Tag Archives: electronic frontier foundation

Apathetic After Shock

There has been a lot of talk recently, of course, about Edward Snowden and traitors.  There has been a great deal of public gnashing of teeth and wailing by our elected leaders over his release of the snazzy Micro$oft PowerPoint slideshow that was not meant for public consumption.  There was a really well done piece explaining how, under the definitions given in the US Constitution, Snowden has not committed treason.  Not going to talk about that today.  Not directly.

Instead, what I find bothersome is just how much acceptance there is about this from the vast majority of people.  I really shouldn’t be surprised, and I suppose I’m not really.  Still, I am disappointed.  When it broke, I had hoped that perhaps this would be sufficient to bring about a ground swell of anger and activity.  There was certainly an initial outburst of shock.  And, yet, very quickly since then …

There has been some small amount of noise at the fringes.  Reddit has been one place where a little activity has taken place.  The Daily Kos, EFF, and a lot of other organizations have quietly come out in opposition.  Note the key word being quietly.  These organizations sent out emails to their members.  I know.  I got some of them.  I certainly didn’t get all of them.  I’m not on all of their mailing lists.  There was some activity on the right.  Again, I know.  I saw some of it.  I heard about other, and I went looking to see if there was any in other places.  At the fringes, yes.  In the heart, in the mainstream?  No.  Not really.

stopwatching.us was set up to collect signatures.  I want to share with you a screen shot taken from that site on the morning of June 16, 2013.  It is a compilation that shows their “Selected Signatories.”  I’ve compiled the 4 categories that they have on four separate tabs – Organizations, Individuals, Businesses, and Members of US Congress – together for you to take in all at once.

Combined Selected Signatories

As of this morning, they have collected 178,350 signatures.  Please read that again.  That’s a sad number.

No one cares.  The majority of the country is so used to the intrusions of the PATRIOT Act, warrantless searches, surrendering our civil liberties in the name of security, and the concept that “If you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear,”  that this kind of “revelation” is blasé.  No worries, mate.

According to one poll (as reliable as that may be), 54% of Americans think that Snowden did the right thing in exposing PRISM, but 53% still think he should be prosecuted.  A vast majority of people say they’re following the story closely.  My theory as to why?  Because to most people this is just the next episode in the Bourne Chronicles.  Most people are likely watching to see which scenario happens next.  Will he be subjected to “extraordinary rendition”?  Will he be found dead “by his own hand”?  Will he be mundanely arrested and extradited back to the US?  Will he become an “asset” of the Chinese or some other foreign government that would like access to the information he may still have not released yet?

They are not paying attention because they are interested in or concerned about the actual issues.  I see in both left of center and right of center blogs, as well as the main stream media the over-whelming theme of “Who cares?” about the program itself.  I actually read the words, “I am not sure I care if the government is reading my email or listening in on my phone calls as long as it keeps me safe.”  The majority of the coverage of this case is about who is Edward Snowden?  (My Google search for the term, “Who is edward snowden” returned 1,180,000,000 results)  What is Booz Allen Hamilton?  (A firm most of us had never heard of before.)  Should we be privatizing “national security”?  (A question that probably should have been asked 40 years ago, but which was answered as an inevitable part of the supply-side, conservative domination of the government over that time period.  What did y’all really expect?)  And, so on.  Very little about the intrusiveness of this program which in all likelihood has accomplished nothing in terms of actual security, despite claims to the contrary.


Surprised? No. Outraged? Yes!

Let me begin with a question.  It is a simple question.  We’ll come back to the context in a moment.  In all seriousness.

Why are you surprised?  Or, perhaps, better, why would anyone be surprised?

The Guardian newspaper this week, using leaked documents, “revealed” the existence of “PRISM” – a broad program to collect “so-called meta data on your telephone calls.”  The article goes further to claim that the NSA also has direct backdoor access to the servers of major tech companies (Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, YouTube, Skype, AOL, and Apple) which between them own the vast majority of all online communications between e-mail, video, and chat.

Again, why would anyone be surprised?  This is really not news.  The specifics of it might be new, but we have known about the existence of this program for years.  I don’t think the public knew the name of the program, or had seen that nifty logo.  The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court was set up in the mid-1970s.  The PATRIOT Act was approved by near unanimous consent (357 to 66 in the House and 98 to 1 in the Senate) and signed into law by George W Bush on 10/25/2001.  It was introduced on 10/23.  So, in less than 48 hours it went from concept to law.  It was then renewed in 2006, and again in 2011 by the current POTUS.  It is these two laws which provide the broad foundations for the program, however, there are many, many other laws which have been passed that have aided and abetted the development of these programs.

Again, why are you surprised?  In 1979, the Supreme Court upheld this kind of invasion of privacy.  They found in the Smith v Maryland case, that collecting, what was called at the time the “pen register” (that is the time equivalent of the meta data), was legal.  This is the modern, technologically equivalent program.  When it goes further into the courts, they will uphold it.

The NSA has been involved in this kind of snooping and has been caught at it before.  We know this.  It isn’t new.  In 2005, the EFF filed a lawsuit against AT&T for illegally cooperating with the NSA to facilitate these actions.  If you read this article, or remember from the time period, you will note that the defense from the administration is almost precisely the same.

In 2006, one of the sitting FISA judges quit the appointment and others urged congress to give the FISA court a direct role in overseeing the wiretapping program.

“The administration defends the eavesdropping program, saying it is only targeting communications to and from suspected terrorists, that government lawyers review the program every 45 days and that Congress authorized the president to track down 9/11 co-conspirators, thereby giving the president the ability to bypass wiretapping laws.”

In 2009, the director of the National Cybersecurity Center resigned, and blamed the NSA’s “pwer grab” as a threat to “our democratic process.

In 2001, William Binney resigned from the NSA  after more than 30 years, including time as director of the World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group, and started blowing the whistle, warning about the size and scope of the NSA’s surveillance program.

This is not tin foil hat conspiracy theory territory.  This is you can only be surprised if you weren’t paying attention.  This is, “If you aren’t angry, you aren’t paying attention” territory.

For most of the last 60 years there has been talk of Project ECHELON.  Not just in tin foil hat, conspiracist circles where we can laugh at it, but also in the halls of government, with official investigations.  There have been actual investigations and acknowledgements of its existence with accompanying refusals to discuss its full expanse.  Sound familiar?

Many in our governments, around the world, took Orwell’s 1984 not as a warning, but as a guidebook, just as many right wingers took Ayn Rand’s work not as a poorly written morality play, but as the writings of a prophetess.

Now, as I said, there is no reason that anyone should be surprised.  However, that does not mean that we should not be outraged, nor does it suggest that we should accept it.  I hope that this will be the moment that people will awake and arise.  I do not expect it, but I do hope for it.  Perhaps we will remember and live up to the words of at least one of the “Founding Fatherstm


Yay!! It’s over! Oh, wait…

Ah, isn’t that cute?  Kittens!  Yay!  It’s over!

Unpack your kittehs!

Except, it’s never really over!

One of the great sources of frustration to non-Christians is the compartmentalization of the respectable, honorable and decent teachings of that religion from the daily lives of so many.  We see that they go to church on Sunday and maybe Wednesday, and then the rest of the week, they lie, cheat, steal, molest children, commit rapes, murder, and all sorts of mayhem that are completely divorced from their supposed beliefs.  While some of this is certainly attributable to “being human”, there is a pattern of behavior that is not.  It is not my purpose or the purpose of this space to attack any religion or to draw out the laundry list of supporting evidence for this.  The point is that we, as a country, tend to do the same thing with our politics.

We allow it to go unwatched for long periods of time, and as we do, we get more and more distressing government in place.  When the cat’s away, the mice will play, no?  We pay attention only at times of crises or around elections.  Do we remember last January when the SOPA/PIPA fight came up and there was an internet blackout?  As I wrote the following week, it is an ongoing battle, not a one day action.  The same is true of all politics.

Okay, so the Presidential preference poll took place on November 6th.  Fantastic!  You went out and voted?  Bravo!  Brava!  I am proud of you!  I thank you for being a responsible and contributing member of our society.  You are part of less than 50% of the eligible voting population with any claim to being patriotic, in my eyes. My eldest son participated in his first.  We also had Senators, Congressmen, state legislators, judges, county officials, city officials, state constitutional amendments, county referenda, etc.  The Presidential election wasn’t the only one on the ballot.  It was only the most highly publicized.

Did your guy win?  Congratulations.  He was marginally better than the likely alternative.  Mine didn’t, but I knew he wouldn’t.  He was completely ignored by the press.  That is a crucial factor in the election process.  In fact, all of the alternate candidates were effectively shut out of the process by the media.  When the most well known of the bunch, Jill Stein, attempted to attend one of the main presidential debates, she was arrested, you really have significant issues in this country.

Politics is not something that we can engage in at election time and then disengage from the rest of the time.  My son said to me the same thing that many people have said, “I don’t feel like I should really vote because I’m not educated enough on all of the issues.”  During the lead up to the election he took one of the “Who is your candidate?” online tests.  It told him that Jill Stein was his candidate.  As we were discussing it, he told me that there were many questions that he didn’t answer because he either didn’t care or didn’t know about the issues.  I wonder how many people did the same.

I also discussed this same test with another friend.  In that case though, he had taken the test after researching candidates for himself.  He was given a different result than the conclusion he had reached for himself.  He was questioning himself.  I suggested that rather than questioning his own research and conclusions, perhaps he should question the website, its conclusions and possible bias.

In both cases, they were making efforts to educate themselves, which is more than a lot of people can say!!  Too many people simply vote based on party lines, without any thought.

We cannot just cram for the election as though it were a high school test.  This is something we have to stay at least a bit more than peripherally on top off all the time.  Constantly there are issues going on that will impact our daily lives to smaller or larger degrees.  What those things are will vary from moment to moment, but they are constant.  The biggest in the news right now is the so-called “Fiscal Cliff”.  That is the impending sequestration that was agreed to in the Budget Control Act of 2011 on August 2, 2011.  How will it be resolved?  Will a deal be reached?  Will the Republicans continue to hold the middle class hostage in order to continue to give tax breaks to the wealthiest among us?  Do you care?  Are you paying attention?


Here’s one great tool to help track efforts to censor the net!

Listening to NPR this afternoon as I was driving and while I missed some of the details (such as the name of the lady speaking.  It was a short drive!)  However, she was representing the Electronic Frontier Foundation.  The most salient point that I wanted to be sure to share with what loyal readers I may have, and with all who care about the freedom of the internet around the world, is that the EFF has a new site to help address specifically the complaint that many of us have raised.

How the hell are we supposed to keep track of all the threats in the ongoing war?  As I wrote immediately following the SOPA strike, it’s an ongoing battle, not a one day action!  There are already new threats out there.  In fact, there are threats that appear to be even more insidious, and appear to be drawing even less notice.  I am speaking of ACTA, H.R. 1981 (which also thanks to the EFF you can speak out against it here!), and more.

So, what’s the answer?  Keeping up with it all is a Herculean task.  It is many full-time jobs.  Truly.  And, in part you simply have to make an effort.  In part though, we have the efforts of groups like EFF to thank.  Here is one of their latest efforts.

Global Chokepoints is an online resource created to document and monitor global proposals to turn Internet intermediaries into copyright police.

I think they describe themselves just fine, so I’ll let their words speak for themselves:

Global Chokepoints is an online resource created to document and monitor global proposals to turn Internet intermediaries into copyright police. These proposals harm Internet users’ rights of privacy, due process and freedom of expression, and endanger the future of the free and open Internet. Our goal is to provide accurate empirical information to digital activists and policy makers, and help coordinate international opposition to attempts to cut off free expression through misguided copyright laws, policies, agreements and court cases. Scroll down to see a list of countries currently featured for threatening free expression through copyright censorship.

In other words, they’re going to serve as a central clearinghouse for information about these efforts around the world.  Not just here in the US.  This is important.  Especially with the forces of the US working to manipulate and blackmail other countries to implement these same restrictions, even when those other countries don’t particularly want them (and, the original source in Spanish here.)

It’s not perfect or complete, but it is a good resource to add to your list.

It’s an ongoing battle, not a one day action!

Good news!  SOPA and PIPA have been “indefinitely shelved”.  We won!  Well, we did, right?  Yes, and no.  We won this battle.  We did not win the war!  We cannot forget this.  Let me say that again, because it is really important.

 We cannot forget that we only won a battle.  The war continues!

The SOPA/PIPA battle was not the first in this war.  They will not be the last.  They’re not even the last current battle.  New legislation has already been introduced that we have to raise our voices against, in H.R. 1981.  (More here)  (And, thanks to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, you can speak out against it here!)

So, what can we actually do?  There are many things.  One thing that we have to do is stop putting the same ridiculous power structure in place.  We have to stop voting for the same Republicrats and Democans who have been bought and paid for by the powerful money interests who no longer share the same interests as the rest of us.  Those same interests, who no longer even represent the interests of the content creators who they, perhaps, once represented.  These Republicrats/Democans are just going to keep introducing bills into the system until they accomplish their goals.  And, one day they’ll get one through.  Either because someone wasn’t paying attention so the word didn’t get out, or the public was too weary or distracted with other issues, or simply by slipping small pieces of it in with other bills until the total is there.

The truth is that immediately after our victory, the government acted to show us that they didn’t need these new “tools” in order to achieve their nefarious deeds when they shut down the largest file locker site on the net, megaupload.com.  Don’t go looking.  It’s done.

Last I checked, there were 10 arrests.  And, this was a site which had the backing of MAJOR content providers.  People like Swizz Beatz, Kim Kardashian, Alicia Keys and Kanye West, among others.

(Just for the record, I am not nor have I ever used megaupload.com.  This is not because I am opposed to it. I am just not that big a user online.  I have a dropbox account and that serves my purposes thus far.  However, I see this as a threat in the war, and I take it personally!)

This guy makes some really valid points in a very blunt style, but he also misses the point.   Still, it is worth reading.  Mainly it is worth reading because it is important to understand that the part he is right about is this.  The blackout by itself is pointless.  It is only one aspect.  We must ALSO act.  We must also boycott those who support the forces who introduce these bills.  We must also call, email and sign petitions.  We must ACT.  Not just abstain from action.

 Now comes this:

This is almost impossible to achieve, but if we as a community could actually pull it off, then it would be extremely effective.  We would have to each, as individuals, commit to it and follow through on it.  That’s the really hard part.  The follow through.  Not only no purchasing, but no downloading.

But, I suggest we take it even further.  Many of you like to shop.  I suggest that you continue shopping.  Do it.  Shop in the stores.  Shop on line.  Fill those shopping carts.  Don’t fill them needlessly.  Fill them with what you actually want.  Get them all the way up the point of purchase, then, leave them a note instead, “These are the items I would have purchased.  However, in order to make MY voice heard as a consumer and as the ENGINE that drives the economy, be it known that I am intentionally abstaining from this purchase that I could have made.  I am doing this so that those who would try to censor the internet in order to recreate their profits will hear my message.  Hands off!”   From there, the store can spend the labor costs to restock.  Online, they’ll have a bunch of shopping carts, and it won’t have the same impact.  Still, leave a link to the static page where that graphic above is housed and the word will get out.

As illustrated by the constantly changing list of organizations that supported SOPA and likely have supported the other incarnations, to conduct a true, targeted boycott would be nearly impossible.

I think it’s really key though to also not download illegally.  It needs to be as close to total as possible.  Seriously people, don’t we have enough music, movies, TV shows, books etc that we could keep ourselves entertained for one month without getting new?  Couldn’t we use the library or visit with our friends?  Aren’t there plenty of things we could do?  I get that most of us are addicted to getting the newest of these things, and I have NO idea what is scheduled for release.  I promise you though, whatever it is, it will still be available in May.  And, if we all go without getting it, and we let them know that this is why, in May, the sales will be awesoooommmmeee!!

So, you win either way.  You just have to show a little patience and perseverance.  A little delayed gratification.

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