-Greenwald peanut gallery is right and he and First Look are holding back? What is the worst they could be hiding? Point-to-point link to the FBI? Wouldn’t be surprised at all.

              As it is, PayPal sends unencrypted emails about transactions. They don’t even NEED to cooperate with the authorities if they divulge every transaction in plaintext in the course of normal operations. Why would anyone assume that a money transfer business operating after 9/11 wouldn’t have a direct pipe to the Federal Reserve or FinCEN or whoever monitors these things (which would, in turn, likely be monitored by NSA)?

              When all you have as a right-wing conspiracy theorist is dot-connecting, everybody looks like a dot. Not a single bit of the Snowden papers should be taken to insinuate that there is not a well-documented and long-standing collaboration between industry and government against citizens (ffs the first release proved it) or that there isn’t still work to be done on divorcing the two; what the Snowden papers add to that is a finer picture of the regard in which the USG and deep state hold citizens, and a better idea of how resistant to popular recapture said governments might be.

              Professional jealousy seems a more plausible explanation, given what meager hypothetical fare they’re jousting over and the disappointing predictability of their muck-smearing. That Ames complained about the online war he had a hand in starting suggests to me that there is a strong manufactured element to this conflict.

              1. TimR

                I lost a reply to you, but in brief:
                IMO Edmonds has too good a sense of humor, combined with seriousness of purpose, to fall into such a petty trap as that. Especially after being called on it (and she addresses the charge) I think if it were true, she would be compelled to shut up or else be much more subtle. Instead she goes full bore, because she has genuine concerns, not mere petty jealousy.

      2. participant-observer-observed

        I don’t see the evidence of those guys getting any significant media coverage at all!

        For an excellent recent review of US censorship culture of MSM, kindly enjoy Blase Bonpane’s last World Focus program, ff to 30:00 to hear the review of current US “normative” censorship of news about Snowden at al.

        http://archive.kpfk.org/m3u.php?mp3fil=19538

        1. TimR

          Well, relative to other leakers/ whistleblowers/ critics maybe…
          The Guardian, NYT, Reuters, NPR, report on Snowden to some degree, hardly any to other figures.

  5. Cassiodorus

    There is no legitimate justification for what the NSA does. The “terrorism” they pretend to invent doesn’t exist, and so they’ve anointed themselves as all-powerful, all-motivated, terrorists.

    1. Banger

      That’s the fact we should keep focused on. The NSA has caught few if any “terrorists” and has clearly scaled and focused its efforts on creating a virtual panopticon the wet-dream of every authoritarian politician since empires began. The Cold War and the so called “War on Terror” were manipulated or engineered to create fear which would create funding for the police state measures that are now in place.

      Fortunately for us, the USG’s power is being limited by a combination of deep divisions within the national security state, corruption and ineptitude. The inheritors of this idea of a panopticon will be Google and other IT monsters. Sadly, we will have to live with that reality.

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      Bingo. The CIA was aware of that at least two of the 9/11 hijackers were in the U.S. prior to 9/11 and didn’t alert the FBI which they are required to do so by law, but since the CIA can classify embarrassments, they chose to let these guys operate in an effort to flip them to win glory by making a large coup against Al Qaeda. Plenty of these CIA guys are pissed off at W. over not letting them have bigger operations when he came into office.

      The reason the identity of the 9/11 hijackers was known so quickly was because Cheney was giving orders (which he isn’t technically supposed to do, but W. was a man-child anyway; I’m sure this is why their testimony was secret.) and he wanted to know who it was. The problem is when other elements not related to the “flipping” operation checked the passenger list of these planes they found known Al Qaeda terrorists on the manifest. The FBI went to the apartments and found evidence linking every other hijacker almost immediately.

      Except for Cheney giving orders, the U.S. government was more or less able to analyse and determine the nature of the 9/11 attacks on the same day as the attacks without civil rights violations or secret patriot acts, and the one lesson is had the CIA followed the law there would be no 9/11. Even much of our pre-9/11 security apparatus was designed to prevent Soviet sabotage. Admittedly, the Very Wise Men Of Washington missed airplanes hitting buildings despite the love for Tom Clancy among “serious” circiles.

      The Security State’s focus on meta data collection means they no longer care about actual intelligence because they can’t see through the fog, and the result is the Boston Marathon attack which would have been more devastating except for the location which allowed for many of the injured to receive immediate hospital-grade attention. Had it been at the July 4 celebration, there would have been a bottle neck resulting in a much higher casualty count without proximity to multiple hospitals and the on-site medical personal on hand for the race who were fortunately not close enough to the blast to be effected and could react.

      Even the capture of Bin Laden started with following a known Al Qaeda operative who they would have had no problem acquiring warrants to track.

      1. LifelongLib

        Yes. 9/11, Pearl Harbor, and (I’ve heard) the JFK assassination all happened in part because various U.S. security agencies didn’t make good use of information they already had. Simply grabbing more information without being able/willing to analyze and communicate it won’t help in situations like that. Of course at least for 9/11 the agencies used it as an excuse to get increased capabilities that they already wanted anyway, not because they thought it would actually help.

      2. rob

        The cia probably knew of 11 or 12 of the hijackers who were supposedly guilty of the 9-11 events.They didn’t have to tell the FBI, the FBI was the ones who were protecting them from apprehension for at least 3 years prior to 9-11.The fbi was protecting terrorists in florida,arizona,chicago,minneapolis,and ?…
        Just so that history must erase this memory too, for the 9-11 cover-up to be complete…

        The story of the investigations of two of the 9-11 hijackers in Chicago, and their Saudi businessman financier, Yasin Al-Qadi .
        The fbi Chicago office, had two agents Robert Wright and john? Vincent, Investigating these three men between 1998 and late 2000.At the same time Illinois attorney generals office with Patrick fitzgerald at the helm, was also handling investigations of these “known” terrorists, for previous attacks in Africa and other places… Yasin al-qadi was put on the terrorist list and had some of his assets frozen.. And just before the investigations were to be concluded and these men arrested…. the Fbi Head of the radical fundamentalist unit,told the agents to “close the case”,”step down”,”Let sleeping dogs lie”…
        At the same time the US attorney generals office ordered fitzgerald to also back off… And they did.
        a year later 9-11 happened, and these two men were supposedly part of the conspiracy…
        One of the things about this particular group was Al-qadi…
        He was a Saudi businessman, which among other business, was a principle owner of a company called” P-Tech”. This company was a security software company, that had above top secret clearance and when and before 9-11 happened had contracts with and were working on systems for :CIA,FBI,NSA,NRO,SECRET SERVICE,NORAD,ETC.
        The Virginia location seems to have been the nexus, not the boston office (which seems to be the ruse used by propaganda central,which states the boston office was raided by the fbi later.. to no avail)
        Among so many other things… 10 years go by and yasin al-qadi is not only taken off the terrorist list..he is a contributor to the mitt Romney election campaign.

        And here we are talking about terrorists… The FBI, seems to be the most radical terrorist sponsor in this country. Most domestic plots involve fbi connected “informants”, look at the ’93 trade tower bombing where the fbi had the option to have its informant use “dud” explosives in the bomb… but the higher ups didn’t want anything to “not work”…no wonder they knew the vin # of the truck… it was probably on their credit card receipt… and the last dozen “foiled plots”, .At least ten of them contained an “informant”, that was integral with concocting plots,paying for them,inciting them,and even getting weapons….Lets not forget the story of the “Camden 28″ from the Vietnam era…. the fbi, is the main terrorist danger in America.(And of course most people working for the fbi are not involved and are surely doing their darndest to be proactive, and would never believe they are being trod before the masses to be stooges.)

        While the CIA, does the terror acts abroad..

  6. Teejay

    Jacob: ” Absent a political solution, it’s very difficult to get [a politician] to admit there’s a problem.” This has to be the biggest political problem of all. The pile under the world’s rug is getting awfully big.

    1. Expat

      Of course, there is a political solution, but not with the current crop of knaves and fools who dominate seats of power worldwide. Destruction of the planet and the economy was not enough for these characters; now they believe they have the means to understand and — if not now then soon — destroy the thoughts of each of us. For the small-minded this is the triumph of the ages. Since their nuclear dream of unheard of power proved to be beyond their ability to harness for personal enrichment, they have hit on electronic spying. This is quite apart from the ability now in the hands of anyone with power over the NSA to target and “punish” anyone on Earth whom they choose. Or to make up lists….

      On the other hand, look at what they did not do with all this information that they have been collecting for what? 15 years?: properly tax the hidden billions stashed in offshore accounts, collect Karl Rove’s, Sick Cheney’s, Dumbfeld’s and Addlebrain’s smoking gun emails from the Bush years that could have put them on trial, assemble the smoking gun emails that could put most of the executives of corporate America on trial. When Obama says things like “it’s not clear that any laws were broken,” I am reminded that both he and Bush have governed in an ongoing, self-declared state of emergency that could give them the power to do anything they — or, more precisely, their funders — want.

      As Stephen Kinzer’s new book about the Dulles brothers shows, the US has long suffered from conflating “national security” with the comfort and enrichment (engorgement?) of the .1%. (Kinzer backs off from this observation a bit in his presentation on CSPAN, but it is a clear conclusion in the book itself. See “The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War,” http://booktv.org/Program/15037/The+Brothers+John+Foster+Dulles+Allen+Dulles+and+Their+Secret+World+War.aspx )

      Beware of polticians flapping about national security….

    1. ambrit

      Dear cnchal;
      ” When everyone is a terrorist, no one is [safe.]” Or free, or virtuous, or trustworthy, or trusting, or (—-) {insert your favourite.}

  7. Mcmikw

    Its not that i think i am too small to be tracked. Its that i think i am too small to be bothered with afterwards.

    We are all little mice scurrying about, and the Great Cat watches over us all. There is no predicting when the Terrible Paw will snatch one of us up. And when that happens, it doesnt really matter what you were doing anyway.

    To live and love out in the open anyway becomes an act of defiance.

  8. Banger

    Whether it is NSA, Google, or any other organization we all have a permanent record and a profile. We are all tracked and monitored continually if we phone or use the internet and, I believe, a few of us are watched through satellite and eavesdropping equipment which has become very good. The future, of course, belongs to small insect-size drones which will follow some of us around should be be involved in anything considered threatening to the state.

    There is no way to stop this or to turn it back because there is not even a hint of an organized opposition to the system in part because the propaganda organs (mainstream media) have created an utterly false narrative of history since WWII. If you don’t understand the coup d’etat of 1963 you understand nothing about subsequent events.

    In the meantime we have to life with it–and I think we can. Culture will trump politics and creating a culture of cooperation, love, community, and social morality will undermine the Feds and even Google more than any demonstrations or other political actions.

    1. ess emm

      The NSA has embarrassed the rich corporate elites and jeopardized their stockholder’s profits. The Elites will fight back.

      1. human

        That’s coup d’Etat, Banger.

        And sm, the Elites don’t fight back, they arrange to have any losses covered, ultimately paid for by us proles. Think TPP.

    2. Ulysses

      I think you’re right, Banger, that culture will trump politics and the machinery of power. Part of the point of creating this Panopticon is to Infantilize the citizenry. Authoritarians want their citizens/subjects too afraid of discovery to openly discuss their grievances against the system. We can invert this however, by refusing to be scared of these goofballs. Try to imagine the Surveillance State as a bunch of thirteen year old pimple-faced boys with drinking glasses held to the wall, listening in on the grownups. Who has the all the dignity in that scenario? We, the spied-upon citizens, not the voyeuristic boys and their high-tech toys!

  9. ambrit

    Friends;
    All this just increases my appreciation of the “off the grid” people I come in contact with.
    “Back to Nature” isn’t just for the “Mother Earth News” or “Nude Beach Digest” readers anymore.

  10. The Dork of Cork

    I find this internet stuff a bore.
    Eventually we will return to LW radio 4 land and the book at bedtime.

    The internet social and cultural phenomena is as much to do with having so much time to do electronic stuff (rather then real physical activity) and having little credit / energy to do it.
    So we waste our time listening to geeks who have also vacated the physical realm for cyberspace but lack any context to evaluate the information.
    So to be precise the explosive rise of internet use is not really a technological but a manifestation of monetary and physical economic decline.

    Eventually the evil eye will control all (now worthless) life
    When it does – its tower will fall also.

    People are undergoing continual declining (real end use) YoY energy rations
    Everything else is just bollox.

    Transferring brains from one vessel to another will be seen for what it is.
    Worthless pop /junk art.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vuvktTMujMg

  11. The Dork of Cork

    I find this internet stuff a bore.
    Eventually we will return to LW radio 4 land and the book at bedtime.

    The internet social and cultural phenomena is as much to do with having so much time to do electronic stuff (rather then real physical activity) and having little credit / energy to do it.
    So we waste our time listening to geeks who have also vacated the physical realm for cyberspace but lack any context to evaluate the information.
    So to be precise the explosive rise of internet use is not really a technological development but a manifestation of monetary and physical economic decline.

    Eventually the evil eye will control all (now worthless) life
    When it does – its tower will fall also.

    People are undergoing continual declining (real end use) YoY energy rations
    Everything else is just bollox.

    Transferring brains from one vessel to another will be seen for what it is.
    Worthless pop /junk art.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vuvktTMujMg

  12. drb48

    Can’t speak for the rest of NC readers here but I’ve been operating under the assumption that everything I did or said online was being monitored for years now. And that we are living in a surveillance state. Unfortunate – and unconstitutional – but the “rule of law” has received no more than lip service in the US as far as applying it to our “owners” for some time now – if it ever in fact applied. In any case, while I have no illusions that “as an individual I’m too small and insignificant to be of notice to the NSA”, I’m pretty sure that while bitching about that on the internet may put me in their database, it hardly makes me a threat to the ruling order. Plus, we’re all in their damn database anyway, so F it.

    1. Waking Up

      As Daniel J. Solove stated, “My life’s an open book,” people might say. “I’ve got nothing to hide.” But now the government has large dossiers of everyone’s activities, interests, reading habits, finances, and health. What if the government leaks the information to the public? What if the government mistakenly determines that based on your pattern of activities, you’re likely to engage in a criminal act? What if it denies you the right to fly? What if the government thinks your financial transactions look odd—even if you’ve done nothing wrong—and freezes your accounts? What if the government doesn’t protect your information with adequate security, and an identity thief obtains it and uses it to defraud you? Even if you have nothing to hide, the government can cause you a lot of harm.”

      http://chronicle.com/article/Why-Privacy-Matters-Even-if/127461/

      1. drb48

        We’re past the point where we’re going to put the data genie back in the bottle IMHO. In fact we passed it quite a while ago – most people just weren’t paying attention. Learn to love Big Brother. Or don’t – he won’t care either way.

  13. George Phillies

    There is indeed an organized opposition to the war by Congress and the Executive on the American people and all the people of the world. It is the Libertarian Party and the world libertarian movement.

  14. DakotabornKansan

    Google’s Orwellian neck tattoo is their creepiest patent yet. In November, Google’s Motorola Mobility division has filed an application with the US Patent and Trademark Office for a “system and method” to tattoo a mobile-device microphone with lie-detector circuitry onto your throat.

    http://appft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-bool.html&r=1&f=G&l=50&co1=AND&d=PG01&s1=20130297301.PGNR.&OS=DN/20130297301&RS=DN/20130297301

    The “Coupling an Electronic Skin Tattoo to a Mobile Communication Device” contains an embedded microphone and hooks up to your mobile device, enabling wireless communication. That tattoo could have several functions, but the most intriguing is the lie-detection. The patent explains: “Optionally, the electronic skin tattoo 200 can further include a galvanic skin response detector to detect skin resistance of a user. It is contemplated that a user that may be nervous or engaging in speaking falsehoods may exhibit different galvanic skin response than a more confident, truth telling individual.”

  15. Jay Goldfarb

    Very interesting, although I am not familiar with a lot of the jargon. One critical comment: according to well-settled physics, it is not possible to cause cancer with radio frequency (RF) energy or any electromagnetic energy with a frequency below ultraviolet (UV). (Radiation with frequencies above UV is ionizing whereas those below are not. Higher frequency radiation is even more ionizing, hence the severe danger of x-rays and gamma radiation.)

    1. rob

      I am no expert in anything on this but, I wouldn’t necessarily believe a statement that low frequencies can’t cause cancer., Robert Becker wrote a book,”The body electric;electromagnetism and the foundation of life”.He had over thirty years(released back in ’85,so thirty years prior),of research that showed the opposite.The human bodies natural “wavelength”,which is low,is actually more prone to disruption by wavelengths that are similar than ones wholly different.It was the frequency spectrum that was in the same range as the bodies natural wavelenths,that was the most likely to cause cancers to grow in test subjects.Whereas high frequencies like microwaves or gamma rays just destroy/cook things,doing obvious damage,quickly.His research with simpler organisms like salamanders, found that electromagnetic interference with natural electromagnetic transmissions in the body of the organism were often resulting in cancer.
      as this is only one thing off the top of my head, I just wouldn’t agree that lower frequencies don’t have any risks.My take is that there is so much electromagnetic pollution around all of us, the medical intelligensia, just doesn’t really want to know….lest the guys in the legal profession sue everyone in the industrial professions to get money for the guys in the medical professions…

  16. Shutter

    Seriously, I’m wondering when it will be a federal crime to intentionally — or unintentionally — go off the grid? Why would this be permitted in a total-surveillance society? Its got to be a red flag for the NSA. Just make it a federal crime (secret crime, of course, leading to secret detention).

    Maybe it is already.

    1. rob

      The thing is, going off the grid leaves a hole in your profile, and any and every contact around that hole, leaves a questionmark.The act of not “being in the mix”, is in and of itself, suspicious.
      Surely the central scrutinizers are on top of that too.

  17. Eureka Springs

    What about declaring by law (amendment?) that a persons electronic devices, storage and communications (via wire or air) are protected as a persons papers and effects were meant to be in the fourth would not clear up so very much of this totalitarian fiasco? Yes, I realize I am assuming for a nanosecond rule of law would be enforced.

    Additionally, elimination of the possibility of secret government law, actions, courts, documents, budgets or secret wars.

  18. Butch In Waukegan

    I received a call from my credit union today because I had made a purchase at Target. I was told that the credit union was experiencing significant losses from stolen Target info, and they were replacing all the affected cards.

    This crime seems pretty sophisticated and raised some questions for me:
    • Did the breach at Target stem from backdoor vulnerabilies inserted by the NSA?

    • Were the perpertrators connected with the NSA? “Analysts” checked up on their love interests. It is plausible that an NSA employee would use their knowledge and skills if the reward is a huge pot of money.
    • If it was discovered that an NSA employee was involved, would we ever hear about it? More likely they would go to the top of Obama’s kill list.

  19. Carla

    Yves, I know that some days or weeks ago, you removed the ads between the post and the comments. Now they’re back. As a modest but faithful contributor to NC, I respectfully protest.

  20. Waking Up

    “I don’t know how to tell you all just how crazy this life feels
    I look around for the friends that I used to turn to to pull me through
    Looking into their eyes I see them running too ” …Jackson Browne

    1. Kamal

      Very nice. It sounds like a French Middle Ages poem by Ruteboeuf:
      “Que sont mes amis devenus?
      Je crois le vent les m’a ôtés…
      Ce sont amis que vent emporte…
      Et il ventais devant ma porte…
      Les emporta.”

      The friends are not running here bu just carried away by the wind…

  21. peteybee

    NSA hackathon responses: ways to look at the flip side.
    These observations are made without any moral judgments.

    (1) This is similar to the outrage expressed about torture. When the US government conducts operations that result in civilian casualties, violations of privacy are much ado about nothing. This may be used as an effective defense by the NSA etc.

    (2) be thankful. now workarounds may be built.

    (3) This will help distract both China and the US from other forms of destructive activity, as more and more highly qualified hackers are diverted to this arms race. Who manufactures all the actual hardware. With a credible enemy, we may be able to re-create cold-war prosperity that worked well for both the US and the USSR in days of yore.

    (4) these systems will, in some circumstances, make it easier for evildoers to frame good guys. If this happens enough, the signal-to-noise ratio of the spy system may be degraded to the point where it is no longer useful. (this may be a more affordable way for foreign adversaries to fight back).

    (5) additional tech jobs will be created as infrastructure has to be replaced.

    (6) this will help another generation to adopt a less naiive worldview about power politics and the role of technical professionals, just as 9/11 did.

  22. not a sockpuppet

    I’m a bit startled that as incisive and generally accurate a thinker as you, Yves, would present this material in as unqualified a fashion as you have.

    Appelbaum is a demogogue, and so are Greenwald, Assange, and some of the others mentioned here and mentioned repeatedly. They throw around terms like “illegal” and “unconstitutional” without any pause to reflect on just what the legal and constitutional duties of the NSA and other intelligence agencies are; constantly conflate capabilities with ongoing in-process methods, present programs that were ended/changed by oversight as being beyond oversight, and much more.

    Why they are doing this, I can’t guess. But the fact is that the NSA (and other intelligence agencies) under current law must and is required to be able to penetrate every communication protocol that exists. They are required to. There is nothing shocking, to anyone paying attention, in learning that they have penetrated the iPhone, Gmail, Facebook, and everything else: They have to. They are required by law to do so.

    is that good? open question, and I am not sure the entire world is the correct body to be judging it. Is it legal? Well, from everything I’ve read, it all seems to be authorized under a variety fo laws including the PATRIOT act, a noxious piece of legislation that should probably be repealed. But acting under a noxious piece of legislation is by definition legal. None of the judicial decisions to have been handed down so far have accepted any of the allegations of illegality, and have chosen only to rule on the question of constitutionality, which is absolutely a different question, something that is very clear even in Judge Leon’s decision (Judge Leon dismisses the notion that the programs are illegal).

    Is it constitutional? That’s for the courts to decide. They may, although I hope they don’t, decide the programs are constitutional. Will Greenwald and Appelbaum’s then adjust their complaint to reflect that legal fact, or keep throwing around half-formed and vituperative judgments that cannot be based on even their having a full picture of the facts (so far, they have given very little evidence that they know what was collected and how it was used in any investigations, but only how things were [or more often, can be] collected, and from whom).

    Are they actually doing much of what Appelbaum and Greenwald allege? I think that is much, much less clear than they argue so vociferously. And to the extent they argue that there should be widely-available electronic communication tools that are entirely opaque to law enforcement, they are actually arguing very strongly and very directly against the “rule of law” they throw around so cavalierly.

    I value your work very deeply and hope you will consider a more skeptical take on what has become a very packaged, media-ready set of talking points that few who are not on the hard right NatSec side have been willing to challenge. I don’t know what Greenwald and Appelbaum think they are doing, either, but their general air of absolutely confident wisdom about highly complex and generally entirely secret matters is very disturbing. They don’t–they can’t–know nearly as much as they think they do, and the fact that they often appear to deliberately mis-state very fundamental elements of the story (such as what is legal and what isn’t, where “legal” means “authorized under an existing, duly-passed piece of legislation”) does not give confidence.

    Further, their singular focus on the US Government–as opposed to governments not allied with the US, and with corporations, including the very Booz-Allen who was Snowden’s actual employer and who already sells surveillance tools and services to almost every country on the planet, and wants to sell many more is reason for real worry.

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