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August 24, 2013

Evolving Anti – Surveillance Awareness

Recently, Americans have witnessed a barrage of scandals regarding the federal government’s extension of their surveillance powers. Following whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations—which of course point to the National Security Agency’s spy programs and the FISA Court’s endorsement of broad domestic-surveillance policies—the American citizenry’s Fourth Amendment right to privacy has taken center stage. The truth of these invasive and unconstitutional policies is giving rise to further argument, and laying ground for a practical forum to engage elected officials to more clearly define citizens’ rights in the digital era.

Yet, while Americans are engrossed in the debate over whether or not their government should be allowed to collect and examine the online data of citizens en masse, particularly without suspicion of criminal activity, the vehicle by which these revelations came to light—journalism—is now also under attack.

Journalists are realizing that they are also on the front line in the ‘ war on privacy ‘ with whistleblowers, activists and hacktivist groups like Anonymous. Recently, the FBI declared victory over Anonymous in a series of statements claiming the hacker collective is no longer able to carry out large, successful operations because most of its “largest players” have been arrested or detained by US law enforcement authorities.

The FBI’s claims about dismantling Anonymous may be only instigating the collective further. OpLastResort, an Anonymous-affiliated Twitter account, released on Friday what’s alleged to be the personal information pertaining to roughly 23,000 employees of the US Federal Reserve.

Full details of every single employee at Federal Reserve Bank of America http://www.elbigbad.com/swag.csv  How’s that, FBI? Game. Set. Match. and LULZ.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

An eloquent and enlightened speech by Stanley Cohen, who defended Anonymous in the PayPal 14 case, at benefit for Jeremy Hammond and Barrett Brown.

In the last few years, the online collective Anonymous has become the ubiquitous face of cyber-activism. With their well-known V for Vendetta Guy Fawkes masks, this loosely tied and decentralized network acts whenever and wherever its radar catches a classic abuse of power. Beneath the mask there is an idea. Anonymous hacktivists are united by their shared sense of justice and their conviction that ideas are bulletproof. Repeatedly, the collective has shown to be a champion of the downtrodden and those who challenge the powerful — whether they be arrogant government contractors like Aaron Barr, religious organizations like Scientology, immoral governments like those of Syria or the US, or corporations like PayPal and Mastercard.

Digital Dissenters: Speaking Truth to Power

Computer scientist Nadia Heninger has argued that leaking information is now becoming the “civil disobedience of our age”. The late historian and activist Howard Zinn described the act of civil disobedience as “the deliberate, discriminate, violation of law for a vital social purpose”. He advocated it saying that such an act “becomes not only justifiable but necessary when a fundamental human right is at stake and when legal channels are inadequate for securing that right”. Snowden’s act was clearly one of civil disobedience. John Lewis, US Representative and veteran civil rights leader recently noted that Snowden was “continuing the tradition of civil disobedience by revealing details of classified US surveillance programs”.

Snowden is not alone. In recent years, there have been waves of dissent that revealed the depth of corruption and abuse of power endemic in this global corporate system. Before Snowden, there were Bradley Manning and Jeremy Hammond who shook up the trend of criminal overreach within the US government and its transnational corporate and government allies. Private Bradley Manning blew the whistle on US war crimes and activist Jeremy Hammond exposed the inner workings of the pervasive surveillance state. They took risks to alert the world about the systemic failure of representative government and the trend toward a dangerous corporate authoritarianism.

Snowden, Manning and Assange are all part of an Internet generation that holds that transparency of governments and corporations is a critical check on power. They believe in the power of information and in the public’s right to know. In an interview with Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian, Snowden described how his motive was “to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.” He has advocated for the participation of ordinary people in decision-making processes, which he considers to be a a vital part of democratic society, indicating that the policies of national security agencies that he exposed should be up to the public to decide.

Declaring ‘War’ on the Surveillance State: Taking Back our Privacy

Law enforcement used to be harder. If a law enforcement agency wanted to track someone, it required physically assigning a law enforcement agent to follow that person around. Tracking everybody would be inconceivable, because it would require having as many law enforcement agents as people.

Today things are very different. Almost everyone carries a tracking device (their mobile phone) at all times, which reports their location to a handful of telecoms, which are required by law to provide that information to the government. Tracking everyone is no longer inconceivable, and is in fact happening all the time. We know that Sprint alone responded to eight million pings for real time customer location just in 2008. They got so many requests that they built an automated system to handle them.

Combined with ballooning law enforcement budgets, this trend towards automation, which includes things like license plate scanners and domestically deployed drones, represents a significant shift in the way that law enforcement operates.

Police already abuse the immense power they have, but if everyone’s every action were being monitored, and everyone technically violates some obscure law at some time, then punishment becomes purely selective. Those in power will essentially have what they need to punish anyone they’d like, whenever they choose, as if there were no rules at all.

Knowledge is power and society evolving toward an ‘ anti-surveillance awareness ‘ is crucial to overcoming the abuse of civil liberties and violation of our basic right to privacy by the encroaching ‘ Surveillance State ‘.

Related Links:

Encryption Works: How to Protect Your Privacy in the Age of NSA Surveillance

How Laura Poitras Helped Snowden Spill His Secrets

Cyberpunk: Encryption

David Miranda and the Preclusion of Privacy

kstangelo | août 24, 2013 à 12:07   | Catégories: News | URL: http://wp.me/p1jpRz-4fZ

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Outrageous Julian Assange Tweet By Time Reporter Michael Grunwald

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My so-called life as an intern at Merrill Lynch

The death of young banking hopeful Moritz Erhardt brought back memories to Polly Courtney that were both painful and surreal

Friday 23 August 2013

On Monday night, Moritz Erhardt, 21, was found dead in his east London flat. He was a week away from finishing a summer internship at the London office of Merrill Lynch. The exact cause of his death is not known, but it is claimed that Mr Moritz had worked three “all-nighters” in a row before his death and was determined to earn himself a full-time role at the bank.

I too interned in the London offices of Merrill Lynch before accepting a job on the graduate scheme. I was one of 30 bright, keen twentysomethings who were opting to spend the summer hunched over desks, deep in financial equations. Like Mr Erhardt, I threw myself into the internship programme, relishing the challenge that awaited me.

We thought we knew what we were letting ourselves in for. The long hours and hard work were no secret among university undergraduates. Even before I joined the firm I’d heard tales of junior bankers collapsing from exhaustion and analysts who slept under their desks. Secretly, I think we wanted to be a part of this strange, exclusive club. We were young, impressionable and eager to please. We wanted to feel important and we wanted to justify the £6,000 we were earning that summer.

During our internship, all-nighters were a rite of passage. We discussed them in the Merrill Lynch canteen as we ate our free dinners each night. Outwardly, we expressed our loathing, but in reality, we were proud. You weren’t deemed a “proper” banker until you’d worked through the night.

We bought into the idea that fulfilment would come from “succeeding” in this crazy game. For seven weeks, our world shrank to one square mile and during that time, nothing else mattered. We forgot about family, friends, pets, birthdays… We could tell you the value of the FTSE but we couldn’t say how our grandmothers were doing. Hundred-hour weeks were standard. Many of my peers treated Saturdays as a working day and then tried to take half of Sunday off to recover. Some didn’t even bother to go home when they worked through the night; they just showered in the in-house gym, bought a toothbrush from the in-house shop, grabbed an espresso from the in-house Starbucks, and they were good to go for another day.

Of course, we knew this wasn’t productive in the long term. But the adrenaline (combined with caffeine and taurine – or cocaine, in the cases of many full-time bankers) would see us through.

One night, my flatmates and I were woken by the doorbell at 2am. It was a company car, waiting to take me back into the office to “check some figures”. With the “checking” complete, the rest of my night was spent awaiting further instruction. That’s when sleep beckoned.

There is a lot of waiting around in banking. It’s the financial equivalent of being “on call”, except that you’re not saving lives. The truth is, interns (and to a large extent, analysts) are not qualified to take on responsibility. I certainly wasn’t, being half-way through a degree in engineering. The tasks undertaken by interns and analysts are very mundane. We spent our nights and weekends cloning PowerPoint slides, sifting through annual reports and picking through excessively complicated financial models in Excel, some of which never got used.

There was a culture of vindictiveness that trickled down the hierarchy. VPs would dump work on associates, who would dump it on analysts, who, at the end of the working day, would dump it on the intern with a deadline of 9 o’clock the following morning, even if it was needed for an afternoon meeting. And often, the afternoon meeting would be cancelled and nobody would think to tell the intern.

Moritz Erhardt was a week away from finishing a summer internship when he died Moritz Erhardt was a week away from finishing a summer internship when he died Working late was a surreal experience. Once the senior bankers left for the day (which most of them did around 6-7pm) it was just us, the minions, tapping away at our keyboards, sweating as the air con went off for the night, occasionally plunged into darkness as motion detectors on lights failed to register our movements. If you squinted through the tinted glass windows, there were small signs of life outside: other junior bankers and lawyers cracking on through the night in their matching glass office blocks.

We worked hard, but we also played hard. Throughout the summer, we were plied with perks: cocktails at the Tower of London, drinks at Madame Tussauds, dinner at Coq d’Argent, dragon-boat racing on Monkey Island… and that was on top of the free meals, company cars and central London accommodation. At the time, we felt valued, as though this was our reward for all the hard work. In retrospect, it was more like absent parents buying their children’s affections with lavish gifts.

The firm ticked all the boxes on the HR front. We were assigned “buddies”: full-time bankers to whom we could go with any questions or concerns. (Nobody I knew ever approached their “buddy”; bankers didn’t have time for questions.) We attended lectures and talks on the values of the firm (Client Focus, Respect for the Individual, Teamwork, Responsible Citizenship and Integrity) and we were taught the procedure for surfacing concerns. (We found these laughable at the time; with hindsight, they were ludicrous.) The reality was that we had all signed away our right to the statutory working week; for one summer, we were the property of the firm.

We didn’t mind. Like Moritz Erhardt – who was said to have told prospective employers that his upbringing taught him to “always be driven to be good at everything” – we wanted to impress. Looking back, I suppose this was one of the key criteria sought out by the banks’ recruitment teams. They wanted “all-rounders” – not because they valued our skills on the football pitch or on stage but because a jam-packed CV was a sign of a young person who would do whatever it took to succeed.

When it came to it, Mr Erhardt was not “forced to work through the night”. We weren’t forced to do anything. We worked through the night because we chose to. We were keen, naïve undergraduates, desperate to make our mark on the world.

We competed for places on the internship via stressful all-day assessments. I can still remember the mental arithmetic questions fired at me during my interview and the tense atmosphere in the plush, carpeted lounge where we sat in our starched new suits between tests.

Many of us had applied to more than one City firm. There was a strict hierarchy: the American firms were seen as the best, Japanese a close second, with European banks seen as a last resort. I remember turning down another offer when I found out I’d been awarded an internship at Merrill Lynch.

The competition didn’t end when we won our internships – quite the opposite. Throughout the summer, we were constantly reminded that we were effectively living out a seven-week job interview. As our internships drew to a close, rumours started to circulate about how the bank would offer full-time roles only to the very hardest-working interns. Our peers became our enemies and we quickly picked up tricks from the bankers, embarking on “face time” (pretending to be hard at work even when you’re done for the night), back-stabbing and the long-hours game, sending out department-wide emails in the middle of the night to show how hard we were working. We all desperately wanted to be rewarded with the salary and prestige of a job at the end of it.

In the event, nearly all of us were offered full-time roles for the following year and I, along with everyone else, accepted without hesitation. Of course I wanted to live this life. I wanted to be a banker. I wanted the chance to go all the way to the top.

Well, it turned out that no amount of money or prestige could make up for the exhaustion, the misery and the lack of control we all had over our lives. I broke after only a few months, but it took others a few years to realise this.

Moritz Erhardt was universally regarded as a kind and generous individual. He will no doubt leave a hole in many people’s lives. We may never know the exact cause of his death, but perhaps his family might take solace in the fact that, by shedding light on the exploitative practices employed by our financial institutions, he is continuing to do good work.

I hope this terrible tragedy serves as a wakeup call – not just to employers and policy-makers in the investment banking community, but also to employees. The money is just an anaesthetic; it might work for a seven-week internship or perhaps even longer, but it wears off in the end.

Polly Courtney is the author of ‘Golden Handcuffs – the Lowly Life of a High Flyer’, a semi-autobiographical novel based on her life as a junior investment banker.

source

Exclusive: UK’s secret Mid-East internet surveillance base is revealed in Edward Snowden leaks

 Britain runs a secret internet-monitoring station in the Middle East to intercept and process vast quantities of emails, telephone calls and web traffic on behalf of Western intelligence agencies, The Independent has learnt.

The station is able to tap into and extract data from the underwater fibre-optic cables passing through the region.

The information is then processed for intelligence and passed to GCHQ in Cheltenham and shared with the National Security Agency (NSA) in the United States. The Government claims the station is a key element in the West’s “war on terror” and provides a vital “early warning” system for potential attacks around the world.

The Independent is not revealing the precise location of the station but information on its activities was contained in the leaked documents obtained from the NSA by Edward Snowden. The Guardian newspaper’s reporting on these documents in recent months has sparked a dispute with the Government, with GCHQ security experts overseeing the destruction of hard drives containing the data.

The Middle East installation is regarded as particularly valuable by the British and Americans because it can access submarine cables passing through the region. All of the messages and data passed back and forth on the cables is copied into giant computer storage “buffers” and then sifted for data of special interest.

Information about the project was contained in 50,000 GCHQ documents that Mr Snowden downloaded during 2012. Many of them came from an internal Wikipedia-style information site called GC-Wiki. Unlike the public Wikipedia, GCHQ’s wiki was generally classified Top Secret  or above.

The disclosure comes as the Metropolitan Police announced it was launching a terrorism investigation into material found on the computer of David Miranda, the Brazilian partner of The Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald – who is at the centre of the Snowden controversy.

Edward Snowden (AFP/Getty) Edward Snowden (AFP/Getty)

Scotland Yard said material examined so far from the computer of Mr Miranda was “highly sensitive”, the disclosure of which “could put lives at risk”.

The Independent understands that The Guardian agreed to the Government’s request not to publish any material contained in the Snowden documents that could damage national security.

As well as destroying a computer containing one copy of the Snowden files, the paper’s editor, Alan Rusbridger, agreed to restrict the newspaper’s reporting of the documents.

The Government also demanded that the paper not publish details of how UK telecoms firms, including BT and Vodafone, were secretly collaborating with GCHQ to intercept the vast majority of all internet traffic entering the country. The paper had details of the highly controversial and secret programme for over a month. But it only published information on the scheme – which involved paying the companies to tap into fibre-optic cables entering Britain – after the allegations appeared in the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. A Guardian spokeswoman refused to comment on any deal with the Government.

A senior Whitehall source said: “We agreed with The Guardian that our  discussions with them would remain confidential”.

But there are fears in Government that Mr Greenwald – who still has access to the files – could attempt to release damaging information.

He said after the arrest of Mr Miranda: “I will be far more aggressive in my reporting from now. I am going to publish many more documents. I have many more documents on England’s spy system. I think  they will be sorry for what they did.”

David Miranda, left, with Glenn Greenwald (AP) David Miranda, left, with Glenn Greenwald (AP)

One of the areas of concern in Whitehall is that details of the Middle East spying base which could identify its location could enter the public domain.

The data-gathering operation is part of a £1bn internet project still being assembled by GCHQ. It is part of the surveillance and monitoring system, code-named “Tempora”, whose wider aim is the global interception of digital communications, such as emails and text messages.

Across three sites, communications – including telephone calls – are tracked both by satellite dishes and by tapping into underwater fibre-optic cables.

Access to Middle East traffic has become critical to both US and UK intelligence agencies post-9/11. The Maryland headquarters of the NSA and the Defence Department in Washington have pushed for greater co-operation and technology sharing between US and UK intelligence agencies.

The Middle East station was set up under a warrant signed by the then Foreign Secretary David Miliband, authorising GCHQ to monitor and store for analysis data passing through the network of fibre-optic cables that link up the internet around the world

The certificate authorised GCHQ to collect information about the “political intentions of foreign powers”, terrorism, proliferation, mercenaries and private military companies, and serious financial fraud.

However, the certificates are reissued every six months and can be changed by ministers at will. GCHQ officials are then free to target anyone who is overseas or communicating from overseas without further checks or controls if they think they fall within the terms of a current certificate.

The precise budget for this expensive covert technology is regarded as sensitive by the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office.

However, the scale of Middle East operation, and GCHQ’s increasing use of sub-sea technology to intercept communications along high-capacity cables, suggest a substantial investment.

Intelligence sources have denied the aim is a blanket gathering of all communications, insisting the operation is targeted at security, terror and organised crime.

‘Syria Has No Choice But Hope’

By on August 24, 2013 • ( 0 )

The brilliant novelist Khaled Khalifa, whose In Praise of Hatred (trans. Leri Price) was longlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, and who recently released the acclaimed There are No Knives in the Kitchens of this City, always seems to hold onto some moral clarity when the rest of us are smacking our heads in despair:

From Facebook.

From Facebook.

Khalifa was recently interviewed by the Times of Malta’s David Schembri, via an unnamed translator, as Khalifa is set to appear at the Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival August 29-31, should the Syrian government allow him to leave.

Khalifa told Schembri: “The world will regret leaving Syria sink into this destruction and this quagmire.”

And on his writing:

Sometimes I feel scared just to think that I’ll stop writing. Such dark ideas haunt me when I finish writing a new novel, especially after sending it to the publisher; I feel completely drained and there is nothing left to be told or done. Now, after so many years of professional writing, I have become wiser than to squander my raw materials, and I think my life would stop if I stopped writing.

There Are No Knives in the Kitchens of this City was published in Cairo, but:

I think of Syria as the best place to publish my books, but I am deprived of this right. In Praise of Hatred is still banned. I think No Knives in the Kitchens of this City is also barred. I still dream, though — believe that my dream will be realised soon — that my books will be displayed in all Syrian libraries.

He also told Schembri that he still hopes:

Why live if there is no hope? I am very confident and quite sure of the goodness and civility of the Syrian people, and their love for work. The regime and terrorist groups will never be able to turn the clock back. Syria has no choice but hope.

A number of world writers will appear at the Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival, August 29-31, at the Msida Bastion Historic Garden, including Iraqi Hassan Blasim and Palestinian Mazen Maarouf. The authors will also take part in a Literature Across Frontiers translation workshop before the fest, translating each other’s works into their languages and reading these translations during the three nights of the festival.

source

Obama On Syria – What Should The U.S. Do?

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