Your tax dollars at work...  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

Glenn Greenwald's steady drip feed of reports (combined with Edward Snowden's disappearance into Putin's Russia) seems to be keeping the focus of attention on the NSA's capabilities.

Early Warning has a look at a new report about the deliberate insertion of security vulnerabilities into software - Your tax dollars at work....

Personally, I thought the Internet was already quite insecure without the US government spending large amounts of money to deliberately make it worse.

I'm not surprised by most of the revelations but I did find the notion of "LOVEINT" a little astonishing - it hadn't occurred to me that intelligence operatives would use their powers to stalk hot chicks, but I guess in retrospect that's a little naive. John Quiggin notes that polygraphs are used to prevent this sort of thing (presumably a phrenologist administers the backup test if the polygraph machine isn't working) - LOVEINT.

The drip feed of revelations about spying by NSA, related agencies and international subsidiaries like ASIO/ASIS, is taking on a familiar pattern. Take some long-held suspicion about what they might be up to, and go through the following steps

1. “You’re being paranoid. That can never happen, thanks to our marvellous checks and balances”
2. “Well, actually it does happen, but hardly ever, so there’s no need to worry about it”
3. “OK, it happens all the time, but you shouldn’t be worried unless you have something to hide”

An example which must have occurred to quite a few of us is whether NSA employees can spy on current or former partners, potential love interests and so on. Until a few days ago, this was at stage 1. Now, it’s been admitted that this not only happens, but it has a name “LOVEINT“. Still, we are told by the great defender of our liberties Dianne Feinstein, this has only happened on a handful of occasions (Stage 2).

All very reassuring, until you read the following

Most of the incidents, officials said, were self-reported. Such admissions can arise, for example, when an employee takes a polygraph tests as part of a renewal of a security clearance.

In other words, while NSA monitors everything you and I do all the time, it relies on witchcraft to detect wrongdoing by its own employees. I guess we’ll just have to hope that NSA staff are too busy snooping on our emails to read any of the 194 000 Google hits on “how to cheat a polygraph”.

George Washington at Zero hedge has a good summary of some of the latest news (lots of links at the original) - High-Level American Intelligence Source: “We Hack Everyone Everywhere".

Offensive cyber operations are not only occurring overseas …

The Department of Defense has long waged cyber-war against Americans by censoring and manipulating social media and other websites. More proof here and here.

This is not entirely surprising, given that:

  • Programs which the government claims are aimed at foreign entities have long been used against American citizens living in the United States
  • The “war on terror” has come home. If the government claims the power to assassinate and indefinitely detain American citizens living on U.S. soil … it’ s not going to hesitate in targeting them for propaganda and cyber-warfare
  • The government has long sought to spread propaganda through mainstream media, video games, movies, television, and every other popular medium. Famed Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein says the CIA bought and paid for many successful journalists. See also this New York Times piece, this essay by the Independent, this speech by one of the premier writers on journalism, and this and this roundup.
  • And the CIA is investing in technology which lets them cut out the middle man altogether … by having a computer write news stories
  • On the other hand, real reporters who criticize those in power are being harassed, targeted and smeared
  • Government agencies are scouring the Web for any critical comments about them, actively manipulating social media for propaganda purposes, and to help the too big to fail businesses compete against smaller businesses (and here), and to promote viewpoints which have nothing to do with keeping us safe

The Business Insider also has a good roundup of links - The Guardian's Bombshell Revelation About NSA Domestic Spying Is Only The Tip Of The Iceberg.

Binney — one of the best mathematicians and code breakers in NSA history — worked for the defence Department’s foreign signals intelligence agency for 32 years before resigning in late 2001 because he “could not stay after the NSA began purposefully violating the Constitution.”

He’s detailed how, ever since 9/11, the NSA has run a top-secret surveillance program that amasses electronic data — phone calls, emails, banking and travel records, social media, entire government databases — and analyses the information “to be able to monitor what people are doing” and who they are doing it with.

Binney would know — he built the original software (i.e. ThinThread) that identified, in real time, networks of connections between individuals based on their electronic communications. “I can pull your entire life together from all those domains and map it out and show your entire life over time,” Binney told documentarian Laura Poitras.”This is something the KGB, the Stasi or the Gestapo would have loved to have had.”


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