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 »

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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 »

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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 »

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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 »

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‘Anonymous’ Hacker Explains Why He Fled The US

Business Insider Mar. 2, 2012 By Michael Kelley Anonymous is front and center these days: the amorphous hacktivist group has been publishing internal data of U.S. banks while prominent members are prosecuted More »

Monthly Archives: February 2012

Exclusive: Homeland Security Kept Tabs on Occupy Wall Street

Rolling Stone
Feb. 28, 2012
By Michael Hastings

As Occupy Wall Street spread across the nation last fall, sparking protests in more than 70 cities, the Department of Homeland Security began keeping tabs on the movement. An internal DHS report entitled “SPECIAL COVERAGE: Occupy Wall Street,” dated October of last year, opens with the observation that “mass gatherings associated with public protest movements can have disruptive effects on transportation, commercial, and government services, especially when staged in major metropolitan areas.” While acknowledging the overwhelmingly peaceful nature of OWS, the report notes darkly that “large scale demonstrations also carry the potential for violence, presenting a significant challenge for law enforcement.”

The five-page report –  contained in 5 million newly leaked documents examined by Rolling Stone in an investigative partnership with WikiLeaks – goes on to sum up the history of Occupy Wall Street and assess its “impact” on everything from financial services to government facilities. Many of the observations are benign, and appear to have been culled from publicly available sources. The report notes, for instance, that in Chicago “five women were arrested after dumping garbage taken from a foreclosed home owned by Bank of America in the lobby one of the bank’s branches,” and that “OWS in New York staged a ‘Millionaires March,’ from Zucotti Park to demonstrate outside the homes of some of the city’s richest residents.”

But the DHS also appears to have scoured OWS-related Twitter feeds for much of their information. The report includes a special feature on what it calls Occupy’s “social media and IT usage,” and provides an interactive map of protests and gatherings nationwide – borrowed, improbably enough, from the lefty blog Daily Kos. “Social media and the organic emergence of online communities,” the report notes, “have driven the rapid expansion of the OWS movement.”

The most ominous aspect of the report, however, comes in its final paragraph:

“The growing support for the OWS movement has expanded the protests’ impact and increased the potential for violence. While the peaceful nature of the protests has served so far to mitigate their impact, larger numbers and support from groups such as Anonymous substantially increase the risk for potential incidents and enhance the potential security risk to critical infrastructure (CI). The continued expansion of these protests also places an increasingly heavy burden on law enforcement and movement organizers to control protesters. As the primary target of the demonstrations, financial services stands the sector most impacted by the OWS protests. Due to the location of the protests in major metropolitan areas, heightened and continuous situational awareness for security personnel across all CI sectors is encouraged.”

Interpol website suffers ‘Anonymous cyber-attack’

Guardian
Feb. 29, 2012
By

Interpol’s website appears to have been the victim of a cyber-attack after the international police agency announced the arrests of 25 suspected members of the hacking activist group Anonymous in Europe and South America.

The website went down briefly on Tuesday as supporters of Anonymous made online claims that it had been targeted following the arrests in Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Spain. It was quickly back up and running but was loading slowly.

Interpol announced that the arrests had been made under the umbrella of Operation Unmask, which it said was launched in mid-February in the wake of a series of coordinated cyber-attacks originating from the four countries against targets including the Colombian defence ministry and presidential websites, a Chilean electricity company and Chile’s national library.


It added that the operation was carried out by authorities in the four countries under the aegis of Interpol’s Latin American Working Group of Experts on Information Technology (IT) Crime, which facilitates the sharing of intelligence between the states involved.

Around 250 items of IT equipment and mobile phones were also seized during searches of 40 premises across 15 cities, Interpol said. Payment cards and cash had also been seized as part of the investigation into the funding of illegal activities carried out by the suspected hackers, aged 17 to 40.

Bernd Rossbach, Interpol’s acting executive director of police services, said: “This operation shows that crime in the virtual world does have real consequences for those involved, and that the internet cannot be seen as a safe haven for criminal activity, no matter where it originates or where it is targeted.”

Full Article Here – http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/feb/29/interpol-website-cyber-attack?newsfeed=true

Interpol arrests 25 suspected members of ‘Anonymous’ hackers group

AFP
Feb. 28 2012

Interpol has arrested 25 suspected members of the ‘Anonymous’ hackers group in a swoop on over a dozen cities in Europe and Latin America, the global police body said Tuesday.

“Operation Unmask was launched in mid-February following a series of coordinated cyber-attacks originating from Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Spain,” said the world police body based in the French city of Lyon.

The statement cited attacks on the websites of the Colombian Ministry of Defense and the presidency, as well as on Chile’s Endesa electricity company and its National Library, among others.


The operation was carried out by police from Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Spain, the statement said, with 250 items of computer equipment and mobile phones seized in raids on 40 premises in 15 cities.

Police also seized credit cards and cash from the suspects, aged 17 to 40.

“This operation shows that crime in the virtual world does have real consequences for those involved, and that the Internet cannot be seen as a safe haven for criminal activity,” said Interpol’s acting director of police services.

However, it was not clear what evidence there was to prove those arrested were part of Anonymous, an extremely loose-knit international movement of online activists, or “hacktivists.”

Spanish police said earlier they had arrested four suspected hackers accused of sabotaging websites and publishing confidential data on the Internet.

They were accused of hacking political parties’ and companies’ websites and adding fangs to the faces of leaders in photographs online, and publishing data identifying top officials’ security guards, Spanish police said.

The operation, carried out after trawling through computer logs in order to trace IP addresses, also netted 10 suspects in Argentina, six in Chile and five in Colombia, Spanish police said. 

Full Article Here – http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/02/28/197604.html

Over Last 10 Years, General Electric’s Effective Tax Rate Was 2.3 Percent

Think Progress
Feb. 27, 2012
By Travis Waldron

The Obama administration unveiled its corporate tax reform plan last week, which would lower the top rate from 35 percent to 28 percent, billing it as an effort to help make the American corporate tax code more competitive. Republicans have long crowed for corporate tax reform, saying America’s high marginal rate stifles competition, but they have blocked efforts (including Obama’s) to close many of the loopholes and schemes corporations use to avoid paying taxes.

General Electric, one of the nation’s largest corporations, found itself at the center of the corporate tax debate last year when the New York Times discovered that it paid nothing in taxes, despite billions of dollars in profits. GE responded to the outcry by promising that its 2011 rate was “slated to return to more normal levels” because of the recovery of GE Capital, its financial arm. But according to an analysis from Citizens for Tax Justice, the company’s 2011 effective tax rate was just 11.3 percent.
Even worse, over a 10-year period from 2002-2011, the company paid $1.9 billion in taxes on $81.2 billion in profits, giving it an effective tax rate of just 2.3 percent for the decade:

Full Article Here – http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2012/02/27/433250/general-electric-tax-rate-decade/?mobile=nc 

White House, NSA weigh cybersecurity, personal privacy

Washington Post
Feb. 27, 2012
By

The National Security Agency has pushed repeatedly over the past year to expand its role in protecting private-sector computer networks from cyberattacks but has been rebuffed by the White House, largely because of privacy concerns, according to administration officials and internal documents.

The most contentious issue was a legislative proposal last year that would have required hundreds of companies that provide critical services such as electricity generation to allow their Internet traffic be continuously scanned using computer threat data provided by the spy agency. The companies would have been expected to turn over evidence of potential cyberattacks to the government.

NSA officials portrayed these measures as unobtrusive ways to protect the nation’s vital infrastructure from what they say are increasingly dire threats of devastating cyberattacks.


But the White House and Justice Department argued that the proposal would permit unprecedented government monitoring of routine civilian Internet activity, according to documents and officials familiar with the debate. They spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe administration deliberations; internal documents reviewed by The Washington Post backed these descriptions.
 
White House officials cautioned the NSA that President Obama has opposed cybersecurity measures that weakened personal privacy protections. They also warned the head of the spy agency, Gen. Keith Alexander, to restrain his public comments after speeches in which he argued that more expansive legal authority was necessary to defend the nation against cyberattacks, according to several officials.

“We have had to remind him to at least be cognizant of what the administration’s policy positions are, so if he’s openly advocating for something beyond that, that is undermining the commander-in-chief,” said an administration official.

The debate, which is surfacing as Congress considers landmark cyber legislation, turns on what means are necessary and appropriate to protect vital private-sector systems from attack by China, Russia or other potential adversaries. Even some criminal gangs and hackers, such as the self-styled activist group Anonymous, increasingly may acquire the tools to mount major assaults on the nation’s computer systems, say U.S. officials.

Full Article Here – http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/white-house-nsa-weigh-cyber-security-personal-privacy/2012/02/07/gIQA8HmKeR_story.html?tid=pm_national_pop

FBI disabling GPS trackers to comply with Supreme Court ruling

Digital Trends
Feb. 27, 2012
By Geoff Duncan

Speaking at the University of San Francisco last Friday, FBI General Counsel Andrew Weissmann said a recent Supreme Court ruling is ushering in a “sea change” within the U.S. Justice Department as the agency moves to disable some 3,000 GPS tracking devices installed underneath vehicles to track their movements—although, in some cases, the FBI has had to seek permission to turn the devices back on briefly so they can be located and removed.
Weissmann’s remarks were first reported in The Wall Street Journal (subscription required).
The FBI’s actions to disable the tracking devices comes in the wake of the Supreme Court’s January 23rd ruling (PDF) in a case against Antoine Jones. The case dates to 2004; Jones was suspected of drug trafficking, and the FBI obtained a warrant to install a GPS tracking device on a Jeep Cherokee registerred to his wife. However, the warrant expired a day before the FBI was able to install the device, and when the agency did manage to install the tracking device, it did so in Maryland rather than the District of Columbia, which was the only jurisdiction covered by the original warrant.

The Justice Department suppressed collection of GPS data while the car was parked at Jones’ residence, but argued that Jones had no reasonable expectation of privacy while driving on public streets. However, the Supreme Court disagreed, finding that the FBI’s use of the tracking device constituted a search under the Fourth Amendment, which guards against “unreasonable” searches and seizures. The Supreme Court even went a step further, ruling the Fourth Amendment still applies when law enforcement personnel trespass on a person’s property to gather information, even if that person has no reasonable expectation of privacy at the time.
As a result of the ruling, Weissmann says the FBI has disabled about 3,000 GPS tracking devices that were in use to track vehicle movements, although he acknowledged in some cases the agency has had to seek court orders to briefly reactivate the devices so they can be located, then removed.
Weissmann noted that the agency is now working on new guidelines and policies regarding deployment of GPS tracking devices, and is considering the implications of the trespass portion of the Supreme Court’s ruling. For instance, Weissman indicated the ruling calls into question whether agents would be committed trespass if they lifted the lid on a garbage can, since the Supreme Court opinion was based on the that attaching a GPS tracking device to a car constitutes trespass. Presumably, the ruling could also impact how the FBI manages devices: for instance, if a tracking device’s battery fails after a warrant expires or outside a jurisdiction, can the FBI change the battery without violating Fourth Amendment rights?

Full Article Here – http://news.yahoo.com/fbi-disabling-gps-trackers-comply-supreme-court-ruling-191802901.html 

Homeland Security Dept. Pays General Dynamics to Scour Internet for Criticism of its Policies

AllGov
Feb. 27, 2012
By Noel Brinkerhoff

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been paying a defense contractor $11.4 million to monitor social media websites and other Internet communications to find criticisms of the department’s policies and actions.

A government watchdog organization, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), obtained hundreds of documents from DHS through the Freedom of Information Act and found details of the arrangement with General Dynamics. The company was contracted to monitor the Web for “reports that reflect adversely on DHS,” including sub-agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Citizenship and Immigration Services, Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
In testimony submitted to the House Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, Ginger McCall, director of EPIC’s Open Government Project, stated that “the agency is monitoring constantly, under very broad search terms, and is not limiting that monitoring to events or activities related to natural disasters, acts of terrorism, or manmade disasters….The DHS has no legal authority to engage in this monitoring.”

Pressure builds for civilian drone flights at home

Associated Press
Feb. 26, 2012
By JOAN LOWY

Civilian cousins of the unmanned military aircraft that have tracked and killed terrorists in the Middle East and Asia are in demand by police departments, border patrols, power companies, news organizations and others wanting a bird’s-eye view that’s too impractical or dangerous for conventional planes or helicopters to get.

Along with the enthusiasm, there are qualms.

Drones overhead could invade people’s privacy. The government worries they could collide with passenger planes or come crashing down to the ground, concerns that have slowed more widespread adoption of the technology.

Despite that, pressure is building to give drones the same access as manned aircraft to the sky at home.

“It’s going to be the next big revolution in aviation. It’s coming,” says Dan Elwell, the Aerospace Industries Association’s vice president for civil aviation.


Some impetus comes from the military, which will bring home drones from Afghanistan and wants room to test and use them. In December, Congress gave the Federal Aviation Administration six months to pick half a dozen sites around the country where the military and others can fly unmanned aircraft in the vicinity of regular air traffic, with the aim of demonstrating they’re safe.

The Defense Department says the demand for drones and their expanding missions requires routine and unfettered access to domestic airspace, including around airports and cities. In a report last October, the Pentagon called for flights first by small drones both solo and in groups, day and night, expanding over several years. Flights by large and medium-sized drones would follow in the latter half of this decade.

Other government agencies want to fly drones, too, but they’ve been hobbled by an FAA ban unless they first receive case-by-case permission. Fewer than 300 waivers were in use at the end of 2011, and they often include restrictions that severely limit the usefulness of the flights. Businesses that want to put drones to work are out of luck; waivers are only for government agencies.

But that’s changing.

Congress has told the FAA that the agency must allow civilian and military drones to fly in civilian airspace by September 2015. This spring, the FAA is set to take a first step by proposing rules that would allow limited commercial use of small drones for the first time.

Until recently, agency officials were saying there were too many unresolved safety issues to give drones greater access. Even now FAA officials are cautious about describing their plans and they avoid discussion of deadlines.

“The thing we care about is doing that in an orderly and safe way and finding the appropriate … balance of all the users in the system,” Michael Huerta, FAA’s acting administrator, told a recent industry luncheon in Washington. “Let’s develop these six sites — and we will be doing that — where we can develop further data, further testing and more history on how these things actually operate.”

Full Article Here – http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/feedarticle/10113766

Occupy activists rally outside home of Wells CEO

San Fransisco Chronicle
Feb. 26, 2012
By John King

Organized theater played Russian Hill on Saturday – 1960s street theater updated with 21st century themes.

The setting was the base of the 14-story tower where one of the residents is John Stumpf, chief executive officer of Wells Fargo. The cast included people who say they are in danger of losing their homes, veteran housing activists and younger protesters loosely aligned with the almost 6-month-old Occupy movement.

Some people wore black shrouds or held cut-out figures depicting Stumpf; two carried an enormous “notice of default” aimed at Stumpf because of Wells Fargo’s alleged “record profits at the expense of low-income communities.” In an era when protests are plentiful, one organizer explained, it doesn’t hurt to shake up the repertoire every now and then.


“We’re trying to be different,” said Buck Bagot, a longtime Bernal Heights activist who has spent recent months assisting neighborhood residents whose homes have been foreclosed. “I’ve been to too many demonstrations where 30 people you know say the same thing 30 times.”

The hour-long protest at Chestnut and Larkin streets brought out more than 50 people. A few were off-message, such as the pair displaying a banner critical of PG&E’s SmartMeters. Most, though, homed in on the community turmoil caused by the loose lending policies of large banks in the years leading up to the recession’s start in 2008 and the wave of foreclosures that has followed.

This being 2012, the organizing groups included Occupy Bernal and the OccupySF Housing Council. But one of Occupy Bernal’s founders is Bagot, who has worked on housing issues dating to the 1970s; OccupySF Housing Council was represented at the rally by Ted Gullickson, a longtime leader of the San Francisco Tenants Union.

The Occupy protests that began last fall have brought fresh interest in tackling issues such as residential displacement, Bagot suggested. “It has changed the discourse in a way I haven’t seen since the peace movement,” he said.

Wikileaks Reveals Private CIA’s Dirty Laundry

Gizmodo
Feb. 26, 2012
By Jesus Diaz

Wikileaks is back with a vengeance. It just has published five million emails from Stratfor, an intelligence company based in Texas that, looking at their practices, appears to be America’s very own privately run CIA.

Stratfor’s clients are the US Government, other countries and military organizations, as well as private companies like Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman or Raytheon. They have a global network of spies in governments and media companies, including “secret deals with dozens of media organisations and journalists, from Reuters to the Kiev Post.” According to the emails, these spies get paid in Swiss bank accounts and pre-paid credit cards.

Here are some of the highlights:


Global network of informants

The Global Intelligence Files exposes how Stratfor has recruited a global network of informants who are paid via Swiss banks accounts and pre-paid credit cards. Stratfor has a mix of covert and overt informants, which includes government employees, embassy staff and journalists around the world.

How they control their sources

“[Y]ou have to take control of him. Control means financial, sexual or psychological control… This is intended to start our conversation on your next phase” – CEO George Friedman to Stratfor analyst Reva Bhalla on 6 December 2011, on how to exploit an Israeli intelligence informant providing information on the medical condition of the President of Venezuala, Hugo Chavez.

Updating live… [WikiLeaks]

The material contains privileged information about the US government’s attacks against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks and Stratfor’s own attempts to subvert WikiLeaks. There are more than 4,000 emails mentioning WikiLeaks or Julian Assange. The emails also expose the revolving door that operates in private intelligence companies in the United States. Government and diplomatic sources from around the world give Stratfor advance knowledge of global politics and events in exchange for money. The Global Intelligence Files exposes how Stratfor has recruited a global network of informants who are paid via Swiss banks accounts and pre-paid credit cards. Stratfor has a mix of covert and overt informants, which includes government employees, embassy staff and journalists around the world.

The material shows how a private intelligence agency works, and how they target individuals for their corporate and government clients. For example, Stratfor monitored and analysed the online activities of Bhopal activists, including the “Yes Men”, for the US chemical giant Dow Chemical. The activists seek redress for the 1984 Dow Chemical/Union Carbide gas disaster in Bhopal, India. The disaster led to thousands of deaths, injuries in more than half a million people, and lasting environmental damage.

Full Article Here – http://gizmodo.com/5888440/wikileaks-reveals-us-international-intelligence-organizations-secrets