This weekend in New York City was a three-day hackers' conference called HOPE Number 9 which is only held every two years; HOPE stands for "Hackers on Planet Earth" and there's always a lot of great info that comes out of it.
One of the quotes floating around in regard to #HOPE9 came from Founder and CEO of Pallorium Inc's Steven Rambam as "Rambam's first law: All databases will eventually be used for unintended purposes." This is the same man who spoke at the 2008 HOPE about "Privacy is dead - Get over it." In regard to this year, you will probably find private investigator Rambam's newest revelations coming soon to 2600. Surveillance is one of those purposes that databases may be used for and NSA whistleblower William Binney knows plenty about domestic spying.
Binney was at HOPE and while his entire keynote is not yet posted, journalist Geoff Shively and Livestreamer Tim Pool had an opportunity to speak with Binney about NSA spying. As you may recall, after covering the NATO protests, Pool and Shively were two of the journalists harassed by Chicago cops. In the short video interview, Binney explained a bit more about the NSA spying on Americans:
"Domestically, they're pulling together all the data about virtually every U.S. citizen in the country and assembling that information, building communities that you have relationships with, and knowledge about you; what your activities are; what you're doing. So the government is accumulating that kind of information about every individual person and it's a very dangerous process." He estimated that one telecom alone was sending the government an "average of 320 million logs every day since 2001."
Censorship and monitoring are alive and well in the USA. Shively summed it up as, "It's not about being paranoid. It's not about having nothing to hide; it's about an infringing of rights that does exist" right here at home.
After the NSA claimed it would violate Americans' privacy to say how many of us it spied upon, Binney was one of three NSA whistleblowers who decided to help back the EFF's lawsuit over the government's massive domestic spying program; they intend to tell the truth about the NSA's warrantless wiretap powers. If there is a dossier on almost every American, then it's little wonder why the NSA doesn't want to release those numbers. EFF Senior Staff Attorney Lee Tien said, "The government keeps making the same 'state secrets' claims again and again. It's time for Americans to have their day in court and for a judge to rule on the legality of this massive surveillance."
NSA Chief General Keith Alexander has denied such intense spying on Americans in the past. In a keynote speech about cybersecurity legislation, Alexander said "the NSA neither needs nor wants most personal info, such as emails," while continually repeating civil liberties must be protected. Yet as Techdirt pointed out, Alexander's words might be interpreted "to actually mean they don't care about civil liberties."
According to Truthdig, Binney told the HOPE audience, "These people are still hiding behind this 'national security' curtain. All I want to do is move that aside and say 'See ... pay attention to that man behind the curtain, because he's affecting us. He's affecting all of us' because he's setting the stage for an 'Orwellian state'."
Also this weekend, The New York Times ran a piece called "The End of Privacy?" The editorial states, "Cellphones, e-mail, and online social networking have come to rule daily life, but Congress has done nothing to update federal privacy laws to better protect digital communication. That inattention carries a heavy price."
Meanwhile in America, the 'land of free,' another NYTimes article exposed how the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) operated a "wide-ranging surveillance operation" and spied on "a group of its own scientists" by secretly capturing "thousands of e-mails that the disgruntled scientists sent privately to members of Congress, lawyers, labor officials, journalists and even President Obama."
The agency, using so-called spy software designed to help employers monitor workers, captured screen images from the government laptops of the five scientists as they were being used at work or at home. The software tracked their keystrokes, intercepted their personal e-mails, copied the documents on their personal thumb drives and even followed their messages line by line as they were being drafted, the documents show.
This surveillance resulted in more than 80,000 pages of computer documents. After reviewing them, The New York Times wrote, "The documents captured in the surveillance effort - including confidential letters to at least a half-dozen Congressional offices and oversight committees, drafts of legal filings and grievances, and personal e-mails - were posted on a public Web site, apparently by mistake, by a private document-handling contractor that works for the F.D.A."
That accidental find of the database by a scientist takes us back to Rambam's quote about databases being used for "unintended purposes." It also highlights the truth of Binney's claims at HOPE that censorship and monitoring is alive and well in the USA.
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