July 3, 2013
Encryption Works: How to Protect Your Privacy (And Your Sources) in the Age of NSA Surveillance

Helpful info on how to protect your communications from the Freedom of the Press Foundation:

The whitepaper covers:

  • A brief primer on cryptography, and why it can be trustworthy
  • The security problems with software, and which software you can trust
  • How Tor can be used to anonymize your location, and the problems Tor has when facing global adversaries
  • How the Off-the-Record instant message encryption protocol works and how to use it
  • How PGP email encryption works and best practices
  • How the Tails live GNU/Linux distribution can be used to ensure high endpoint security

June 25, 2013
Top Ten Ways US TV News are Screwing us Again on NSA Surveillance Story (Iraq Redux)

Juan Cole, University of Michigan:

US television news is a danger to the security of the United States. First, it is so oriented to ratings that it cannot afford to do unpopular reports (thus, it ignored al-Qaeda and the Taliban for the most part before 9/11). Second, it is so oriented toward the halls of power inside the Beltway that it is unable to examine government allegations critically. US television news was an unrelieved cheering section for the launching of the illegal and disastrous Iraq War, which will end up costing the taxpayers many trillions of dollars, which seriously wounded 32,000 US military personnel (many of them will need help the rest of their lives), which left over 4000 soldiers, Marines and sailors dead, and which was responsible for the deaths of on the order of 300,000 Iraqis, the wounding of 1.2 million Iraqis, and the displacement from their homes of 4 million Iraqis (out of a then population of 26 million). In 2002 and 2003, Bush administration leakers and ex-generals led the television reporters and anchors by the nose. The corporations were all for the war, and they own the news. Where on-screen talent was unwilling to go along, such as Phil Donohue or Ashley Banfield, they were just fired.

Now, corporate television news is repeating this shameful performance with regard to the revelations by Edward Snowden of massive, unconstitutional government surveillance of Americans’ electronic communications. The full failure to do proper journalism was on display on Sunday (when, unfortunately, critical voices such as Rachel Maddow are absent). Here are the propaganda techniques used to stack the deck on Sunday:

1. Focus on the personality, location, and charges against the leaker instead of the substance of his revelations.

2. Smear Snowden with ad hominem fallacies. His transit through Moscow was held up as a sign of disloyalty to the United States, as though nowadays American business people and government officials don’t transit through Moscow all the time. The US ships significant amounts of military materiel for Afghanistan through Russia. Is that treasonous?

3. Focus on politicians making empty threats against China and Russia for not being sufficiently obedient to the United States. The US can’t do anything to either one that wouldn’t hurt the US more than it did them.

4. Ignore important breaking stories that impugn the government case. For instance, The Guardian broke the story Saturday morning that the NSA PRISM program was small compared to the TEMPORA program of GCHQ, its British counterpart, which Snowden alleged has attached sniffers to the fiber optic cables that stretch from New York to London, and is vacuuming up massive amounts of email and telephone conversations. A Lexis Nexis search in broadcast transcripts for Sunday showed that no US news broadcaster mentioned TEMPORA or GCHQ. This was true even though the NSA has 250 analysts assigned to TEMPORA and even though that program sweeps up and stores exactly the kind of material (telephone calls, emails) that President Obama denied were being collected.

5. Skew the guest list. Television news interviewed Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), Rep. Peter King (R-NY), Rep. Ilena Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and a gaggle of retired FBI and CIA figures. All of them without exception were cheerleaders for the Iraq War. Glenn Greenwald was virtually the only voice allowed on the other side. He was cut short on CNN and was at a disadvantage on television because he was on the phone from Rio. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Al Gore, Steve Wozniak, Pierre Omidyar, and a whole host of figures supportive of Snowden having told us what is going on were not invited on the air to balance the hard liners interviewed.

6. Accuse journalists of treason for reporting Snowden’s revelations. This was the absolutely shameful tack taken by David Gregory on Meet The Press, when he asked Greenwald, “To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements, why shouldn’t you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?” The “to the extent” and “aided and abetted” language isn’t journalism it is shilling for the most despicable elements in Congress (and that is way over on the despicable scale).

7. Ignore past government misuse of classified information. Television news has studiedly avoided referring to Dick Cheney’s outing of Valerie Plame as a CIA field officer (and therefore outing of all the CIA field officers who used the same dummy corporation as she did as a cover,as well as all local informants known to be connected to that dummy corporation). Television anchors seem to think that the government is always trying to ‘protect’ us and is on the side of the angels, and sidestep the question of whether secret information can be used for private or shady policy purposes. Plame, by the way, is warning about the intelligence-industrial complex.

8. Continually allege or allow guests to allege that Snowden could have taken his concerns to the NSA or to Congress internally. None of his predecessors had any luck with that approach. Even sitting senators of the United States of America like Ron Wyden have been muzzled and cannot conduct a public debate on these abuses.

9. No one on television has discussed how many of the 850,000 analysts with access to secret databases containing your information work for private corporations such as Booz Allen Hamilton. That is, they aren’t even government employees. And, how much lobbying do these intelligence contractors do of Congress?

10. Focus the discussion on the alleged criminality of Snowden’s disclosures instead of on the obvious lawlessness of programs such as Tempora, which sweep up vast amounts of personal information on private individuals and store them in data bases. As Noam Chomsky has said, the way to distract the public in a democracy is to allow more and more vigorous debate about a more and more narrow set of issues. By narrowing the debate to “how illegal were Snowden’s actions?” instead of allowing the question, “how legal are the NSA’s actions,” the US mass media give the impression of debating both sides of a controversy while in fact suppressing large numbers of pertinent questions.

June 23, 2013

On an extraordinary day of international political intrigue involving Edward Snowden we also get a truly classic moment in American television news. Listen to how Glenn Greenwald responds to NBC Meet the Press host David Gregory’s question implying that Greenwald is a criminal for, in essence, practicing journalism. An incredible and revealing question on the part of the NBC host.  Greenwald’s scathing response exposes Gregory as a tool of political power, not an independent crusader of truth and transparency, which is what democratic society needs from its journalists.

June 7, 2013

Democracy Now:

"A Massive Surveillance State": Glenn Greenwald Exposes Covert US Military Program Collecting Calls, Emails

The National Security Agency has obtained access to the central servers of nine major Internet companies — including Google, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo! and Facebook. The Guardian and The Washington Post revealed the top-secret program, codenamed PRISM, after they obtained several slides from a 41-page training presentation for senior intelligence analysts. It explains how PRISM allows them to access emails, documents, audio and video chats, photographs, documents and connection logs. “Hundreds of millions of Americans, and hundreds of millions – in fact, billions of people around the world – essentially rely on the Internet exclusively to communicate with one another,” Greenwald says. “Very few people use landline phones for much of anything. So when you talk about things like online chat and social media messages and emails, what you’re really talking about is the full extent of human communication.” This comes after Greenwald revealed Wednesday in another story that the NSA has been collecting the phone records of millions of Verizon customers. “They want to make sure that every single time human beings interact with one another … that they can watch it, and they can store it, and they can access it at any time.”

May 13, 2013
Are all American telephone calls recorded and accessible to the US government?

Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian:

A former FBI counterterrorism agent claims on CNN that this is the case

March 14, 2013

Video: A Chinese journalist’s inside view of censorship

December 10, 2012
It's No Mistake that Shopping Can be a Nightmare

Big Think, via The New York Times:

When it comes to creating atmosphere for holiday shopping, stores are more interested in getting you to spend money than in making your experience a comfortable one. And as it turns out, frustrated and irritated shoppers are likely to spend more money buying more items on impulse. “Music played at high volumes, for example, may be irritating, but researchers from Penn State and the National University of Singapore concluded it was one of several factors that leads to overstimulation and ‘a momentary loss of self-control, thus enhancing the likelihood of impulse purchase.’”

September 13, 2012
Romney Jumps the Shark: Libya, Egypt and the Butterfly Effect

Juan Cole, University of Michigan:

The Associated Press did a careful investigation of the ‘Sam Bacile’ who supposedly directed the hate film, ‘The Innocence of Muslims.’ And AP found that probably he does not exist, but is a persona used by a convicted Coptic Egyptian fraudster, Nakoula Bassely Nakoula.

But the story gets more complex. Nakoula had Coptic and evangelical associates in the shooting of the film, including Steve Klein, a former Marine and current extremist Christian who has helped train militiamen in California churches and has led “protests outside abortion clinics, Mormon temples and mosques.” My guess is that most of the Egyptian Copts involved are converts to American-style fundamentalism.

The Egyptian Coptic church has roundly condemned the hateful film they made smearing the Prophet Muhammad.

Anyway, the bigotry of the edited film, directed at Muslims, is part of a movement of religious prejudice that also targets … Mormons.

Mitt Romney may want to rethink his ‘visceral’ reaction to the US embassy in Cairo’s tweet condemning the group’s hate speech.

Then it turns out that the film was shot in such a way that there was originally no mention of the Prophet Muhammad in the script, and the cast had no idea what they were getting themselves into, and then the name of Muhammad was clumsily dubbed into the final edit.

So, the film was from the beginning a fraud. It was directed by a fraud. It was promoted by a militia trainer. And Nakoula marketed it fraudulently as the work of a fictitious Israeli-American Jewish real estate agent, ‘Sam Bacile,’ and falsely said it had been funded by “a hundred Jewish donors.”

The group behind the film, in other words, managed to evoke all the classic themes of anti-Semitism as a way of disguising the Coptic and evangelical network out of which the ‘film’ came. When they weren’t busy picketing Mormons and defaming Muslims they were trying to get Jews killed for their own smears of Islam!

Of course, given the strident hatred of Muslims promoted by a handful of Jewish American extremists such as Pamela Geller, David Horowitz, Daniel Pipes and others, in which they gleefully join with white supremacists and Christian fundamentalists, it was only a matter of time before their partners in hate turned on them and used them.

The bad, dubbed ‘film’ only had one theater showing in some dowdy place in LA. Then in July the group had the trailer for it dubbed into Arabic with subtitles as well, and put it on Youtube, where it was found by strident Egyptian Muslim fundamentalist Sheikh Khaled Abdallah, who had it shown on al-Nas television and caused the sensation that led to Tuesday’s demonstrations in Cairo and Benghazi. As I argued yesterday, the vigilante extremists or ‘jihadis’ have been left on the garbage pile of history by the democratic elections in Egypt and Libya, and are whipping up the issue of this film in a desperate attempt to remain relevant.

July 25, 2012
First attack on a cyborg

You don’t see this everyday.

April 3, 2012

What goes on behind your web browser? How does online tracking work? Who does the tracking? How is your online profile created? How is the information used?

Bob McChesney interviewed Joe Turow about his new book, The Daily You: How the New Advertising Industry Is Defining Your Identity and Your Worth. The revealing, in-depth, 57-minute conversation starts at 6m30s. Worth listening to for anyone who uses the web.

February 12, 2012

January 17, 2012

Wikipedia to Shut Down Wednesday to Protest Legislation That Would Censor Internet in USA

DemocracyNow! discusses the bills in Congress that would effectively create a website blacklist in order to protect media conglomerates but would also create a filtered internet in the US.

November 2, 2011
Why Texting Turns Us Back Into Teenagers

I’m not sure if The Wall Street Journal should be congratulated for finding some of the most manipulative adults around or if Bernstein really is exposing some underlying truth here, but this article makes you think. I’d agree texting favors certain kinds of interactions and relationships over others, including the possibility for instantaneous, externally-based soothing of feelings of anxiety and loneliness. In the end though, it comes down to personal choices about how we want to relate to others, and to ourselves.

October 27, 2011
“Happy Birthday to You”: Still Private Property

David Bollier: Time Warner rakes in about $5,000 a day in royalties on the song, or nearly $2 million a year

October 24, 2011

THE DEMOCRATIC METHOD USED BY OWS  |   A short documentary video about the consensus procedure used by the Occupy movement, focusing on the NYC General Assembly. This method of direct democracy came from Europe where it was used this spring, notably by the Spanish indignados in Puerto del Sol, Madrid. We also used the same method here in Paris at our General Assemblies at Place de la Bastille in May/June, in which Spanish indignados activists participated heavily. The origins of this procedure are a mystery to me. Did it originate in Spain? Are there any links to the democratic movement in the Arab world, eg. in Tahrir Square, Cairo still earlier in the year? How far back does it go? I’d love to see an in-depth piece of quality journalism on the history and origins of this method of communication and decision-making; if you hear of any, please let me know!