Tag Archive: NSA

On Privacy, Free Speech, & Related Matters – Richard Posner vs David Cole & Others | Concurring Opinions

This is the seventh installment in the “Posner on Posner” series of posts on Seventh Circuit Judge Richard Posner. The first installment can be found here, the second here, the third here, the fourth here, the fifth here, and the sixth one here.

Privacy has been on Richard Posner’s mind for more than three-and-a-half decades. His views, as evidenced by the epigraph quotes above, have sparked debate in a variety of quarters, both academic and policy. In some ways those views seem oddly consistent with his persona – on the one hand, he is a very public man as revealed by his many writings, while on the other hand, he is a very private man about whom we know little of his life outside of the law save for a New Yorker piece on him thirteen years ago.

On the scholarly side of the privacy divide, his writings include: [Read more]

NSA Spying Scandal: SPIEGEL Stands Behind Merkel Cell Phone Spying Report | Spon

In June, German Federal Prosecutor Harald Range opened an official investigation into allegations the NSA spied on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone. So far, though, he hasn’t made much progress.

The US signals intelligence agency has ignored all questions submitted by Range’s investigative authority. And Germany’s own foreign intelligence agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), hasn’t provided any further assistance. [Read more]

Should privacy regulation be more than just data protection? | The Guardian

On 3 October 2014 Google was fined 2,250 Canadian dollars (£1,230) for publishing an image on its Street View feature that showed a woman’s cleavage. Despite blurring her face, her car registration number and house were clearly recognisable in the photo, negating any attempts at anonymisation. The Quebec court ruled that the woman’s privacy had been invaded and that she’d experienced a loss of personal dignity after facing a barrage of sexual harassment after the picture was published.

Privacy is a difficult topic for science and technology policymakers to grapple with, both viciously complex and floatingly abstract. The generally accepted definition of privacy is the “right to be let alone”. In contemporary policy circles, however, this definition bumps up against further issues around what constitutes public or private space; and a need to protect the integrity of the body. As the Google case indicates, data protection is not the sole issue that privacy policy has to deal with: privacy of behaviour and action; communication. “Body characteristics” (biometrics) also come into play. Technologies that collect, process, store and disseminate personal data are developing rapidly and becoming ubiquitous: think of the fitness tracker that knows rather a lot about where you go running; or the social network platform that can link together tagged pictures of your face with details of where you went to school. [Read more]

Bloomberg View Op-ed: Facebook’s phony privacy battle | The Salt Lake Tribune

When Facebook made user names, profile pictures and other personal information publicly available a few years ago, founder Mark Zuckerberg said that people had started to care less and less about privacy. He told TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington: “That social norm is just something that has evolved over time.” And he said that Facebook was changing to keep up.

But the reality is that technology companies — with Facebook leading the charge — pushed that norm to change. Corporate surveillance was the proposed trade-off for “free” Internet services, a deal that has now extended to most mobile apps. Users challenged this bargain, but over time, the idea that social networks and apps mine and sell our personal data became accepted. [Read more]

Tech, media firms back Microsoft in digital privacy case | Washington Post

Ten groups of top technology, media and business organizations on Monday filed legal briefs in support of Microsoft’s argument to a federal appeals court that the U.S. government cannot issue a search warrant to obtain customers’ e-mails held in another country.

The unusually high number of friend-of-the-court briefs and the breadth of groups that signed on reflect how significant the issue of privacy in the digital age is to U.S. industry. [Read more]

Where Tech Giants Protect Privacy | New York Times

FROM their glass-fronted office parks and start-up lofts in Silicon Valley, American tech companies oversee ever-expanding global empires.

Google has a bigger slice of the online search market in Europe than it does at home, where rivals like Microsoft still give it a run for its money. More than 80 percent of Facebook’s 1.3 billion users live outside the United States, with Brazil and India among the social network’s most important markets. And Apple, which generates roughly 60 percent of its revenue overseas, now sells more iPhones and iPads in Shanghai and St. Petersburg than it does in San Diego. [Read more]

Privacy and security in cyberspace: right of all or luxury of the few? | open Democracy

The universal right to privacy embodied in international human rights law is increasingly dependant on privileged access to digital security; nowhere is this link demonstrated more clearly than in the experience of civil society organisations (CSOs).

As detailed in a recently released Citizen Lab report, civil society actors on which the public relies to check abuses of power and advance human rights agendas – nongovernmental organisations, independent media and journalists, activists, and others – are regularly subjected to targeted digital attacks that undermine their privacy and compromise sensitive information. Such attacks include malicious emails that may infect the target’s computer when links or attachments are opened, or malicious code delivered through compromised websites. [Read more]

Edward Snowden and the Downside to the Industrial Internet of Things | Forbes

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is the use of Internet of Things technologies by industrial organizations to deliver better performance and enhance competitive advantage — not only in an individual facility, but across an industrial organization’s supply chain and throughout its value network.

There have been many articles forecasting the explosive growth of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).   Without a doubt, IIoT things – industrial smart devices that connect to the Internet and are able to collect useful data – will greatly outnumber people by many times within a decade.  When one considers that IIoT things can include a company’s transportation assets, industrial equipment, the products made, and the containers that carry products across a supply chain, it is easy to see why this explosive growth is inevitable. [Read more]

Edward Snowden calls Amazon’s encryption practices ‘morally irresponsible’ | Geek Wire

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden doesn’t want the government snooping on what you are researching or purchasing on Amazon.com, or what he called “the world’s largest library.”

“Let’s encrypt your browsing habits. Let’s encrypt the world’s library,” he said, during a talk on Friday at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington, D.C., reports The Washington Post. [Read more]

Sony leaks, CIA report highlight the ‘Snowden Privacy Paradox’ | townhall

The ongoing leaks of confidential business data from Sony Pictures Entertainment and the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee report on the use of enhanced interrogation techniques by the Central Intelligence Agency have something in common. Call it the “Snowden Privacy Paradox.”

The Sony leaks and the so-called torture report are being celebrated by transparency cheerleaders who hypocritically want the strictest privacy safeguards applied to them and to those who share their worldview, but who inadvertently undermine everyone’s privacy (including their own) by aggressively promoting a culture of transparency. [Read more]


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Operation Socialist | The Intercept

When the incoming emails stopped arriving, it seemed innocuous at first. But it would eventually become clear that this was no routine technical problem. Inside a row of gray office buildings in Brussels, a major hacking attack was in progress. And the perpetrators were British government spies.

It was in the summer of 2012 that the anomalies were initially detected by employees at Belgium’s largest telecommunications provider, Belgacom. But it wasn’t until a year later, in June 2013, that the company’s security experts were able to figure out what was going on. The computer systems of Belgacom had been infected with a highly sophisticated malware, and it was disguising itself as legitimate Microsoft software while quietly stealing data. [Read more]

The small and surprisingly dangerous detail the police track about you | TED

A very unsexy-sounding piece of technology could mean that the police know where you go, with whom, and when: the automatic license plate reader. These cameras are innocuously placed all across small-town America to catch known criminals, but as lawyer and TED Fellow Catherine Crump shows, the data they collect in aggregate could have disastrous consequences for everyone the world over. [Watch the video]

In Princeton University talk, NSA watchdog defends agency’s work | NJ

George Ellard, inspector general of the National Security Agency, defended the agency’s work in a talk at Princeton University Tuesday, including the NSA’s controversial eavesdropping on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s private cellphone.

“If you’re the chancellor of Germany, you don’t have a private cellphone,” Ellard said. “If you’re the president of the United States, you don’t have a private cellphone.” [Read more]

Judge: Give NSA unlimited access to digital data | PC World

The U.S. National Security Agency should have an unlimited ability to collect digital information in the name of protecting the country against terrorism and other threats, an influential federal judge said during a debate on privacy.

“I think privacy is actually overvalued,” Judge Richard Posner, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, said during a conference about privacy and cybercrime in Washington, D.C., Thursday. [Read more]


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When Internet retailer and would-be 21st century overlord Amazon.com kicked WikiLeaks off its servers back in 2010, the decision was not precipitated by men in black suits knocking on the door of one of Jeff Bezos’ mansions at 3 a.m., nor were any company executives awoken by calls from gruff strangers suggesting they possessed certain information that certain individuals lying next to them asking “who is that?” would certainly like to know.

Corporations, like those who lead them, are amoral entities, legally bound to maximize quarterly profits. And rich people, oft-observed desiring to become richer, may often be fools, but when it comes to making money even the most foolish executive knows there’s more to be made serving the corporate state than giving a platform to those accused of undermining national security. [Read more]

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Secret Malware in European Union Attack Linked to U.S. and British Intelligence | The Intercept

Complex malware known as Regin is the suspected technology behind sophisticated cyberattacks conducted by U.S. and British intelligence agencies on the European Union and a Belgian telecommunications company, according to security industry sources and technical analysis conducted by The Intercept.

Regin was found on infected internal computer systems and email servers at Belgacom, a partly state-owned Belgian phone and internet provider, following reports last year that the company was targeted in a top-secret surveillance operation carried out by British spy agency Government Communications Headquarters, industry sources told The Intercept. [Read more]

Civil Liberties in Peril Down Under | New York Times

Australia and New Zealand are not among the usual suspects when it comes to state suppression of civil liberties. But both countries, stung by Edward J. Snowden’s revelations last year about their intelligence-gathering efforts, have been cracking down on the press: Australia has passed sweeping secrecy laws, while police officers in New Zealand recently raided the home of a reporter who had published information regarding a government scandal.

There has been little international outcry, and Washington is hardly likely to be upset: The two countries harbor the only major intelligence gathering facilities for the National Security Agency in the Southern Hemisphere, and, along with Britain, Canada and the United States, are members of the intelligence-sharing arrangement known as the “Five Eyes.” [Read more]

http://wp.me/p4sUqu-ZF – Michael’s Blog

On Friday, Ready for Hillary, a super PAC that has been described as “a make-work program for former Clinton hands,” and that is busy building a database of donors and volunteers that the group will eventually sell or rent to an official Clinton campaign, held an all-day meeting at the Sheraton on Fifty-third Street, in New York.

In what it billed as a National Finance Council meeting, the super PAC sponsored a series of panels with well-known personalities from the Clinton world. Interspersed between seminars on politics and the media, state officials delivered testimonials before donors under the rubric “Why I’m Ready for Hillary.” Clinton was actually in town to deliver a speech a few blocks away, at the Mandarin Oriental hotel, but she didn’t stop by the Sheraton. The Ready for Hillary event was like a “Star Trek” convention where Captain Kirk never shows up. [Read more]

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How the NSA (Sorta) Won the (Last) Iraq War | The Daily Beast

Bob Stasio never planned to become a cyber warrior. After he graduated high school, Stasio enrolled at the University at Buffalo and entered the ROTC program. He majored in mathematical physics, studying mind-bending theories of quantum mechanics and partial differential equations. The university, eager to graduate students steeped in the hard sciences, waived the major components of his core curriculum requirements, including English. Stasio never wrote a paper in his entire college career.

Stasio arrived at Fort Lewis, Washington, in 2004, when he was 22 years old. His new brigade intelligence officer took one look at the second lieutenant’s résumé, saw the background in math and physics, and told Stasio, “You’re going to the SIGINT platoon.” [Read more]

Berlin’s digital exiles: where tech activists go to escape the NSA | The Guardian

It’s the not knowing that’s the hardest thing, Laura Poitras tells me. “Not knowing whether I’m in a private place or not.” Not knowing if someone’s watching or not. Though she’s under surveillance, she knows that. It makes working as a journalist “hard but not impossible”. It’s on a personal level that it’s harder to process. “I try not to let it get inside my head, but… I still am not sure that my home is private. And if I really want to make sure I’m having a private conversation or something, I’ll go outside.”

Poitras’s documentary about Edward Snowden, Citizenfour, has just been released in cinemas. She was, for a time, the only person in the world who was in contact with Snowden, the only one who knew of his existence. Before she got Glenn Greenwald and the Guardian on board, it was just her – talking, electronically, to the man she knew only as “Citizenfour”. Even months on, when I ask her if the memory of that time lives with her still, she hesitates and takes a deep breath: “It was really very scary for a number of months. I was very aware that the risks were really high and that something bad could happen. I had this kind of responsibility to not fuck up, in terms of source protection, communication, security and all those things, I really had to be super careful in all sorts of ways.” [Read more]

Tech, social media, drones threaten privacy | az central

During a conference on privacy last week, Kevin Ashton flashed a map on a giant screen showing the addresses where dozens of cats live with their owners in north Scottsdale, within a few miles of the posh resort where the conference was taking place.

The point: to illustrate how much information — some benign, some highly sensitive — is floating around the Internet or contained in databases to which parties from aggressive marketers to outright criminals have access.

Ashton zeroed in on a photo of a black, white and orange feline living in the 10000 block of East Mirasol Circle. [Read more]

Yes, Isis exploits technology. But that’s no reason to compromise our privacy | The Guardian

A headline caught my eye last Tuesday morning. “Privacy not an absolute right, says GCHQ chief”, it read. Given that GCHQ bosses are normally sensibly taciturn types, it looked puzzling. But it turns out that Sir Iain Lobban has retired from GCHQ to spend more time with his pension, to be followed no doubt, after a discreet interval, with some lucrative non-exec directorships. His successor is a Foreign Office smoothie, name of Robert Hannigan, who obviously decided that the best form of defence against the Snowden revelations is attack, which he mounted via an op-ed piece in the Financial Times, in the course of which he wrote some very puzzling things.

Much of his piece is a rehearsal of how good Isis has become at exploiting social media. Its members “use messaging and social media services such as Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp, and a language their peers understand. The videos they post of themselves attacking towns, firing weapons or detonating explosives have a self-conscious online gaming quality. Their use of the World Cup and Ebola hashtags to insert the Isis message into a wider news feed, and their ability to send 40,000 tweets a day during the advance on Mosul without triggering spam controls, illustrates their ease with new media. There is no need for today’s would-be jihadis to seek out restricted websites with secret passwords: they can follow other young people posting their adventures in Syria as they would anywhere else.” [Read more]

Social media security: Is our online privacy officially dead? | News.com.au

A FEW months ago on a Sunday morning, I was in my car at a set of traffic lights in Sydney’s Potts Point, when Biggest Loser trainer Michelle Bridges and her on/off boyfriend, Steve ‘Commando’ Willis, came out of a cafe with a group of friends. They were holding hands and looked like any normal couple going about their day.

What made the event remarkable was that not more than 10 metres away was a paparazzo with a digital SLR and a zoom lens the size of a large delicatessen salami, snapping off a succession of shots. Surely Bridges and Willis were entitled to have a Sunday breakfast with friends without appearing in a tabloid magazine? It wasn’t like they were getting up from a meal with the Beckhams. For a fleeting moment, I felt sorry for them. [Read more]

UD student’s 9-foot Edward Snowden statue at DCCA | Washington Times

When Business Insider wrote about University of Delaware graduate student Jim Dessicino’s statue of Edward Snowden appearing in New York’s Union Square Park last month, the reporter noted that none of the dozen passers-by they talked to could identify who the statue depicted.

For Dessicino, a 29-year-old Atlantic City, New Jersey, native, it could have been a blow to his confidence as an artist, having spent months creating the 9-foot, 220-pound figure out of gypsum cement, clay, steel and foam. [Read more]

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Ed Snowden Taught Me To Smuggle Secrets Past Incredible Danger. Now I Teach You. | The Intercept

Late on the evening of January 11, 2013, someone sent me an interesting email. It was encrypted, and sent from the sort of anonymous email service that smart people use when they want to hide their identity. Sitting at the kitchen table in the small cottage where I lived in Berkeley with my wife and two cats, I decrypted it.

The anonymous emailer wanted to know if I could help him communicate securely with Laura Poitras, the documentary filmmaker who had repeatedly cast a critical eye on American foreign policy. [Read more]

Obama administration most ‘dangerous’ to media in history | Washington Post

At some point, a compendium of condemnations against the Obama administration’s record of media transparency (actually, opacity) must be assembled. Notable quotations in this vein come from former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson, who said, “It is the most secretive White House that I have ever been involved in covering”; New York Times reporter James Risen, who said, “I think Obama hates the press”; and CBS News’s Bob Schieffer, who said, “This administration exercises more control than George W. Bush’s did, and his before that.”

USA Today Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page has added a sharper edge to this set of knives. Speaking Saturday at a White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) seminar, Page called the current White House not only “more restrictive” but also “more dangerous” to the press than any other in history, a clear reference to the Obama administration’s leak investigations and its naming of Fox News’s James Rosen as a possible “co-conspirator” in a violation of the Espionage Act. [Read more]

Committee to Protect Journalists issues scathing report on Obama administration | The Guardian

It’s hardly news that the Obama administration is intensely and, in many respects, unprecedentedly hostile toward the news-gathering process. Even the most Obama-friendly journals have warned of what they call “Obama’s war on whistleblowers”. James Goodale, the former general counsel of the New York Times during its epic fights with the Nixon administration, recently observed that “President Obama wants to criminalize the reporting of national security information” and added: “President Obama will surely pass President Richard Nixon as the worst president ever on issues of national security and press freedom.”

Still, a new report released today by the highly respected Committee to Protect Journalists – its first-ever on press freedoms in the US – powerfully underscores just how extreme is the threat to press freedom posed by this administration. Written by former Washington Post executive editor Leonard Downie, Jr., the report offers a comprehensive survey of the multiple ways that the Obama presidency has ushered in a paralyzing climate of fear for journalists and sources alike, one that severely threatens the news-gathering process. [Read more]

Big Brother’s Liberal Friends | National Interest

IT IS strange that the Obama administration has so avidly continued many of the national-security policies that the George W. Bush administration endorsed. The White House has sidelined the key recommendations of its own advisers about how to curtail the overreach of the National Security Agency (NSA). It has failed to prosecute those responsible for torture, on the principle that bygones should be bygones, extending a courtesy to high officials that it has notably declined to provide to leakers like Chelsea Manning. The result is a remarkable degree of continuity between the two administrations.

Yet this does not disconcert much of the liberal media elite. Many writers who used to focus on bashing Bush for his transgressions now direct their energies against those who are sounding alarms about the pervasiveness of the national-security state. Others, despite their liberal affectations, have perhaps always been enthusiasts for a strong security state. Over the last fifteen months, the columns and op-ed pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post have bulged with the compressed flatulence of commentators intent on dismissing warnings about encroachments on civil liberties. Indeed, in recent months soi-disant liberal intellectuals such as Sean Wilentz, George Packer and Michael Kinsley have employed the Edward Snowden affair to mount a fresh series of attacks. They claim that Snowden, Glenn Greenwald and those associated with them neither respect democracy nor understand political responsibility. [Read more]

The FBI’s Secret House Meeting to Get Access to Your iPhone | National Journal

The Obama administration is ramping up its campaign to force technology companies to help the government spy on their users.

FBI and Justice Department officials met with House staffers this week for a classified briefing on how encryption is hurting police investigations, according to staffers familiar with the meeting. [Read more]

Secret Manuals Show the Spyware Sold to Despots and Cops Worldwide | The Intercept

When Apple and Google unveiled new encryption schemes last month, law enforcement officials complained that they wouldn’t be able to unlock evidence on criminals’ digital devices. What they didn’t say is that there are already methods to bypass encryption, thanks to off-the-shelf digital implants readily available to the smallest national agencies and the largest city police forces — easy-to-use software that takes over and monitors digital devices in real time, according to documents obtained by The Intercept.

We’re publishing in full, for the first time, manuals explaining the prominent commercial implant software “Remote Control System,” manufactured by the Italian company Hacking Team. Despite FBI director James Comey’s dire warnings about the impact of widespread data scrambling — “criminals and terrorists would like nothing more,” he declared — Hacking Team explicitly promises on its website that its software can “defeat encryption.” [Read more]


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People don’t always say what they think. Especially in business and love.

Please, therefore, consider this question: whom would you trust more with your private data: the NSA, a company like Google, or your mom?

I ask because I’m looking at the results of a survey, conducted between October 9 and12, that asked just that. It asked simple questions, to which its sponsors hoped to get simple answers.

The results went like this. On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being “I am shivering uncontrollably with fear”) the idea of Google or a similar concern having access to all your private data got a concerned score of 7.39. [Read more]

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The National Security Agency’s collection of Americans’ phone records will face a fresh test this coming week when a Washington, D.C., appeals-court panel hears arguments over the surveillance program.

Tuesday’s arguments are just one of three federal appeals-court challenges to the NSA’s gathering of millions of Americans’ phone records—an issue that could eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court. The cases, which include two separate lawsuits in New York and San Francisco, were prompted by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden ’s revelations last year detailing the scope of U.S. government surveillance.

Mr. Snowden’s disclosures touched off legal, political and policy battles over how much latitude the government should have to spy on its own citizens and people in other countries. [Read more]

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European Privacy in the Age of Snowden: We Need a Debate About What Intelligence Agencies Are Doing | Democracy Now

As the movie “Citizenfour” about National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden opens in theaters in the United States, we look at the impact his leaks have had on the debate over online privacy in Europe. The Austrian newspaper Der Standard reports the NSA has accessed nearly 70 percent of telecommunications in Vienna, home to thousands of diplomats from around the world. Earlier this year, Germany ordered the removal of a top U.S. intelligence official in the country after leaks from Snowden showed the United States was monitoring the communications of millions of Germans and tapping Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone. In a victory for digital privacy, the European Court of Justice struck down a rule that required telecommunication companies to store the communications data of European Union citizens for up to two years. The ruling happened on the same day Snowden addressed the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe from Moscow. We are joined by Andreas Krisch, president of European Digital Rights. [Read more]

‘Facebook a gift to intelligence agencies’ – Laura Poitras | RT

Investigative journalist Laura Poitras says she is worried about intelligence agencies using the all-too-easily-accessible data gathered from social networks – as people share their personal information voluntarily and governments only need to ask.

Poitras, who helped NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden expose illegal activities of the organization, still believes that people should be worried about the amount of power governments have to conduct surveillance searches of what they are doing online. [Read more]

‘What the War on Terror Actually Looks Like’: Laura Poitras on Citizenfour | The Atlantic

The ultimate insider’s exposé of the National Security Agency is about to hit theaters. When Citizenfour opens Friday in New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras will have given moviegoers an unprecedented look at whistleblower Edward Snowden as he pulled back the curtain on mass surveillance in the United States and the world. This week, I spoke to Poitras about her body of work, including Citizenfour (I reviewed the film here after a press screening), The Oath, her movie on the prison at Guantanamo Bay, and My Country, My Country, her Iraq War documentary. This interview has been edited and condensed for the sake of clarity. [Read more]

The FBI Needs To Stay The Hell Away From Our Technology | Opposing Views

Technology companies create a product to be used by the public. If that product can be monitored by law enforcement agencies in order to more easily build cases against criminal activity, should private companies like Apple and Google have to comply with the government by making data more accessible?

That question has been plaguing the country since Edward Snowden revealed the data collection practices of the NSA. In response to concerns about user privacy, companies such as Apple and Google have created devices with a beefed-up form of encryption. According to F.B.I. Director James B. Comey, however, the “post-Snowden pendulum” has swung “too far” in the wrong direction. [Read more]

Automated Mass Surveillance is Unconstitutional, EFF Explains in Jewel v. NSA | EFF

Today EFF filed our latest brief in Jewel v. NSA, our longstanding case on behalf of AT&T customers aimed at ending the NSA’s dragnet surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans’ communications. The brief specifically argues that the Fourth Amendment is violated when the government taps into the Internet backbone at places like the AT&T facility on Folsom Street in San Francisco.

As it happens, the filing coincides with the theatrical release of Laura Poitras’ new documentary, Citizenfour. The Jewel complaint was filed in 2008, and there’s a scene early in the film that shows the long road that case has taken. In footage shot in 2011, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit hears argument in Jewel, and an attorney from the Department of Justice tries to convince a skeptical court that it should simply decide not to decide the case, leaving it to the other branches of government. [Read more]

Denouncing Surveillance, on Camera | New York Books

Midway through Citizenfour, Laura Poitras’s inside-story documentary about Edward Snowden’s disclosure of mass surveillance by the National Security Agency, the camera captures Snowden wrestling with an errant cowlick. In a hotel room in Hong Kong, where he has gone to meet with Poitras and journalist Glenn Greenwald to coordinate the first of many leaks of top-secret information, Snowden realizes that he hasn’t combed his hair, and fights futilely to keep the cowlick down. The moment provides some levity in what is otherwise a very serious film about a very serious subject—probably the most important leak in history, one that has triggered a global debate about privacy and technology in the digital age.

Two things are striking about the cowlick moment. The first is that Snowden is actually seen struggling. Citizenfour is primarily drawn from twenty hours of footage taken in that Hong Kong hotel room over an eight-day span in June 2013, and throughout, Snowden seems preternaturally calm and hyper-rational. He is committing a grave felony, one that could land him in prison for the rest of his life, will undoubtedly cause many to label him a traitor, and at a minimum, is likely to relegate him to permanent exile, cut off from his family, friends, and country. Yet he never registers even a flicker of doubt. Poitras has said that as a filmmaker, she likes to catch real people in real time making hard decisions. What could be better material than a young man breaking the law to reveal one of the deepest secrets of the most powerful country in the world? Yet for all the drama of those eight historic days in Hong Kong, Snowden comes across more as a character in a film—tough, idealistic, committed—than as a human being grappling with the enormous implications of what his is doing. [Read more]

All the NSA Will Say About Its Alarmingly Entrepreneurial Top Spy Is That She’s Resigning | The Intercept

Teresa Shea used to be the National Security Agency’s director of signals intelligence, plus the wife of an executive in the business of selling things to agencies like hers, plus the host of a home-based signals intelligence business, plus the owner, via yet another business, of a six-seat airplane and resort-town condo.

She’s going to have to drop the first arrangement. After controversy in the press about her apparent conflicts of interests, Shea is stepping down from the NSA, according to Buzzfeed’s Aram Roston. [Read more]

From Gary Webb to James Risen: The struggle for the soul of journalism | Salon

In thinking about the cases of Gary Webb and James Risen, two famous investigative reporters aggressively persecuted for their explosive revelations (in very different situations, and with different results), we are drawn into the thorny question of journalism and its so-called professional ethics. How well do the supposed codes of journalism work, and whom do they serve and protect? Is the primary role of journalism as a social institution to discover the truth as best it can and raise the level of public discourse, or to preserve its own power and prestige and privilege? I don’t claim to know the answers with any certainty. If anything, the stories of Webb and Risen suggest that those questions yield different answers in different contexts.

I’ve been a working journalist for more than 25 years, across the demise of print and the rise of the Internet, and I’ve always viewed the idea of journalism as a profession as, at best, a double-edged sword. I mean the word “profession” in the sense that law or medicine or accounting is so defined, each with its own internal codes of conduct administered by various self-governing institutions. All too often, the ideal of professionalism in journalism becomes an excuse for “the View from Nowhere” described by media critic Jay Rosen – a bogus conception of impartiality and “balance,” a refusal of critical thinking and a disinclination to challenge official sources or disrupt accepted narratives. [Read more]

New Push for NSA Reform Bill Follows Terrorist Attacks in Canada | Foreign Policy

After twin terror attacks in Canada, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) plans to renew a push to pass his broad intelligence review act that many lawmakers believe is necessary to collect intelligence to keep the country safe from terrorism.

Sensenbrenner’s USA Freedom Act passed the House earlier this year. However, it’s been stalled in the Senate by lawmakers who believe the bill strips too many of the NSA’s surveillance powers. [Read more]


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