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Edward Snowden

Open Letter To Obama

July 26, 2013 President Barack Obama The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20500 Re: Civil Disobedience, Edward J. Snowden, and the Constitution Dear Mr. President: You are acutely aware More »


U.S. Companies Pay Just One-Third Of The Legal Tax Rate: GAO Study

Huffington Post July 1, 2013 By Mark Gongloff Big, profitable U.S. companies paid an average federal tax rate of less than 13 percent in 2010, according to a new study — or More »

jeff olsen

Man Tried for Chalk Drawings Found Not Guilty

NBC San Diego July 1, 2013 By Christina London The man accused of vandalism for drawing with chalk outside banks has been found not guilty on all charges. A jury returned its More »


The Bigger Story Behind the AP Spying Scandal

Washington’s Blog/Global Research May 20, 2012 By George Washington Attack on the Press You know that the Department of Justice tapped scores of phone lines at the Associated Press. You might have More »

Category Archives: privacy

Twitter must produce Occupy protester’s tweets or face contempt


Sept. 11, 2012
By Joseph Ax

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Twitter must hand over the tweets of an Occupy Wall Street protester to Manhattan prosecutors by Friday or face civil contempt and a hefty fine, a New York City judge said on Tuesday.

Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Matthew Sciarrino told a lawyer for Twitter that the San Francisco-based social media company had had 73 days to comply with his June 30 ruling ordering it to produce nearly three months’ worth of tweets from Malcolm Harris. The Occupy member was arrested during a mass march across the Brooklyn Bridge last October.

“You have until Friday to cure any potential contempt,” Sciarrino told Terryl Brown, the lawyer representing Twitter. If the company does not comply by then, he said, he would consider Twitter’s earning statements for the last two quarters in determining the appropriate fine.

Exclusive: Lawsuit says phone companies gouged FBI on wiretaps


Sept. 11, 2012
By Jeff John Roberts

A former New York prosecutor, John Prather, claims AT&T, Verizon, Qwest and Sprint regularly charged law enforcement agencies 10 times what they should have for routine wiretaps. He’s now suing on behalf of the FBI and state and city police departments to recover many millions of dollars for overcharging that allegedly took place for almost 20 years.

The case provides a window on the evolving world of wiretaps during an era of increasing surveillance. But the case is complicated because Prather stands to get a big chunk of money if the case succeeds and, as the phone companies argue, he may not be a real whistle-blower in the first place.

Hackers Get Personal Info On 12-Million Apple Users… From An FBI Laptop


Sept. 4, 2012
By Mike Masnick

Much of the debate over cybersecurity legislation like CISPA and the Cybersecurity Act focused on getting more private companies to “share data” with federal government agencies, including the FBI and the NSA. As we’ve pointed out time and time again, beyond the basic privacy rules that the bills tended to bulldoze through, any time you increase the sharing of private data, you’re only making it that much easier for hackers to access that info because you’re putting it in more places — some of which will almost definitely be insecure. In other words, even though these bills were ostensibly about “protecting” from hack attacks, by increasing the sharing of data, they’d almost certainly open up new attack opportunities and make it easier for hackers to get info.

While neither bill passed (yet), the latest example of what happens when you have widespread data sharing comes from some Antisec hackers, who claim that — in response to a presentation from the NSA’s General Keith Alexander — they wanted to probe the security of various government agencies, including the FBI. End result? They claim to have hacked into the laptop of FBI agent Christopher Stangl, who has appeared in recruitment videos for the FBI looking to hire “cyber security experts.”

The hackers claim that on his laptop, they found a csv file with:

TrapWire investigation links transit systems and Anonymizer in global surveillance network

Aug. 13, 2012

The facts behind TrapWire continue to surface in the days since WikiLeaks exposed the state-of-the-art surveillance system, but minute-by-minute more is being revealed about not just the scary intelligence infrastructure but its questionable ties.

Last week, WikiLeaks published their latest addition to trove of the so-called Global Intelligence Files — emails uncovered from Texas-based Strategic Forecasting (Stratfor) by Anonymous late last year — in turn revealing a widespread surveillance system blanketing much of the United States and abroad. The project, TrapWire, is the brainchild of Abraxas, a Northern Virginia corporation that has cut countless deals with the federal government and is staffed by former agents out of not just the Pentagon but practically every leading intelligence agency in the country. As those connections are examined under a magnifying glass by researchers and hacktivists alike, though, more and more is being brought to light about the correlations that exist between the biggest of brothers and an entire industry that profits from pulverizing what is left of privacy.

In addition to Abraxas overseeing perhaps the most-secret and advanced surveillance system in the world, other entities directly connected to the company have a monopoly in America’s mass-transit system and have also advertised themselves as the purveyors behind a tool designed to protect the privacy of US citizens.

Much remains unknown about the actual technology behind TrapWire, but Abraxas founder Richard Helms explained it in a 2005 interview as being “more accurate than facial recognition.” A system of surveillance cameras in select locales across the world are connected to analysis centers that aggregate other data, which can be combined to examine suspicious activity reports and routinely monitor every move across vast areas of public space. Publically available information links the TrapWire system to projects in New York, Washington, DC, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, among others, but the ties beyond just that one Abraxas endeavor open the operation up to an infinite number of possibilities.

San Diego-based Cubic Corporation acquired Abraxas in 2010 for only $124 million in cash, close to the same amount that the US Department of Homeland Security and Department of Defense awarded the contractor during just the last 11 months. Within the vast Cubic empire exist other facets, though, ones that could very well be working hand-in-hand with what is quickly unfolding as one of the best-kept law enforcement operation secrets ever.

Included in the sale of Abraxas to Cubic in 2010 was Anonymizer, described by its publicists as “the leader in consumer online anonymity solutions.” Anonymizer exists under the alleged platform of providing identity masking while making communiqué and clandestine transactions over the Web, and its then-newly-hired vice president for consumer products, Chaminda Wijetilleke, said in 2010, “As the online privacy space continues to mature, Anonymizer is in a great position to increase its lead in the industry and to be at the forefront of bringing innovative products to market.”

“Consumers need state-of-the-art solutions to protect themselves from relentless threats to their online privacy,” added Wijetilleke, who went on to add, “I’m excited to join the Anonymizer team and to help drive this evolving business forward.” In Cubic’s acquisition of Abraxas and Anonymizer, though, real life privacy may have been put under immense risk thanks to TrapWire.

TrapWire was first unraveled in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks by Abraxas back in 2004, and a decade down the road their connections within the private sector have surpassed more than just counterterrorism companies. In addition to being now under the same umbrella is Anonymizer, its parent company, Cubic, manages a massive transportation division that is reported to be the world’s leader in terms of automated fare collection cards and its related infrastructure in mass-transit systems across the globe.

Full Article Here - http://rt.com/usa/news/trapwire-anonymizer-surveillance-system-588/

Appeals court overturns ruling, says government wiretapping was OK

Los Angeles Times
Aug. 8, 2012

A federal appeals court Tuesday threw out a lawsuit by lawyers for an Islamic group that charged the federal government had illegally wiretapped them.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the government had legal immunity from the lawsuit filed by lawyers for  Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, a now-defunct charity that federal agents said was a terrorist group.

The ruling overturns a 2010 decision by a San Francisco federal judge against the wiretapping program. That ruling awarded the group’s lawyers who had been wiretapped a total of $40,800 and required the government to pay Al-Haramain’s $2.5 million legal fees.

“This case effectively brings to an end the plaintiffs’ ongoing attempts to hold the executive branch responsible for intercepting telephone conversations without judicial authorization,” the 9th Circuit said.

The panel also affirmed a lower-court decision that FBI Director Robert Mueller could not be personally sued as a result of the surveillance.

In 2001, President George W. Bush authorized the government to monitor, without warrants, telephone calls and e-mails between Americans and possible foreign terrorists. Al-Haramain and its two lawyers sued, arguing that they had been wiretapped illegally.

Full Article Here – http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/08/wiretapping-islamic-group-lawsuit-appeals-court.html 

Anonymous begins dump of stolen ISP data

ZD Net
July 28, 2012

Anonymous Australia has followed through with its promise to dump of what appears to be AAPT’s customer data, releasing a sample of the stolen data.

The data was posted in several parts; six on Pastebin (one, two, three, four, five, and six), and four dump files. The information in these dumps appears to be about AAPT’s business accounts and the contacts for these agreements.

The data appears to contain information about AAPT business customers and staff, including the names, numbers, titles and email addresses of a contact for each business agreement and how much the company spends (presumably with AAPT) each month. AAPT confirmed earlier this week that its data had been breached via its provider Melbourne IT, but had not said whether Anonymous was behind the breach. ZDNet has contacted AAPT to confirm whether the dump is its data.

There appear to be passwords in the dump. In the information leaked to Pastebin, these passwords appear to be stored in plaintext, but completely random, consisting of upper- and lower-case characters and between 8 and 11 characters in length, indicating these users were assigned passwords or the passwords were disguised in some way. But in the dumped files, there are over a thousand passwords which aren’t random and appear to be user defined.

Although Anonymous Australia previously stated it would strip personal information from the data, there is still some left in the dump files.

This information includes the date of birth and marital status for many business customer account contacts, which could potentially provide would-be attackers with enough information to steal someone’s identity.

The group has since made its first press release regarding the attack and uploaded a video to YouTube to explain its motives. The group states that “Australia feels the need to censor and filter every day social and personal life” and that due to this, Anonymous is “disgusted from this decision, based upon power, money, and greed”.

Full Article Here – http://www.zdnet.com/au/anonymous-begins-dump-of-stolen-isp-data-7000001749/

More Demands on Cell Carriers in Surveillance

New York Times
July 8, 2012

WASHINGTON — In the first public accounting of its kind, cellphone carriers reported that they responded to a startling 1.3 million demands for subscriber information last year from law enforcement agencies seeking text messages, caller locations and other information in the course of investigations. 

The cellphone carriers’ reports, which come in response to a Congressional inquiry, document an explosion in cellphone surveillance in the last five years, with the companies turning over records thousands of times a day in response to police emergencies, court orders, law enforcement subpoenas and other requests.
The reports also reveal a sometimes uneasy partnership with law enforcement agencies, with the carriers frequently rejecting demands that they considered legally questionable or unjustified. At least one carrier even referred some inappropriate requests to the F.B.I.

The information represents the first time data have been collected nationally on the frequency of cell surveillance by law enforcement. The volume of the requests reported by the carriers — which most likely involve several million subscribers — surprised even some officials who have closely followed the growth of cell surveillance.
“I never expected it to be this massive,” said Representative Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who requested the reports from nine carriers, including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon, in response to an article in April in The New York Times on law enforcement’s expanded use of cell tracking. Mr. Markey, who is the co-chairman of the Bipartisan Congressional Privacy Caucus, made the carriers’ responses available to The Times.
While the cell companies did not break down the types of law enforcement agencies collecting the data, they made clear that the widened cell surveillance cut across all levels of government — from run-of-the-mill street crimes handled by local police departments to financial crimes and intelligence investigations at the state and federal levels.
AT&T alone now responds to an average of more than 700 requests a day, with about 230 of them regarded as emergencies that do not require the normal court orders and subpoena. That is roughly triple the number it fielded in 2007, the company said. Law enforcement requests of all kinds have been rising among the other carriers as well, with annual increases of between 12 percent and 16 percent in the last five years. Sprint, which did not break down its figures in as much detail as other carriers, led all companies last year in reporting what amounted to at least 1,500 data requests on average a day.
With the rapid expansion of cell surveillance have come rising concerns — including among carriers — about what legal safeguards are in place to balance law enforcement agencies’ needs for quick data against the privacy rights of consumers. 

No Jury Trial and No Regrets for Naked Portland TSA Protester John Brennan

Seattle Weekly
July 3, 2012
By Keegan Hamilton

The case of John Brennan, the man who stripped naked to protest an invasive search at Portland airport TSA checkpoint earlier this year, is working its way through the courts. The latest development: a judge denied Brennan’s request for a jury trial.

In case you missed news of Brennan’s nude civil disobedience this past April, the 50-year-old decided to disrobe when he got hassled by Transportation Security Administration employees as he went to board a flight from PDX to San Jose. Brennan was frisked, then had his hands swabbed with a piece of fabric. This test — known as Explosives Trace Detection — came back with a false positive that Brennan was carrying a bomb. That’s when the Web developer became irate, and stripped down to his birthday suit to prove he wasn’t packing any explosives.

Brennan was arrested for disorderly conduct, and later charged by Multnomah County Prosecutors with indecent exposure. The charge was recently downgraded from a misdemeanor to a violation, the legal equivalent of a speeding ticket. While the lesser charge means Brennan won’t face jail time and can keep a clean criminal record, it also does not allow for a trial by jury. His options are either plead guilty — not an option for the defiant Brennan — or proceed to a bench trial, where the judge decides whether the state can prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Brennan’s pro bono attorney petitioned the judge to grant a jury trial, but was denied last Friday. His bench trial is now scheduled for July 18. He also faces possible civil action for interfering with the TSA screening process.

Despite his legal troubles, Brennan says if he could to do it all over again, he would still give the TSA the fully monty. “I haven’t had any regrets,” he says. “Bit by bit our government is taking away our rights. This is what we need to be focusing on — to take our rights back when we can. These searches are unconstitutional.”

Full Article Here – http://blogs.seattleweekly.com/dailyweekly/2012/07/john_brennan_naked_portland_tsa.php

Three NSA Whistleblowers Back EFF’s Lawsuit Over Government’s Massive Spying Program

July 2, 2012

EFF Asks Court to Reject Stale State Secret Arguments So Case Can Proceed

San Francisco – Three whistleblowers – all former employees of the National Security Agency (NSA) – have come forward to give evidence in the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s (EFF’s) lawsuit against the government’s illegal mass surveillance program, Jewel v. NSA.

In a motion filed today, the three former intelligence analysts confirm that the NSA has, or is in the process of obtaining, the capability to seize and store most electronic communications passing through its U.S. intercept centers, such as the “secret room” at the AT&T facility in San Francisco first disclosed by retired AT&T technician Mark Klein in early 2006.

“For years, government lawyers have been arguing that our case is too secret for the courts to consider, despite the mounting confirmation of widespread mass illegal surveillance of ordinary people,” said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. “Now we have three former NSA officials confirming the basic facts. Neither the Constitution nor federal law allow the government to collect massive amounts of communications and data of innocent Americans and fish around in it in case it might find something interesting. This kind of power is too easily abused. We’re extremely pleased that more whistleblowers have come forward to help end this massive spying program.”

The three former NSA employees with declarations in EFF’s brief are William E. Binney, Thomas A. Drake, and J. Kirk Wiebe. All were targets of a federal investigation into leaks to the New York Times that sparked the initial news coverage about the warrantless wiretapping program. Binney and Wiebe were formally cleared of charges and Drake had those charges against him dropped.

Full Article Here – https://www.eff.org/press/releases/three-nsa-whistleblowers-back-effs-lawsuit-over-governments-massive-spying-program

Twitter forced to release Occupy protester’s tweets to New York court

July 2, 2012

Twitter has been ordered to hand over almost three months worth of messages from an Occupy Wall Street protester after losing a legal challenge to prosecutors’ demands for the tweets.

The micro-blogging website had argued that the posts belonged to activist Malcolm Harris and as such it would be violating fourth amendment privacy rights if it were to disclose the communications without first receiving a search warrant.

But a Manhattan judge ruled on Monday that under a timeline set out by federal law, a warrant is only needed for the final day’s worth of messages from Harris, who is accused of disorderly conduct in relation to a protest on the Brooklyn Bridge in October.

All other tweets prior to this date could legitimately be demanded by means of subpoena, it was ruled.

Harris was amongst several hundred Occupy Wall Street demonstrators arrested last year during a protest march across Brooklyn Bridge.

Prosecutors say that messages posted by Harris – who goes by the twitter handle @destructuremal – could show whether the defendant was aware that he was breaking police orders relating to the demo.

In January, the New York County district attorney’s office issued a subpoena to Twitter, calling on the firm to hand over “any and all user information, including email address, as well as any and all tweets posted for the period 9/15/2011 – 12/31/2011″.

Harris initially attempted to block the move, but was told that he had no proprietary interest to his own messages.

Twitter countered that this contradicts its own terms and conditions, which explicitly states that users “retain their right to any content they submit, post or display on or through”. Moreover, in its own legal challenge to the subpoena, the firm accused prosecutors of trying to force its employees to violate federal law.

Lawyers for Twitter also argued that under the Uniform Act, prosecutors would need to obtain a subpoena in California before it could demand documents from a company based in that state.

Monday’s ruling found that a search warrant was indeed needed for a final day’s worth of tweets by Harris as they fell within a timeline laid out in federal law. All else was fair game for the prosecutors, the judge found.

Full Article Here -  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jul/02/twitter-release-occupy-prostest-tweets?newsfeed=true