THE SURVEILLANCE STATE AND YOU

George Orwell’s 1984 opens with Winston Smith carving out a pocket of privacy by crouching in a corner of his apartment where the telescreen—and thus Big Brother—can’t see and writing a diary entry. These days, that Stalin-inspired nightmare seems quaint.

We carry our personal telescreens around with us, and take it for granted that if someone wants to watch us, they can.There is nowhere to hide, even in the Hong Kong hotel room where Laura Poitras filmed Edward Snowden talking to Glenn Greenwald about the revelations about the NSA the whistleblower unleashed on the world. At one point in Citizenfour, Poitras’s film about the surveillance state and Snowden, an impatient Snowden yanks the hotel phone’s plug from the wall. All VoIP phones can be bugged, he explains, tossing away the cord. The NSA could know what he ordered from room service.

Much of Citizenfour was shot over the eight days that Poitras and Greenwald spent with Snowden. In contrast to the gray poverty of 1984‘s Oceania, the documentary’s dystopian setting is sleekly modern. Poitras shoots NSA data centers, Occupy Wall Street privacy training sessions, and the posh no-placeness of the business-class hotel. Snowden proves what the two journalists already suspected and, thanks to him, we all now know: The US government is spying on everyone. He then trains them in the cumbersome feints with which they might evade its gaze.

Citizenfour is about surveillance. But its also about what surveillance does to you. How does authority’s gaze change us? In a world where every keystoke is potentially watched, and every heartbeat potentially counted, does knowledge of that change how you act? Will you still allow yourself to question? How can you organize against power when you live entirely in its sight?

While Snowden’s NSA revelations are most associated with the internet, “online surveillance” is a bit of a misnomer. The web long ago bled into meatspace. A CCTV camera could easily capture your face, then link that up to your Facebook profile, your purchases, your friends. You shed data like strands of hair. You’re both made up of data and more than the sum of it, like DNA.

Critics sometimes chide the American anti-surveillance movement for the whiteness and maleness of its public faces. While women and people of color have done brilliant, under-recognized work against surveillance, this perception might be no coincidence: White men are the last people in America who thought they had privacy.

“Invasive spying and government surveillance in the name of fighting terrorism is hardly news for Arab and Muslim-American communities,” wrote Anna Lekas Miller in the Guardian last year when Snowden’s leaks went public. Since 9/11, the US government has flooded Muslim communities with informants. FBI and NYPD plants haunted mosques and bookshops, sometimes trying to pressure innocent men into making plans, or even expressing sentiments, that could get them charged with terrorism.

The history of black people in this country is one of even more intimate—and bloody—state intrusions. Think of the FBI infiltrating black power groups, of the government blackmailing MLK. America’s prison system disproportionately cages the black and brown, capturing not just the incarcerated, but their families, in its nets. Those visiting loved ones at Rikers must submit to fingerprinting, lift up their tongues and shake out their bras in front of a prison guard. Outside the cages, this lack of privacy is reinforced by police who grope and question black youth just for walking—is it any wonder that young men in these communities are finely attuned to the movements and whims of the police? That they internalize a fear of authority that’s proven expert at wielding fear as a tool.

Women, especially women of color, also live under that gaze. Who they sleep with, whether they bear children, how they raise them—all of that is subject to scrutiny by the government and society at large. At the level of public policy, laws are made restricting their reproductive decisions. At the level of the street, we’re told to “smile!” by strange men. Just another reminder we’re being watched.

Not that most people are hiding, exactly—the internet is a radical tool for self expression, and there are addictive benefits to living in public. On Twitter, we often type like we’re drunks babbling at a cocktail party, but the sentences sit in cyberspace forever. Our former selves live in the cloud, in the Wayback Machine, on the servers of the NSA’s data centers. They lie waiting to betray us. Online, as in middle school, everything goes on your permanent record.

Few people hold up under this sort of scrutiny. Most people are good, but everyone is fucked. We’ve all been cruel and cowardly. We all nurse our shameful secrets. Some heroin snorted, a coworker fucked, a friend gossiped about, a lie told. Everyone’s done something they hope no one finds out—and chances are, a trace of it is lingering on a server somewhere.

Getting away with expressing complexity is still a privilege. That’s means that exceptions notwithstanding, mostly its white men who are allowed to have done wrong. This is a lesson that Citizenfour unintentionally reinforces by showing us Julian Assange, a persecuted and courageous publisher of government secrets, without hinting that he’s been accused by two women of rape.

“We get the vapors over dark, brooding gritty men. But when confronted with.. flesh-and-blood women who have had to make hard choices and whose moral scorecard includes more than a few red marks, suddenly… we barrage them with… invective,” wrote Katherine Cross of Jane Doe, a teenage trans girl who was then locked in solitary confinement in a men’s prison without a charge. Jane had been accused of hitting a guard at the juvenile facility where she lived. One alleged act of impulse during a hard life of abuse, and she got thrown in a hole. Without a concerted campaign by activists, almost no one would have objected.

In the past few months the hashtags #NoAngel and #IfTheyGunnedMeDown spread on social media, inspired by the tone of coverage about black men and boys who had been killed by the police—if a victim had frowned in a selfie or Instagrammed himself wearing jewelry or (God forbid!) been photographed with a joint, articles would imply that the victim was a dangerous “thug” who no doubt had it coming. There was no room for a black teen to be complicated in the way a white teen could be. In America, to not embody arbitrary standards of perfection is to be asking for it. What does it cost you to contort yourself?

In the words of that wise Twitter account, Infosec Taylor Swift, “Mass surveillance is the elegant oppression, a panopticon without bars. Its cage is… behind the eyes—in the mind.” Under authority’s gaze, many people become smaller, more obedient, less daring.

Surveillance leaves scars.

Privacy activists rightly denounce the blanket surveillance of “innocent Americans.” But what about those who, because of skin color or faith, power has marked as guilty? If you’re not a “person of interest” technologies like PGP, Tor, and Jabber OTR can be enough to keep your most of your communications out of the NSA’s dragnet. If you’re a member of a marginalized group, the stakes are higher. Pockets of privacy become more scarce.The government’s gaze is not only fixed on your laptop. You’re watched by the CCTV camera, the neighborhood informer, the cop loitering on the corner. Surveillance bleeds into your life, online and off.

If power has already decided people like you are guilty, even the smallest transgressions can be disastrous.

Snowden is free, living with his partner in Moscow. Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald are justly feted on the Lincoln Center stage. But countless people live under the government’s gaze, because of nothing more than their skin color or heritage. Too many of them know what Winston Smith learned by the end of 1984. Once the state starts paying attention, hiding from the Telescreens does no good.

Found at VICE.


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Buying High: How to Get Rich on Pot Stocks

So there I was in Mexico, wintering away in the tiny, stray-dog surf town of Punta de Mita, bored out of my skull, not a single rideable wave predicted for the next week, my time mostly spent in mind-numbing internet excursions, when all of a sudden I wound up on Twitter, reading posts from a guy named the Wolf of Weed Street. It seems that the Wolf and his followers – 21,000 of them, known collectively as the Wolf Pack – have been making a fortune trading stocks tied to the marijuana industry. So far, more than 20 states have approved pot for medicinal purposes, with more on the way. Since last January, when Colorado opened itself up to recreational toking, pot stocks have been on a tear. By March, the Wolf himself had parlayed $22,000 into $640,000, trading companies with names like American Green, Vapor Group Inc., and Hemp Inc. And there are, so says Twitter buzz, more gains to come. In fact, according to ArcView Market Research, the U.S. market for legal weed will reach $2.6 billion this year and $10.2 billion within five years, which has opened up an equally major-bucks-boffo opportunity for investors.

“Soon our collective wealth will be enough to run someone over and get away with it, video-game style,” the Wolf tweeted in February. Furthermore: “I pour honey in the market’s ear and let buy calls roll off my tongue like gum balls.” Finally: “I don’t make bad bets.”

In response, from Freespeechprof: “Ouch! WTF was that? Oh, just another bucket of cash raining on my head!”

And, from a female fan of the Wolf: “If you’re ever in Santa Monica, I owe you a nice sloppy blow job!”

I don’t know about you, but that kind of stuff gets my attention. I checked out the ocean, saw that it was still flat, and hustled downstairs to the apartment below mine, to see my surfing buddy Theo, a semiretired teacher from Oregon, who was going through a nasty, money-sucking divorce, to tell him the news: that we were in the midst of a cultural revolution. According to recent polls, the majority of the population now favors legalization of the former demon weed. It’s just a matter of time before every state in the Union OKs the stuff, if only for the tax revenue. No publicly traded company has started selling weed outright; that’s still a federal crime. Instead, they deal in whatever it takes to cultivate, distribute, and smoke it – vaporizers and pipes, ganja-specific vending machines, hydroponic growing stations, and other assorted gimcracks.

“But who cares about any of that?” I said, over a late-afternoon toke. “Look, Theo. There’s money to be made. One guy I read about: Four trades, he paid off the loans on two cars. Can you imagine?”

The first words out of Theo’s mouth were, “OK, I’m in for $5,000. What’s the next step? Let’s go make a trade!”

“Whoa, Nelly,” I said. “The stock market isn’t open on weekends.”

“It isn’t?”

I smiled to myself. What a naive soul he was, and how lucky for him that he had me to guide him to pot-stock riches. And, of course, how lucky for me that I had the Wolf of Weed Street.
Over the next few days, I spent all my time learning everything I could about what would shortly make Theo and me filthy rich. Right away I came across a curious fact: Many of the 250 or so companies involved in the pot industry had nothing whatsoever to do with high times in previous incarnations. Instead, they were involved with the airplane industry (AvWorks Aviation, now known as Vapor Group) or the coffee business (Hemp Inc.) or oil (PetroTech Oil and Gas) or mining (Next Gen Metals), and apparently failing at those enterprises big-time. So when pot began to take off, they switched over and ballyhooed the event with press releases that said dubious stuff ?like, “Who better to build the infrastructure of this new industry than a group of savvy mining execs? That’s right, mining execs!”

Moreover, many of the guys running these companies seemed to have awfully shady pasts. Bruce Perlowin, Hemp’s CEO, spent nine years in prison for operating one of the largest drug-smuggling operations in U.S. history. And Michael Llamas, the former CEO of Medical Marijuana Inc., was recently indicted (he has pleaded not guilty) for his part in a multi-state mortgage-fraud Ponzi scheme. Not surprisingly, according to some analysts, a good number of these companies have zero revenue, zero profits, zero goods or services to sell, and zero prospects.

What they do have, however, is the mind-bending ability to offer returns far in excess of your mainstream Wall Street–approved mutual fund, of which I own many, including Berwyn Income, up 10 percent annually for the past five years; and T. Rowe Price Capital Appreciation, up 14 percent. Big deal. With those rates of return, I’m not going to be able to retire ever – unless I hitch my wagon to a guy like the Wolf and take a flier on a few pot stocks, which can go from $.004 a share to $.04 a share, a 1,000 percent increase, in the span of a month, far more than my mutual funds have done in their entire lifetimes.

Much more to read HERE.


“There are lies, damned lies and statistics.” – Mark Twain


EXCLUSIVE LEAK: FBI REPORT WARNS OF POTENTIAL HOMEGROWN ISIS ATTACKS AGAINST LAW ENFORCEMENT IN US

LUBBOCK, Texas — Federal authorities have warned US law enforcement of potential terror attacks against them from homegrown ISIS members or supporters, according to a leaked internal bulletin exclusively obtained by Breitbart Texas. The leaked document is dated October 11, 2014, and was provided by a trusted federal agent who did so on the condition of anonymity.

The memo was issued by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as a Joint Intelligence Bulletin and is titled, “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and Its Supporters Encouraging Attacks Against Law Enforcement and Government Personnel.” It is labeled, “UNCLASSIFIED/FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY” and asserts that it may be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act and should not be released tot he public, the media, or anyone else not authorized by the DHS.

The document alerts US law enforcement personnel, including FBI Special Agents, to be aware of their surroundings and to monitor their families’ use of social media to “avoid revealing FBI or law enforcement affiliation.”

Another significant revelation in the leaked document is that the FBI is unaware of any current specific imminent threats from ISIS on U.S. soil, an assertion that seems to contradict some previous public reports that ISIS has crossed the U.S./Mexico border and is planning specific attacks. The report does indicate that ISIS advocated attacks on U.S. military personnel, law enforcement in general, FBI personnel, government officials, and media figures.

Breitbart Texas provides the full, unredacted leaked document for our readers below.

Continue reading HERE.


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How to Digitally Avoid Taking It to the Grave

Planning for control of your personal information after you die used to be as simple as telling someone about the desk drawer or the fireproof box or the safe deposit box at the local bank.

But in the era of smartphones and cloud computing services, that same stuff may be stored in digital formats on servers scattered across the globe. You may keep documents online or use email as a catchall for paperless receipts, insurance information or financial transactions. And don’t forget the photos, videos and musings left behind at social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Flickr.

So how do you make sure all that information — protected by who knows how many passwords — is handled the way you would like after you’re gone? Two words: Plan ahead.

Providers that store digital content are restricted in how they can disclose it to someone other than the account holder. Much of it is protected by privacy laws. And terms of service agreements for things like free email may prevent companies from disclosing that material to anyone without a court order.

“We are in a gray area right now where the technology has progressed faster than the laws,” said Laura E. Hoexter, an estate-planning lawyer at the law firm Helsell Fetterman in Seattle.

Some states have passed laws to address aspects of these issues. For example, a 2013 Virginia law makes it easier for family members to see content in cases of the death of a minor. And the Delaware Legislature just this week passed a bill that seeks to ease access to content.

The Uniform Law Commission, a nonprofit association that looks for ways to bring about uniformity in important areas of law, is also working on a law that could eventually apply to all states.

The commission wants to ease access to content while also honoring a user’s privacy wishes. It hopes all 50 states will adopt its proposal so a single set of guidelines would standardize the process for users, providers and heirs, said Suzanne Walsh, chairwoman of the committee drafting the law, called the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act.

While the legal issues are being untangled you can plan ahead. Google, for example, offers a tool to help its users deal with the problem. Called Inactive Account Manager, it allows you to designate up to 10 people to receive content from sources like your mail, documents or blogs. You may also choose to have content deleted after you have died.

When the account becomes inactive, your designees are notified and receive the content you chose to share. They do not receive a means of logging in to your account.

Some lawyers view Google’s planning tool as a model to emulate.

“Other companies haven’t started doing this yet, but I’m hopeful they will,” said James D. Lamm, an estate-planning lawyer at Gray Plant Mooty, a law firm in Minneapolis and the author of digitalpassing.com, a blog that tracks these issues.

And if companies aren’t doing this for you, one of the surest ways to pass on content is to keep copies on your computer. You can make a habit of saving copies of important documents, sentimental photos, Facebook content or purchased content like music. One handy tool to capture web content is called ScrapBook, a free Firefox extension created by Taiga Gomibuchi, a programmer in Tokyo.

But if you download, make sure your material is secure. That means backing up to an external drive with programs like Apple’s Time Machine, or File History in Windows 8. Also, encrypt your computer’s disk and the backup drive. And if you share a computer, make sure your private content is secure, because another user with administrator rights may have access. Programs like 7-Zip can pack away confidential files in encrypted archives.

Some lawyers suggest including a digital executor in your will. This person is responsible for carrying out your wishes for your online content. This is no guarantee the content will be disclosed, they said, but it may help if laws eventually change.

“What would you want them to do if you were allowed to do it?” Ms. Hoexter said. This strategy includes creating a list of your online accounts, with passwords included, she said, and storing it where you can update it easily and your digital executor can find it.

Divulging your passwords is risky, of course, even to someone you trust. But there is no simple way to do this securely while ensuring your passwords are current.

Numerous online services offer features that can transfer passwords and other personal data after you die. PasswordBox, a password manager that hooks into your web browser, has a transfer feature called Legacy.SecureSafe, based in Zurich, offers a tool for transferring passwords.

Of course, putting information like that online exposes it to hackers, government snoops or even the unforeseen security bug.

Instead, you may choose to store passwords on your computer. Many programs are available, including Password Safe and KeePass. There are also encrypted portable devices like SplashID Key Safe. You can stash one in a fireproof box and give your master password to a friend or your lawyer.

The law may one day catch up with technology. But in the meantime, it’s wise to make sure you’re using technology to deal with the dilemmas technology has created.

Found HERE.


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