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This snooper’s charter makes George Orwell look lacking in vision.

By Heather Brooke – Sunday 8th November 2015.

Find Article Here:-

When the Home Office and intelligence agencies began promoting the idea that the new investigatory powers bill was a “climbdown”, I grew suspicious. If the powerful are forced to compromise they don’t crow about it or send out press releases – or, in the case of intelligence agencies, make off-the-record briefings outlining how they failed to get what they wanted. That could mean only one thing: they had got what they wanted.

So why were they trying to fool the press and the public that they had lost? Simply because they had won.

I never thought I’d say it, but George Orwell lacked vision. The spies have gone further than he could have imagined, creating in secret and without democratic authorisation the ultimate panopticon. Now they hope the British public will make it legitimate.

This bill is characterised by a clear anti-democratic attitude. Those in power are deemed to be good, and are therefore given the benefit of the doubt. “Conduct is lawful for all purposes if …” and “A person (whether or not the person so authorised or required) is not to be subject to any civil liability in respect of conduct that …”: these are sections granting immunity to the spies and cops.

The spies’ surveillance activities are also exempt from legal due process. No questions can be asked that might indicate in any legal proceeding that surveillance or interception has occurred. This is to ensure the general public never learn how real people are affected by surveillance. The cost of this exemption is great. It means British prosecutors can’t prosecute terrorists on the best evidence available – the intercepts – which are a key part of any prosecution in serious crime cases worldwide.

Those without power – eg citizens (or the more accurately named subjects) – are potentially bad, and therefore must be watched and monitored closely and constantly. The safeguards mentioned in the bill are there to benefit the state not the citizen. The criminal sanctions aren’t so much to stop spies or police abusing their powers, but rather to silence critics or potential whistleblowers. That’s clear because there is no public interest exemption in the sweeping gagging orders littered throughout the bill. The safeguards for keeping secure the massive troves of personal data aren’t there so much to protect the public but to stop anyone finding out exactly how big or invasive these troves are or how they were acquired. Again, we know this because there is no public interest exemption.

While the concerns of the state dominate, those of the citizen are nowhere to be seen. There is almost no mention in the bill of the privacy and democratic costs of mass surveillance, nor of seriously holding the state to account for the use and abuse of its sweeping powers.

The adjectives used to describe the “stringent application process” (for warrants) or the “robust safeguards” and “world class scrutiny” are doing the heavy lifting of conveying the robustness of the regime. The reality is quite different.

Not everything needs a warrant. Our digital lives can be accessed after authorisation within the agency itself. No judicial approval necessary.

In addition, business owners would have to contend with the man from MI5 ordering that they create new databases or monitoring tools. If companies don’t keep these, they’ll have to create them and face a criminal offence if they fail to put in place security measures to “protect against unlawful disclosure”. Possibly the state may compensate them for all this, possibly not. It’s up to a minister.

While the concerns of the state dominate, those of the citizen are nowhere to be seen. There is almost no mention in the bill of the privacy and democratic costs of mass surveillance, nor of seriously holding the state to account for the use and abuse of its sweeping powers.

The adjectives used to describe the “stringent application process” (for warrants) or the “robust safeguards” and “world class scrutiny” are doing the heavy lifting of conveying the robustness of the regime. The reality is quite different.

Not everything needs a warrant. Our digital lives can be accessed after authorisation within the agency itself. No judicial approval necessary.

In addition, business owners would have to contend with the man from MI5 ordering that they create new databases or monitoring tools. If companies don’t keep these, they’ll have to create them and face a criminal offence if they fail to put in place security measures to “protect against unlawful disclosure”. Possibly the state may compensate them for all this, possibly not. It’s up to a minister.

Business owners will not be able to speak out about this to anyone, even their employees, or appeal to any court or legal authority. Their only recourse appears to be to appeal to the secretary of state: what sort of independent adjudication will they get from that office?

Companies can be legally compelled by the security services to hack their customers’ equipment. The immensely worrying power to acquire bulk personal datasets, means there’s nothing to stop the entire NHS being used in service of spying. After all, why not? I’m sure there are useful leads that could be mined from our health records. If avoiding risk at all costs is the goal then why allow any personal freedom or privacy at all? The reason we do is because the concentration of power in the state is the most dangerous threat of all.

There are two types of transparency: downwards – where the ruled can observe their rulers, as codified in Freedom of Information Acts – and upwards, where those at the bottom are made transparent to those at the top, such as by state surveillance. Democracy is characterised by transparency downwards, tyranny by the opposite. It is telling that at the same time this government is seeking to undermine the Freedom of Information Act, it has introduced an investigatory powers bill that puts us all under the spotlight of suspicion.

GCHQ captured emails of journalists from top international media.

By   19th January 2015.    Find Article Here:-

• Snowden files reveal emails of BBC, NY Times and more
• Agency includes investigative journalists on ‘threat’ list
• Editors call on Cameron to act against snooping on media

GCHQ
The journalists’ communications were among 70,000 emails harvested in less than 10 minutes on one day in November 2008 by GCHQ. Photograph: GCHQ/EPA

GCHQ’s bulk surveillance of electronic communications has scooped up emails to and from journalists working for some of the US and UK’s largest media organisations, analysis of documents released by whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals.

Emails from the BBC, Reuters, the Guardian, the New York Times, Le Monde, the Sun, NBC and the Washington Post were saved by GCHQ and shared on the agency’s intranet as part of a test exercise by the signals intelligence agency.

The disclosure comes as the British government faces intense pressure to protect the confidential communications of reporters, MPs and lawyers from snooping.

The journalists’ communications were among 70,000 emails harvested in the space of less than 10 minutes on one day in November 2008 by one of GCHQ’s numerous taps on the fibre-optic cables that make up the backbone of the internet.

The communications, which were sometimes simple mass-PR emails sent to dozens of journalists but also included correspondence between reporters and editors discussing stories, were retained by GCHQ and were available to all cleared staff on the agency intranet. There is nothing to indicate whether or not the journalists were intentionally targeted.

The mails appeared to have been captured and stored as the output of a then-new tool being used to strip irrelevant data out of the agency’s tapping process.

New evidence from other UK intelligence documents revealed by Snowden also shows that a GCHQ information security assessment listed “investigative journalists” as a threat in a hierarchy alongside terrorists or hackers.

Senior editors and lawyers in the UK have called for the urgent introduction of a freedom of expression law amid growing concern over safeguards proposed by ministers to meet concerns over the police use of surveillance powers linked to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (Ripa).

More than 100 editors, including those from all the national newspapers, have signed a letter, coordinated by the Society of Editors and Press Gazette, to the UK prime minister, David Cameron, protesting at snooping on journalists’ communications.

In the wake of terror attacks on the Charlie Hebdo offices and a Jewish grocer in Paris, Cameron has renewed calls for further bulk-surveillance powers, such as those which netted these journalistic communications.

Ripa has been used to access journalists’ communications without a warrrant, with recent cases including police accessing the phone records of Tom Newton-Dunn, the Sun’s political editor, over the Plebgate investigation. The call records of Mail on Sunday reporters involved in the paper’s coverage of Chris Huhne’s speeding row were also accessed in this fashion.

Under Ripa, neither the police nor the security services need to seek the permission of a judge to investigate any UK national’s phone records – instead, they must obtain permission from an appointed staff member from the same organisation, not involved in their investigation.

However, there are some suggestions in the documents that the collection of billing data by GCHQ under Ripa goes wider – and that it may not be confined to specific target individuals.

A top secret document discussing Ripa initially explains the fact that billing records captured under Ripa are available to any government agency is “unclassified” provided that there is “no mention of bulk”.

The GCHQ document goes on to warn that the fact that billing records “kept under Ripa are not limited to warranted targets” must be kept as one of the agency’s most tightly guarded secrets, at a classification known as “Top secret strap 2”.

That is two levels higher than a normal top secret classification – as it refers to “HMG [Her Majesty’s government] relationships with industry that have areas of extreme sensitivity”.

Internal security advice shared among the intelligence agencies was often as preoccupied with the activities of journalists as with more conventional threats such as foreign intelligence, hackers or criminals.

One restricted document intended for those in army intelligence warned that “journalists and reporters representing all types of news media represent a potential threat to security”.

It continued: “Of specific concern are ‘investigative journalists’ who specialise in defence-related exposés either for profit or what they deem to be of the public interest.

“All classes of journalists and reporters may try either a formal approach or an informal approach, possibly with off-duty personnel, in their attempts to gain official information to which they are not entitled.”

It goes on to caution “such approaches pose a real threat”, and tells staff they must be “immediately reported” to the chain-of-command.

GCHQ information security assessments, meanwhile, routinely list journalists between “terrorism” and “hackers” as “influencing threat sources”, with one matrix scoring journalists as having a “capability” score of two out of five, and a “priority” of three out of five, scoring an overall “low” information security risk.

Terrorists, listed immediately above investigative journalists on the document, were given a much higher “capability” score of four out of five, but a lower “priority” of two. The matrix concluded terrorists were therefore a “moderate” information security risk.

A spokesman for GCHQ said: “It is longstanding policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters. Furthermore, all of GCHQ’s work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework, which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the secretary of state, the interception and intelligence services commissioners and the parliamentary intelligence and security committee.

“All our operational processes rigorously support this position. In addition, the UK’s interception regime is entirely compatible with the European convention on human rights.”

Amidst A Religious War in Europe Or Is It Just another False Flag Operation?

By Gilad Atzmon  8th January 2015.                  Find Article Here:-

The massacre in France was a devastating crime against freedom and the right to laugh.

But was it really executed by a bunch of lunatic irrational Muslims who to decided to kill mercilessly because their prophet was mocked?

 French people should be asking what led members of their society to commit such cold blood murders against their fellow citizens.

France should ask itself why it has been dropping bombs on Muslims. Who enthusiastically advocated these ‘interventionist’ wars? What was the role of Bernard-Henri Lévy, the prime advocate of the war against Libya for instance?

What was all this French fuss about the burka? Who led this war on Muslims at the heart of Europe? Was it really in the name of tolerance?

Freedom and laughter are precious indeed, but isn’t it the French ‘socialist’ government that has been harassing and banning the best and most successful comedian in France, Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, because he satirized the Holocaust religion? Who pushed the French government to take such harsh actions against an artist; wasn’t it the Jewish lobby group CRIF?

If Europe wants to live in peace, it might consider letting other nations live in peace. By following the whims of The Lobby we have destined Paris to the fate of Aleppo, God forbidden.

But there is an alternative narrative that turns our perception of this disastrous Paris massacre on its head.

This morning 18-year-old Hamyd Mourad, suspected to be one of the three terrorists involved in yesterday’s attack, handed himself in to the police in Charleville-Mezieres. He reportedly surrendered peacefully after hearing his name on the news. And he claims that he had nothing to do with yesterday’s event. Bizarre isn’t it? Not really.

While every anti terror expert has agreed that the attack on Charlie Hebdo yesterday was a professional job, it seems pretty amateurish for a ‘highly trained terrorist’ to leave his ID behind. And since when does a terrorist take his ID on an operation?  One possible explanation is that the so-called terrorists needed a few extra hours to leave France or disappear. They had to fool the French police and intelligence into searching the wrong places and the wrong people. Is it possible that they simply planted a stolen or forged ID card in the car they left behind?

If this was the scenario, it is possible that the attack yesterday had nothing to do with ‘Jihadi terrorism.’ It is quite probable that this was another false flag operation. Who could be behind it?  Use your imagination…

The World Cracks Down on the Internet.

By   4th December 2014.             Find Article Here:-

In September of last year, Chinese authorities announced an unorthodox standard to help them decide whether to punish people for posting online comments that are false, defamatory, or otherwise harmful: Was a message popular enough to attract five hundred reposts or five thousand views? It was a striking example of how sophisticated the Chinese government has become, in recent years, in restricting Internet communication—going well beyond crude measures like restricting access to particular Web sites or censoring online comments that use certain keywords. Madeline Earp, a research analyst at Freedom House, the Washington-based nongovernmental organization, suggested a phrase to describe the approach: “strategic, timely censorship.” She told me, “It’s about allowing a surprising amount of open discussion, as long as you’re not the kind of person who can really use that discussion to organize people.”

On Thursday, Freedom House published its fifth annual report on Internet freedom around the world. As in years past, China is again near the bottom of the rankings, which include sixty-five countries. Only Syria and Iran got worse scores, while Iceland and Estonia fared the best. (The report was funded partly by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the United States Department of State, Google, and Yahoo, but Freedom House described the report as its “sole responsibility” and said that it doesn’t necessarily represent its funders’ views.)

China’s place in the rankings won’t come as a surprise to many people. The notable part is that the report suggests that, when it comes to Internet freedom, the rest of the world is gradually becoming more like China and less like Iceland. The researchers found that Internet freedom declined in thirty-six of the sixty-five countries they studied, continuing a trajectory they have noticed since they began publishing the reports in 2010.

Earp, who wrote the China section, said that authoritarian regimes might even be explicitly looking at China as a model in policing Internet communication. (Last year, she co-authored a report on the topic for the Committee to Protect Journalists.) China isn’t alone in its influence, of course. The report’s authors even said that some countries are using the U.S. National Security Agency’s widespread surveillance, which came to light following disclosures by the whistle-blower Edward Snowden, “as an excuse to augment their own monitoring capabilities.” Often, the surveillance comes with little or no oversight, they said, and is directed at human-rights activists and political opponents.

China, the U.S., and their copycats aren’t the only offenders, of course. In fact, interestingly, the United States was the sixth-best country for Internet freedom, after Germany—though this may say as much about the poor state of Web freedom in other places as it does about protections for U.S. Internet users. Among the other countries, this was a particularly bad year for Russia and Turkey, which registered the sharpest declines in Internet freedom from the previous year. In Turkey, over the past several years, the government has increased censorship, targeted online journalists and social-media users for assault and prosecution, allowed state agencies to block content, and charged more people for expressing themselves online, the report noted—not to mention temporarily shutting down access to YouTube and Twitter. As Jenna Krajeski wrote in a post about Turkey’s Twitter ban, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vowed in March, “We’ll eradicate Twitter. I don’t care what the international community says. They will see the power of the Turkish Republic.” A month later, Russian President Vladimir Putin, not to be outdone by Erdoğan, famously called the Internet a “C.I.A. project,” as Masha Lipman wrote in a post about Russia’s recent Internet controls. Since Putin took office again in 2012, the report found, the government has enacted laws to block online content, prosecuted people for their Internet activity, and surveilled information and communication technologies. Among changes in other countries, the report said that the governments of Uzbekistan and Nigeria had passed laws requiring cybercafés to keep logs of their customers, and that the Vietnamese government began requiring international Internet companies to keep at least one server in Vietnam.

What’s behind the decline in Internet freedom throughout the world? There could be several reasons for it, but the most obvious one is also somewhat mundane: especially in countries where people are just beginning to go online in large numbers, governments that restrict freedom offline—particularly authoritarian regimes—are only beginning to do the same online, too. What’s more, governments that had been using strategies like blocking certain Web sites to try to control the Internet are now realizing that those approaches don’t actually do much to keep their citizens from seeing content that the governments would prefer to keep hidden. So they’re turning to their legal systems, enacting new laws that restrict how people can use the Internet and other technologies.

“There is definitely a sense that the Internet offered this real alternative to traditional media—and then government started playing catch-up a little bit,” Earp told me. “If a regime has developed laws and practices over time that limit what the traditional media can do, there’s that moment of recognition: ‘How can we apply what we learned in the traditional media world online?’ ”

There were a couple of hopeful signs for Internet activists during the year. India, where authorities relaxed restric­tions that had been imposed in 2013 to help quell rioting, saw the biggest improvement in its Internet-freedom score. Brazil, too, notched a big gain after lawmakers approved a bill known as the Marco Civil da Internet, which protects net neutrality and online privacy. But, despite those developments, the report’s authors didn’t seem particularly upbeat. “There might be some cautious optimism there, but I do not want to overstate that because, since we started tracking this, it’s been a continuous decline, unfortunately,” Sanja Kelly, the project director for the report, told me. Perhaps the surprising aspect of Freedom House’s findings isn’t that the Internet is becoming less free—it’s that it has taken this long for it to happen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Congress Passes Bill Which Grants “Unlimited Access to Communications of Every American”

By Paul Joseph Watson  December 11th, 2014.           Find Article Here:-

Congress Passes Bill Which Grants Unlimited Access to Communications of Every American NSA

According to Congressman Justin Amash, Congress just passed a bill which grants the government and law enforcement “unlimited access to the communications of every American”.

When the Michigan lawmaker discovered that the Intelligence Authorization Act for FY 2015 had been amended with a provision that authorizes “the acquisition, retention, and dissemination” of all communications data from U.S. citizens, he desperately attempted to organize a roll call vote on the bill.

However, the legislation was passed yesterday 325-100 via a voice vote, a green light for what Amash describes as “one of the most egregious sections of law I’ve encountered during my time as a representative”.

The bill allows the private communications of Americans to be scooped up without a court order and then transferred to law enforcement for criminal investigations.

The legislation effectively codifies and legalizes mass warrantless NSA surveillance on the American people, with barely a whimper of debate.

Read the full text of Congressman Amash’s letter below, which was sent out before the bill was passed.

*********************

Dear Colleague:

The intelligence reauthorization bill, which the House will vote on today, contains a troubling new provision that for the first time statutorily authorizes spying on U.S. citizens without legal process.

Last night, the Senate passed an amended version of the intelligence reauthorization bill with a new Sec. 309—one the House never has considered. Sec. 309 authorizes “the acquisition, retention, and dissemination” of nonpublic communications, including those to and from U.S. persons. The section contemplates that those private communications of Americans, obtained without a court order, may be transferred to domestic law enforcement for criminal investigations.

To be clear, Sec. 309 provides the first statutory authority for the acquisition, retention, and dissemination of U.S. persons’ private communications obtained without legal process such as a court order or a subpoena. The administration currently may conduct such surveillance under a claim of executive authority, such as E.O. 12333. However, Congress never has approved of using executive authority in that way to capture and use Americans’ private telephone records, electronic communications, or cloud data.

Supporters of Sec. 309 claim that the provision actually reins in the executive branch’s power to retain Americans’ private communications. It is true that Sec. 309 includes exceedingly weak limits on the executive’s retention of Americans’ communications. With many exceptions, the provision requires the executive to dispose of Americans’ communications within five years of acquiring them—although, as HPSCI admits, the executive branch already follows procedures along these lines.

In exchange for the data retention requirements that the executive already follows, Sec. 309 provides a novel statutory basis for the executive branch’s capture and use of Americans’ private communications. The Senate inserted the provision into the intelligence reauthorization bill late last night. That is no way for Congress to address the sensitive, private information of our constituents—especially when we are asked to expand our government’s surveillance powers.

I urge you to join me in voting “no” on H.R. 4681, the intelligence reauthorization bill, when it comes before the House today.

Justin Amash
Member of Congress

Categories: Government, Surveillance

Egyptian student arrested carrying copy of Nineteen Eighty-Four.

By   10th November 2014.                Find Article Here:-

Police accuse Cairo student of filming security forces without permission and say they are unaware of book’s significance.

George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four
George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. 

Orwellian fiction and reality appeared to blur into one on Sunday when reports suggested that an Egyptian undergraduate had been arrested for possessing a copy of Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Al-Masry al-Youm, Egypt’s leading private broadsheet, said a student identified only as Mohamed T had been caught in possession of the book at Cairo University, where a year-long wave of anti-government protests has seen several students killed by police, dozens expelled and hundreds sent to jail.

Government critics have likened the country’s return to strongman rule to the book’s plot, and social media users pounced on the story on Sunday evening.

Doubt was cast on the report when police stressed their collective lack of affinity for the western literary canon. While Mohamed T had indeed been in possession of Nineteen Eighty-Four at the time of his arrest, police said, they were unaware of its literary significance, and had instead accused him of filming security forces without their permission.

“None of us knows anything about this novel in the first place,” Mahmoud Farouk, the local investigations chief, claimed to Mada Masr, a Cairo-based news website.

Some nevertheless joked that it was only a matter of time before possession of Nineteen Eighty-Four became a reason for arrest. The book could be seen as particularly subversive in an Egyptian context, given the obvious parallels between Nineteen Eighty-Four’s critique of authoritarianism and the criticisms Egypt’s dissidents make of their government.

In Egypt, the regime claims to have seized power to save democracy and says its authoritarianism will build a freer future – an argument Orwell pre-empted more than 65 years ago when he wrote that many regimes in history “pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal”.

Ad-Blocker Ghostery Actually Helps Advertisers, If You “Support” It.

Alan Henry  19th June 2013.          Find Article Here:-

If you’ve read our features on how to protect your privacy and stop everyone from tracking you on the web, you’ve heard us mention Ghostery. It’s a solid privacy tool, but Mashable reports that you should stay away from its opt-in “GhostRank” feature, which sells data on the ads you block to the ad companies themselves.

Ghostery is owned by Evidon, a company that collects and provides data to advertising companies. It has a feature called GhostRank that you can check to “support” them. The problem is, Ghostery blocks sites from gathering personal information on you—but Ghostrank will take note the ads you encounter and which ones you block, and sends that information back to advertisers so they can better formulate their ads to avoid being blocked. The data is anonymous, and Ghostery still does everything it promises to do to protect your privacy.

You could argue this is a good thing, and that it’ll help advertisers create better, less intrusive ads. The other argument is that GhostRank is a tool to build a better mousetrap, as it were—unblockable ads and better tracking cookies. That’s not lost on privacy advocates:

A major source of business for Evidon is selling data that helps ad companies ensure their compliance with AdChoices, a self-regulatory program supposed to help people opt out of targeted ads. Some experts say AdChoices is confusing to consumers, and it has been criticized by U.S. and EU policymakers. “Evidon has a financial incentive to encourage the program’s adoption and discourage alternatives like Do Not Track and cookie blocking as well as to maintain positive relationships with intrusive advertising companies,” says Jonathan Mayer, a Stanford grad student and privacy advocate active in efforts to develop a standard “Do Not Track” feature for web browsers.

Update: Adam DeMartino, of Ghostery, reached out to offer his side of the story. He says:

The data we collect in GhostRank doesn’t contain any information about the actual ads that were seen by panel members. Rather, we simply report on the technologies that are used to deliver those ads, the performance characteristics of the URLs those technologies were seen on, and if the user blocked that particular technology company. GhostRank can’t see the actual ads or anything about the criteria that were used to target them.