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What We Don’t Know About Spying on Citizens: Scarier Than What We Know


The NSA’s surveillance of cell-phone calls show how badly we need to protect the

whistle-blowers who provide transparency and accountability.

Jun 6 2013, 12:24 PM ET
NSAdishes.banner.reuters.jpg.jpg
Jason Reed/Reuters

Yesterday, we learned that the NSA received all calling records from Verizon customers for a three-month period starting in April. That’s everything except the voice content: who called who, where they were, how long the call lasted — for millions of people, both Americans and foreigners. This “metadata” allows the government to track the movements of everyone during that period, and a build a detailed picture of who talks to whom. It’s exactly the same data the Justice Department collected about AP journalists.

The Guardian delivered this revelation after receiving a copy of a secret memo about this — presumably from a whistle-blower. We don’t know if the other phone companies handed data to the NSA too. We don’t know if this was a one-off demand or a continuously renewed demand; the order started a few days after the Boston bombers were captured by police.

We don’t know a lot about how the government spies on us, but we know some things. We know the FBI has issued tens of thousands of ultra-secret National Security Letters to collect all sorts of data on people — we believe on millions of people — and has been abusing them to spy on cloud-computer users. We know it can collect a wide array of personal data from the Internet without a warrant. We also know that the FBI has been intercepting cell-phone data, all but voice content, for the past 20 years without a warrant, and can use the microphone on some powered-off cell phones as a room bug — presumably only with a warrant.

We know that the NSA has many domestic-surveillance and data-mining programs with codenames like Trailblazer, Stellar Wind, and Ragtime — deliberately using different codenames for similar programs to stymie oversight and conceal what’s really going on. We know that the NSA is building an enormous computer facility in Utah to store all this data, as well as faster computer networks to process it all. We know the U.S. Cyber Command employs 4,000 people.

We know that the DHS is also collecting a massive amount of data on people, and that local police departments are running “fusion centers” to collect and analyze this data, and covering up its failures. This is all part of the militarization of the police.

Remember in 2003, when Congress defunded the decidedly creepy Total Information Awareness program? It didn’t die; it just changed names and split into many smaller programs. We know that corporations are doing an enormous amount of spying on behalf of the government: all parts.

We know all of this not because the government is honest and forthcoming, but mostly through three backchannels — inadvertent hints or outright admissions by government officials in hearings and court cases, information gleaned from government documents received under FOIA, and government whistle-blowers.

There’s much more we don’t know, and often what we know is obsolete. We know quite a bit about the NSA’s ECHELON program from a 2000 European investigation, and about the DHS’s plans for Total Information Awareness from 2002, but much less about how these programs have evolved. We can make inferences about the NSA’s Utah facility based on the theoretical amount of data from various sources, the cost of computation, and the power requirements from the facility, but those are rough guesses at best. For a lot of this, we’re completely in the dark.

And that’s wrong.

The U.S. government is on a secrecy binge. It overclassifies more information than ever. And we learn, again and again, that our government regularly classifies things not because they need to be secret, but because their release would be embarrassing.

Knowing how the government spies on us is important. Not only because so much of it is illegal — or, to be as charitable as possible, based on novel interpretations of the law — but because we have a right to know. Democracy requires an informed citizenry in order to function properly, and transparency and accountability are essential parts of that. That means knowing what our government is doing to us, in our name. That means knowing that the government is operating within the constraints of the law. Otherwise, we’re living in a police state.

We need whistle-blowers.

Leaking information without getting caught is difficult. It’s almost impossible to maintain privacy in the Internet Age. The WikiLeaks platform seems to have been secure — Bradley Manning was caught not because of a technological flaw, but because someone he trusted betrayed him — but the U.S. government seems to have successfully destroyed it as a platform. None of the spin-offs have risen to become viable yet. The New Yorker recently unveiled its Strongbox platform for leaking material, which is still new but looks good. This link contains the best advice on how to leak information to the press via phone, email, or the post office. The National Whistleblowers Center has a page on national-security whistle-blowers and their rights.

Leaking information is also very dangerous. The Obama Administration has embarked on a war on whistle-blowers, pursuing them — both legally and through intimidation — further than any previous administration has done. Mark Klein, Thomas Drake, and William Binney have all been persecuted for exposing technical details of our surveillance state. Bradley Manning has been treated cruelly and inhumanly — and possibly tortured — for his more-indiscriminate leaking of State Department secrets.

The Obama Administration’s actions against the Associated Press, its persecution of Julian Assange, and its unprecedented prosecution of Manning on charges of “aiding the enemy” demonstrate how far it’s willing to go to intimidate whistle-blowers — as well as the journalists who talk to them.

But whistle-blowing is vital, even more broadly than in government spying. It’s necessary for good government, and to protect us from abuse of power.

We need details on the full extent of the FBI’s spying capabilities. We don’t know what information it routinely collects on American citizens, what extra information it collects on those on various watch lists, and what legal justifications it invokes for its actions. We don’t know its plans for future data collection. We don’t know what scandals and illegal actions — either past or present — are currently being covered up.

We also need information about what data the NSA gathers, either domestically or internationally. We don’t know how much it collects surreptitiously, and how much it relies on arrangements with various companies. We don’t know how much it uses password cracking to get at encrypted data, and how much it exploits existing system vulnerabilities. We don’t know whether it deliberately inserts backdoors into systems it wants to monitor, either with or without the permission of the communications-system vendors.

And we need details about the sorts of analysis the organizations perform. We don’t know what they quickly cull at the point of collection, and what they store for later analysis — and how long they store it. We don’t know what sort of database profiling they do, how extensive their CCTV and surveillance-drone analysis is, how much they perform behavioral analysis, or how extensively they trace friends of people on their watch lists.

We don’t know how big the U.S. surveillance apparatus is today, either in terms of money and people or in terms of how many people are monitored or how much data is collected. Modern technology makes it possible to monitor vastly more people — yesterday’s NSA revelations demonstrate that they could easily surveil everyone — than could ever be done manually.

Whistle-blowing is the moral response to immoral activity by those in power. What’s important here are government programs and methods, not data about individuals. I understand I am asking for people to engage in illegal and dangerous behavior. Do it carefully and do it safely, but — and I am talking directly to you, person working on one of these secret and probably illegal programs — do it.

If you see something, say something. There are many people in the U.S. that will appreciate and admire you.

For the rest of us, we can help by protesting this war on whistle-blowers. We need to force our politicians not to punish them — to investigate the abuses and not the messengers — and to ensure that those unjustly persecuted can obtain redress.

Our government is putting its own self-interest ahead of the interests of the country. That needs to change.

Google Truth Predictor 5 years later


Posted on March 12, 2013 by Akashma Online News

by Marivel Guzman

Image credit AFP/Getty Images via @daylife

Image credit AFP/Getty Images via @daylife

On October 2006 the words “truth predictors” were all over the internet, after Google said that they will have truth predictor software, according to Eric Schmidt, Google’s Executive Chairman of Google.

He forecast that, within five years, “truth predictor” software would “hold politicians to account”. Voters would be able to check the probability that apparently factual statements by politicians were actually correct, using programmes that automatically compared claims with historic data, he said.

Politicians “don’t in general understand the implications” of the internet, Mr Schmidt argued. “One of my messages to them is to think about having every one of your voters online all the time, then inputting ‘is this true or false?’. We [at Google] are not in charge of truth but we might be able to give a probability.”

That was back then, the same Eric Schmidt that sold 2.5 Billion of stock or 42 percent of his Google shares on February, the 8-k filed on Friday. Last year Eric Schmidt sold another bulk of his shares; 153,193 shares  with value of $103.5 million. Last year Google Inc shares were trading at $688.01, now after the sell of 3.2 million shares the share-market-price is $785.37, roughly 120 dollars higher than last year. Very ODD, GOOG price went up to 834.82 after the notice of the sale was published.

This sale comes after Google Inc. had split its shares, meaning that people can buy 1 share for half the price. This maneuvers on high value shares are done with the purpose to attract naive buyers, that will become temporally-imaginary-part-business-owners.
Public companies CEO’s use this trick to cash out the real money(capital money), cheap out the company’s shares to lure buyers into the market, but they’ll keep the Class B shares, which are the ones with more voter power(10 to 1).

In the past companies had done exactly this maneuver only to unload the super-fake-valued shares, then sell to the public the cheaper  ones, to later on, the same executives would buy more shares at cheaper prices, then super-fake- value-inflate the shares and sell it again.  A cycle of deceit to the outsiders that think in owing a piece of the pie of the richer companies in the planet. (CEOs control millions of shares, valued in billions of dollars, they have an army of “brokers” -anonymously working for them-doing the buying -selling game-inflating the price of the shares), only a blind can not see.

When money of this magnitude is shuffle around something is cooking. Google Inc. worth net is approximately  $200 billion, but that net worth is fluctuating all the time, because Google’s price depends on its direct advertisement, addsense google Adds and public shares. I call this sucking-up dry the public’s money. The only people that makes the big money are the executives that keep taking up the real money out of the company’s capital, while the little people delusion to “own” big company’s shares keeps buying faked-valued-shares,  the CEOs keep the good shares until they render them worthless.  No company is king forever!.

Going back to the original story, where is the truth predictor software Eric Schmidt predicted will be ready in 5 years? Cheap Talk!, or Bullish Talk? what ever it was, the software was not developed, and politicians still  running campaigns with lies.

Same politicians that are pushing for censoring the internet; just in case that Google remember their 5 years old prediction and make the truth predictor come to life. Then we do not have to worry for Aaron Swuartzs committing suicide, Bradley Mannings stealing “truths” to be shared with the public, and Julian Assange wouldn’t need to be hiding in an Ecuadorian Embassy because is sharing the truth.
The American could then be able to trust the politicians again, because we will be resting assured that everything promised will be for real, and not a stunt propaganda to win “the chair”.

I see that some people needs to work in his/her super-inflated-patriotism feed by lies and excused secrecy. There is no reason any government should work under secrecy. There is no reason, the governments will punish a real patriot, a hero that risking his life, to unmask criminals embedded inside our Defense Forces. There is no reason the government should be protecting criminals instead is persecuting truth seekers.
When there is no transparency in the government, there is shadow government, and a shadow government does not work for the regular American, which is to close to 300 million. The Generals in our Defense Forces, current and formers(and their families) live like kings. They reserve for themselves the most expensive gourmet dishes, they travel in chartered private planes, they play in the super luxury golf courses built specially for them, all this extravagance paid by American Tax Dollars. These are the real criminals, the ones Bradley Manning is exposing.
While the real heroes, the brave men and women are killed in the ground, all brainwashed by well structured lies, that only serve the Corporations that our Defense Forces are protecting, corporations that are amazing billions of dollars, while we Americans are struggling to survive.

While all this game is taking place, the U.S. unemployment rate, currently at 8.1 percent. That’s more than 1.5 million jobs. Reading these numbers means nothing, but there are more than 2 million families struggling to live another day. That 1.5 million number published by the Unemployment Department is the steady number of current unemployed people, but does not reflect the reality. The people that runs out of employment benefits are taken out of the current statistic sheets.

The health of the Nation is not with the numbers published every day by the financial markets. The health of the nation is reflected by the low debt acquired by credit cards holders every month.
The Google, Yahoo, Wall mart, British Petroleoum and others CEOs are riding the American debt by the horns on the American’s back.

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