Hell Hath No Fury like the U.S. Caught Red-Handed

The Assange drama continues, with U.S. puppet Great Britain threatening to throw diplomatic treaties out the window to satisfy the rage of the U.S., caught red-handed, and now acting like a woman scorned.

The behavior of the U.S. with respect to Wikileaks has been shameful and an embarrassment The U.S. has spun out of control and become megalomaniacal. Even corrupt politicians know that when you’re caught in the act, you’ve got to come clean if you want a future with the American people. Our government acts as if it were a vindictive and petty god; alternatively as a small child that’s not getting its way and having a tantrum. No wonder there are bumper stickers everywhere: “I love this country. It’s the Government I’m afraid of”.

Haven’t we grown beyond the need for evil state secrets, abuse of our neighbors and partners, and lies as a way of conducting business? Wikileaks only proved what many of us had suspected, and the Government isn’t denying it. How could it? Instead of apologizing, saying it’s learned from its’ mistakes, and pledging to turn over a new leaf, it’s acting like an enraged petty dictator in denial (sound like anyone we know?), empaneling secret grand juries, putting out secret death warrants, and strong-arming nations in futile and unseemly attempt to punish those who have exposed its’ unseemly behavior. As long as the bad behavior continues, the U.S. will continue to see a rapid erosion of respect from the International community. Unless, of course, it confuses fear with respect.

Dark Cloud: Big Brother is Watching Your DropBox

I’ve been working with my iPad and iTouch (an iPhone without the 3Gphone). The apps make frequent use of “The Cloud” for data sharing, export, and backup. Very convenient.

The problem is, the Cloud is like Facebook. While Facebook provides the FBI (and other government spook agencies) convenient access to alphabetized lists of your friends and acquaintances, along with phone number, email addresses, scheduling/calendar info, and more, the Cloud provides easy access to all personal data stored there. Easy access not just for you, but for others like criminals, banks, insurance agencies, and most incredibility (not)  – the Federal Government.

If I were the author of one of those free apps that store data in the cloud, I’d be tempted to take generous payments from the government to provide full access to the data. Wouldn’t you? Of course it’s hush-hush, but it’s all on the up-and-up. After all, it’s the Government, isn’t it? Aren’t they the ones who decide what’s right and wrong? What could possibly be wrong about taking money from the Government?

The Buying Out of American Business

The US Government learned a valuable lesson in the Savings and Loan banking crisis of the 1980’s. When it bailed out the banks, it essentially nationalized them, turning them into stoolies for the government, reporting every transaction over $8,000 and even much smaller transactions that, for any reason, might seem “suspicious”. You don’t suppose that’s been used against anyone in a personal vendetta by a government employee or elected official, do you?

Why stop with the banks? After all, most marketing-savvy businesses are avid collectors of information about their customers and even just hapless prospects. Why not just buy it from them and support big business instead of big government? It almost sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it?

“Eyeball Networks” – the ISPs that service Internet consumers – are all picking up on this trend. They’re the ones in the best position to hand off records of all your Internet activities. Comcast charges $800/month to the Feds for each customer the government wants to snoop on. That’s way more money than they make for selling and servicing cable television to consumers, and with TIA (the Total Information Awareness program) is happy to pay with taxpayer dollars.

We learned recently another large ISP is earning millions selling the government the bits of data generated each time a computer looks up a hostname (e.g. www.google.com) on the Internet This includes identifying data such as your IP address.

Why stop there? Feds can simply buy your credit records. And, they can get your cloud data from Apple, Microsoft, DropBox, backup services like Mozy and Carbonite. It’s easy. It’s good for the economies of businesses taking the payoffs. It’s easy for the government.

How are YOU feeling about it? What is your threshold for this kind of abuse?

“My Cloud and Only My Cloud”

If you’ve browsed through this blog site, you know I write a lot about privacy. Enough so you should know, as I do, that we don’t have a shred of it, thanks to the Internet and “Total Information Awareness” by the government in the name of “fighting terrorism” and “ensuring our safety”. Left with the choice of rolling over and accepting that, or making some effort to claim or reclaim some of the rights, like, yes, privacy, that have been stolen from us, I choose the latter. My views are not universally shared. Translation: a lot of people don’t give a damn because their heads are buried so far up where the sun don’t shine. There are entertainment devices there too, no doubt, along with the concomitant snooping devices.

It with the foregoing backdrop that I took some pleasure today in reading a product review on Amazon. The review was for a product that lets you set up your own “cloud storage” on your existing Internet connection without monthly fees, without relinquishing your data as property you posses, and without service agreements that remind you that “authorities” can swoop in and demand access to your data (without you ever being aware of it) at any time. I quote:

I have yet to make the jump to cloud computing, because I guess that I just don’t trust it. I want control of my personal photos and documents and I don’t want anybody peeping in on them unless I authorize them. Oh I know, those cloud people say that everything is secure, but let big brother come along with their paperwork and watch how fast your personal info is shared with them. Then there is the problem of hackers.

— Island Dreamer

Thank you, Island Dreamer. I wish you knew how you cheered me up a bit with that spontaneous bit of backbone you showed. If only… if only…

Occupy Boulder Fail?

Will 2012 be a fail year?

I traveled to the People’s Republic of Boulder, as neighboring Coloradans call it: 10 square miles surrounded by reality. The purpose of my visit was to check in on Occupy Boulder; Boulder City had changed the law to prohibit occupying park space overnight, thus making the Occupy Boulder encampment illegal.

Boulderites, being very politically correct, obeyed the new law immediately, saying (as reported in The Denver Post) that they would focus their efforts during daytime. Only one person was arrested as the encampment picked up and dispersed. However, the Boulder courts are clogged with previous Occupy Boulder arrests, as the crimes involved mandate jury trials under local law. Efforts to change the legal proceedings to alleviate pressure on the local courts have been criticized as being anti-homeless. Which they are. Surprise, surprise.

Streaming live video on Global Revolution, I combed the area looking for evidence of Occupy Boulder. I was threatened by a dealer posing as a Colorado University student, talked with a homeless person denied any knowledge of anything, and obtained a confession from a groundskeeper said the last he’d seen of them was when they moved out the encampment.

The intersection of Broadway and Canyon adjacent the Municipal Building had a beggar with a cardboard sign on each corner. These people are professionals, and I’d given them a wide berth. They don’t take kindly to encroachment of any kind on their territory; when encroachment occurs, violence ensues. The most effective sign these people have wielded is by far the one reading “Need money for beer and prostitutes” (if measured by resultant income). On this occasion, however, one individual was holding a sign that said: “Greed Is Not An Option” with “99%” written in extremely small characters. I asked this one if he had seen any “Occupy Boulder” protesters. He answered “I AM the Occupy Boulder Protestor”.

Please view my interview with him:  http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/19868453

Also at YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m4HFnerfFaI

Why We Can’t Trust the Government With Our Secrets

Logo of the Information Awareness Office, an a...

Image via Wikipedia

The title of this blog is the problem with the government’s widespread snooping on citizens. The government says it hasn’t implemented the Total Information Awareness Program… but there is plenty of evidence that it has. And that means that everything on the Internet, and all phone calls, are being recorded and archived by the government for data mining. That means anything said during a voice call or done on the Internet could come back to haunt you at any time in the future. And let’s be serious – we’re not just talking crime here. You have to know it will be used for political purposes (e.g. to control citizens).

I want to keep this post focused. So we’ll keep it simple:

Can we trust the U.S. government to keep all the information it amasses about us secret?

According to the government, we can’t.

This sad, but hardly astonishing fact was underscored yesterday in the publication of a memo from Donald Rumsfeld in 2005 while he was Secretary of Defense under President Bush:


Donald Rumsfeld

Donald Rumsfeld Image via Wikipedia


November 02, 2005
FROM: Donald Rumsfeld
SUBJECT: U.S. Government Incapable of Keeping a Secret

The United States Government is incapable of keeping a secret.

If one accepts that, and I do, that means that the U.S. Government will have to craft
policies that reflect that reality.



The actual memo is here.

… that’s short, sweet, and to the point. But if we accept Rumsfeld’s view, then we are in grave danger, and we must consider that any shred of privacy we may have once had, say, a decade ago… is now long gone.

Please see:

U.S. is “Incapable of Keeping a Secret,” Rumsfeld Concluded in 2005
July 15th, 2011 by Steven Aftergood

The Devil in your Cookies
July 15th, 2011 by Rex Latchford

The Devil in your Cookies


Crude Image via Wikipedia

This blog post is based on a section of my upcoming book “The Devil for Dummies”.

Once upon a time, a long long time ago, when your ancient ancestors roamed the earth, a thing called the World Wide Web was created. It was “stateless” – one page had no narrative connection with another other than by hyperlinks. But writers didn’t understand how to write in this medium. Writers understood only “the narrative” as it had existed for thousands of years. After much gnashing of teeth, complaining, soiled diapers, and ultimately the lobbying efforts of the Devil himself, cookies were added to the otherwise simple design of the web browser.


Plateful of Christmas Cookies

Image via Wikipedia

The cookies were added to provide a mechanism for maintaining “state”: not a lot, but just enough, in the estimation of the designers, to allow for maintenance of a narrative relationship between web pages. The Devil sniggered, and drooled sulfurous snot, cranking up the heat on the advertising industry (one of his minions). Other minions, armed with pitchforks glowing orange-hot, were dispatched to major media concerns and other massive content providers.

In a mild effort to protect the security of these cookies, the designers had humbly decided that only the domain that set the cookie could read the cookie. This would, they believed in their naive minds, prevent cookie snooping. The Devil fairly glowed as he observed this, and could barely contain his delight and glee. The designers had forgotten that each user has a (mostly) unique IP address (mostly unique enough for the Devil’s purposes), and that advertising is usually provided across many sites by the same third parties (the Devil’s minions).


Santa Claus with a little girl

Image via Wikipedia

The Devil got busy. You see, disk space had become very cheap, so extensive record keeping became trivial.  Cookie information could be combined with two other pieces of information: the URL of the referring page, and your IP address. This information was obtained every time an advertisement was displayed on your page. This allowed advertisers to track a user’s every move. Soon, the Devil’s info-base of who did what to whom when would surpass Santa Claus’s, and approach God’s omniscience (with nothing forgiven)!

The Devil wasn’t done yet, as I discovered today when I performed a fairly routine task of posting a comment to an online item. It could have been a blog, or a news article. I couldn’t post it without setting up an account. Perhaps an easy way to hold comment posters responsible for non-abusive behavior. Perhaps a way to track who has comments about what. For example, you might be someone who criticizes the government, and thus a terrorist. All tracked by cookies, IP addresses, profiles, the NSA, etc. Anything on the Internet could be a matter of national security, you see.

Headquarters of the NSA at Fort Meade, Maryland.

NSA Headquarters - Image via Wikipedia

Everyone needs backup. Even the Devil. So, it was arranged that the National Security Agency (NSA) would undertake a program called “Total Information Awareness” (that it would later deny implementing despite evidence to the contrary). This program simply recorded everything on the Internet, as well as all telephone calls, so that nothing was missed. The Devil, politicians, and other similarly motivated parties could mine the information at a later time to get the goods on someone whenever it was convenient… even years or decades after the fact. Many government workers got bonuses from the Devil for that one. Of course, access to the NSA’s data warehouse was to be strictly controlled, but even the most innocent know how bad the government is at keeping secrets.

When you start to collect enough information about an individual, a profile is essentially created. This profile, as information is added, starts to exhibit properties that can be used to match it with other information or profiles collected in other data streams. Like smaller bubbles merging into ever larger ones, profiles in cyberspace merge until large amounts of personal information are aggregated and pinned to an individual. Perhaps one such profile didn’t originally contain your name, but the profile became a confirmed match with another one that DID contain your name, perhaps because there was an IP address or cookie in common. Or phone number. Or social “security” [sic] number. Or mother’s maiden name (in the security hint). Or pets name and zip code. And so on, so much so, that privacy vanished completely in a puff of sulfurous smoke.

Blame it on the Devil. The Devil did it.


Devil goat

The Devil - Image via Wikipedia

… more than likely, though, it wasn’t the Devil. No, it was the rest of us not standing up for our rights. We were too busy being entertained. You snooze, you lose. And then… well… it’s hard to get it back. Facts on the ground as some have said. Still the Devil smiles as we’re ALL his minions. Muhahahaa!

Getting a Chokehold on the Internet

Internet Kill Switch

Leaders everywhere fervently pray for a “kill switch” for the Internet. Many of them undoubtedly have projects underway, or perhaps have completed such projects, within the bounds of their reach. Governments and like entities that would exercise control over information have good reason to be concerned about control of the Internet, in the wake of Wikileaks and the Arab Spring. As a result, we, the people who would be controlled in such a manner, should become more aware of Internet control issues.

The Internet was designed, perhaps diabolically in the minds of the military industrial complex that funded its development, to resist being cut off or broken. Internet protocols will try endlessly to find any route possible that will get around road blocks and interruptions that are thrown in the way of the flow of information. The Internet (capital I) is not one network, but a network of thousands of smaller internets (lowercase i) that are autonomously operated. These smaller networks include cable companies, phone companies, Internet transit companies such as Level(3), and “ISP”s, all of which are potentially dispensable and not critical to the operation if the Internet. Even users have choice in how they connect. If you home connection is shut off, there is the Internet cafe, etc. This decentralized design was intentional, and does have the effect of resisting centralized control. And who would want centralized control anyway? Only those who would control the flow of information. Just what we don’t want. Right? One would hope.

This was all very obvious to users of the early Internet. But many users have come on board since the commercialization of the Internet who have no clue what the Internet really is, how it works, or why it was designed the way it is. This lack of awareness is, as is often the case, a threat to our freedom. Some education is in order. The need, and a partial solution, is manifested in the recently formed “Chokepoint Project“.

Introducing the Chokepoint Project

On February 27th, 2011, the order was given to “turn off” the Internet in Egypt, limiting communications and voiding commerce conducted online. Egyptian Internet services resumed on February 2nd. Fastforward just a few weeks later, this time Libya commences its disconnect February 18th, with a blackout occurring March 4th.

Shutting down the Internet in two countries sent shock-waves across the world. We also  heard people like American Senator Liberman asking for access to a similar kill switch. These actions force us all to ask ‘Who owns The Internet?” and what are the implications of the said controls over connectivity and scenarios for their use?

If you believe the Internet is not something that can or should be soley controlled by politicians or people inside the higher echelons of nation states, resulting in situations like Egypt and Libya, we’d love to tell you about what we are building.

The Choke Point Project addresses the events of recent months with the clear aim of mapping nodes of Internet connectivity and who maintains their control and what this may mean. We believe there is the need for a more decentralized Internet beyond the complete control of nation states and corporate influence.

A quick look at the Chokepoint Website leaves the impression that it is produced by individuals who never knew a world without the Internet, and do not fully grasp what it is or how it fits (and does not fit) with the world in which we live. Nor are the issues of privacy and control apparently fully grasped. But it’s an important start. It’s important work, and there are many who need to be educated to the threat that controlling power poses. One is immediately concerned that a road map is being produced that will greatly assist those who would exercise control over the Internet. But knowledge is power, more so when placed in the hands of the public than when placed in the hands of insulated power-mad bureaucrats and their minions.

Choke Point Project Introductory Video