October 14, 2014 archive

Your Privacy Matters

The NSA, FBI and DOJ are upset with the new Apple and Google encryption apps that they can’t hack. The poor Director of the FBI, James Comey is “concerned” so he plays the “fear card”

“I am a huge believer in the rule of law, but I also believe that no one in this country is beyond the law,” Comey told reporters at FBI headquarters in Washington. “What concerns me about this is companies marketing something expressly to allow people to place themselves beyond the law.”

Apple said last week that it would no longer be technically feasible to unlock encrypted iPhones and iPads for law enforcement because the devices would no longer allow user passcodes to be bypassed. The move comes as tech companies struggle to manage public concerns in the aftermath of last year’s leak of classified National Security Agency documents about government access to private user data. [..]

“Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data,” the company said. “So it’s not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8.”

Comey said that while he understood the need for privacy, government access to mobile devices may be needed in extreme circumstances, such as in the event of a terror attack.

“I like and believe very much that we should have to obtain a warrant from an independent judge to be able to take the content of anyone’s closet or their smart phone,” he said. “The notion that someone would market a closet that could never be opened — even if it involves a case involving a child kidnapper and a court order — to me does not make any sense.”

Comey said FBI officials have had conversations with both Apple and Google about the marketing of their devices.

“Google is marketing their Android the same way: Buy our phone and law-enforcement, even with legal process, can never get access to it,” he said.

Why anyone would think that the guy who approved torture believes in the rule of law is beyond me. Trevor Timm at The Guardian dissects what Comey said:

Comey began:

  I am a huge believer in the rule of law, but I also believe that no one in this country is beyond the law. … What concerns me about this is companies marketing something expressly to allow people to place themselves beyond the law.

First of all, despite the FBI director’s implication, what Apple and Google have done is perfectly legal, and they are under no obligation under the “the rule of law” to decrypt users’ data if the company itself cannot access your stuff. From 47 U.S. Code § 1002 (emphasis mine):

   A telecommunications carrier shall not be responsible for decrypting, or ensuring the government’s ability to decrypt, any communication encrypted by a subscriber or customer, unless the encryption was provided by the carrier and the carrier possesses the information necessary to decrypt the communication.

Comey continued:

   I like and believe very much that we should have to obtain a warrant from an independent judge to be able to take the content of anyone’s closet or their smart phone.

That’s funny, because literally four months ago, the United States government was saying the exact opposite (pdf) before the US supreme court, arguing that, in fact, the feds shouldn’t need to get a warrant to get inside anyone’s smartphone after you’re arrested. In its landmark June ruling in the case, Riley v California, the court disagreed. So it’s great to see that Jim Comey, too, has come around to the common sense conclusion that cops need a warrant to search your cellphone data, but it would’ve been nice for him to express those sentiments when they actually mattered.

Comey doubled down in another statement with the absurd fear that criminals, like child kidnappers would be able to evade the law. On its face that’s insanely ridiculous since law enforcement has numerous ways tools to access your data. The Intercept‘s Micah Lee points out that Apple still has access to plenty of your data to feed to the Feds. He went on how bemoan the NSA leaks by Edward Snowden has caused the need to protect a person’s private information may have gone too far. How so, Mr. Comey? As Timm notes in his article

Congress has not changed surveillance law at all in the the nearly 16 months since Edward Snowden’s disclosures began, mostly because of the vociferous opposition from intelligence agencies and cops. The pendulum is still permanently lodged squarely on law enforcement’s side. If it has swung at all, it’s because of the aforementioned ruling by the supreme court of the United States, along with tech companies implementing more privacy protections unilaterally because US tech companies are losing billions of dollars because of the government’s spying scandals.

A week ago, The Intercept‘s Glenn Greenwald gave a Ted Talk in Rio de Janeiro on why your privacy matters

Crypto wars redux: why the FBI’s desire to unlock your private life must be resisted

In 1995, the US government tried – and failed – to categorise encryption as a weapon. Today, the same lines are being drawn and the same tactics repeated as the FBI wants to do the same. Here’s why they are wrong, and why they must fail again

Eric Holder, the outgoing US attorney general, has joined the FBI and other law enforcement agencies in calling for the security of all computer systems to be fatally weakened. This isn’t a new project – the idea has been around since the early 1990s, when the NSA classed all strong cryptography as a “munition” and regulated civilian use of it to ensure that they had the keys to unlock any technological countermeasures you put around your data.

In 1995, the Electronic Frontier Foundation won a landmark case establishing that code was a form of protected expression under the First Amendment to the US constitution, and since then, the whole world has enjoyed relatively unfettered access to strong crypto. [..]

The arguments then are the arguments now. Governments invoke the Four Horsemen of the Infocalypse (software pirates, organised crime, child pornographers, and terrorists) and say that unless they can decrypt bad guys’ hard drives and listen in on their conversations, law and order is a dead letter.

On the other side, virtually every security and cryptography expert tries patiently to explain that there’s no such thing as “a back door that only the good guys can walk through” (hat tip to Bruce Schneier). Designing a computer that bad guys can’t break into is impossible to reconcile with designing a computer that good guys can break into.

If you give the cops a secret key that opens the locks on your computerised storage and on your conversations, then one day, people who aren’t cops will get hold of that key, too. The same forces that led to bent cops selling out the public’s personal information to Glen Mulcaire and the tabloid press will cause those cops’ successors to sell out access to the world’s computer systems, too, only the numbers of people who are interested in these keys to the (United) Kingdom will be much larger, and they’ll have more money, and they’ll be able to do more damage.

Long live The Republic.

Blueprint For The Bomb

We spend the hour with veteran New York Times investigative reporter James Risen, the journalist at the center of one of the most significant press freedom cases in decades. In 2006, Risen won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting about warrantless wiretapping of Americans by the National Security Agency. He has since been pursued by both the Bush and Obama administrations in a six-year leak investigation into that book, “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration.” Risen now faces years in prison if he refuses to testify at the trial of a former CIA officer, Jeffrey Sterling, who is accused of giving him classified information about the agency’s role in disrupting Iran’s nuclear program, which he argues effectively gave Iran a blueprint for designing a bomb. The Obama administration must now decide if it will try to force Risen’s testimony, despite new guidelines issued earlier this year that make it harder to subpoena journalists for their records. Risen’s answer to this saga has been to write another book, released today, titled “Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War.” “You cannot have aggressive investigative reporting in America without confidential sources – and without aggressive investigative reporting, we can’t really have a democracy,” Risen says. “I think that is what the government really fears more than anything else.” Risen also details revelations he makes in his new book about what he calls the “homeland security-industrial complex.”

James Risen Prepared to “Pay Any Price” to Report on War on Terror Amid Crackdown on Whistleblowers

Transcript

James Risen on NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden: He Sparked a New National Debate on Surveillance

Transcript

The American Government Tried to Kill James Risen’s Last Book

By Murtaza Hussain, The Intercept

10/13/14

Not only did U.S. government officials object to the publication of the book on national security grounds, it turns out they pressured Les Moonves, the CEO of CBS, to have it killed.

The campaign to stifle Risen’s national security reporting at the Times is already well-documented, but a 60 Minutes story last night provided a glimpse into how deeply these efforts extended into the publishing world, as well. After being blocked from reporting on the NSA’s warrantless surveillance program for the paper of record, Risen looked into getting these revelations out through a book he was already under contract to write for Simon & Schuster, a book that would look at a wide range of intelligence missteps in the war on terror.

In response, it seems, the government once again went straight to the top in order to thwart him.



When Risen’s “State of War” was released against the White House’s wishes in January 2006, it came to represent a watershed moment in the campaign to bring transparency to America’s post-9/11 national security state.



Despite the failure of government suppression efforts, it is nonetheless disturbing that White House officials would intervene not just to muzzle the Times’s reporting, but also to pressure the publishing industry to kill the story as well. In its zeal to stifle critical journalism in the name of protecting national secrets, the campaign against Risen’s work appeared to border dangerously close to outright censorship.

Risen is now facing potential jail time for refusing to divulge his sources for classified information.  Nonetheless, he is standing firm.

Cartnoon

The Breakfast Club (Egg Nog for Morning People)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Chuck Yeager breaks sound barrier; Britain’s Battle of Hastings takes place; Martin Luther King, Jr. wins Nobel Peace Prize; Former President Theodore Roosevelt shot; Singer Bing Crosby dies.

Breakfast Chuckle

On This Day In History October 15

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

October 15 is the 288th day of the year (289th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 77 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte begins his final exile on the Island of St. Helene.

Napoleon Bonaparte (15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) was a military and political leader of France and Emperor of the French as Napoleon I, whose actions shaped European politics in the early 19th century.

Napoleon was born in Corsica to parents of minor noble Italian ancestry and trained as an artillery officer in mainland France. Bonaparte rose to prominence under the French First Republic and led successful campaigns against the First and Second Coalitions arrayed against France. In 1799, he staged a coup d’etat and installed himself as First Consul; five years later the French Senate proclaimed him emperor. In the first decade of the 19th century, the French Empire under Napoleon engaged in a series of conflicts-the Napoleonic Wars-involving every major European power. After a streak of victories, France secured a dominant position in continental Europe, and Napoleon maintained the French sphere of influence through the formation of extensive alliances and the appointment of friends and family members to rule other European countries as French client states.

The French invasion of Russia in 1812 marked a turning point in Napoleon’s fortunes. His Grande Armee was badly damaged in the campaign and never fully recovered. In 1813, the Sixth Coalition defeated his forces at Leipzig; the following year the Coalition invaded France, forced Napoleon to abdicate and exiled him to the island of Elba. Less than a year later, he escaped Elba and returned to power, but was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815. Napoleon spent the last six years of his life in confinement by the British on the island of Saint Helena. An autopsy concluded he died of stomach cancer, though Sten Forshufvud and other scientists have since conjectured he was poisoned with arsenic.

Napoleon’s campaigns are studied at military academies the world over. While considered a tyrant by his opponents, he is also remembered for the establishment of the Napoleonic code, which laid the administrative and judicial foundations for much of Western Europe.

On This Day In History October 14

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

October 14 is the 287th day of the year (288th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 78 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1947, U.S. Air Force Captain Chuck Yeager becomes the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound.

Charles Elwood “Chuck” Yeager (born February 13, 1923) is a retired major general in the United States Air Force and noted test pilot. He was the first pilot to travel faster than sound (1947). Originally retiring as a brigadier general, Yeager was promoted to major general on the Air Force’s retired list 20 years later for his military achievements.

His career began in World War II as a private in the United States Army Air Forces. After serving as an aircraft mechanic, in September 1942 he entered enlisted pilot training and upon graduation was promoted to the rank of flight officer (the World War II USAAF equivalent to warrant officer) and became a P-51 Mustang fighter pilot. After the war he became a test pilot of many kinds of aircraft and rocket planes. Yeager was the first man to break the sound barrier on October 14, 1947, flying the experimental Bell X-1 at Mach 1 at an altitude of 13,700 m (45,000 ft). . . .

Yeager remained in the Air Force after the war, becoming a test pilot at Muroc Army Air Field (now Edwards Air Force Base) and eventually being selected to fly the rocket-powered Bell X-1 in a NACA program to research high-speed flight, after Bell Aircraft test pilot “Slick” Goodlin demanded $150,000 to break the sound “barrier.”  Such was the difficulty in this task that the answer to many of the inherent challenges were along the lines of “Yeager better have paid-up insurance.” Yeager broke the sound barrier on October 14, 1947, flying the experimental X-1 at Mach  1 at an altitude of 45,000 feet (13,700 m). Two nights before the scheduled date for the flight, he broke two ribs while riding a horse. He was so afraid of being removed from the mission that he went to a veterinarian in a nearby town for treatment and told only his wife, as well as friend and fellow project pilot Jack Ridley about it.

On the day of the flight, Yeager was in such pain that he could not seal the airplane’s hatch by himself. Ridley rigged up a device, using the end of a broom handle as an extra lever, to allow Yeager to seal the hatch of the airplane. Yeager’s flight recorded Mach 1.07, however, he was quick to point out that the public paid attention to whole numbers and that the next milestone would be exceeding Mach 2. Yeager’s X-1 is on display at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum.

Late Night Karaoke

TDS/TCR (Burt Gummer)

TDS TCR

Chimichanga

Indigenous People Day

The real news, 2 songs by Robert Plant, and next week’s guests below.