Vladimir Putin must be called to account on surveillance just like Obama
I questioned the Russian president live on TV to get his answer on the record, not to whitewash him
By Edward Snowden
Apr 18 2014
On Thursday, I questioned Russia’s involvement in mass surveillance on live television. I asked Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, a question that cannot credibly be answered in the negative by any leader who runs a modern, intrusive surveillance program: “Does [your country] intercept, analyse or store millions of individuals’ communications?”
I went on to challenge whether, even if such a mass surveillance program were effective and technically legal, it could ever be morally justified.
The question was intended to mirror the now infamous exchange in US Senate intelligence committee hearings between senator Ron Wyden and the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, about whether the NSA collected records on millions of Americans, and to invite either an important concession or a clear evasion. (See a side-by-side comparison of Wyden’s question and mine here.)
Clapper’s lie – to the Senate and to the public – was a major motivating force behind my decision to go public, and a historic example of the importance of official accountability.
In his response, Putin denied the first part of the question and dodged on the latter. There are serious inconsistencies in his denial – and we’ll get to them soon – but it was not the president’s suspiciously narrow answer that was criticised by many pundits. It was that I had chosen to ask a question at all.
I was surprised that people who witnessed me risk my life to expose the surveillance practices of my own country could not believe that I might also criticise the surveillance policies of Russia, a country to which I have sworn no allegiance, without ulterior motive. I regret that my question could be misinterpreted, and that it enabled many to ignore the substance of the question – and Putin’s evasive response – in order to speculate, wildly and incorrectly, about my motives for asking it.
The investigative journalist Andrei Soldatov, perhaps the single most prominent critic of Russia’s surveillance apparatus (and someone who has repeatedly criticised me in the past year), described my question as “extremely important for Russia”. It could, he said, “lift a de facto ban on public conversations about state eavesdropping.”
Others have pointed out that Putin’s response appears to be the strongest denial of involvement in mass surveillance ever given by a Russian leader – a denial that is, generously speaking, likely to be revisited by journalists.
In fact, Putin’s response was remarkably similar to Barack Obama’s initial, sweeping denials of the scope of the NSA’s domestic surveillance programs, before that position was later shown to be both untrue and indefensible.
[Note: This comment comes from friend David Rosenthal. DLH]
From: “David S. H. Rosenthal” <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: [Dewayne-Net] The darknet just got its first black market search engine
Date: April 17, 2014 at 22:57:42 EDT
The darknet just got its first black market search engine
By Adrianne Jeffries
Apr 17 2014
The network of sites known as the darknet, only accessible through the
anonymizing Tor browser, resembles the early internet in many ways —
including being difficult to navigate. Most users get around by clicking
from link to link, accessing pages like “The Hidden Wiki” that list
popular site addresses, or typing long, complex URLs directly into the
browser. Sites often change addresses as a cautionary measure, making
them even more difficult to locate.
Obama’s equal-pay myth is one thing. The GOP’s chauvinism is a problem
Go ahead, turn the White House’s 77-cents quote into the new 47% video. But don’t preach until you know where wage-gap vigilantism gets us
By Ana Marie Cox
Apr 16 2014
Republicans have been both very right and very wrong about their manyobjections over the past week to the White House’s flashy “paycheck equality” push. They’re right to characterize it as a mostly political ploy, an unserious legislative gambit to prove that Republicans are insensitive to the needs of working women. (Who knows why Democrats felt they had to force the issue – Republicans are perfectly capable of proving their insensitivity all by themselves.) Republicans are also correct in pointing out that women have made steady gains receiving equal pay for equal work; if you correct forenough “lifestyle choice” factors, the gap almost disappears.
But here’s where Republicans are wrong: they believe that a gender pay gap due to “lifestyle choices” is somehow OK, or inevitable, or – and this gets to the core fallacy of modern conservatism – that it is OK because it is inevitable.
The Obama administration has hammered on the misleading statistic that women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes, and placed most of its rhetorical bet on claiming to have a solution to the problem of women not receiving equal pay for equal work.
Truth is, out of the many approaches outlined in the Paycheck Fairness Act(PFA) currently languishing in Congress, very few would do anything about the 77-cent problem, because that pay gap exists outside of the narrow scope of equally qualified women and men in the same job getting different pay.
According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the tendency of women to work in lower-wage careers and take more time off accounts for 60% of the overall, 77-cent, pay discrepancy between men and women. If one controls for all education and demographic factors, including having children under 18 and single parents, women earn 91 cents for every dollar earned by men.
That’s still wrong, that’s still bad, but it doesn’t have the same clarion call ring as “77 cents”; it’s almost a rounding error. It’s the number that Republicans will cop to.
Thus there was a Republican alternative to the PFA, the End Pay Discrimination Through Information Act. It keeps, word-for-word, the PFA language that prohibits retaliation by employers and bans rules against discussing salaries in the first place, stripping out both the sections pertaining to civil cases and eliminating the education and research grants to explore the issue.
The Republican edits weaken the equal pay bill. But since both sections took aim, more or less, at the 91-cent rather than the 77-cent problem, their loss might not have been worth scuttling the entire cause.
Progressives contend that without the threat of compensatory damages (as are awarded in race discrimination suits), the GOP legislation would give employers little incentive to establish equal pay. Indeed, the inability of plaintiffs to gain anything beyond back-pay for wage discrimination based on gender may explain why wage gap suits make up less than 2% of all Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filings. (In 2011, two years after President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter law to extend the statute of limitations for such filings, the number actually decreased.)
But the poor evidence for widespread wage-gap legal vigilantism has roots beyond poor payouts and the chilling effects that both the GOP and the White House legislation address.
Mission-critical satellite communications wide open to malicious hacking
Weaknesses from a host of makers pose risks to military, aviation, shipping.
By Dan Goodin
Apr 17 2014
Mission-critical satellite communications relied on by Western militaries and international aeronautics and maritime systems are susceptible to interception, tampering, or blocking by attackers who exploit easy-to-find backdoors, software bugs, and similar high-risk vulnerabilities, a researcher warned Thursday.
Ground-, sea-, and air-based satellite terminals from a broad spectrum of manufacturers—including Iridium, Cobham, Hughes, Harris, and Thuraya—can be hijacked by adversaries who send them booby-trapped SMS text messages and use other techniques, according to a 25-page white paperpublished by penetration testing firm IOActive. Once a malicious hacker has remotely gained control of the devices, which are used to communicate with satellites orbiting in space, the adversary can completely disrupt mission-critical satellite communications (SATCOM). Other malicious actions include reporting false emergencies or misleading geographic locations of ships, planes, or ground crews; suppressing reports of actual emergencies; or obtaining the coordinates of devices and other potentially confidential information.
“If one of these affected devices can be compromised, the entire SATCOM infrastructure could be at risk,” Ruben Santamarta, IOActive’s principal security consultant, wrote. “Ships, aircraft, military personnel, emergency services, media services, and industrial facilities (oil rigs, gas pipelines, water treatment plants, wind turbines, substations, etc.) could all be impacted by these vulnerabilities.”
Santamarta said that every single one of the terminals he audited contained one or more weaknesses that hackers could exploit to gain remote access. When he completed his review in December, he worked with the CERT Coordination Center to alert each manufacturer to the security holes he discovered and suggested improvements to close them. To date, Santamarta said, the only company to respond was Iridium. To his knowledge, the remainder have not yet addressed the weaknesses. He called on the manufacturers to immediately remove all publicly accessible copies of device firmware from their websites to prevent malicious hackers from reverse engineering the code and uncovering the same vulnerabilities he did.
The paper gave examples of the types of weaknesses affecting specific SATCOM systems and the types of attacks that they made possible. The HarrisRF-7800B BGAN, for instance, is a terminal the manufacturer markets as providing tactical radio communications to militaries. Santamarta said the devices contain vulnerabilities that allow hackers to replace the normal firmware with malicious code. Adversaries could then monitor the geographic location of the people using the gear or completely disable communications once a device enters a precise area chosen by the attacker. The Harris BGAN M2M terminal can be commandeered by sending malicious SMS messages to it, the researcher reported.
BGAN terminals from Cobham, meanwhile, can be hijacked by exploiting a weakness in its authentication mechanism. “If a member of a unit was targeted with a client-side exploit while browsing the Internet during personal communications time, an attacker would be able to install malicious firmware in the terminal,” Santamarta wrote. He went on to catalog weaknesses in terminals that underpin mission-critical SATCOM used in international aviation and shipping systems as well.
‘Frontline: United States of Secrets’ promises ‘definitive history’ of domestic surveillance
By Adi Robertson
Apr 17 2014
Over the past two weeks, the Pulitzer and Polk awards have recognized the work of Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and other journalists responsible for bringing Edward Snowden’s leaked documents to print. But one of the most high-profile TV reports on US surveillance was an uncritically supportive look from CBS and 60 Minutes. Today, PBS announced plans for a two-part Frontline special called United States of Secrets, which promises the “definitive history” of domestic surveillance since the September 11th attacks. The first part of the series, airing May 13th, is reported by Michael Kirk, who was recently awarded a Polk award for NFL concussion exposé League of Denial. It will examine the roots of the surveillance program in Washington, DC. Martin Smith, another award-winningFrontline producer and correspondent, will investigate the relationship between Silicon Valley and the NSA in a second installment on May 20th.
PBS has tackled the topic of surveillance before. In 2011, it aired Frontline: Top Secret America, based on a two-year Washington Post investigation by journalists Dana Priest and William Arkin. Frontline revisited the topic after the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013. Depending on its scope, the first episode of United States of Secrets will be either competing with or complementing Glenn Greenwald’s book on the NSA and US surveillance, which is released the same day as the first episode. Laura Poitras, meanwhile, is currently editing her own documentary about the Snowden leaks.
[Note: This item comes from friend Janos Gereben. DLH]
From: janosG <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Take a long vacation and behold 8,500 films from Pathe now on YouTube
Date: April 17, 2014 at 14:22:55 EDT
To: Dewayne <email@example.com>
British Pathé uploads 85,000 historic films to YouTube
Thousands of hours of historical footage showing major events, celebrities and simple day-to-day life from 1896 until 1976 has been uploaded to YouTube
British Pathé, the newsreel maker which documented all walks of life on video during the 20th Century, has uploaded its entire collection of moving images to YouTube: <http://www.youtube.com/user/britishpathe>.
The archive of 3,500 hours of footage was digitised in 2002 thanks in part to a grant from the National Lottery, and is now freely accessible to anyone around the world for free.
Scrolling through the archives reveals everything from the tragic: Emily Davison throwing herself under the King’s horse, the Hindenburg disaster and the Hiroshima bombing, to the downright unusual, such as Southampton University’s 1962 attempt to launch a flying bicycle. <snip>
[Note: This item comes from friend David Rosenthal. DLH]
This Is What the GOP’s War On Science Looks Like
By Mark Strauss
Apr 1 2014
I’ve seen some surreal moments in our nation’s capitol, but few can compare to watching Republican members of Congress lecture John Holdren last week on the meaning of “science.” Here are some highlights.
Holdren, the president’s science advisor, was the lone witness at a hearing held by the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology to review the White House’s fiscal year 2015 budget request for science agencies.
You can watch the two-hour video here—or better yet, don’t. We’ve watched it for you. Plus, you don’t want to be more embarrassed than you already are about a science committee that includes a congressman who describes evolution as a “lie from the pit of Hell” and another who claims that climate change is a liberal plot to “create global government to control our lives.”
Committee Chair Lamar Smith (R-TX) set the tone of the hearing right away, beginning with the observation, “Unfortunately, this Administration’s science budget focuses, in my view, far too much money, time, and effort on alarmist predictions of climate change.” Smith then questioned Holdren about the National Science Foundation (NSF), which, he said, was swindling American taxpayers by funding apparently useless programs, such a $340,000 grant to study the ecological consequences of early human-set fires in New Zealand.
And that was one of the more courteous exchanges during the hearing. What came next was a series of Bizarro World lectures on climate change.
Doesn’t the Entire Earth Have the Same Climate?
Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) demonstrated his inability to grasp the idea that the world’s climate varies across different regions (which, in fairness, is a sensible line of questioning—if we were living on the forest moon of Endor):
Rohrabacher: Do you believe that tornadoes and hurricanes today are more ferocious and more frequent than they were in the past?
Holdren: There is no evidence relating to tornadoes. None of all. And I don’t know any spokesman for the administration who has said otherwise. With respect to hurricanes, there is some evidence of increased activity in the North Atlantic, but not in other parts of the world. With respect to droughts and floods, there is quite strong evidence that in some regions they are being enhanced by climate change—not caused by [climate change], influenced by climate change.
Rohrabacher: “I don’t mean to sound pejorative…but they’re Weasel words—that in some areas, “globally” there’s not more droughts, “globally” there’s not more hurricanes and they’re not more ferocious. Is that correct?
Holdren: If you want to take a global average, the fact is a warmer world is getting wetter, there’s more evaporation so there’s more precipitation, so on a global average there’s unlikely to be more droughts. The question is whether drought-prone regions are suffering increased intensity and duration of droughts, and the answer there is yes.
Rohrabacher: [snickering] So we actually have more water and more drought? Okay, thank you very much.
Note to Rohrabacher: You can read about how increasing levels of temperature and precipitation can worsen droughts here. Or, if reading is not your thing, here’s a short animated video (with pretty colors!)